This show! This show is just not letting up! It’s just relentless with the subtle quality writing and light-handed yet profound characterization. How am I supposed to watch a romance series after this and not roll my eyes at teary outbursts over a missed call or something? I’m going to be even more ruined for drama than I was. This is mean.
Wait, are you not supposed to lay out the entire core of your post in the opening paragraph. Karandi, you know how to do this writing thing, help me out!
Nope. I’m with you. I’m utterly and completely glued to this show while it is playing and when the episode ends I feel a deep sense of loss. I want it to be over so that I can binge the whole thing from the beginning uninterrupted and just embrace every single moment of it. It isn’t that Given is flawless or that it will work for everyone, but it has captivated me at this point and I’m very happy to be taken on a ride with this story and these characters.
This being a love story, and a gay one at that in a time and place where there still is a taboo, having Ueno slowly come to grips with his feelings was always going to be a challenge for him. The end of the last episode set it up nicely, as he internalized and tried to digest his sudden jealousy and frustration towards Mayu. As the show itself says it, love isn’t always a particularly pleasant feeling. And for Ueno, there’s a lot to assimilate.
But the boy is a big dork and a somewhat childish one at that. Unsurprisingly those feelings came lashing out almost right away. Now I don’t *like* the fact that Ueno is being so hard on Mayu during rehearsal. If I knew these guys, I would tell him to cut it out. But I loved it as a bit of character building. That impatient and unfair bit of pettiness out of a generally calm and nice character betrays just how confused and lost he is. What’s your take on it, K?
It is another moment where I realised how real these characters feel. This isn’t the tsundere nastiness from a character who will two seconds later internally be squealing that they didn’t mean it. Ueno is lashing out and he doesn’t really know what he’s doing or why he’s doing it. It is also great to see Kaji and Haruki reacting like real people to the situation. They don’t just stand there while one character verbally assaults another and then rationalise it that that’s just how that person is. They actively intervene in the situation and continue to monitor the two throughout the episode.
Let me set the scene real quick. With the upcoming live show looming, the boys have been practising like crazy but Mafuyu seems to have hit a wall. His guitar skills aren’t improving as much as Ueno would like and he hasn’t been able to make any progress on the lyrics. This is the excuse (but not the reason) for a frazzled Ueno to snap at him during practice, prompting Kaji to take him outside for a breath of fresh air and a frank talk.
Last week featured some of the scenes I was dreading the most. I.e. dragging out Mafuyu’s tragic past (and there may still be more of that to come). This week had the scene that had the most potential for disaster, in my opinion. The open talk about homosexuality. This to me was one of the biggest tour de force Given has pulled.
The conversation between Ueno and Kaji was a little awkward, a little silly, a little poignant. Given acknowledged the difficulty and uneasiness that comes with a non-traditional relationship then simply moved on. Kaji said, it’s not weird and instead concentrated on why Ueno was being such a brat and how he had to be supportive of a friend who’s struggling Because that’s what the important part really was. It sounds simple laid out like that, but it’s something few shows pull off. I almost could have missed this pivotal moment in story and character development. I was floored. And I even giggled a few times.
I think the conversation between Kaji and Ueno was important but for me it was one of the weaker moments in the episode (okay, it was still excellent but that probably just indicates the strength of some of the other moments). For me, Kaji this episode felt like he was trying to impose his own romantic experience onto his interpretation of Ueno and Mafuyu and it felt a little off. Then again, it kind of makes sense given these characters all feel very real and a character judging someone else’s romance based on their own experience makes perfect sense.
Did I just throw my own point out the window? Probably.
We pretty much already knew that Kaji’s dark-haired roommate was more to him than a simple friend but somehow it was still nice seeing it. There’s something more there. Kaji speaks in such painful terms of their time together yet everything we saw was pleasant and loving. The two still live together and apparently share the one bed but there doesn’t seem to be any romantic side at the moment.
Maybe there never was. From what we saw, it’s not impossible that Kaji only ever had a once sided unrequited love. He may not even have confessed beyond that hug we saw. This might be why he’s so keen on helping out Ueno and why he seems to understand him so well.
Also, Kaji has the weirdest laugh!
Kaji’s past, despite getting quite a few glimpses of it this episode, still remains fairly ambiguous with multiple possibilities presenting themselves. Again, this is great writing. None of these characters are as simple as ‘tragic backstory’ or ‘failed romantic history’. They have these attributes but fleshed out into something that feels far more real and satisfying.
By the way, Murata, the roommate, may be my new favourite boy in this show, assuming of course he hasn’t done something truly horrible to Kaji in the past. Still, I wouldn’t mind him getting a lot more screen time.
In the second rehearsal scene, Kaji suggests that they stop practising together until the concert so that each can just concentrate on their own part. Not a bad idea. And they split up, Kaji taking Mayu home and Haruki driving Ueno. Once again they are mixing up the characters in different groups. I love that. It really goes a long way to make them feel like they’re all friends, instead of two couples or one main character and sidekicks.
Absolutely. The relationships are a web rather than a line or rather than radiating from a single main character. It helps to make it feel like they all have an existence beyond the story and that they all are acting based on their own desire rather than because the plot made them. It is fantastic to watch and so well done because if any one of these characters dropped the ball it would hit the story hard.
I love all these boys but I have to admit, I got a soft spot for band mom Haruki. I’ve always been a big fan of the dorky good guy and he’s one of the most endearing examples I’ve seen in recent years. Violin boy is pretty and all. I’m sure he’s super talented. But I’m team Haruki all the way!
OOhhhh, can we get T-Shirts?
T-Shirts are always a good way to declare your allegiance to fictional characters. Particularly ones no one who sees you wearing it will ever get the reference to. Okay, I might have a small hang-up over the fact that nobody ever gets the Firefly reference on one of my favourite T-Shirts. A quote from the wonderful Wash and people just look at my shirt and wonder why there are dinosaurs on it.
Though I would probably love a shirt that had Protect Mafuyu on it. I could totally get behind that sentiment. I actually got a little nervous when Kaji seemed to be deliberately poking at his wounds. I get what Kaji is trying to accomplish and for the sake of the band they kind of need to get some resolution on the current situation, but still. I just wanted to hug Mafuyu and tell Kaji to go for a long ride elsewhere.
It’s episode 7 and I’m starting to worry a bit about Given coming to an end. I have no clue what’s going to happen. I hope they wrap it up nicely. I’m going to need some memorabilia. Like a *t-shirt maybe….
Best I can find for this one at the moment is the soundtrack (affiliate link), though all things considered I wouldn’t mind that if it wasn’t quite as pricey. I don’t know what is going to happen either but I’m wondering if they are aiming to end this with the concert given there’s apparently only 4 episodes left.
Thanks for Reading From
Irina and Karandi
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Images from: Given. Dir. H Yamaguchi. Lerche. 2019.