I love these shows. You know, the shows that sneak up on you. The ones you pick up on a whim without any particular expectations and then they build slowly. Layer by layer. Moment by moment. Before you know it, you’re wrapped up in all those layers, immersed in a universe you would otherwise never have had a chance to visit. You can’t pinpoint the moment it happened. You don’t know what exactly made you fall. But you’re in love. I love these shows. I remember when I fell very hard for a young man with a yokai cat.
That is actually a pretty good comparison and I’m feeling much the same way after this episode. Where other shows I’ve been watching this season have either plateaued or seem to be struggling a little in the mid-season, Given has gone from strength to strength and this episode was incredibly to watch. I’m not sure when I went from enjoying this show to loving it, but I know in the final minutes of this episode that I was completely in love with this anime.
You know, there’s a line in Natsume’s Book of Friends that has always stuck with me for some reason. After being shifted from foster family to sometimes abusive foster family, Natsume is talking to one of the very few acquaintances he seems a little more comfortable with. When they talk about his next family, she mentions that the seem like nice people. Natsume quietly says: They were all nice people. Those words got under my skin.
Everyone in Given is a nice person. A really nice person in fact. They care about their friends and those around them. They’re respectful and accepting. They help when they can and tear themselves down when they can’t. Nice people can hurt each other the most. Seeing exactly that play out left me just a little bit of a mess and I liked it.
Yes, there’s no villain here. The characters are going through things and hurting but there’s no character you could point to as the bad guy. Even the petty girl at school apologised for stepping over a line and became just another nice person who made a poor decision when she gave into jealousy and the story quietly moved on. But, these nice people are hurting and it feels like they are about to tear each other apart. On the one hand I hate the thought of it and on the other I’m dying to know how they come out the other side of it.
This is the closest thing we’ve had to an open conflict in this season of Given (like how I’m subtly implying there’ll be more?). Mafuyu seems to have hit a wall with the lyrics. He wagered too much on it. Promised to be raw and honest and now, everything he’s been avoiding in order to cope is hitting him in the face. Meanwhile, the remaining band members can only sit and stew in their frustration…
Of course, it’s Given. So, the most dramatic confrontation we get is awkward silence and shortened tempers. The scene of Ueno accidentally running into a zoned-out Mayu in the street was adorably awkward. I have been on both ends of that interaction.
The interaction on the street, like most parts of this episode, was quietly awkward, and utterly heartbreaking. I think what really struck me, other than the glorious pacing this episode gave each part, dwelling just long enough on scenes to have the discomfort really sink in, was the way we started the episode with grey skies, then it began raining, and then it got darker and rainier in ongoing scenes. Sure, it is a little on the nose in terms of atmosphere, but I can’t argue against how effective this was in developing that sense of a storm brewing for these characters at the end of the episode.
So violin boy has a boyfriend. My guess is either Kaji never actually went for it beyond what we’ve seen, and he’s been living with a one-sided crush this whole time, explaining why he describes such a friendly relationship in such painful terms, or they did have a breakup but managed to remain quite close. They honestly seem like friends. What a refreshingly mature portrait. Despite my devotion to Haruki, this is possibly the first time something akin to a love triangle seems appealing to me. Karandi?
Seeing more of Murata this week, I love him as a character but I really don’t want Kaji getting together with him. Whether they did in the past or not is still ambiguous, but Murata seems like very high maintenance and too demanding for a relationship to really work out long term. Besides, he says of his boyfriend that he only likes his face. While it is nice to have such a blunt character in a story filled with more considerate ones, and it is nice he isn’t an antagonist, the idea of him with Kaji isn’t working for me. So, Murata for character that intrigues me the most, but I’m definitely shipping Haruki with Kaji. Whether that works out or not, who knows.
Speaking of Haruki, he really does take care of everyone. Even has disposable umbrellas!
Yes, Haruki is so the band mum.
Band mums are not high maintenance…Just sayin’
Let me just say that on my part, I am loving Hiragi. I went on a bit about him in past posts both with you and in the gallery posts. I enjoy his characterization a lot. He more or less personifies all of Mayu’s pain and guilt yet it’s softened because the writers wisely gave him his own persona. He is frustrated and lost and dealing with his own difficulties and grief, yet he remains a kind and caring friend. Balancing all those feelings out must have been exhausting and I’m impressed he came out not only bearable but actually impressive. It also made me really empathize with him even though we’ve barely seen him.
It doesn’t hurt that all the scenes he’s been in have been some of my favourites.
Yes, he’s been incredibly well written for a character with limited screen time. His impact has been fantastic and there’s a lot to think about with him and his relationship to Mafuyu. I really loved the scene with him standing outside of Mafuyu’s house and him holding the phone and waiting in the rain. It was quiet with just the rain and the buzzing phone and it lingered uncomfortably long before Mafuyu took action but it really gave us time to consider Hiragi’s character and what he wanted.
So, we finally got a glimpse of the famous Yuki and what happened. Was it everything you expected?
I don’t know. I mean, it was great seeing their childhood and the developing relationship. It was wonderful to see the argument between them, because teenage boys are going to have silly arguments and normally that would be nothing but with Yuki gone it gives it a whole lot more guilt.
I feel it is still a little ambiguous as to what the cause of Yuki’s actions were. It feels like there’s more to learn in this situation. What we got gave us enough to know that Mafuyu and Hiragi’s pain is warranted but it wasn’t enough for me to get a real sense of who Yuki is and the choices he made, if that makes sense.
It does, at least to me. We got to know Yuki just like anyone else who had never really met him. We got to know a memory of Yuki from people who really aren’t ready to remember him yet.
Aso, I have to say I’m not crazy about the Abuse angle. It was handled well. Yuki’s line that a real father doesn’t do that was perfect. But it’s an element that feels superfluous and unnecessary in an otherwise gregariously balanced story. Yuki’s passing is more than enough tragedy, they really don’t need to add on more. It does however quickly explain just how deep and important the bond with Yuki was for Mayu. Still, a rare misstep in my opinion.
This did seem like a little too much. I mean, it makes sense given Mafuyu seems to really struggle with interactions with others, but honestly I agree that it was superfluous. It was a rare moment of seemingly adding drama for the sake of it and Given has been very good about not just randomly piling on problems for the characters but letting them deal with their current issues in interesting ways.
It’s finally time for the show but somethings obviously off. Hiragi may have gotten things off his chest. In the long run, this will be for the better but right now Mafuyu’s in crisis. He’s once again retreated deep into himself, but he no longer had the luxury of ignoring his feelings. His suffering is seeping out and dragging down everyone around. The cracks are starting to show!
I reality all that happened was that Mayu couldn’t sing at rehearsal and still hasn’t shared his lyrics (if he has any). It’s basically a case of stage fright. Yet all the patient built up and character development makes it feel like it’s the End Of The World! It’s a test for Mayu’s heart. If he can push through and open up, maybe he’ll find someone who can support and help him like Yuki did. If not, then he’ll have to fight through by himself yet again.
My heart was definitely breaking during that rehearsal and then as the band quietly waited. The final moments of the episode when Ueno finally turned on Mafuyu, totally understandably as a decision has to be made before they end up on stage but it might just be enough to break Mafuyu. Again, no villains, but a lot of pain here and I want both of them to be alright but I’m struggling to see how that is going to happen next week.
Question though, do you think they’ll even get to perform in the end or do you think they are about to entirely tear the band apart?
I’m an optimist at heart and going from the OP, I’m going to vote with Yes – they will perform. And change their band name to Given? Or maybe it’s the song name?
A great episode, one of my favourites so far. I took close to hundred caps which sounds unreasonable when you just say it like that, but in reality, it’s really unreasonable… It’s a good thing the show only has a few episodes left. I’m really putting that unlimited media storage claim to the test!
Thanks for Reading From
Irina and Karandi
Want more rambling thoughts from Irina and Karandi on Given?
Images from: Given. Dir. H Yamaguchi. Lerche. 2019.