At this point Given is just plain bullying me! It’s toying with my feelings! It plays on Thursday evening which is almost Friday but not. So you’re tired from your week but it’s not the weekend yet and this lovely little piece of sound and tranquility just swoops in as a salve to my restless mind and I have no one to talk about it with. Well…until a few hours later. I’m not the most patient sort. This week’s episode hit me square in the heart and I immediately wanted to tell my feelings at someone. But I also didn’t want to spoil anything. In the end, I simply texted Karandi the single word “whoa” without context or explanation. She puts up with a lot you guys…
And given I can’t watch Given most weeks until Saturday morning, I had this random ‘whoa’ staring at me in my DM and I was wondering just what I was in for (though after thinking about it I at least realised Irina must be referring to the most recent episode). After I finally got to watch the episode, I actually kind of understand exactly where Irina was coming from. There was a long time after the episode ended where I just kind of sat staring at the video that wasn’t playing anymore in silence trying to get my thoughts together. I also seriously caught Irina’s screen-cap problem this week.
As always, I was a little afraid for this episode. Given has my full buy in by now but I still don’t want to see it slip even if I will still love it. Last week ended on one of the most openly dramatic scenes we’ve had. And as I mentioned the abuse reveal was a bit of a sour note for me. So now, with things at an impasse, I had to wonder how much seething and hand wringing and frustrating misunderstandings would I have to sit through before we got to the good stuff?
Turns out none. Because Haru Fixes Everything!!!! I should have known that. It’s not like the fact that Haru is the best was a secret or anything…
Nut honestly, Haru really did come through in the exact way that I like. Mayu broke a Guitar string – Ueno go get more and fix the guitar string. Solved! You’re a fan of drama Karandi, were you disappointed by such a quick and fairly easy resolution?
I absolutely loved this sequence. That absolute devastation falling between Uenoyama and Mafuyu with Kaji just standing there stunned. It was one of those moments where everything just kind of stopped. Then, band mum Haruki comes to the rescue and gets everyone moving and tells everyone what they need to get done.
Besides, I really don’t like contrived drama and this show managed to give us the real drama of the moment without being ridiculous about it. Sure, the broken string represents more than just a broken string, but as Haruki points out, Uenoyama was the one who fixed the strings in the first place. If it is broken, fix it again.
As Ueno went dashing out for a string, we saw his sister again. She has always been there for him, but I think we really got to see how much Yayoi worries and cares about her brother. I thought that was sweet. And he’s a bit of an airhead, typical careless little brother that doesn’t even notice. They have a nice sibling relationship and it’s unexpected in this type of story.
Here I feel a little differently. I feel that as one of the very few female characters in the story, the sister is getting incredibly short changed as she’s left wringing her hands on the sidelines as neither Uenoyama nor Kaji give her the time of day during the crisis. I think a little more from her along the way would have been nice but honestly until you mentioned her name then, I didn’t even know what it was.
Once Ueno returns with guitar strings, Kaji and Haru head down to prepare their set. This may be just me but the scene on the stairs was…forget the flowery words. It was hot. I don’t know what I found so…hot. I just did. Specifically when Kaji leans just out of camera to speak to Haru and we only see his arm and part of his back. There’s something about the framing and the way the camera centres on the wall that makes the entire thing seem so voyeuristic and naughty. Just me??? Don’t care, standing by my perversion.
Agreed, that was definitely hot.
It is interesting how the relationship between Uenoyama and Mafuyu is always framed as sweet, innocent and a little bit fumbling but Kaji is always framed with Haruki as being quite aggressive and domineering. This scene in particular had him on the step above Haruki (admittedly because he was following Haruki down a staircase) but then looming over him. His words were soft and actually quite supportive but the body language sent an entirely different message and I desperately want to know if Kaji is serious or just messing with Haruki.
Again, this is part of the reason I found this episode incredibly moorish when it came to grabbing images. Every scene and sequence just seemed so well thought out with each cut and angle purposeful. Honestly, the story and characters hit a dramatic high this week but so did the already very solid direction for this series. It was intense.
All through the first half of the episode, the tension slowly melts away. Haru’s gentle but firm direction had stirred everyone into action and Ueno did his best to say his piece. Kaji got some optimism back and everyone rallied under a renewed sense of purpose to just get on stage. But Mayu didn’t say a word. He thought things through, his body language loosened but he remained completely silent, even when spoken to. That was such a nice touch!
It was like being back at the first few times Mafuyu met with the band. Which much like the whole string changing was a nice throwback to where all of this started. This episode was very good at bringing things full circle before charging ahead.
Of course, we all knew Mayu would sing. It’s in the opening credits of the show… And we all know what he sounds like….it’s also in the opening (and closing) credits of the show. But this extended song and flashback focused much more on his voice than the OP and ED do. I looked it up and his voice actor Shōgo Yano is not a singer at all! I quite liked his voice it had a nasally twang but was also unusually light and clear. A very distinctive sound that fits the “natural talent” tag well in my opinion.
I actually didn’t know if he was going to sing or not. I figured if he didn’t sing this time, they might try to squeeze another performance in before the end of the series (which seemed insane) but it didn’t seem to be a given that this was the time he was going to open up.
Which made it so much better. And I totally agree that his voice really fits the ‘natural talent’ label very well. I finally agree with Uenoyama that Mafuyu’s voice is incredibly compelling and honestly that whole sequence was so raw and moving it was impossible not to feel like you were being suffocated by conflicting emotions.
I don’t have much to say about the performance. I might be lying. It was everything I hoped for. I enjoyed the music, loved the voice and the flashback told me what I needed to know. It felt cathartic and like a grand release. Letting out a breath you hadn’t realized you were holding in. And it told a small story. I adore the small stories. Just two normal people find each other and holding onto for a little while. And then, suddenly, everything’s different and the world is colder. A story that happens all the time.
And one tiny little person was now all alone. Desperate to survive grief and guilt. To get to the point where he could even feel warmth again. So, he let it out in a song. That’s all I really wanted and that’s exactly what I got.
All the build up of Yuki and Mafuyu’s story, and all the parts we had seen already, seemed to come together in this performance, which is clearly what they were aiming for. It would have been a fine close for that whole narrative though the post credits sequence of this episode seemed to disagree but we’ll talk about that later.
I think the most devastating moment for me was seeing Ueno turn into Yuki in Mayu’s mind. I love Ueno (he’s my second favourite and most relatable) and that crushed me. Mayu’s not ready yet. Or at least he wasn’t ready. That’s normal. But it’s always a little difficult when people’s feelings have to adjust to each other.
And then of course there was the backstage kiss. I don’t know if that’s what people are going to remember and talk about. I hope not. I did like it. It was quick and falsely casual. Oddly weightless. It was over in an instant and then gone. To me, it wasn’t the important point of the episode. Simply one of the many side-effects of Mayu’s first steps towards healing. But what about you?
It felt like such an impulsive moment for Uenoyama and I assume the two will have to figure out the implications later, but in terms of this episode, it really was a there and gone moment. There’s so much else that has so much more impact, and I felt this was a really good decision.
I still remember all the arguments over whether Yuri and Victor actually kissed in Yuri on Ice and I just felt the argument more or less missed the point that their relationship was so much more than whether or not the audience saw them kiss. Here Ueno and Mafuyu do clearly kiss but it is not treated as a big deal. Uenoyama realising he was jealous of Mafuyu’s former lover was treated as a more dramatic turning point for them. Whereas this seems more like an outpouring of emotions in the moment and then the moment passed and Uenoyama returned to the stage leaving Mafuyu to process… well, everything.
I was glad we had a few seconds of post show celebration to enjoy. Kaji and Haru getting drunk as I like them best, Ueno getting back to himself and Mayu and Hiragii marking their journey together. I very fitting conclusion.
It was a nice wrap up even if we know that there’s clearly more to come and the implications of various things will have to be dealt with sooner or later. For now though, the characters deserved that moment of celebration.
When the closing credits started to roll, I literally screamed at my TV that there was “No Way”!!! And I was right! There was an extended after credits tag of a short date between Yuki and Mayu.
This sequence left me confused. I didn’t know how to feel about it. It was oddly grim and uncomfortable. I only realized this morning what was off for me. To me, it was as if Mayu was somewhat over his relationship with Yuki. He really didn’t seem that interested or into it at that point. While Yuki was still quite smitten. If anything, this is the opposite of what I had assumed, and it threw me off.
If that’s the case, it probably made poor Mayu feel 10 times guiltier!!!!
Yes, this post credits sequence gave us our clearest scene yet with Yuki and Mafuyu. Not told through someone else’s point of view or a silent flashback but an actual scene of the two together as they walked along that beach.
Again, this wasn’t what I expected as it felt like they’d closed the story, and yet I realise how perfect it was. We had never heard about Yuki from Mafuyu’s point of view and we’d never really just scene the two of them in action. Static images, flashbacks from various perspectives, the two as young children, but seeing the two together as they were was a new experience and seemed to indicate that Mafuyu can now face those memories.
I didn’t take it as though Mafuyu was over the relationship though. More that he hadn’t given it specific definition. His pointing out that Yuki hadn’t asked him out and that others assumed they were together, though he didn’t seem to object to that idea, kind of felt like his usual difficulty in expressing himself or understanding his own feelings.
There are two episodes of Given left. Despite what I have said, I fully intend to binge every manga volume available the second the season ends.
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.