Given 2021 Series Review: Bringing This Beautiful Story To Life

Given 2021 Series Review

Given 2021: The live action drama version of the boys love story.

In 2019 the Given anime took my breath away and was one of my favourite series for the year. I’d never read the manga, and I will admit, I don’t really ever intend to. Largely because so much of what I enjoyed about the anime was the play between sound, music and colour and I’m just not sure that a static telling of the story could be as involving. So Given 2021 was coming hot on the heels of an anime I’d loved and had some big shoes to fill.

Given 2021

Then again, that isn’t really fair to this live action drama. And ultimately comparing it to the anime is a relatively futile activity because viewers have either not watched the anime or will already be able to make that comparison themselves. What most people want to know is whether Given 2021 is actually worth watching.

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And in all honesty, the answer is “yes, but…”

That ‘but’ is fairly important and yet doesn’t take away from the ‘yes’ part of the answer.

Given 2021

See, the one issue the Given 2021 live action drama cannot escape is that ultimately it is only 6 episodes long. While I recently proposed that an anime like Mars Red would have benefited from being only seven or eight episodes, rather than stretching a full season, the story of Given really did need more time.

We needed more time to get to know these characters and feel their situations. Particularly the supporting cast that really felt just kind of there and the stories they have to tell felt barely sketched in.

However, let’s take this all a bit more logically.

Let’s talk about Given 2021

Given 2021 is the story of Uenoyama (a high schooler who is in a band) who when looking for a place to nap at school runs in Mafuyu who is asleep in a stairwell holding a guitar. After one of the most awkward and yet adorable meetings, which ultimately ends with Uenoyama fixing the broken strings of Mafuyu’s guitar the two end up meeting in the stairwell more often and Mafuyu works to convince Uenoyama to teach him how to play.

All of which is pretty ordinary until Uenoyama hears Mafuyu sing.

Given Live Action Drama - Uenoyama shouts at Mafuyu

Here I will praise the casting of this live action drama over and over again. Sanari, who plays Mafuyu, really does manage to bring everything to a halt with his voice and it really does make you stop and just listen. You can never quite tell if it is beautiful or heart-breaking and it just kind of overwhelms you. That the character only has a few moments where we hear his voice throughout the series in the build-up to the live-performance at the end really works because too much would simply lose the effect.

However, as much as the sound of this character works, and as much as the group of boys in the band kind of come together by the end, for those who are fans of either the manga or anime, there will be a small adjustment period as visually they aren’t quite what you would expect. Then again, they do all at least look like real people and there are no awful wigs in sight (such as the live action Full Metal Alchemist) so maybe we should just be happy. But Haruki at least took some getting used to in this form and he wasn’t really given enough screen time for the adjustment to be smooth.

Given 2021

If I were to go in with no expectations then I’d have to admit, they all kind of worked in their roles. And considering Given 2021 is a dramatic story rather than a fantastical one, turning this story into a live action drama is considerably easier because there are no weird weapons, physics defying movements, or even complex action pieces to somehow bring to life.


About the most action we get is a sequence where one of the characters runs across a bridge while having an internal monologue and while that was nicely done it does mean that this story didn’t come with a lot of the challenges other manga and anime have when being translated to live action.

Though, on that note, I did point out during my episode reviews that while scenes shot indoors were beautifully controlled in how they framed characters and the use of light and colour, exterior shots were a little more hit and miss. Notably when the characters were in a car or on a motorbike, shaking camera and less deliberate shot composition seemed to be on the cards.

Given Live Action - Tokyo Tower

It’s a minor point but an important one when one of the key strengths of this story is in the visuals and sound direction. While Given 2021 takes a different approach to sound to the anime, having more background music and using repeated motifs behind characters and filling silences, it is still a key component in what makes this enjoyable viewing. And they still build up to the explosion of sound that is the live performance. While the song may not be to everyone’s taste, the build up to it and the culmination of the drama of the final three episodes make it one of those amazing television moments that can really sweep you away.

The romance aspect between Uenoyama and Mafuyu is also well built up to, though again it suffers a little due to the short run time here. As much as everything makes sense, it all seems very quick. Though what was perhaps the biggest issue is that Mafuyu’s relationship with Yuki gets so little time and even the montage it does get feels a little rushed. Without this backgrounding, Uenoyama’s presence doesn’t come across as quite so necessary to Mafuyu.

Given live-action episode 6

Also, while we do get the after the performance moment with the two boys, as the series then abruptly comes to an end it feels like things have barely gotten going when the story concludes.

So, while I still think the anime did a better job of telling this story (particularly in giving us the aftermath of the concert), the live action does have a lot to offer. And for those who have never watched the anime, they probably won’t have many issues at all with what Given 2021 has on offer, though they will probably be left with some questions about Akihiko and Haruki because they get seriously left out in terms of any kind of detail here.

Given 2021

What is important is that this live action drama can and does stand on its own and offers a fairly solid viewing experience that you could go in to without prior knowledge. And for those who have read the manga or watched the anime, this is just another version of a story you probably already love.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 6 Impressions – The Sound Of Tears Yet To Be Shed

Given live-action episode 6

It was always going to take a lot for the Given live-action drama to move me the way the anime adaptation had. Not because this drama has in any way been bad but more because the anime just blew me away and swept me off my feet in a way similar to the way Yuri on Ice had back in 2016. It was kind of like lightning striking and it didn’t seem likely it could happen again.

Given live-action episode 6

Episode 9 of the anime portrayed Mafuyu finally stepping up to the microphone and singing his feelings out and it was one of the most cathartic experiences I’ve ever had watching anime (you know, outside of the graduation ceremony in Angel Beats and maybe a handful of other anime moments that reduce me to tears more or less every time I watch them). While the final episode of the Given live-action didn’t reduce me to tears, it did cause a lump in my throat and I was certainly ready to cheer at the end of the performance.

A strong ending to the Given live-action drama.

I think part of the reason this didn’t quite hit me as hard as it did in the anime is I was well aware of what was coming, which is hardly a fault of this adaptation. Just as manga readers knew the conclusion in the anime. That doesn’t make it less worthy of being watched but it does change the viewing experience somewhat.

given live-action episode 6

On the other hand, I kind off feel like Mafuyu’s performance was even more mesmerising because it was live-action this time around. Watching Mafuyu step up to the microphone and holding our breath as the actor looked like he was fighting his flight impulse was a genuinely tense moment and when he finally opened his mouth the sound didn’t just still the whole audience, it brought me to a stand-still as well.

Where this episode of the Given live-action drama is a little less strong is in the emotions behind the song. While we do get some images of the relationship Mafuyu shared with Yuki, this montage feels a little sparse and honestly a little too short. While this relationship with Yuki has been behind everything it doesn’t feel fleshed out enough in the 5 episodes leading to this performance and visually the scenes weren’t that impressive of memorable.

Given live-action episode 6

But, the band did come together spectacularly after their individual emotional fall-outs in episode 5. Uenoyama recaptured what it felt like to perform for the first time and the smile he had on stage was wonderful to see. Haruki really stepped up and even Akihiko had a smile during the performance.


Of course, timing remains the overall issue with the after song encounter between Uenoyama and Mafuyu being incredibly short and the epilogue focusing entirely on Mafuyu with the rest of the band more or less disappearing.

Which is kind of a shame given Murata actually did attend the performance, made one comment about Mafuyu’s being naturally talented but then we never get to see him with Akihiko afterwards leaving this at a completely loose end.

Given Live-action episode 6

That said, if you are going to adapt Given in 6 episodes, focusing in on Mafuyu’s character, even at the expense of others, is probably the way to go. His character arc from sitting alone in the stairs and holding the guitar to his performance during this episode and facing the death of Yuki is completed and while this final episode leaves me wanting more it is a pretty satisfying way to conclude the Given live-action drama.

Plus, the off-stage moment between Mafuyu and Uenoyama is adorable.

Given live-action episode 6

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 5 Impressions – On The Eve of Disaster and The Broken String

Given live-action Episode 5

The Given live-action drama this week plunges headlong into the drama set up at the end of episode 4, as the penultimate episode before the band’s concert. While I don’t think this episode was quite as strong as the anime had been at portraying Yuki’s relationship with Mafuyu, it does a decent enough job of setting the scene prior to the performance and it certainly makes it clear that every member of the band is currently not in a great head-space.

Given live-action episode 5

The Given live-action drama really explores each boy’s drama.

Haruki is given a bit of a cold-shoulder this week as the anime focuses on Akihiko’s home-life and issues as well as the disintegrating relationship between Mafuyu and Uenoyama as misunderstandings and miscommunications abound. Honestly, it isn’t always comfortable viewing even if the subject matter does feel a bit rushed through in an effort to set up the final episode.

Starting with Akihiko waking up at home and his morning interactions with Murata (who I’m struggling to remember if he even got a name mention in the episode), this episode of the Given live-action adaptation lingers on facial expressions and the distance between characters. We see Akihiko’s obvious distress as Murata drapes himself over his shoulders, the more comfortable space when there is a gap between them, and the long pause before he asks him to come to the concert.

Given live-action episode 5 - Akihiko

That Akihiko is in shadows while Murata sits with the light behind him is obviously not just a coincidence given how light and shadows have been so deliberately used all throughout the series to frame characters and scenes.

Likewise, when we cross to Uenoyama heading to the studio and then roughly playing before sinking to the studio floor, that he is perhaps the darkest spot in the room is clearly not a coincidence.

On that note, this is perhaps the strongest performance by this character yet in the series. Earlier in my reviews of this Given live-action drama I’d made light of his attempts to portray mixed emotions and use deliberate facial expressions and yet here the scene works so well because he isn’t over-the-top. There is pain clear on his face, his breathing is ragged both because of the rough practice he’d just been doing and the emotional overload, and his sagging to the floor, back to the audience, just works.

Given live-action episode 5

Less effective this week is Mafuyu’s performance as he is confronted by an old friend of his and Yuki’s and we briefly see a flashback of Yuki and Mafuyu when they were together. All things considered, it was probably a good move to have the character’s backs to the audience for a lot of this scene because what we did see of them wasn’t amazing.

Fortunately, the inherent drama in what they were talking about still carried the scene, but it was the weakest part of this episode of the Given live-action adaptation.

Given live-action episode 5

All too soon it feels we’re moving on to the rehearsal before the concert and the band sounds amazing but Mafuyu doesn’t sing. Not a peep or a sound.


This leads to a melodramatic show-down between Mafuyu and Uenoyama leading to the guitar falling to the ground and the convenient breaking of the string.

I kind of loved how the two young actors portrayed this moment. Certainly it is over-the-top as they both just stare mutely at the guitar, their breathing heavy, as though the world just ended. While it is a little silly in a live-action version of this, it suitably fits the overall drama of the moment, and makes Haruki’s obvious annoyance with the two so much more fitting as he chides Uenoyama, reminding him that a broken string can be fixed.

Given live-action episode 5

While not the best metaphor in the world, the cohesive nature of the broken string being repaired as the starting point for Uenoyama and Mafuyu’s relationship absolutely works here and Uenoyama’s running to the show is definitely a solid moment for the Given live-action drama.

Now we just have to get through the concert.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 4 Impressions – Losing The Way

Given Live Action Episode 4 Review

Drama, drama, drama. The Given Live-Action adaptation is pushing the drama up to 11 as band rehearsal falls into a conflict between Uenoyama, venting his emotions, and Mafuyu who is all but shut down, forcing the older band members to intervene. Mafuyu’s disclosure at the end of episode 3 hasn’t left Uenoyama any clearer about where they stand and cracks are definitely showing as the concert looms ever closer.

Given Live Action - Uenoyama argues with Mafuyu

All things considered, Mafuyu has made excellent progress in two months. Later in the episode when he practices guitar alone he’s sounding pretty good (for a relative beginner). That he’s totally blocked on writing the lyrics and doesn’t really even know where to begin is hardly his fault and Uenoyama and the rest of the band’s expectations are clearly kind of crushing him.

The Given Live Action Adaptation sounds amazing.

One thing I did like about this episode of the Given Live-Action drama is that we returned to the girl who told Uenoyama the rumours about Mafuyu. She’s feeling pretty terrible about her actions though part of me thinks her pity party at the bins was more just to get any attention from Uenoyama than genuinely feeling too bad for spreading rumours about Mafuyu.

Given Live Action - Drama

That the scene resolves a potential external conflict for Uenoyama is good. That it is also used to create some artificial drama as Mafuyu also witnesses the exchange from afar is less great given Mafuyu already had enough on his plate.

Still artificial drama and teen romance go hand in hand and this was hardly the most obvious forced plot convenience to be found in such a story. We’ll save that for Gamers with the many ridiculous misunderstandings and plot coincidences that essentially make up the entire story.

The other issue with the Given Live-Action adaptation that becomes a bit clearer in this episode is that t clearly isn’t working on a huge budget. The shaking camera when filming the motorbike on the road was distracting and while shaky-cam can be used to great effect, here it just felt like they didn’t have the right tools to steady it.

Given Live Action - Tokyo Tower

And this episode had a lot of external scenes compared to previous ones. Whether it was Uenoyama and Akihito on the roof with Tokyo Tower glowing in the background or the various car rides home or even Uenoyama taking out the rubbish, these characters spent a lot of time outdoors and it is in these scenes where Given feels less controlled in how it frames its characters.


Of course, the interior scenes were up to the usual standard with some clear attention placed on how the characters sat within the scene and there’s a truly adorable moment toward the end of the episode where Mafuyu, who is asleep, ends up resting his head on Uneoyama’s shoulder.

Given Live Action Episode 4 - Mafuyu sleeps on Uenoyama

The Given Live-Action story here leaves us on a very unresolved note at the end of episode 4 and that’s fine. We’re two episodes from finished and leaving us hanging right now is definitely creating a sense that we are moving forward and that there’s something coming just ahead that is worth waiting for. Anticipation is great and it doesn’t feel like they’ve dropped a cliff-hanger without thought.

I’m not sure how I feel about Akihito’s interference. I know he involved himself in the anime as well, but perhaps because that had 12 episodes and was more spread out it didn’t feel as intrusive. Here it feels like he’s trying to set himself up as some kind of puppet-master and while Mafuyu and Uenoyama certainly needed a bit of a helping hand his manipulations are a little intense in this episode.

Still, looking forward to episode 5.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 3 Impressions – Rising and Falling Emotions

Given Live Action Episode 3

Carrying on the emotional outpouring in episode 2, episode 3 of the Given live action drama seems determined to cram all the emotional beats of this story in. That is perhaps the downside of this adaptation only having six episodes as we are definitely racing right along through the content with Uenoyama already well along in composing Mafuyu’s song.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this episode it just doesn’t feel like we get a moment to breathe.

Uenoyama - Given live action drama

The Given live action adaptation feels a little rushed.

From the opening where we see Uenoyama doing all-nighters to create the song to match the sound Mafuyu has shown him to the rumours swilling around the school with a short contrast of Akihiko and Haruki’s own dramas before we plunge fully into Mafuyu’s trauma over Yuki’s death it all comes one hit after another with scarcely a moment to digest it. Though this week all the characters are putting in a solid performance in the Given live action so at least none of it comes across as trite.

I’m kind of feeling if I didn’t already know this story, episode 3 might have left me feeling a little confused as it seems like so much happened simultaneously.

Given live action drama - what?

Though, I’m not all that upset that the Given live action adaptation has decided to speed through Kasai’s rumour spreading moment. Rather than focusing on her unrequited crush on Uenoyama we instead skip to the impact her words have on him as he processes what Yuki must have meant to Mafuyu and we see the rift that forms between the two because of it.

It’s a nice contrast to early in the episode where the boys had become close enough that Uenoyama thought nothing of putting his arm around Mafuyu’s should and Mafuyu actually gave Uenoyama a genuine smile.

Mafuyu smiles - Given live action drama

A little more jarring is the Given live action decision to really speed through Akihiko and Haruki’s relationship woes as the audience does get a brief glimpse of Haruki’s reaction when Akihiko chooses to crash in his bed rather than lay out a futon but there’s seemingly no follow up for either character in this episode.


Instead Akihiko ends up providing Uenoyama and opportunity to process his thoughts when he drops around to his house with a recording of the song he’s been working on. From the laptop the sound is small and underwhelming but the promise is there and I’m really looking forward to how the band sounds in this Given live action when they finally take the stage.

Akihiko - Given live action drama

Still, it was an important moment for Uenoyama as he really did need to sort out his thoughts about how he felt when Mafuyu was singing.

Haruki on the other hand tries to offer Mafuyu some advice and Mafuyu, in his most polite way, shuts him down with a simple question.

It’s a powerful moment and reveals more about how Mafuyu is feeling than all the contorted facial expressions ever could.

But if we needed further evidence of the rift opening between Uenoyama and Mafuyu by the end of this third episode in the Given live action adaptation, we get it clearly shown to us as a visual when Uenoyama goes for a nap in the stairwell and ends up beside Mafuyu. Mafuyu talks to Uenoyama about how he’s feeling with the song lyrics and Uenoyama pretends to sleep. In this moment we get a shot of the two on the staircase from outside the building and they look so small, with the window itself dividing them.

Given live action episode 3 - Uenoyama and Mafuyu

That’s something that has remained a strength in Given in both the anime and live action adaptation. Both pay attention to visuals and use framing, light and colour to really tell the story of these boys and to draw the audience into the appropriate emotion.

With three episodes left I am curious to see where the Given live action adaptation intends to end this story but with the speed we’re moving forward I somewhat suspect it will be the concert and I am very much looking forward to that.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 2 Impressions – The Sound That Shook Him

Given Live Action Episode 2

There’s something utterly heart-warming as this second episode of the Given Live-Action drama kicks off repeating Mafuyu’s comment that Uenoyama was cooler than the light music club. However, unlike in episode 1, here we progress to the next stage of teaching Mafuyu how to play.

The episode quickly progresses us to Uenoyama leaning in to show Mafuyu how to strum and play chords and the scene between the two is pretty adorable. Of course, Given doesn’t leave us at adorable for too long before Haruki and Akihiko return with their comedy routine around people in bands needing jobs.

Given Live Action Drama - Aki and Haruki

One thing the Given Live-Action adaptation struggles with at times are the actor’s expressions.

Throughout episode two of Given’s Live Action we have a number of occasions where the characters need to pull off just the right change in expression. There’s a beautiful scene between Mafuyu and Uenoyama where a slow smile creeps across Mafuyu’s face that is soon mirrored by Uenoyama.


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Equally though, there’s a scene later in the episode where Uenoyama’s actor tries really hard to demonstrate a mix of emotions but mostly looks like he’s contorting various facial muscles. I kind of hope they didn’t have too many retakes on that scene because I can imagine his face hurt after that effort and it really kind of broke the drama of the scene they were trying to create.

Points for effort and all and at last it was obvious what they were trying to accomplish with the scene.

Given Live Action Drama - Uenoyama shouts at Mafuyu

Other than the strumming and a few chords, we actually don’t get to see the band perform or play in episode two of the Given Live-Action story and that’s probably a good thing because it means Mafuyu’s two shining moments, where he sings for Uenoyama shine.

Really, the sound just takes on a life of its own and in amongst an episode otherwise devoid of musical performances it really does manage to stand out. When Uenoyama claims the sound shook him you can really believe it because from such a quiet scene between the two to Mafuyu filling pretty much the whole world with his voice it has much the same effect on the viewer.

And this did lead, in the second instance, to a far more nuanced reaction from the actor playing Akihiko. Rather than the various contortions of the face, he remains seemingly pretty indifferent until the camera focuses down on his cigarette trembling in his fingers. It was an effective way of showing the reactions and worked well with the character.

Given live action - Akihiko

Though while we’re talking about Akihiko, we may as well look at the older pair in the Given Live Action story. Akihiko and Haruki really don’t have a great deal of chemistry so far. Whether they are in the practice room or the scene where Haruki witnesses Akihiko dropping off the girl before borrowing a cigarette, the two work well enough but there’s hardly fireworks going on between them.


While this might work in favour of the electric chemistry brewing between Mafuyu and Uenoyama’s characters, it doesn’t do much for building the whole cast and so far the two older characters have been largely forgettable.

Given Live Action - Title

The Given Live Action adaptation continues to be a pretty solid watch providing another take on a story I loved and I’m really wanting to see the next episode because I am very caught up in this Mafuyu and Uenoyama’s story at this point even if the other characters haven’t quite drawn me in yet. Plus, I can’t wait to hear Mafuyu actually sing a song rather than ‘la-la-la’ even though I know that will be a bit further down the track.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 1 Impressions – The Sound and Sweetness

Given Episode 1

It’s the arrival of a Given live action adaptation.

For those who followed my coverage of the Given anime series with Irina, you will know we both kind of loved it. So the opportunity to see a live-action version of Given is surely tempting with a vague sense of trepidation in wondering how could it possibly top the amazingly emotive experience the anime already gave us?

Seriously, I have Mafuyu singing his song as a poster on my wall in my study and there he will stay as the amazing and inspirational character that he is.

And the opening moments of this Given Live-Action adaptation weren’t awesome.

Given Live-Action - Uenoyama in the dark

The opening of the anime drew you right in with how quiet it was with the actions speaking for themselves. And then the sound began to build.

But this isn’t going to just be comparing Given Live-Action version to Given Anime version. Honestly, they deserve to be judged on their own merits and once I got over the fact that this wasn’t going to be the anime with real people, I kind of got drawn right in because I’m going to say, I loved this episode.

Given Live-Action, Worth It.

The story begins with Uenoyama explaining how he found and then lost his passion for his guitar and music. It is this disenchanted and kind of defeated character we meet at the beginning who then has a chance encounter with another boy sleeping in the stairwell with a guitar.

Given Live Action - Mafuyu sleeping

Now, I know I said I wouldn’t compare to the anime, but I will remind you that Irina and I declared the stairwell our favourite character at one point in our episode reviews of the anime. And I’m going to say that seeing stairwell-kun in live action was probably the best thing ever. How does one set of stairs have that much personality?

Probably because of the attention to details such as light and shadows as well as colour and textures. Something that has carried over into the Given Live Action version. Even if the first ten minutes there’s so much attention on lighting and this continues all through the episode. That and hands. So much focus on character’s hands.

It definitely makes it a little more interesting to watch.

Uenoyama actually ends up initiating their interactions by critiquing Mafuyu’s lack of guitar maintenance and before he knows it Mafuyu is following him to band practice.

Mafuyu does an excellent job here of looking hopeful and nervous simultaneously and once the band starts playing his expression says it all.

This was something I was worried about as we moved dove into the Given Live-Action and that was that the characters wouldn’t have enough nuance in their expressions to really convey the emotions of each scene. I can assure you, they can.


Of course, Given whether as an anime or as a live action is an anime about a band and music, and also a relationship and the characters and their journeys, but if the music sucks it would be hard to stick around. Fortunately, the band kind of rocked and not just because the whole band sequence was filtered through Mafuyu’s fan-boying.

Given live action band

While the anime is still going to be my go-to for this particular story (it really did take a special place in my heart), I’m really impressed at this first episode of the Given live action adaptation and I am keen to watch the next 5 episodes to see how much of the story they tell and how it plays out with real people rather than in anime.

It certainly seems like a lot of attention to detail was put into the making of this episode and the two boys playing Mafuyu and Uneoyama seem to work really well together. There’s already been a number of scenes that have set my heart fluttering and we’re not even that far into the story yet.

Given live action - Mafuyu and Uenoyama

Anyway, if you checked out this first episode, let me know what you thought and if you haven’t given it a look, it is on Crunchyroll.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Karandi James

Given Series Review (anime)

Given Series Review
Given Series Review

Low Budget But A Lot of Heart

It’s time for my Given Series Review.

Given was one of those quiet shows that I took an interest in from the write up and then when Irina suggested we cover it together for the season I happily accepted but didn’t expect much. What I got was a compelling story, wonderful characters, drama that felt right and not overblown (most of the time) and some wonderful choices in music and direction that overcame some of the obvious budget restraints the series was working under.

While it wasn’t a flawless series by any stretch of the imagination, my only real complaint when it was done was that the story wasn’t yet finished and I wanted a second season.

While visually the likes of Demon Slayer and My Hero Academia would wipe the floor with something like Given, and even more genre specific titles such as Bloom Into You are far superior even on just a casual glance, Given worked hard to use what it had to tell it story and the end result was definitely satisfying. Colour and shot composition are used to speak volumes as the characters move through their daily lives and as a viewer I found certain settings began to take on a life of their own with the school staircase almost feeling like an old friend by the time we got to season’s end.

This doesn’t really hide the static backgrounds, still images, or lack of detail in background characters, but I don’t really think they were trying to hide it. The attention to detail is where it needs to be and this carries over into the sound direction. The first episode made some clear choices using silence and diegetic sound only for a fair length of time before any background music came into the picture. Actually, the whole series could be seen as a slow build-up to their concert where the sound finally comes together but overall they’ve done a phenomenal job.


What is Given about?

I mean, we could talk about it as the story of a band that has no vocalist and after meeting Mafuyu at school, Uenoyama recruits him into the band but that barely scratches the surface. The story is very much about these two boys who are both pretty lost at the start of the series (for different reasons) who find new purpose after meeting and then have to deal with the growing feelings between themselves.

And unlike so many anime, this one doesn’t blink away from that. The characters confront their uncertainty about being in a same sex relationship, and about being in a band and in a relationship, head-on by the end of the season.


Both of these characters have baggage and they are both very much teenage boys. Communication becomes an issue on more than one occasion as does impatience and just a general lack of life experience. Of course, Mafuyu’s baggage is the driving force behind a lot of the drama, though watching Uenoyama figure out how to navigate the emotional fallout is at times quite difficult.

For those who find stories around suicide or domestic abuse a challenge to watch, while this one isn’t overly in your face around it, these ideas are most definitely a part of what have shaped Mafuyu and the quiet way the story addresses his past will probably open some emotional scars if you have them and it is probably wise to go in knowing that this content is there.

Outside of their individual drama, the band and preparing to perform just adds an additional layer of tension into the story and pressure to push the characters into action, as well as introducing two amazing supporting characters.


Whether it is band-mum Haruki or the harder to read Akihiko, the two older members of the band provide gentle teasing, support, an occasional word of advice, and their own drama into the story. What makes them amazing is that they don’t seem to exist just to revolve around the main pair. They really are characters in their own right with a lot on their own plates.

That is probably the most amazing accomplishment of Given is that every character feels like they could be the protagonist of their own story and we just see glimpses of that story as they pass through the main narrative. It makes the overall story feel complete and brings these characters to warm life in a way that definitely feels special.

At eleven episodes, Given paces itself well (though this didn’t carry over to the much shorter live action adaptation). The story is a slow burn but each step brings you closer to a climax well worth the wait. The aftermath is beautifully handled and the characters grow on the audience with each passing episode and while I might have started off wanting to protect Mafuyu and thinking the drummer was pretty good looking, I finished the series very much loving all of these boys and wanting the best for all of them in the future.

Whether they are dealing with their emotional baggage, choosing a name for the band, or actually up on the stage, just spending time with them and hanging out became a joy each and every week (even when things were going badly for them).


As for the shounen ai tag (or boy’s love), this one is free of a lot of the tropes that put people off the genre. No age gap of note, no forced physical contact (though there’s fairly limited physical content in general outside of a kiss – so if you are hoping for that side of things this one isn’t going to deliver) and so on. This one is just a sweet school romance between two boys finding their way and it does it so well.

Given isn’t without its issues. Conveniently snapping guitar springs (apparently synced more to emotional tension then any real reason for strings breaking), well timed or contrived conversations or comments, and an overly positive outcome do kind of bring down the overall standing of the story. However, that would probably matter more to someone who was trying to give this a numerical score.

For me, despite all of those issues and despite the clear restrictions in the quality because of the budget, I loved this anime and these characters. I went in expecting so little and what I got blew me away and moved me emotionally.


Clearly I recommend trying this anime if you haven’t. It will not work for everyone. That slow pace may really put you off in the early episodes or maybe sweet romance isn’t your thing with a bit of drama thrown in. The music aspect might appeal, however there’s limited development there as the music takes a backseat to their relationships in terms of screen time. Still, if you give it a go and watch it through, there’s definitely a solid build up through out the series and an emotional payoff worth waiting for. Now we just need that season two. However if you can’t wait you can check out a fun discussion about the movie as well as my review of the movie.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Want more rambling thoughts from Irina and Karandi on Given?

Images from: Given. Dir. H Yamaguchi. Lerche. 2019.

Given Movie Review

Given Movie Review

The Given Movie Breaks Your Heart In A Nice Way

The Given anime series kind of took me by surprise and blew me away. It wasn’t that it was a visual masterpiece that redefined what animation was. In point of fact, despite some very clever and well thought out sound and colour direction, studio Lerche just isn’t particularly great at animation utilising a lot of stills and even when they step up the animation for the band’s performances there’s still some interesting shot choices that allow them to avoid really getting into too much detailed movement.

What the series did beautifully was tell the story of two awkward boys, both dealing with their own baggage, connecting and ultimately falling in love. It was also the story of a band coming together and learning to work together and then there were some emotional triumphs for personal growth as well as an upfront and honest discussion around the complications of same-sex relationships and relationships between band-mates.

All and all, it was well worth watching for its dramatic highs and lows, for the characters we met, and ultimately for just knowing exactly what it wanted to do and not looking away from that.

That was always going to be a hard act to follow and yet I ended my initial review claiming we just needed a season 2 and while I haven’t gotten that, being given a movie follow up is nothing to sneeze at here.

Kaji waiting for Ugetsu's performance to begin - Given Movie
Kaji could hardly wait for it to start, too.

One of the best decisions here was to move the focus from the younger pair, Mafuyu and Ueno, to their older band-mates, Kaji and Haruki. While both Kaji and Haruki were important to the series and clearly had their own lives and issues, it was played very much in the background to Ueno and Mafuyu’s story. The roles switch here as we see that Mafuyu and Ueno are continuing to build on their relationship and Mafuyu’s journey into music is continuing, but now Kaji and Haruki are placed front and centre.

With the older pair at the fore-front the relationship drama moves away from understanding first love and becomes a lot more complex as Kaji struggles in a reasonably suffocating relationship of his own making with his roommate (and violin genius) Ugetsu while Haruki has to deal with his own seemingly unrequited love for Kaji.


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It would have been easy to step squarely into the realm of melodrama and had Kaji trapped in an abusive relationship with a complete jerk allowing a simplistic solution. Given once again demonstrates how confident it is in its characters and narrative and instead chooses to deal with all three of these characters as people. no one is the villain here and while characters are causing other characters pain it mostly it isn’t deliberate and even when it is the actions scar the person causing the pain as much as the one on the receiving end.

Kaji taking advantage of Haruki - Given Movie
This was not Kaji’s finest moment and Haruki made sure he knew it.

There are some moments in this film that are massively uncomfortable to watch as we see desperate characters take actions that on reflection they will realise were clearly wrong and at times you wonder how any of them will come back from this and whether the band will even survive. Though the stories of these characters are all interconnected and while Mafuyu’s character may not be the centre of this story, his observations and actions are pivotal to the plot and ultimately his actions are the catalyst for the other characters to make their decisions.

It works beautifully and while the run-time might only be 59 minutes there isn’t one that is wasted. From start to finish your emotions are going to be plucked and stretched before you will find a cathartic peace in the final moments. You absolutely do have to watch the end credits and the afterward as these also have a place in this narrative.

Ugetsu and Kaji - Given Movie
Ugetsu and Kaji’s relationship = It’s complicated.

Like the series, the animation remains the relative weak link but once again colour, character design and sound direction more than compensate. Not to mention the story is just good. Spending time with these characters is fantastic. While I feel that we had a whole story play out here, I still want that second season of the anime because I just want to spend more time with these guys and see how far their band can go.

Their performance in this movie was incredible, even better than the explosive outpouring of emotion that marked Mafuyu’s debut in the series. Here he is now more controlled, more prepared, and he’s been studying hard and integrating all of the knowledge of those around him into his song. It reaches inside you and genuinely tears you apart from the inside but leaves you absolutely wanting more.


I would like to finish with a focus on Haruki. In the series he was definitely the band-mum and Kaji labels him in this movie as the peace-maker. He’s a character of average music ability who finds himself in a band surrounded by incredibly talented people and at times it would be easy to overlook him. And yet he is at the heart of everything as he is the one who ensures they are entered into the audition and makes sure the others are organised and ready to play. He’s the one who makes the connections and helps get the band name out there.

The other three might all be more talented at music with Ueno having already been established as a genius in the series, Kaji proving to be a jack of all trades and while not able to reach Ugetsu’s level on the violin able to pick up things very easily, and Mafuyu, now that he’s been exposed to music, going through an explosive growth period, but Haruki remains the essential figure. All three of the other characters are caught up in their own concerns and can’t step back and look outside. Without Haruki, they’d be a talented group hanging out in their studio and never actually playing anywhere.

Haruki - Given Movie
Yep, Haruki you are the MVP.

While it isn’t the main focus in the movie, it is nice to see that Haruki’s role is acknowledged and that he seems to be learning how important he really is with what he does for the others. I would love to see what his next for his character as it would be nice to see him really step out of the shadows of the others and be confident that he is serving just as vital a role for the band as any of them.

Hopefully it is fairly clear that I loved this movie. I wouldn’t recommend it if you haven’t watched the series, but then I would tell you to watch the series and then check out the movie. It is well worth it and while shounen-ai may not be a genre everyone wants to get into, Given really is just a beautiful story about love and music and a group of characters who are all forcing each other to grow. It is one of those that sticks with you once it is done and I know this is one I will watch again and again.

Images used for review from: Given (movie). Dir. H. Yamaguchi. Lerche. 2020.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Quadra-collab Fails to Form a Band: Reviews Given (movie)” – pt 4 (Final)

Given Collab

Regular readers will know that I was a huge fan of the Given anime and once I found out about the movie I was super excited. And then Irina went and made it even better by suggesting this collaboration between Scott, Shoujo, Irina and myself after we viewed the movie. Hopefully you have already seen the first three parts of this collab but if not be sure to check them all out:

Meanwhile, here is the final part of the discussion with Scott 🚀, Irina🍸, Shoujo🌸 and Karandi🍣.

Given Movie 8
This movie really does take the characters and the audience on an incredible emotional journey despite the short run time.

S🚀: I enjoyed this film quite a bit because of how much of a ride it was. I mentioned listening to Nana music afterwards on Twitter because this made me feel like I was watching Nana again. All of that was because of how messy the relationships were, how everything was made by characters making the wrong choices, and how wrong and yet right relationships felt.

It kind of stunned me in a good way. I think that Haruki and Kaji meeting up with each other felt a bit rushed in some ways, but it feels natural too. Just a lot of good writing I think. Very natural sort of character drama. I do think that adding maybe 30 minutes to put in some breathing room with Mafuyu and Ueno dating would have helped to make it feel complete, but this was good.

It is a sequel movie, so it only makes sense to have the context from other sources to know more. If I would be a new viewer, I think it would work to get the viewer interested in watching the series. I wouldn’t mind more sequels too. More of this softness, please? Thank you. 

SJ🌸 : I didn’t mind the pace of the movie; I agree that it added something that all their emotions were so breakneck, so jarring. Still, an hour-long movie wasn’t enough to scratch my Given itch, and I agree that if one were to go into the movie without having seen the series, one wouldn’t have the experience necessary to form as deep of a connection to the events as they would having watched events prior. I, like Scott, would have liked to see the movie be longer. I think that something closer to feature length (75 to 210 minutes) would have given the adaptation more room to explore without taking away from the jarring twists and turns.

Personally, I felt so much anger—so much indignation and sorrow and frustration. Without getting into spoilers, I can’t say much, but I can say that events that occur earlier in the movie colour my viewing experience for the rest of the film, leaving me conflicted at every turn as I watch Haruki and Kaji’s relationship unfold. A second season taking place after the events of the movie is greatly needed. Given (haha, oops) the amount of content available, I think we actually have a pretty good chance of seeing these characters on screen again. Given is nothing if not good at evoking emotion. I would like more of that, whether that’s in the form of movies/OVAs or a series. (But series, please!)

Given Movie 10
So much pain here for all of the characters.

I🍸: Even with all this criticism, at the end of the day, it was great seeing Given again. It made me happy and reminded me just how much I loved the series. I might actually rewatch it. And if they ever announce another season, I will be watching it as it airs!

SJ🌸 : Me, too!! I sure hope that our wishes come to fruition!

S🚀: Nod, nod!

I🍸: Random thoughts – the orchestral piece at the beginning was gorgeous. Just amazing. Also, I think the character designs may have gotten a subtle boost. Maybe it was just me projecting my happiness.

K🍣: The music was brilliant. 

I’m not sure if the character designs got any better but I know that one of the most heartbreaking moments had nothing to do with the emotional story being told and everything to do with me being devastated that one of the characters underwent a hairstyle change mid-movie. I totally get what was driving him at that point but it still nearly made me cry.

Given Movie 7
This expression kind of shows my horror at Haruki’s decision to cut his hair

S🚀: I think it looked about the same honestly because Lerche isn’t that much of a power house studio, but their style and direction is always good. They still hid the hands when everyone played music instruments and there was some obvious cg with Mafuyu, but the writing was still great and the music was on point so it all worked in the end. 

SJ🌸 : I actually really like the art of both the movie and the series. There was a bit of a distracting CG work I noticed here or there, but overall, I was very impressed! Further, Karandi, I KNOW!!! THE HAIRCUT. I was… so angry on his behalf.

K🍣: On the other-hand Shoujo, they do this all the time to female characters who are undergoing a transition or dealing with something. I guess it is a nice symbolic ending of one thing and the start of something else. That said, poor hair.

I🍸: Just so you know, in the manga there’s a flashback where Haruki decides that until he starts dating Kaji, he will let his hair grow out. As such, the long hair represented his one sided attachment and devotion to Kaji and him cutting it off was a visual way to tell the audience that he was ready to move on from Kaji specifically. Which was absolutely necessary if they were to ever have a healthy relationship. 

Given Movie 11
You’re breaking my heart, Haruki.

I also like Haruki better with his long hair. He’s my phone’s lock screen.

SJ🌸 : I love the symbolism! Yes, he cut his hair when he was originally growing it for Kaji, and yes, it represents an end to his pining (in a great, visual way), but his poor heart!!

S🚀: I wasn’t expecting haircut discourse, but I am kind of inbetween. He looked great with it, but I think his hair being cut is also pretty attractive. It gives him such a different edge that I kind of like. I am apparently the outsider though. 

And so the collaboration ends. A huge thanks to Shoujo, Scott and Irina for this as watching a movie by yourself can be a great experience, but watching a movie and then being able to discuss it with people who were also very attached to these characters and anticipating it and how we felt about it just made it an overall wonderful experience.

I will post an individual review of the movie later and may even do a rewatch first, but for now that’s our thoughts on the Given Movie. And seriously, if you didn’t check out the other 3 parts of this discussion, I totally recommend you do as it was great fun to write and we’d all love to know your thoughts on the movie.

Images used for review from: Given (movie). Dir. H. Yamaguchi. Lerche. 2020.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James