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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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


Umibe no Étranger Movie Review – 59 Minutes of Pretty Visuals With An Okay Shounen Ai Story

Umibe no Étranger

It’s no secret that shounen ai stories are a little on the hit and miss side with far more missing the mark or falling into standard BL tropes such as non-consensual sex or dominant and submissive personalities (such as Dakaichi and similar stories present). So when a movie like Umibe no Étranger, or The Stranger by the Shore, comes along it’s kind of nice just to watch two male characters falling in love.

However, Umibe no Étranger also misses the emotional mark with 59 minutes being long enough to give us a sense of beauty for the setting, an outline of who these characters are and some of what they are overcoming, as well as one night where things get steamy before we get to a resolution of sorts but it isn’t long enough to really leave any kind of memorable impression other than being nice enough and kind of pretty.

Umibe no Étranger
Shun and Mio.

Who is Umibe no Étranger for?

Which made me wonder who this movie was for and ultimately I guess it is fans of the source material, assuming it perhaps fills in some of the gaps (though I’ve never read it so wouldn’t know). The movie itself offers a sketched picture of these characters but ultimately their past and troubles are touched upon and then we move on and their relationship progresses without any real obstacles outside of Shun himself.

While it all works it isn’t a particularly satisfying or memorable experience and you get to the end of Umibe no Étranger with a clear image of flowers growing around a bench, straw hats that won’t stay on heads, and cute cats that lounge about the house, and little impression of the story or characters themselves.

Umibe no Étranger

It would be like watching the Given movie without having first watched the series. By itself, the 59 minutes movie just isn’t enough to really be invested in the characters.

Anyway, Stranger by the Shore focuses on Shun, who we learn is gay and a writer and as the story progresses we realise he was bullied at school, has never actually had a real relationship, and when he did come out to his parents it didn’t end well. Though potentially timing was the problem there as he seemed to leave it until pretty much his wedding to his childhood friend before telling them.



Shun is living with his aunt and happens to see Mio sitting on a bench by the beach at night. After watching him a few times, Shun approaches him and eventually learns that Mio’s mother has died and the high school student is now on his own. The two kind of instantly get into the close and blushy stage of their relationship before Mio announces he’s going to an orphanage on the mainland.

Umibe no Étranger
And from this act a relationship was born.

We jump 3 years and 20 year old Mio returns and more or less declares that he’s in love with Shun.

This is kind of the main problem with the entirety of Umibe no Étranger. The relationship just kind of happens and we never see these two spending time getting to know one another. The movie ends and I still don’t know what either character likes about the other or even if they know anything about each other.

Conflict is created in the story more or less only by Shun pushing Mio away. We later learn that he was doing this because he didn’t want Mio because of the way when people in society would view their relationship and really his resistance lasts as long as one actual argument, a teary phone call and then one made dash through a convenient rain storm before the two are in a relationship.

Further conflict is attempted in Umibe no Étranger by introducing Sakurako, Shun’s former fiancée but given most of her actions seem drive to driving the two boys together this one barely counts and mostly just pads the run time and gives us a few flashbacks to Shun’s childhood.

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Honestly, the story could work fine as is given Umibe no Étranger labels itself a slice of life and that really is what we are getting, the day to day of these boys on the island. However, I just can’t help but want this movie to do more with these characters and the relationship and really just commit to telling a story rather than idling about.

Of course, even without a driving narrative, The Stranger by the Shore is beautiful to look at. The shore line itself is basically its own character and we return to the bench where the two characters first met again and again in different seasons and under different skies.

Likewise the support cast is pleasant enough though we also learn little about anybody in this story. The Aunt Shun lives with runs a café and supports the characters but otherwise I couldn’t tell you a thing about her. Eri and Suzu are super sweet and their relationship is lovely, but other than Eri being a meddler, again, I couldn’t tell you one concrete fact about her.

Even Mio, who is one of our main characters, remains more or less vague. He has some trauma with the loss of his parents and that motivates him later in the movie to encourage Shun to repair his own relationship. Otherwise I don’t actually know what Mio likes, at age 20 what he’s wanting to do for a living, or literally anything about him.

Umibe no Étranger

He met Shun and then thought about him for 3 years before returning to the island to declare his love. But what were his plans beyond that? There’s a massive void where his actual character should be and while he’s pleasant enough, gets embarrassed at times, gets angry at times and does what he needs to, he’s not a character I’ll remember after writing this review because there’s practically nothing to remember.

For 59 minutes Umibe no Étranger a pleasant enough escape experience provided you enjoy a shounen ai story and aren’t put off by a same sex couple having a sex scene.

Umibe no Étranger
An unsuccessful attempt to sleep together.

However it isn’t a movie that must be watched and ultimately it will probably just be forgotten as it is neither strong enough as a story to be remembered or contentious enough to be discussed beyond the initial watching.

However, as always, I’d love to know your thoughts so if you watched Umibe no Étranger be sure to leave me a comment below.

Images from: Umibe no Étranger. Dir A Oohashi. Studio Hibari. 2020


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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.

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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.

Given3d

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.

Given9e

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).

Given4d

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.

Given8m

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.


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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.

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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.


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Karandi James


Given Episode 11 – Outro

Given11a

Laughing Rini

It’s Friday morning and I’m heading to work. This is relevant because for me Given airs on Thursdays. I watched the last episode last night. I actually put it off for a few hours – I wasn’t quite ready for an ending. Now, I’m on the bus and I just caught myself humming the end theme of the show as I have been doing all morning. I’m going to miss Given. I’m going to miss our chats about it too. Karandi, for the first time, you even texted me a little spoiler of your thoughts. I was excited!

Karandi - Avatar

Well, Given I’m hopelessly behind on everything else and I knew I’d be busy this weekend, I made sure to watch the episode when I got home from work Friday rather than leaving it until Saturday morning (when I’d probably end up not having time). That said, I’m really happy I watched the episode Friday afternoon, because it left me in such a great mood.

 

Given11l
I was in a great mood too!

For a last time (this season, fingers crossed) let’s get into this week’s Given.

For a bit of context, last week ended on an actual cliffhanger as Mafuyu confessed his feelings to Uenoyama.

Remember when I said Ueno was a lovable dork? I stand corrected, he is the most lovable biggest dork. That surreal Being John Malkovich scene with all the Ueno’s partying had me literally cheering at my tv. I was hooting and applauding. This is how you illustrate the moment of romantic realization. From now on, I will only accept dinosaurs!

It was so brilliant. It took a moment that could have just been melodramatic and pretty standard and turned it into something that was funny, sweet, felt very real, and was an awesome character moment as well because this fit just perfectly with Uenoyama. I absolutely loved how they approached this.

On top of that, the conflict about not dating band mates because of all the potential complications felt very logical and in line with the characters. One of my big annoyances with romantic series is that to me the obstacles often seem contrived or simply non issues exaggerated for plot. The fact that this was an actual problem I could easily imagine in that situation really sold it for me.

Given11e
I do that with my hair all the time

Because Haru is technically their band leader, I can see why Mayu and Ueno would think to go to him first.

Sidenote, I have been enjoying the many different hairstyles Haru sports throughout the season. This messy loose hair was particularly impressive to me. He looked both like himself and completely different.

I felt it also fit with Haruki being the unofficial band mum. It was like Ueno and Mafuyu were asking permission from their parents. And I agree, this didn’t felt like a conflict for the sake of drama, it felt like a genuine concern that these boys would have about starting a relationship, and so they dealt with it. Right then and there. It wasn’t a few episodes later after pining and angst. I really appreciated this upfront approach to the whole process.

Once again Ueno was the best in this scene. While Mayu was being his usual self and Haru was uncharacteristically stern, Ueno decided to go the unbearably adorable route. No wonder Haru cracked instantly. I think Ueno is going to make a good boyfriend. What do you think Karandi?

If there was ever any doubt that Uenoyama and Mafuyu were not good together, the scene with Haruki where they simultaneously hugged him definitely dispelled all doubts. The two have clicked beautifully and they definitely feel like a genuine couple in that honeymoon phase of silly happiness. My only worry is that Uenoyama is going to over-complicate the whole thing at some point causing some conflict further down the line, but for now the two are just adorable. 

Given11f
personally I liked Ueno bowing

Kaji was true to form. Of course none of it was much of a surprise to him. Probably happy that both of them are going to stop moping now!

Now if Kaji could do something about Haruki. preach!

Ueno wanted to be the gallant gentleman again and it filled me with smiles. Mayu is much more comfortable and used to this type of situation than Ueno so I understand why each is acting this way. Still it was pretty funny to see their personalities more or less flipped from how they were in the first episode.

And you know what else was awesome. Finding out that the “real” Mayu, the one not wracked with guilt and pain, is a bit of a troll. He makes fun of Ueno offering to sing him a fight song while the other is struggling to carry his stuff. He playfully but very directly jabs Hiiragi when his old friends come to visit. It’s in his traditional airheaded way but kitten’s got some claws. Mayu’s sense of humour is sarcastic and I’m here for it!

Yes, I loved how it feels like after performing is song Mafuyu has opened up a little bit. He’s still Mafuyu but he’s definitely more playful and it is really fantastic getting to know him a bit more without him being more or less emotionally shut down because of grief. I want to see more of this Mafuyu and how he continues to change as his relationship with Ueno does.

Given11g
we all want to see more!

We then jumped to the promo pictures scene which was another clear bit of fluffy fanservice but boy was it fun. This was probably one of the most cheerful and just plain amusing scenes we’ve had from Given. The boys all together and just having a grand old time. The promise of the band starting to materialize into something real.

It’s the moments like this that made Given shine through for me. Small scenes, unpretentious and unimpressive in isolation but so carefully balanced to let each character shine. It slowly builds each of them up not through exposition or backstory but through their interactions with each other. It’s a very naturalistic way of getting to know these people which makes them seem so much more real to me.

Absolutely. The boys giggling through the shoot, being embarrassed looking at the photos, but all working together to build up the band… It all feels very genuine and it is just fun. So much time has been put into making these characters feel real and every interaction between them reinforces what we know as well as gives us just a little bit more insight into them and it makes even these little moments feel so purposeful. I love it.

When it comes down to it, Ueno and Mayu are pretty similar, they like the same things and react in more or less like one another. It’s not that surprising that they would form a bond. On the other hand, Haru is more sensitive then the rest while Kaji is aimless. We got all that without even needing a line of direct dialogue to that effect. That’s what really impresses me.

There’s been a beautiful absence of exposition in this anime and honestly it is a welcome change. I know I enjoy isekai stories and the like but they end up fairly heavy on scenes that exist just to explain stuff. Given has been a very nice change of pace from that and one I really appreciated this season.

Given11j
wow Kaji looks so over it in the promo!

This last episode was more divided than most. It was like a series of small acts or like a day in the life type of narrative. The evening was dedicated to Haru’s birthday. I’m not sure how I would react if my friends thought that celebrating meant throwing a pie in my face. Has that ever happened to you Karandi?

I think most people who would join me for my birthday have enough sense to know that throwing a pie in my face would not end well for anyone involved. Not to mention, what a waste of a pie.

The divisive nature of this final episode covering so many small moments was kind of perfect as the story isn’t done but it gave us a resting point of sorts as we saw where each of the characters were in their current journey as well as where the band is sitting right now. I would absolutely love another season, but this episode gave me a sense that this was a nice moment for a pause or a break.

At the tail end of the sequence we got one of the more melancholy moments of this episode as Haru finally shows some cracks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty easy to infer that Haruki is under a lot of pressure and not doing that great, but it’s the first time we actually hear him admit it to himself. Nothing big, just one of those small introspective moment, the type we often have on random milestones like birthdays. I’ve been there and so have most of my friends. It was such an intimately familiar moment that all I wanted to do was invent a way to communicate with drawings through my TV so I could tell him it would get better. It always does…

Haruki has a lot of pressure in his self-appointed role of band-mum and I think he needs to make sure the other members don’t get complacent and take advantage of him in that space. Of all the band members, he’s the most likely to burn out from the work load as he takes care of a lot. Uenoyama is likely to lose motivation, Mafuyu is clearly strongly effected by his emotions, and Kaji doesn’t seem to take on a lot of responsibility for the small details and seems like he’d be least effected if he walked away, but Haruki may genuinely suffer from the workload he’s taking on. Hopefully the rest of the band members step in before that happens.

Given11d
and hopefully we’ll get to see it in season 2!

The final moments catch up with Mayu and Ueno having just stumbled unto a summer festival and sharing a quiet moment before going home. It ended on a series of cheerful and optimistic still shots and then left us in the middle of a sentence, just as Mayu is about to explain what his next song will be. That is the exact perfect spot to end it.

All in all, this last episode was very gleeful and lighthearted again. Once more it skewed more towards comedy which I know is not your thing but it’s very much mine! Despite the fact that there were no more physical displays of affection, I think this was one of the more romantic episodes if not the most romantic one. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for anything else. Now I am majorly conflicted since I definitely want more but at the same time, it seems pretty much perfect as is.

How did you like this last episode Karandi?

Agreed. It was a perfect ending point for the season. And the comedy skew isn’t a problem in this kind of story after everything we’ve been through. Particularly since the comedy feels like the boys celebrating everything up until now and shows Mafuyu coming out of his shell. It doesn’t feel like the intense tonal shifts Demon Slayer goes through when it changes between drama and comedy, and it isn’t comedy as the only point as everything here is still character or plot driven. I know I normally just say I don’t like comedy, but that’s because it is normally like bad fan-service and intrudes on the story and adds little to character or plot. When it is done well, and actually funny, even I can admit it works.

But come on… season 2? I’ve had so much fun with this story and these characters and I have loved the whole journey, not to mention just seeing how this show has been put together because there’s been some great choices with the direction and the music has been solid. Besides, I’d love to review more with you as it has been an absolute delight discussing this one each week.

Given11i
now I’m blushing…

Maybe as a subconscious defence against losing Given (at least for now) I almost immortalized the last episode by taking a ridiculous amount of screen shots (even by my standards). But also because of the way the episode was structured, with all those different acts, the visuals really changed quite a bit throughout. I didn’t end up with a ton of images that looked more or less identical like I usually do. Long story short: there’s a gadjillion screencaps HERE.

*I took a break while writing, it’s several hours later. I’m still humming that song….

 

Thanks for Reading From
Irina and Karandi

Irina 2020

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Want more rambling thoughts from Irina and Karandi on Given?

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

Given Episode 10 – A Lighter Note

Given ep10 1023

Laughing Rini

 

You know what I’ve come to realize. I love a dork. Both in anime and in real life. Dorks are just the best. They’re fun and all innocent and nice. You just want to give them a hug and pat their heads or something. Dorks always make everything better. I will always be proud to call a dork a friend. You know what else I’ve come to realize, Uenoyama is just a huge dork! I love him!

Karandi - Avatar

 

Uenoyama is an adorable dork and let’s hope he stays that way. Going to be honest and just let you know that when I watched this episode I look a lot like Mafuyu did early on and so my focus is all over the place. Still, I was left with the impression that I enjoyed the episode so let’s press on and pretend that I’ll make some sense.

Given10d
I agree it was an amazing episode!

After the tense emotional episode, we had last week, we knew that Given would have to deal with the aftermath. Both of the performances and that kiss, which had been just left hanging there with no real conclusion.

Seeing as Given is a show that was written specifically for me, it dealt with these things just the way I liked it. With lighthearted humour and a goofy touch as my second favourite dork, Uenoyama only realized the next day what exactly had happened at the show! Of all the approaches they could have chosen, they went with fun! Thoughts?

It definitely went with the idea that the whole kiss had happened very much in the heat of the moment and as an impulse. So impulsive apparently that Uenoyama didn’t even immediately recall it. That definitely worked with last week and with what we know of these characters, and was just kind of fun – not to mention gave a meaningful reason for flashbacks of certain scenes which I was not opposed to having a flashback of. 

Given10e
so picky

I once wrote that Given is a show full of nice people. I hadn’t realized just how right I was. The girl who went to middle school with Mayu not only attended the show but sympathized with him on a deeply human level. Take took it upon himself to make a video of their performance and later immediately became their first Twitter follower! Despite his snide comments Murata seems to really want to help them progress and my buddy Hiiragi was relieved to the point of tears that Mayu found his voice…

These are all very nice people, I really appreciate that Given takes the time to give them their own lives. Supporting characters is what makes the world seem alive.

I’ll admit, this is something I normally appreciate in Given but this week, with my own focus so broken I honestly had to stop the episode and go back through previous notes just to remember who she was and why it mattered that she went to his concert. I’m certain that normally this would have had a bit more impact on me but largely I found the additional characters at school a little distracting this week as I was struggling to follow what was happening. That’s entirely due to my own being sick and nothing to do with the episode though.

Given10a
yup

So they succumbed to the sick boy trope… Pun intended! I don’t think I can put my feelings on this into words. Karandi – help!!!

I found my spirit-animal this week in Mafuyu as he lay in bed with the cooling patch on his head. Given that had been my state for most of last this made me smile a little bit. That, and tropes are easy to follow because they don’t require a lot of thought from the audience so this part of the episode was much easier on my brain.

I like that they came up with the name Given in such a silly and casual way. Although, I’m just a tiny bit sorry they didn’t decide to name themselves, Salted Tongue! Of the double entendres!

Yeah, the story works because you hear of so many bands picking names fairly randomly. I’m glad they didn’t go on and on about it but just got to it and went with it.

Given ep10 -5(11) - Copy
missed opportunity I tell you!

It’s a very small thing but to me, Mafuyu going to buy strings by himself was a huge leap. Somehow, it seems unthinkable that the boy we met in episode 1 would be capable of such a thing. It’s an actual marker of character growth and of Mayu slowly coming out of the shock and grief that had him paralyzed.

I know it wasn’t presented with the emotional gut punch that last week’s show was, but this is the scene that did it for me. The one that made me think, oh wow, it might be o.k. Things might work out. Am I overthinking this? 

I don’t think it is over thinking it. Given has shown us a number of times how carefully crafted the story is with multiple things linking back to previous events and ideas. That said, I didn’t really think about it until you mentioned it but Mafuyu buying strings by himself is a massive leap and a great sign of him not being dependent on Uenoyama which would make it hard to really get behind a relationship between the two.

Given10c
you could do worse for a spirit animal

We didn’t get to see too much of first dork Haru this episode. The early scene with Take was funny though. This said, he and Kaji really make a great odd couple. I’ll admit, Murata was just oozing sexiness this episode but Kaji is just so much more fun when he’s with Haruki. There’s no point to this paragraph, I’m just trying to drag Karandi over to team Haru. Apparently, that’s what matters to me right now!

I’m all for shipping Kaji with Haru, I just still think Murata has more sex appeal in general. That said, if he messes with Mafuyu it will be war. His comment about him needing a trigger to bring out his potential set off alarm bells in my fevered brain and I hope I don’t have to declare war on a fictional character but I may just go there.

Given10b
I agree

The last scene between Mayu and Ueno parallels then end tag between Yuki and Mayu last episode. Both not quite dates, both by the sea and in places that Mafuyu has never visited before. But this is the Mayu I was expecting. Excited and nervous. Both of them standing side by side instead of walking one behind the other.

It was such a happy and sweet scene in contrast with the cold slightly depressing one we got last week. I loved it!

It was perfect. It made me smile even though I was exhausted from focusing on the episode and just wanted to go back to bed. It also made me really sad this season is ending soon.

Given ep10 -9(21) - Copy
you have been warned!

Karandiiiiiii, I don’t want next week to be the last episode. I mean it makes sense, this is the perfect spot to stop the story but also I don’t wanna. What’s gonna happen with Haru and Kaji? Given JUST got their name! Who’s gonna make my Thursday nights gleeful? I don’t want them to be a one hit wonder!

Yeah, we definitely need a sequel here though in the grand tradition of brilliant shows  this one will probably not get a part two meanwhile somehow Granblue Fantasy did and I’m still wondering how on earth that happened.

You know how you can relive all the fun of this episode? By looking at all the screencaps I took! Yup, Gallery is over HERE

Thanks for Reading From
Irina and Karandi

Irina 2020

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Want more rambling thoughts from Irina and Karandi on Given?

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

Given Episode 9 – Resolution

Given9h

Laughing Rini

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…

Karandi - Avatar

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. 

Given9s
Let’s put it to good use

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?

Given9a
kids these days, you gotta tell them everything

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.

Given9b
well, you got other qualities

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.

Given9e
I mean..just..gwah

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. 

Given9c
we’ll try

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.

Given9j
ok the not speaking thing was cute but…

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.

Given9q
hey look, a boy with a guitar in a staircase

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.

Given9i
of course Yuki means snow…

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.

Given9m
ow!

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.

Given9d
beautiful screencap, I’m going to pin it

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.

Given9o
you ain’t seen nothing yet

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.

Given9r
cause he liked him! So cute!

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!!!!

Given9k
Karandi is out of relevant screencaps – my apologies, I only took twice as many as normal, couldn’t cover this episode still.

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.

Given9f
the subtitle says it all

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.

In the meantime, I have my galleries to keep me going….

Thanks for Reading From
Irina and Karandi

Irina 2020

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Want more rambling thoughts from Irina and Karandi on Given?

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

Given Episode 8 – Chorus

Given8i

Laughing Rini

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.

Karandi - Avatar

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.

Given8f
Kaji looks great holding a violin

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.

Given8e
even mayu’s pencils ae orange…

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.

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this isn’t the same scene, but you get the idea – so much light!

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.

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because he’s worth it!

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. 

Given8a
But I like you!

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. 

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I know I’m basic but little Mayu is heartmeltingly adorable

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!

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it felt horrible

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?

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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

Irina 2020

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Want more rambling thoughts from Irina and Karandi on Given?

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