Plot: Haruki’s light music club is dwindling in numbers, but he has a dream of playing guitar in the school festival. While he’s not very good, he practices everyday in Music Room 1 while a mysterious pianist plays in the locked Music Room 2 meant for music school students. When he starts trying to play “White Album”, the mysterious pianist from the other room starts playing with him and it becomes a regular practice session for the two while Haruki remains in the dark about who it is. Another person joins in the song, a vocalist, and Haruki discovers that the vocalist is the school idol, Setsuna Ogiso, while the pianist is his friend Kazusa Touma. He gets them to join the light music club to quickly prepare for the festival in mere weeks, but unrequited love and blooming love are entangling the three in web with no easy way out.
Breakdown: WARNING – ALL OF THE SPOILERS
I was dreading the crap out of this show. If you follow my reviews, you know I don’t much care for White Album 1. There were way too many girls given focus, their characters were all mostly ruined, and Touya was an unlikable cheating asshole and no man on the show barring Frankie was likeable at all by the end of season two.
But I wanted to give this show a chance as it takes place years after WA1 and no characters from that show make the slightest cameo. Rina and Yuki are mentioned and their faces are shown on posters, that’s it.
I’m glad I did give this show a chance because it’s a hell of a lot better than WA1. Haruki, for starters, is very likable. He’s a little uptight, but that’s fine. His heart’s in the right place and he’s a very kind person. While he does make some mistakes, he’s human and actually feels stuff like shame and regret for them. Even feeling things he should be feeling for another person while with someone else. WHOWOULDATHUNKIT!
Setsuna…..got a little creepy, I will admit. The whole petting his hair while he’s sleeping even though he hasn’t taken a shower thing and her clingyness got a bit much for me, but that was very short lived and it wasn’t that terrible. I’ve seen worse, and she’s a very kindhearted character as well. The ending in particular made me see this character in a very bright light.
Touma as a character is a little grating in earlier episodes as she’s very blunt and not very friendly, but when she warms up to the group and you get to know her, you get to like her more and more as a character.
The story as a whole is really entirely about these three. Unlike a lot of other visual novel anime, Haruki’s only in a love triangle. There are two other ‘prominent’ girls in the series, one being his friend Io and another a snotty bitch who used to be the vocalist for the group, but they, like most of the other side characters, don’t do much. They’re there for support and such when needed, but nothing really focuses on them. While that is fine seeing as how that keeps the focus in the show on the three, I’d really like to get to know them a little better.
That’s another thing, I was really worried Takeya would be the signature pervert best friend who is meant to be worse than the main character to make him look better. But, surprisingly, he’s actually very likeable. He keeps Haruki grounded and is a very good friend to him whenever he needs him. He is a playboy, apparently, but he’s not sleazy or anything. I really wish we had gotten to see more of him.
As for the actual story, both Touma and Setsuna eventually start liking Haruki. Setsuna admits this to Touma, but she’s too proud to admit that she likes him too despite the fact that Setsuna tells her that she knows she likes him, but they’ll be rivals for his affection. Haruki’s pretty vague on who he really likes in the beginning as they almost leaned it towards Setsuna for a good chunk while consistently making you root for Touma. That’s the difficult thing in this anime. Unlike a lot of love triangles, I didn’t hate anyone here. I was rooting for one over another, but I wasn’t wishing for the other’s suffering. I was just wishing more for the happiness of the first.
That’s how love triangle stories should be. Why even bother telling a story about a love triangle when one character is clearly more likable than another? You should like all of the characters to enjoy their relationships and really think about who loves who most or who seems better with who. It’s an odd fact, but deciding who you want to root for should be a somewhat sad feeling that takes actual thought and consideration because it means that another nice character suffers. If you clearly hate one character in the love triangle, it makes it difficult to root for that pairing, and makes the final outcome incredibly predictable.
After the school festival, Setsuna confesses to Haruki and Haruki becomes her boyfriend. They maintain a fairly nice relationship, but it quickly becomes clear that Haruki really likes Touma and vice versa and that Setsuna knows this deep down.
Touma starts becoming colder and colder to Haruki until she basically starts being mean to him to further their distance, but this just prompts Haruki to pursue her even further to figure out why she’s acting as such. His determination even leads him to lying to Setsuna on her birthday (while she’s all alone; ouch) so that he can find Touma instead of going to her party. And this is what I mean about liking all of the characters in order for love triangle stories to work. If I hated Setsuna, I probably wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about this, but I do so I felt really bad for her. And yes, this is one example of Haruki kinda being an asshole, but he didn’t realize she was alone on her birthday. Her family left on a trip for some reason. In addition, one of the reasons Haruki pursued Touma that day was to get her to go to Setsuna’s party.
When he finds her, she reveals that she’s loved him since before she even joined the light music club. He was the only one who treated her as a regular person and not with contempt or special treatment because of her mother’s fame (she’s a famous pianist). He took an interest in her, in her life and her well-being. He was kind to her and he legitimately cared.
Haruki, admitting that he also liked Touma, starts kissing her and she kisses back, but Touma quickly pushes him away and slaps him. She then doesn’t want to do anything with him since he’s with Setsuna and she’s her best friend.
That’s another note about this show. In addition to the characters all being likable, Touma and Setsuna quickly become best friends after meeting in the light music club, which just makes this situation even more heartbreaking. You not only have to take into account that one of them is going to suffer, but then there’s the lingering feeling like both of them will feel like they’re betraying the other if they do end up with Haruki.
I mused that this would be one show were I would actually root for a threesome ending. Haruki loves Touma and Touma loves Haruki, Setsuna loves Haruki and there were actually several times when Setsuna and Touma humored the thought that they would actually be great together if Touma were a guy. It could work. I’m just sayin’….
In addition to that, Touma states that she’s going to be living with her mother in Vienna after her graduation to master piano. Her mother went to Europe a few years ago to continue her career as a concert pianist and didn’t take Touma with her, which caused a huge strife in their relationship. After Touma proved her prowess at a recital, her mother decided to allow her to come to Vienna with her to find a better piano teacher to master her craft.
Also, Touma doesn’t have the grades to get into any actual college, so this seems like her best shot at a career.
Touma does her best to avoid the two after that, but leaves a note in Setsuna’s desk at graduation, leaving Haruki to abandon Setsuna to find her.
He doesn’t, but Touma calls him later, the day before she’s set to leave, to talk to him one last time. It builds up to Haruki eventually confessing his love for her and Touma talking about how it essentially can’t work, but she’ll always remember him. Haruki finds her as she was ‘hiding’ in the park outside his apartment building in hopes that she could see him one last time and they finally spill all the beans and happily start kissing in the snow.
Now we get to the final episode.
The final episode makes or breaks practically any show. This is especially true in VN anime as the whole show is about the relationship(s) and the final episode is basically how we’re left to perceive how they ended up and how all of the various plot points tie off.
The episode starts off with a super censored sex scene between Touma and Haruki. And when I say super censored, I mean when the scene is on them, the screen is 50-80% black. While I’m not rooting for hardcore porn, there are ways of tastefully doing a sex scene without blacking out the entire screen. This is fine, but a bit distracting is all. I should also mention that Setsuna calls him right before they do it, but surprisingly Touma prompts him to not answer it.
Touma leaves in the morning, taking Haruki’s jacket buttons, which is tradition for people you like in Japan after graduation.
Haruki’s crushed, but Setsuna goes to him in the morning to try to catch Touma at the airport before her plane leaves. (Cliche warning at critical levels) Haruki wants to finally talk to Setsuna about everything, but she says she won’t listen until they’re on the train to see Touma.
On the train, Haruki has told Sesuna everything, yet she’s not getting upset. Haruki asks why and she says that she never liked Haruki as much as she made off. She only got together with him to give the three of them a better chance of being together forever. While I know the actual reason why she’s saying this, this makes no sense. Starting a romantic relationship with one member of a three person friendship is basically lethal to any friendship as the third person will always feel like a third wheel. If she meant getting together with him in hopes that Touma would feel more determined to fight for him, then that also leads the same problem as before. And it causes undue strife in the relationship.
Anyway, it’s actually a really good scene as it shows that Haruki’s actually very shameful of what he did, though he has been showing regret the whole time, and at least has the balls to admit it to Setsuna and apologize in a heartfelt fashion. Even if it was after the fact and it would’ve been more responsible to do it while he knew he was in love with Touma. But unlike in shows where the main character’s a dick, you can understand that this is just because he’s human and didn’t want to hurt Setsuna because he was still her friend as well.
When they get to the airport, Haruki says they shouldn’t look for Touma anymore as it wouldn’t change anything anyway, but Touma finds them instead. Haruki runs to Touma in a somewhat cheesy fashion and despite not wanting to make Setsuna upset, she apologizes and starts kissing Haruki.
As they’re kissing, we get an audio flashback of Setsuna’s speech from the train and clips of her and Haruki together. When it ends, she says of course it wasn’t true and that she truly loved Haruki, but she knew that Touma and Haruki loved each other and Haruki didn’t feel as strongly for her as he did for Touma. She knew they liked each other from basically the first time that she met them, yet came between them anyway because she legitimately liked and later fell in love with Haruki. This is actually one of the most mature things I’ve ever seen in a VN anime. A character did something selfish, yes, but not only did they own up to it, they willingly stepped aside for the happiness of the other two people instead of continuing to be selfish. You can tell that it seriously hurt Setsuna, but she sacrificed for the happiness of Touma and Haruki. Kinda like in Rumbling Hearts only not stupid.
And then Touma leaves.
…..Oh what? Expecting her to stay and actually give this story a happy ending? Nope. She leaves because, as the title of the episode states, Touma and Haruki’s relationship is ‘a love that cannot be.’
Now, as you can probably surmise, I was quite pissed at this ending and was all too prepared to rant about it here. But now that I’ve had a bit of time to cool off and really think about it….I understand why she left. Besides Haruki, she has no reason to stay in Japan. She can’t go to any college while Setsuna and Haruki are. She has nothing to do there. Vienna offers not only a big chance to reconnect with her mother, but she’ll also be learning how to play piano professionally.
I understand how, no matter how much I may want it, it’s actually more realistic (not to mention not ungodly cliché like the alternative) that Touma left instead of stayed because of a guy.
I have my own petty reasons for getting a little mad at the end considering I really wanted Touma and Haruki together, but I don’t feel I can say it’s a bad ending in the slightest. Throughout this entire show, I can say that, given some leeway with the fanservice in the obligatory hot springs episode and the drama, this show has been realistic if anything in the way that it handles practically everything….except the guitar stuff. I don’t believe anyone can learn how to play that well after two weeks of practice. Especially not three different songs.
I can’t fault it entirely too much for the ending as everything else was just handled so well. Much better than practically every other VN anime I’ve ever seen, rivaling the quality of the Ef series. And unlike a lot of other endings that flat out ruin even good shows, like H2O, I can’t in good conscience even say that it ruins anything. Not everything turns out the way we’d want it to is all.
People in the comments kept saying something like this only follows a portion of the games and maybe there will be a next season chronicling what happens after. Supposedly this series only follows the Introductory Chapter of the game, but there’s another section called Closing Chapter which takes place three years after the events of the IC.
I haven’t read much on the story of CC but apparently it involved Haruki being pretty severely affected by Touma’s departure to the point where he won’t date and avoids the topic of Touma and intimate contact as much as possible. But the game opens up more to allow Haruki to pursue other girls in order to get over this trauma whereas in the first part it was just Touma and Setsuna. Meaning more like your traditional visual novel anime. Setsuna and Kazusa can be selected near the end (how Kazusa shows up, I don’t know, but Setsuna has remained his friend through the years) There’s also an option to reject both of them and ‘be unfaithful’, whatever that means.
This seems like a really interesting set up for a continuation, but then again they’re possibly adding a harem aspect to the mix. If they handle it as well as they’ve handled this series, however, I welcome a second season if they’re interested in making it.
Art: The art and animation are beautifully done. Both the character models and the backgrounds are very nice to look at. Nothing quite as nice as Ef, but still very nice.
Music: White Album was really starting to piss me off as that song was constantly getting played in the first half of the show. However, they lighten up on it later and it eventually disappears so it’s fine. The other music is very memorable and nice to listen to. Both the OP and ED are good songs as well.
Bottomline: Lingering feelings of the final episode aside, this is a very good love-triangle anime that makes you want to root for every character when you know you cannot (Threesome ending! Who’s with me? :D) Even if you’re a Setsuna fan, you’d likely understand her situation as well to the point where you’d also accept the ending as a spoonful of medicine. It’s not like it makes her look like a bad character or anything despite how some blowhards will be quick to jump on calling any other in a love-triangle a bitch. The story itself is an emotional roller coaster ride, but I enjoyed the crap out of nearly every minute of it. It clawed its way out of the sewage of WA1 and made something really great. Kudos. Give it a watch if you like romance anime, drama and can take a sad ending (sad on all accounts actually as Haruki and Setsuna break up AND Touma leaves them both behind.)
Recommended Audience: Pretty heavy make out scenes, one insanely censored sex scene, no swearing, no real nudity but minor fanservice (another shocking thing, despite the concert outfits and the hot springs episode, there’s a considerable lack of fanservice in this series. Another plus.) no gore, obviously. Heavy drama and whatnot. 14+