White Album 2 Review

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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 every day 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. It becomes a regular practice session for the two while Haruki remains in the dark about who the pianist 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 – SPOILERS

I was dreading the hell out of this show. If you follow my reviews, you know I don’t much care for White Album. There were way too many girls given focus, their characters were all mostly ruined, 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 White Album and no characters from that show make the slightest cameo. Rina and Yuki are mentioned and their faces are shown on posters, but that’s it.

I’m glad I did give this show a chance because it’s a hell of a lot better than the first White Album. 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. He even feels remorse for feeling things he should be feeling for another person while with someone else. That sure is amazing, huh, Touya?

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 clinginess 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 start to like her more and more as a character.

The story as a whole is 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 main 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 whom. 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 he 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.

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’….

Touma states that she’s going to be living with her mother to master piano in Vienna after her graduation. 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 places 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. They finally spill all the beans and happily start kissing in the snow.

Now we get to the final episode.

The ending 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.

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 begging 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 Setsuna 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 remaining 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 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, better a little late than never. 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 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 her feelings 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.

A Sequel?

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 it’s 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 and Animation: 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 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.

Bottom Line: 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 person in a love triangle a bitch.

The story itself is an emotional roller coaster ride, but I enjoyed the hell out of nearly every minute of it. It clawed its way out of the sewage of White Album 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.)

Additional Information and Notes: White Album 2 was based on an adult visual novel of the same name. The anime adaptation was directed by Masaomi Ando, who also did directorial work on 07-Ghost, Fairy Tail and Vampire Knight. It was written by Fumiaki Maruto, produced by Satelight, and it is not currently licensed in the US.

Episodes: 13

Year: 2013

Recommended Audience: Pretty heavy make out scenes, one insanely censored sex scene, no swearing, no real nudity but minor fanservice, no gore, obviously. Heavy drama and whatnot. 14+


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Ef: A Tale of Memories Review

Plot: The first and main half of the story follows a boy named Renji who happens upon a girl named Chihiro at an abandoned train station. Chihiro was in a terrible accident when she was a young child, which left her with only one eye and a severely damaged memory.

Every day when she wakes up, she believes herself to be a young child and can only retain her memories throughout the day for 13 hours before they’re erased again. In order to combat this, Chihiro started a series of diaries chronicling every detail of her day. She reads the diaries to help keep her memories permanent, if only in the confines of those pages. But will these diaries allow her to retain her relationship to Renji?

The second half is about a love…square between Chihiro’s older sister, Kei, a filmmaker, Kyousuke, a lonely girl, Miyako, and a closet manga author/artist, Hiro.

Breakdown: This is one of the best anime I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. Almost everything about it is wonderful and beautiful, and Renji and Chihiro would definitely make it on my top ten list of anime couples.

Their relationship is so pure and tragically beautiful – it’s just wonderful to watch. I won’t spoil their story, because I love it so much, but trust me, it’s amazing. Almost made me cry several times.

……Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to that other part of this series, The love square. It’s mostly a love triangle, but Kyousuke’s in there too. (Warning—I will be spoiling a lot of the love square plotline through this review. Reader discretion is advised.)

Kyousuke likes Kei because she’s pretty (seriously, no other reason) Miyako likes Hiro because of an ‘adventure’ they had on Christmas night. Kei likes Hirono because they were childhood friends. And Hiro’s dense as Diamondhead’s…….head.

To be completely honest, watching the love square is a huge chore compared to watching Renji and Chihiro’s relationship. Every time Renji and Chihiro are on screen, they captivate my attention. I smile, I feel like crying, I watch with intensity. Every time they switch back to the others I feel bored or angry.

Kei is overly possessive and majorly jealous. She even goes so far as to tell Miyako that she’s going to ‘erase her from Hiro’s heart and mind’ to ‘make room for’ Kei. It’s not like Miyako had done anything with him or to Kei either. He just hangs out with her and sometimes she goes to his house. Doesn’t help that Kei’s English dubbed voice sounds horribly bitchy.

That’s not the only terrible aspect about her. She’s also the cause of Chihiro’s accident.

When they were kids, Hiro, Kei and Chihiro used to always play together. However, Hiro seemed to always pay a little more attention to Chihiro than Kei. One day, Kei got pretty jealous that Hiro had a play date with Chihiro, so she told him Chihiro couldn’t make it, and then she suggested they to go to the beach together. Chihiro arrived and was disappointed to not find Hirono at the house, but found a note saying that they went to the beach. Chihiro went off to meet Kei and Hiro, much to Kei’s dismay, and as she was standing in a nearby road Chihiro got hit by a car.

So, obviously, the right thing for Kei to do in this situation would be to practically completely forget about her sister, letting Chihiro live her life in limbo just sitting at a train stop day after day, as she learns no lessons of the dangers of jealousy to viciously and jealously pursue Hiro on a day to day basis. We’re supposed to be cheering for this character? (Note: I now know that this is properly addressed and explained in Melodies. However, this is the view left on this matter having just seen this series alone. Taken at face value, this opinion still stands.)

Miyako’s not much better. She’s spunky and quirky, but also seems very moody. It doesn’t help that she seems to take nothing seriously and, in serious discussion, she acts condescending.

Later, we’re shown that she has a ‘sad backstory’. Basically, her parents went through a bad divorce and were ‘gone from each others’ hearts.’ This led to them forgetting about her too (?) and being erased from their hearts. Then they abandoned her (?) Thus she freaks out when Kei threatens that she’ll erase her from Hiro’s heart.

However, despite this being the reasoning behind her newfound affection for Hiro as a new friend/boyfriend, she gets incredibly creepy in the same episode we find out about her backstory. Almost seven minutes are dedicated entirely to her leaving voicemails on Hiro’s phone nagging him about where he is because he won’t pick up. It gets insanely creepy after a while. I understand that she’s upset that she may actually be losing Hirono, but jeez. I’ve seen horror movies less creepy.

Kei erases all of the messages Miyako leaves on Hiro’s phone. Granted she leaves 99 (!!!!) messages, but that’s still not her phone nor her right to do that.

Kyousuke’s pretty boring. He doesn’t have much of a role here. The only thing he cares about is filming things. His initial focus on Kei also seemed kinda stalker-y. Again, he only liked her because he saw her when he was filming one day and thought she looked pretty. If anything, his role in the love square seems purely to give Kei someone to pair with when things don’t work out with Hiro.

Then we have Hirono, more commonly known as Hiro – the one everyone’s fighting over. Like a lot of characters that have multiple women fighting over them, I have no idea what his appeal is. He’s a closet published manga artist who has two girls vying for his heart and can’t see it. He’s also terribly boring. He’s like eating dried oatmeal made of paper mache and distilled water. I’d understand more people being attracted to drywall.

The end of the love shape has Miyako and Hiro sleeping together after admitting their feelings for each other. Kei arrives to wake Hiro up for school and spots the two of them naked in bed. She destroys the room with her crutch (she injured her knee in basketball a few episodes earlier) and runs away. Hiro tries to go after her, but Miyako stops him saying he has to choose because he promised he’d love only her and see only her for the rest of his life. Basically she gives him an ultimatum that she’ll leave if he goes to comfort Kei. He leaves anyway stating he’ll be back soon.

This is where I pretty much say “Ya know what? Maybe they’re both completely wrong for him.” Kei’s wrong for him because, well, Hiro’s never shown any romantic feelings towards her and she’s an obsessive bitch who will go so far as to erase messages from his friend and emotionally assassinate another girl simply because she’s close friends with him.

Miyako’s wrong for him because she slept with him to ensure he’d stay with her forever and wouldn’t accept that he can have other relationships (non-romantic) besides loving her. This is not true love. This is bitterness, obsession, dependency, manipulation, and being enamored by a guy simply because he paid attention to you.

In the end, Kei admits that her dream with him was just a dream and that they should both move on from it, but remain friends. He also states he’s going to quit high school to focus more on his manga career. After that, he calls Miyako who states she is planning on moving away from the town because she doesn’t want to be reminded of the pain. Hiro begs and pleads for her not to go, stating he’ll do everything for her and take care of her and tries to confess that he loves her. Miyako agrees to trust him before the phone cuts out since her phone card ran out of minutes. Hiro shows up saying he loves her and they kiss, ending their story.

So, remember kids, quit school and shack up with your needy obsessive girlfriend. What could possibly go wrong? Granted, I prefer him going with Miyako over Kei, but I still think neither of them should’ve gone with him. Kyousuke ends up with nothing, by the way, even if they do kinda hint that Kei and Kyousuke kinda like each other after that. Supposedly, they’re canon later, but it’s only a tiny blip and I don’t care anyway.

END OF SPOILERS

Even though the love square pissed me off quite a bit, the ending to their situation could’ve been much worse, so I won’t take off much points for that. However, I really don’t think that storyline was necessary, and I can’t ignore the fact that watching it is a big chore, especially in contrast to the Renji and Chihiro storyline.

Art and Animation: Amazing and very creative. I’d recommend a watch simply to see the great visuals. The lighting, the colors, the details are all beautiful.

Voice Acting: English – The dub is really great. A lot of the voices fit very well, and many of the actors were superb in their roles. That being said, I should mention that it is a serious pet peeve of mine to hear Japan suffixes like -chan, -kun, Oneesan etc. in English dub anime. I know I should technically be praising the dubbers for this since they’re trying to make a truly faithful dubbed version, but it really annoys me and it just sounds awkward in English.

Music: The music is amazing. I adore the opening, and a lot of the BG music is great. It’s definitely a soundtrack I’d pick up.

Bottom Line: The love square takes quite a bit of tolerance. It was trying my last nerve as the characters are hardly likable in that story. However, the main story and couple is so enjoyable that it really makes up for it. If need be, skip the square and just watch the parts with Renji and Chihiro. You won’t be disappointed.

Addition Information and Notes: Ef: A Tale of Memories was based on adult visual novel games called Ef: The First Tale and Ef: The Latter Tale. The games are combined with several different stories taken from various characters’ perspectives that are separated into chapters.

This series takes chapter one from The First Tale and chapter three from The Latter Tale. One could also argue that chapter two from The First Tale is included but eh. Melodies is comprised of the prologues of both games and chapter four from The Latter Tale.

Memories is produced by Shaft, producers of other notably stylized series such as the Monogatari franchise, Dance in the Vampire Bund, the Zetsubou Sensei franchise and Madoka Magica, so you can be certain there’s plenty of eye candy.

The series was directed by Shin Onuma who is also the directing force behind C3, Bakemonogatari, Princess Tutu, Pani Poni Dash! and Silent Mobius.

Episodes: 12

Year: 2007

Recommended Audience: There’s no real questionable material until we get to the later parts of the anime where sex is implied and some of the girls are nude from the waist up. Also, some of the plot elements can be pretty heavy for younger audiences. I’d give it a 14+


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