White Album 2
Haruki is the last of the light music club. The plan was to play in the upcoming school festival, but as the singer quit, it's just him now on backup guitar (with sub par skill). Over the past year, he's spent time after school plugging at his guitar in music room #3. From time to time an unknown student locked up in music room #2 would accompany him on piano. With his club disbanded, Haruki plays his guitar to relax and forget his problems. Again the piano of the other room accompanies him, but on this day a third joins in: a sweet voice coming from the school rooftop.
Charging up the stairs, he finds Setsuna, the school idol; singing along. On impulse he asks her to join the light music club, and to his surprise she agrees. Now there was just the matter of the student on the piano. In another surprise, Haruki finds aloof loner Kazusa (who he never got along with) was playing piano. She eventually agrees as well, but doesn't seem happy about it.
The three grow into a strong friendship, but both Kazusa and Setsuna find they have feelings for Haruki. Can a friendship the three treasure survive the storm of emotion growing within them?
Anime has no shortage of high school romance, so rarely does a title differentiate itself. Yet I was very impressed by show which won me over. White Album 2 has good characters, drama, and story. However it's the musical integration which makes it stand out. If you require a happy feel good conclusion, you'll want to skip this one. But even as someone who prefers fuzzy endings, I still very much enjoyed White Album 2.
As a male protagonist, Haruki is fair although he gets overshadowed by the two girls who are exceptional characters. Setsuna is considered the school idol, but betrayal by friends leads to distrust, and she distances herself from everyone. Likewise Kazusa's hostile personality keeps her from friendships as well. So when the girls find friendship, they cling to it fiercely. This makes a compelling story as they sense romantic feelings growing in one another. Words go unspoken, but feelings remain clear. All of them feel torn between honesty and betrayal of their friendship.
White Album 2 starts upbeat and typical for high school romance shows. The three work together to partake in the school festival, building a good foundation. Music isn't simply a gimmick for the school festival, the way it integrates with this anime propels good story telling to greatness. Visuals accompany music segments, capturing the essence of the situation. In a brilliant way, the performance at the school festival is narrated with dialog of their emotions. Setsuna's determination, as well as Kazusa's uncertainty.
It shifts into drama after episode 7, and it gets heavy. Really really heavy. Setsuna and Haruki start dating, and it obviously bothers Kazusa. Tension builds until a fatefull encounter between Haruki and Kazusa. Until this point it seemed like Kazusa fell in love with Haruki in a spur of the moment thing, until White Album 2 goes back and reveals her perspective. Most of it is already known, but really small key details left out become very significant. Once her side is told, it's easy to sympathize with both girls. This leads to the unavoidable curse: when two girls fight over love, and you like both sides, you're going to be unhappy with the result.
It's not a cheerful happy ending. I prefer happy endings too, but on occasion a well done tragedy (rare as they are) is a healthy way to explore emotion, which White Album 2 does well. Even so, I don't think I've felt a jumble of emotion after an end quite like I did at the conclusion of this one. I was frustrated it seemed inconclusive, then mad no one got a happy end. But there are enough parts left ambiguous, so conclusions about what took place and what will happen can vary widely. In just a few lines of dialog on a train, Setsuna became a fascinating character. This anime has points like that, which are easily missed if not paying attention.
For all these points I think White Album 2 shines, however what taste is left to linger is something to be mindful of. Afterwords, I wasn't sure if I loved or hated this anime. Having sat on this review for a year, I decided I loved it. Romance tragedy is rare, and anime being what it is; most shows present the same light hearted stuff that's a dime a dozen. As a drama, I think White Album 2 is a great watch. There are also many subtleties left up to interpretation of the viewer, so what you get out of it his hard to say.
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