Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

White Album (Howaito Arubamu)

Not to be mistaken for the famous self-titled album by The Beatles, White Album is a 26 episode anime based off of an adult Japanese visual novel of the same name. This was a show that came on my radar sometime last week when I discovered that Hirano Aya was the voice of one of the characters. In fact she plays a J-pop idol. Talk about your type-casting, huh? 


But I think that the sex scandal involving Aya is the reason why I watched this anime even though this anime was made a few years before Aya's sex scandal came to light. You see, Aya had a few "post-sex" photos of her and a bandmate get leaked onto an Asian website. Or maybe it was a magazine. Anyway, it later came to light that she actually had sex with all of her bandmates at one point with the exception of her bassist. Not too long after that those bandmates were fired and Aya herself found a different record label and voice acting agency. Coincidence?


The only real person I feel sorry for in all of this is the bassist. 

Okay, I am kidding. I really hope Aya continues to find success and that people can just move on. Japanese otaku can be some seriously unforgiving pricks. You'd think they were American Southern Baptists or something. 

Anyway, this anime is all about the twisted world of the entertainment industry. So it is perfectly fitting for it to take place in 1986, right? Yeah, it is. Especially when you consider the subject matter. I mean, the only thing missing from this show was someone with a drug habit. 

Our main character is a guy named Touya and he is dating a girl named Yuki and Yuki just happens to be a J-pop idol (voiced by Aya, of course). But Touya rarely gets to see her since she is so busy doing important idol stuff. Well, you know what they say about long distance relationships and idle hands, right? Well, soon Touya's eyes and hands start to stray even if his heart does not. 

And it does not help him that he is surrounded by a veritable harem of beautiful women. One of them is practically a loli. Another of his... ahem, companions is another J-pop star named Rina (voiced by actual J-pop star Mizuki Nana). He actually gets hired on to be her "manager" at one point. And there are still others. Not saying he has sex with all of them, but you could probably start a pool on who he doesn't have sex with make some serious money from that. 

But this story isn't exactly about that. Anyone remember the anime School Days? It is a fairly infamous anime because of how the main character Makoto practically bangs the entire cast of women in twelve episodes before being taught a harsh lesson about infidelity from a woman scorned. On the surface this anime does resemble School Days. At times it sure as hell feels like it is School Days, but this anime is actually quite superior in both presentation and plot. And it isn't as easy to hate these characters. In School Days I hated just about everybody and wouldn't have given a second thought to chopping Makoto's dick off. Touya is much more relatable, though. 

White Album as a whole is tougher to judge because it is a bit more realistic and also quite a bit more abstract. At no point are we being told how to view things. Instead we are merely being shown glimpses and it is just a matter of interpreting what we are being seen. We even see their thoughts sometimes spelled out before us on the screen, but those lead us into more questions than answers. 

This show is just so dense with tidbits of information that it is tough to process. It leads one to actually feel a lot of the confusion so many of the characters feel. In that light the actions that Touya, Rina, Yuki, or any of the others seem understandable if not agreeable. 

So let me again stress that so much of this dramatic anime is left for you to figure out. In the end when 99% of the story has been revealed there is still a crucial piece of information left out and that will forever be left up to interpretation. 

A lot of folks say this show is confusing and it is in a way (as I described above), but it is actually pretty easy to understand once you adjust yourself to the style of storytelling. You just have to have some patience which, admittedly, isn't easy to have given the subject matter. But paying attention to the little details is key here. 

I would say that I enjoyed this series, but it wasn't an easy journey. It's only 26 episodes, but the weight it carried made it feel a lot longer as well as a lot shorter. I couldn't look away, but I couldn't just keep watching. So I sort of found myself doing both, keeping one eye opened and the other closed. Seriously, this show pissed me off so many times and then thoroughly depressed me at others. It was agony.

The ending itself is a point of controversy because it was left up to interpretation. There was a suggested ending, but the bad thing about being suggestive is that it doesn't always lead to concrete results. Then of course there were those who wanted the ending to happen in the same manner of School Days. Well, these shows are different and they end differently. Tough titty. Personally, I liked the ending to White Album just fine. 

If you think you'd like this harem drama (because it sure isn't a comedy) then I suggest you give it a try. It isn't for everyone, though. Harems are so much more awkward without the comedic nosebleeds. 

I do wonder why, of all the characters, Aya voiced Yuki, though. It is almost ironic.

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