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.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

White Album 2 (Howaito Arubamu 2)

Well, folks, this will likely be my final anime review of the year. That is, unless I finish the last few episodes of Queen's Blade 2: The Evil Eye or do a serious marathon of season five of Naruto. I'm delivering this review to you a little bit earlier than I would have liked thanks to a lovely case of diarrhea. I mean, I really had planned to sleeping at least until nine today. Yet here I am at seven in the morning talking about anime and trying not to shit myself. Even I know there's a line to be drawn somewhere, right? 

Hold that thought....

(In the meantime listen to this.)

Okay, folks, let's get this review underway because I'm feeling wiped out at this point. (See what I did there?)

White Album 2 is the sequel to, you guessed it, White Album (reviewed here). It's an odd sequel, though. There really isn't anything that ties the two shows together. Two of the songs from the first show are featured (the title track gets a lot of heavy play, but Sound of Destiny gets its moment, too), but that is about it. I suppose, thematically speaking, there are a few similarities. Music plays a prominent role in both shows (more so in the second one, though) and the topic of dishonesty in relationships and forbidden love are also tossed about in good measure. Although it seems like the guy in the first show was the only one that really got some on a regular basis. 

White Album 2 takes place ten years after the original and just like the original it is based off of an adult visual novel. Although I've seen quite a few shows that come from the same kind of source material, I always think it is quite bizarre how an adult game can transform into an anime that could be seen by just about anybody and is often seen by just about everybody. Can you imagine anyone in the States adapting a television show or a movie from a porno with the end result becoming a massive success? Okay, maybe not a massive success, but at the very least something that isn't akin to a flop? 

Perhaps that's why few shows actually achieve true mainstream success in the West. Of the shows that have successfully crossed  over (Dragonball Z, Bleach, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Naruto, Digimon, etc.) none of them are based off of an adult visual novel. In fact, so many of them are aimed at children and young adults (creating a shitload of toys, lunch boxes, trading cards, shirts, hats, and posters featuring everyone's favorite character doesn't hurt that cause, either). 

And I think that is why it seems so odd to me and my conservative Western sensibilities. I think I would be taken aback a bit if I walked into a Wal-Mart and found a Higurashi: When They Cry poster or a School Days action figure in the same aisle where they keep the Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. Of course, Wal-Mart is all about the generic flavor on the month anyway, but that's beside the point. While I have always been a big proponent the whole "not all anime is for kids" argument, I think I should extend that argument to say "most anime isn't for kids." In fact, a lot of it, while not seeming so adult on the surface, often has very adult origins.

Case in point: White Album 2

Unlike its predecessor, this show isn't as tedious or dense in its delivery. In fact, it's the exact opposite: simple and clean. That aura of intense depression and (dare I say it) suspense that clouded the first one isn't there on White Album 2. White Album 2 actually kind of feels like a "normal" teenage romantic comedy type of show at first. Although it isn't a comedy at all. Definitely a drama. But it looks bright and cheery and would be the perfect thing to snuggle up with your girlfriend and watch at Christmas time just before you break up with her. Like a pro. 

While the first show had a real bleak animation style this second show really does celebrate all things bright. I mean, it's tough to take things seriously or think things will turn out so bad when the animation is just so brilliantly colored. To show you what I mean, here are a few stills from White Album 2:

See it? Okay, well, here are a few stills from the first one: 

While that last picture does have a bit of shininess to it the colors don't reach the characters. Which is oddly prophetic, I must say. Most of the characters and backgrounds look just how they are drawn: emotionally deadening with the shade overtaking everything. On the other hand, White Album 2 tries to go for a bit more cutesiness and sparkle and the result is that the characters and backgrounds seem a lot more invigorated and invigorating. Yes, terrible heartbreaking shit will happen White Album 2, but it looks more inviting to the eye so that somehow makes it more palatable, I guess. 

In White Album 2 we have a different cast of characters. Unsurprisingly, they are high school students. Touya was the male lead in the first show, but this time it is the aspiring guitarist Kitahara Haruki we journey with. Since the light music club fell apart two weeks before the school festival, Haruki and his bandmate Iizuka Takeya no longer seem to have a shot at playing at the festival. However, a strange and unseen person has been playing piano in the music room next door. Haruki finds himself playing guitar to the piano and one of the songs they play is indeed White Album. Of course, this mystery piano player is someone Haruki knows quite well... even though it turns out that he doesn't really even know her. 

Then steps in Ogiso Setsuna as she starts singing to their song from the roof of the building and we have the makings of a good old fashioned love triangle. Inevitably, Setsuna and our mystery piano player join the band and while everything seems to be going smooth at the start it isn't until the end of the festival when Setsuna confesses her love to Haruki that things really get mucky. And since none of them followed my advice and elected to not go the threesome route just about everyone ends up getting hurt. 

Comprised of thirteen episodes, White Album 2 covers what is known as the Introductory Chapter of the visual novel. If that is any indication then there might be a sequel to this show on the horizon (White Album 2 2?). That would be welcome since I felt there was no real resolution this time around. It merely feels like the story just stopped. Which it did. 

Not sure I would call this show the sleeper hit of the Fall 2013 season, but it isn't too shabby. Since it is more conventional than its predecessor I am sure it will have more fans. The first series doesn't really need to be watched in order to enjoy this one, but my OCD doesn't allow that kind of thing.

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