White Album 2 and the Futility of Everything

“My bridge is burned, and perhaps we’ll shortly learn/That it was arson all along/Can we just get home, sleep this off/Throw some ‘sorry’s’ and then/Do it all again.” – Frightened Rabbit, Late March, Death March

So, I just watched White Album 2, and holy shit you guys. Holy shit. Don’t even know what to say, but I gotta say it anyway. Let’s get through this one together.

White Album 2 has a very dim view of human nature. Not even Evangelion dim, where cruel things happen to broken people pretty much continuously. Evangelion is optimistic – it features plenty of hardship, but the message it puts forth about its characters is fundamentally a positive one. White Album 2 is, like, School Days dark. Everyone’s awful and selfish and wrong. Nobody learns, everyone suffers, the moral is sadness. It’s a hard show for me to square any real intention on, much less enough of a point to actually write a coherent essay. In the end, nobody really wins, and the only question you’re left with is the one the characters ask themselves – where did it all go wrong?


“Whatever you need to make you feel/Like you were the one behind the wheel/The sunrise is just over that hill/The worst is over.” – Cursive, A Gentleman Caller

So let’s skip the essay and get straight to the trial – let’s dive right into the Evangelion 25/26 of this series, and see what makes these damaged teenagers tick. Maybe then we can make a little sense of this sadness.

White Album 2 is a story about three characters who all want things. They’re friends, and they don’t want to hurt each other, but they want these things more than they want to avoid that. They’re also fairly weak and insecure people – or at least two of them are, with the third being enough aware of this to use it as a weapon. That third’s also insecure, too, though, which is the main cause of her own acts of cruelty. But that’s enough dancing around the story – let’s take these fuckups one at a time.

Haruki Kitahara is the first character we’re introduced to, the most common viewpoint character, and the instigator of the first couple plot developments, so we’ll tackle him first. Haruki’s a fairly impressive guy – though he’s not actively on the student council, his public self-assurance and knack for tackling problems directly and efficiently makes him more or less the council’s default problem-solver. It’s clear why someone might like him – he’s attractive, seems both confident and earnest, and has a sort of boyish charm that implies he never takes himself too seriously. His skills naturally lend themselves towards achieving his first dream – playing in a band at the school festival. That public confidence and disarmingly earnest manner wins him the support of the school’s idol, Setsuna Ogiso – as she herself points out (Setsuna is by far the most emotionally intelligent of the trio, and thus any overt revelations about their nature tend to come from her), he treats everyone with the same genial courtesy, which disarms Setsuna in a positive way before she ends up eventually wanting more.

White Album 2

“Shadow am I!/Like a suspicion that’s never confirmed/But it’s never denied/Wolf am I!/No, shadow I think is better/As I’m not something/More like the absence of something.” – Mewithoutyou, Wolf am I! (And Shadow)

Unfortunately for Haruki and everyone who cares about him, that confidence does not extend to matters of the heart. Though he’s good at convincing people of things, he is generally oblivious to how they actually feel about him, and remains emotionally blind until the end. That tendency to not take himself seriously isn’t just a humble affect, either – from beginning to end, he really doesn’t think much of himself at all. And finally, his tendency to treat everyone similarly is a reflection of his greatest weakness – a propensity to go with the flow, to accept the actions of others and maintain the status quo in opposition to either his own desires or even what might be best for others. Others act and he bends to let them, until ultimately he begins following the flow of his own emotions in a similar, almost passive way.

Granted, Haruki’s not the only passive protagonist here. The second pillar of this sad little drama is Kazusa Touma, the girl Haruki loves. Kazusa is not a happy person – left alone throughout her adolescence by her globe-trotting pianist mother, she’s developed both a tremendous inferiority complex and a vicious fear of abandonment, causing her to disengage from all human contact. Willful, caustic, and possessing the same musical genius as her mother, she throws herself into music with the same ferocity she shows towards anyone who attempts to engage with her, until Haruki’s obstinate professionalism and courtesy manage to break her shell. The friendship they form, born out of a mutual fascination that quickly turns to an unspoken love, ends up being guarded as fiercely as her original reticence. The two of them possess true chemistry – White Album’s understanding of characters extends into a keen understanding of banter, and it’s clear with every conversation they share that they each respect the other almost to the point of awe – Kazusa’s jibes and Haruki’s laughing acceptance betray the obvious attraction the two of them share. Unfortunately, like Haruki, Kazusa has little faith in herself – abandoned by her mother, she considers herself someone no-one could love, and her fear of losing what she has keeps her from disrupting the fragile bond between her, Haruki, and Setsuna for the sake of her own romantic feelings. On the night of the school festival that arbitrarily brought them together, she almost confesses to Haruki – but her own fears and insecurities hold her back, and she leaves without revealing the truth.

White Album 2

“Took two weeks in the Bahamas/Went out dancing every night/Tried to fight the creeping sense of dread with temporal things/Most of the time I guess I felt alright.” – The Mountain Goats, The Mess Inside

Which brings us to our third protagonist – Setsuna Ogiso. Setsuna’s certainly the most unique of these characters – though she passes as the cheerful but reserved idol she’s assumed to be, she’s by far the most emotionally assertive of our protagonists. It’s her aggressive pursuing of a friendship with Kazusa that draws the three of them together, and her equally aggressive desire to maintain a bond between the three of them that acts as a catalyst for the drama of the second half. Setsuna is also bound by the insecurities of the past – abandoned by friends at a young age, she continuously plays up the bond between the three protagonists, repeatedly making them promise to maintain their friendship forever. She is far from oblivious to the bond the other two share – while each of them expresses their affection in a way the other cannot read, Setsuna reads it all, and sees it as a threat to her own place within their affections. She even sees Kazusa’s near-confession after the festival, and this spurs her to act – knowing Haruki is too passive and accommodating to truly impose his emotional desires on others, she confesses to him, beginning a relationship in order to possibly salvage the trio’s mutual bond. This works for a few brief weeks, but it’s only a stopgap solution, and in the next few months everything inevitably falls apart.

Things get really shitty after that, and if you’ve been keeping up with the class well enough to grasp the theme here, I hope that when I say “it ends predictably,” you’ll understand it means it ends predictably given everyone continues to seek what will make them happy regardless of what would make anyone else happy. Though Haruki overtly acts the dutiful boyfriend, he’s continuously inconstant in thought and deed, and maintains a flame for Kazusa even as she withdraws from their friendship, trying to avoid the pain of watching the boy she loves dating another girl. Through all of this, Setsuna maintains the most overtly positive face, hoping to prolong a friendship that only hurts both of the others. As she withdraws from the company of her friends, Kazusa actually manages to repair her relationship with her mother, and decides to follow her back to Vienna and move on entirely. This prompts Haruki to chase her down, and when faced with his actual confession, Kazusa can’t stay the dutiful friend to Setsuna – she confesses as well, and they consummate their love the night before she’s set to leave.

This is a clear betrayal, of course. Haruki directly cheats on Setsuna, the girl he’d already established a relationship with. This follows a pattern of smaller betrayals – lying to her, avoiding her presence, and continuously seeking out the girl he actually loved. It’s not a forgivable offense, and though Setsuna describes herself as the one who manipulated the others (which has a fair amount of truth to it), she has every right to rage at him the next day, when he reveals the truth.

White Album 2

“My trust in you/Is a dog with a broken leg/Tendons too torn to beg/For you to let me back in.” – The Antlers, Putting the Dog to Sleep

But she doesn’t. She accepts what he’s done, and forgives him, and drags him to the airport, where he once again ends up in Kazusa’s arms. Though Haruki clearly wants her to hate him, she doesn’t – to the end, her priority is maintaining some sort of bond between the three of them, broken and unhealthy as it may be. She refuses to give him the catharsis of being despised, leaving him to despise himself while never offering a clean break from their unhealthy relationship. She even actively hides her pain and anger, only letting herself cry when he’s distracted by Kazusa – though her reasons are understandable, she never breaks her facade of emotional manipulation, though it only leads to more pain for all three of them.

Which, when phrased that way, makes it seem like I’m offering excuses for Haruki, who actually cheated on his girlfriend, or Kazusa, who instigated their meeting the night before she left. Which I’m not. Their actions were terrible, and selfish, and cruel. But I feel framing this show in terms of blame, or who was the “most wrong,” does a disservice to the character work here. The show portrays its characters so fully and intelligently that when Setsuna says she knows she was betraying Kazusa because she knew Haruki would agree to a relationship, we can agree because we ALSO know it’s true. That doesn’t make her the “most wrong” either, as the first to betray her friends – Haruki’s character flaws being known doesn’t make them not flaws, not weaknesses of character. There’s no one to root for or truly hate here – ultimately, it feels like fully sympathizing with the actions of one of the characters requires villainizing one of the others, which is something the show itself never does. It’s like a nega-universe exploration of friendship – it questions what should be expected of a friend from the perspective of people who continuously fail in that expectation.

White Album 2 offers no easy answers. There aren’t even really character arcs – everyone is the same selfish, insecure person they were at the start right up until the final moments. The show doesn’t force them to understand themselves – it merely puts them in situations where they get to be the weakest versions of themselves they can. And in the end, they may have laughed and love and cried, but what they have left are simply a series of event that happened, that they nostalgically cling to – it wasn’t truly a learning experience at all.

White Album 2

“All of the dark words pouring from my throat/Sound like an oil slick coating the wings we’ve grown/There goes a love song drifting out to sea/I’d sing along if I could hear over the oil slick.” – Frightened Rabbit, Oil Slick

Which leaves me, once again, with very little to say. Turns out a trial isn’t appropriate here – they all did what they did for reasons we can understand. Setsuna’s insecurities made her take advantage of her emotional intelligence to manipulate her friends. Haruki went with the flow, but ended up betraying his girlfriend because his true emotions were stronger than his sense of obligation. And Kazusa was afraid of losing what she had for too long, but ultimately betrayed her friend for the sake of what she wanted. Sometimes we do bad things. Sometimes bad things just happen. Sometimes life is a series of cruel turns brought on by our own weaknesses, and at the end of the day we can only do the best we can with what we have left.

I hope you enjoyed this essay about the best romance anime of the year! Have a great 2014!

PS: Alright, I suppose there is one running thread here that’s certainly worth a comment – the false idol of nostalgia. A great deal of anime is deeply nostalgic – it portrays a romanticized dream of high school, offering a glimpse of a timeless reality that no human actually experienced. White Album 2 subverts this in two central ways. First, it’s not idealized – three selfish people trying to find love and instead hurting each other is no-one’s dream of high school, but it’s certainly closer to reality than the visions most anime depict. But more importantly, it understands that nostalgia isn’t only an experience felt while looking back on the good times – nostalgia is an active component of those brief periods of joy we all experience, where we feel like we’re floating, untouchable. The protagonists of White Album 2 know their happiness is fleeting – they experience nostalgia for their brief friendship even as they’re actively experiencing it. And to me, that seems like a very true and poignant thing. Is there a positive message in that? Are we meant to infer that attempting to cling to ephemeral experiences will only corrupt them, and that this instinct to hold on to fragile stasis is really no more than a fear of future unknowns? That we should flee nostalgia and embrace change, whatever pain it may bring?

Who knows. The show certainly isn’t saying. But given the alternative, I’m gonna make an executive call on this one – yeah. That’s the point. Fuck nostalgia, fuck blaming yourself for being a selfish, imperfect person, and fuck high school romance. We all deserve a better class of best memory than this.

“Woke up at 3 A.M. with the radio on, that Gladys Knight and the Pips song on/About how she’d rather live in his world with him/Than live in her own world alone/And I lay there, head spinning, trying to fall asleep/And I thought to myself: ‘Oh, Gladys, girl, I love you but, oh—get a life!'” – The Dismemberment Plan, The Ice of Boston

38 thoughts on “White Album 2 and the Futility of Everything

  1. I would never ever have considered watching this, but your essay has me rethinking. Who knew this series would involve this level of psychodrama? I love the kind of dark story that this one sounds like it is and might have to check it out.

  2. This show is just the beginning, if they plan to animate all the novel they would need at least 2 more cours assuming they made just one route in college and Coda.

  3. I am so glad you picked this up and started talking about it. I had no desire to watch this at the start of the season, only picking it up after a few weeks of good reviews from you. I think it is fantastic, and if not for the big 3 at the end of the year, might of been my favorite anime. I think it is the best romance anime in a long time and I’m so glad I picked it up. I really want to watch it again, pick up on the things I missed the first time, but dammit…it is hard watching something with no happy ending.

  4. This was a very thoughtful essay. Amongst the shipping that inevitably happens, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. No character is truly “blameworthy,” it’s just the reality of love. No one can control who you love and the heart will want what the heart wants. Ironically enough, what makes the show balanced is that the characters are flawed.

    • Glad you enjoyed it!

      Flawed people generally make for much better characters. I think this show and OreGairu had my favorite character writing of the year, and OreGairu was also full of very flawed and insecure people.

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  6. I do agree with your assessment of White Album 2, its characters, and the relationships between them, but I disagree with how Evangelion is dimmer than White Album 2 and how you seem to treat White Album 2 the TV series as if it was written in a vacuum by itself.

    Because the story of White Album 2 was written within the context of a full visual novel, I think it would be inaccurate to compare the full scope of Evangelion to WA2(TV), as it is only part of a whole. In my opinion, it would be more accurate to compare the despair and trauma of Evangelion to the TV series of White Album, where I personally think the former is dimmer.

    • Oh yeah, Evangelion definitely has more suffering so far. I suppose I’ll have to wait until they (hopefully) adapt the rest of the VN to see if I think its overall outlook on people is actually more positive.

  7. (I saw this post entirely too late at night, forced myself not to read it, and then ended up booting up my computer again to write this out. At least it was already more-or-less fully-formed in my head by that point. Tomorrow is going to suck…)

    White Album 2 (or its Introductory Chapter, at least) is not really about human nature, at least not in general. White Album 2 is about putting in the effort, but more than that, it’s about having the willingness to take what you want. In the end, all of its protagonists fail because they can’t do that, and that’s their undoing.

    This may not seem consistent at first. After all, the three protagonists are clearly placed on a spectrum when it comes to relationships. Touma is self-denying; she could have had Haruki, but she refused to make the effort, and that was her undoing. There’s a hesitance there, even in her friendship with Setsuna. Setsuna is selfish; she wanted Haruki, but she wanted Touma too, and that was her undoing. Haruki is stuck in-between; like Setsuna, he wants them to all stay together, but he isn’t selfish enough to try and tell Touma how he feels until his back is to the wall, and that indecision is his undoing.

    But if selfishness is enough, then shouldn’t Setsuna have triumphed? She reaches for more than anyone else.

    No. There’s more than one spectrum at play here, and only in this second spectrum is the philosophy of effort ever openly articulated. Setsuna may reach for the stars when it comes to relationships, but she lacks the confidence in herself to pursue her other passion: music. She loves to sing, but she can’t sing without the others, and we never hear her express any desire to make a career out of it. And for all that Touma denies herself romantically, she cares about music. That devotion is part of what Haruki admires in her, enough to emulate it. Sure, Touma is a part of it, but we never see Setsuna practice ten hours a day, do we? But Haruki doesn’t devote himself to that fully, either. After the concert, does Haruki ever play without Touma having a part in it, in his presence or in his mind?

    So Setsuna and Touma can be driven in the pursuit of a goal, at least in one area, while Haruki is ambivalent in both… But are they, really? No, not really.

    If Setsuna can be selfish in relationships, if she can pursue what she wants, then why does she invite Touma for a Christmas holiday, when that’s a romantic occasion in Japan? Why does she reject that accidental moment of complete honesty, when Haruki said he “wanted to make sure” that she was “the only one for him”? And let’s not even humor the idea that preserving the trio is her central goal. She wants everything… But she has no focus. There are no gold stars for effort here.

    If Touma loves music so much, then why doesn’t she push for a professional career until her mother invites her to that world? She admits herself that she’s lapsed, that her skills have diminished; her mother praises the emotion she can put into her playing now, but tacit in that is an acknowledgment of lacking skill. And there’s the timing of it. Touma admits that she takes the invitation in part to escape Haruki and escape Japan… But there’s a little of that old injury with her mother, too, that feeling of being inconvenient and unwanted. If she wasn’t pushed to it, she’d find some way to make ends meet and live her life only playing piano on weekends, just like Setsuna sings.

    We’re taught not to be selfish for a reason, and we shouldn’t always pursue what we want, not if it comes at the cost of others. But at the same time, there’s no happiness in blind self-denial or half-hearted effort. Setsuna and Touma can’t have Haruki, and Haruki can’t have either, and they can’t have a perfect three-person friendship, and they can’t even have full happiness in music, because none of these things are truly what they care about most. What do they care about most, then?

    Rejection, apparently. It’s a cruel, laser-targeted sort of irony that spending months and months running from that fear only lands it right in their laps.

    (I’m politically left-leaning, really! Very strongly left-leaning! I just happen to also be an incredibly strong existentialist.)

    • A side comment, while I’m thinking about it: I pounded all of that out to Forty-Seven, as sung by Rib. It’s part of a short musical duology, with the first song named Sarishinohara. Both songs (each one side of the same couple) are about their sacrifice of what the singer really wants in pursuit of a dream that isn’t actually making them happy.

      It seemed appropriate.

    • I like this read, but most of all I like the dichotomy you reach right at the end – that in spite of all the things they want throughout the story, the most common element that guides their actions is not passion, but fear. Even when they do seek what they want, it’s because they’re driven into corners that basically make them lash out like animals.

      The points you make about the influence of music as a driving force are interesting. In my viewing of the show, I didn’t see that as nearly as significant to explaining their choices as you seem to – but the continuation of the story may well prove the characters’ love of music is as significant to their psyche as you say it is.

  8. Well, I’m new to this site and I remember you mentioning you needed more sad lyrics of songs for this essay. I’d like to know where you’re using those lyrics or songs for this essay. Is there supposed to be some podcast-like review of this show?

    • Nah, I was just kidding around while deciding on what songs I’d be quoting throughout. It was just for the song lyrics/links I included in this essay.

  9. Great analysis! By the way, in case you haven’t played the VN, the interesting thing about their romantic deadlock is that the deadlock itself is very, very fragile. Much of WA2’s drama (including that of the VN) stems from the static-ness of the characters: how they keep on suffering from their internal clash of what “should they do” versus what “will they do”. Any subtle change among any of them leads to drastic changes in the romantic scene (and thus a completely different ending). I seriously can’t wait for the sequel, because Coda in particular (True Kazusa ending) is one hell of an emotional rollercoaster.

    • Man, I really do hope we get the sequel. It’s true, they’re all “iceberg characters,” with 90% of their issues being internal ones dictated by the few shifts in their surface dynamic. I’m not sure how much more of that my heart can take.

  10. Fantastic analysis of WA2, I just recently finished the anime and I was utterly blown away by the whole experience. It still baffles me that a one-cour anime could have so much depth and thematic value to it, the series has so much to offer and it amazes me how I look back to the early episodes and nearly every scene has great significance to the overall message. To think that this is only the first part of the story and that there’s still so much more to come, I really can’t wait. It’ll be a very painful wait and the experience itself will likely be exponentially more painful (particularly because I’m a huge Ogiso fan, though I do have lots of love for Touma as well) but I know it’ll be worth it.

    WA2’s a really interesting story in how it focuses heavily on the flaws of its characters. All of the events turn out as they do because of the insecurities and fears of the main trio, and it’s tragic seeing how they all want to hold on to each other yet know they cannot as their efforts only make it worse and worse. At the same time, however, it’s unfair (and in my opinion, almost entirely unwarranted) to place a particular amount of blame on them for it. It would definitely be inaccurate to say the characters weren’t at fault to some degree, but at the same time the circumstances made it so that very little else could have been done. Could one blame Haruki for confessing his love to Touma upon discovering that she would be completely gone from him? Is it Touma’s fault that Haruki was ultimately tempted away from his obligations to Ogiso in favor of not only his feelings but also Touma’s? Is Ogiso wrong for having taken action to preserve her own desires while also hoping to retain the status quo? It’s plain to see that the characters of WA2 are flawed and it is because of these imperfections that such heartbreaking events play out, but at the same time it is completely understandable and it wouldn’t be right to single out one individual as the cause of all this pain. It’s a case where it’s all of their faults and yet none of their faults at the same time, and that’s why I have so much love for the cast in this series.

    Even though all of the characters hurt each other so, I can say that I respect them because they do truly feel regret about their actions and genuinely care about each other even in spite of everything that happens. Their hearts are in the right place, but in a situation like this, what could possibly go right? Someone was bound to suffer, and there’s pretty much no way to please everybody. With a lot of love triangles, it’s easy to point out how a particular character (or characters) made stupid choices that obviously led to things going wrong. Yet with WA2, it’s nearly impossible to do such a thing. Would the only way to avoid all of this pain have been Haruki not having performed for the festival in the first place? Even the characters themselves point out that as painful as everything is, there would be undying regret in knowing that they were unable to experience the treasured memories they had in denying everything that had followed, and it really shows that life is filled with both amazing memories and painful heartbreak all in one package.

    And it looks like I’ve written a lot more than I probably should’ve, every time I start discussing WA2 with anyone it’s really easy for me to keep going on and on about it. WA2 is such a rich series and I haven’t been blown away so much by a story in a very long time. There’s no shortage of topics to discuss when it comes to this anime, and at the same time there’s still so much more. I’m really eager to see how things play out and how WA2 truly concludes, yet…….I know it’s gonna hurt a lot.

    • Yeah, I’ve heard the second part is, if anything, even more devastating, so I guess we’ve got a lot to look forward to there. Fun times with young love!

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  12. Ahhh you pretty much totally nailed exactly what my main issue with the show is there are the end. “…it wasn’t truly a learning experience at all.” This is the huge block to my enjoyment (and esteem) of the show: on one hand I love it for how brutally honest it is and how well written the characters are; on the other, it is a bleak, hopeless ending where those three kids have learned nothing at all. There are few regrets, less forgiveness and no sense of redemption at all.

    It honestly tears me up, to the point that, even though its been over three months since I marathoned this show, it still weighs on my mind when I think about it. It is one of a select number of shows that have made it onto my rewatch list, because I just can’t puzzle out how I feel about it from one watch.

    • It is VERY sad that at the end of the anime (and I suppose the Introductory Chapter of the VN), the 3 main characters do not seem to have learned much at all.

      But I would go on to say that this has been my experience observing people. Granted, I only have a few people that I have known for a very long time, so it’s a truly small data set. Having said that, I feel that people grow in small increments and one lifetime simply isn’t enough time to see drastic changes in most people.

      Having said that, I feel that there are indeed some SMALL changes, especially in Haruki and Touma. While we are busy indicting Haruki for cheating on Setsuna, we should consider the courage it took to chase down Touma and confess to her, especially given that he must have been feeling an extreme weight of obligation towards Setsuna (whom he was dating). And Touma does eventually find the courage to express herself to Haruki.

      Where I get confused is why Touma and Haruki decide to part ways at the end of the anime. Yes, I understand the writer’s explicit reasons: both of them feel guilt over having betrayed Setsuna who really is their friend. But I don’t know that this is very realistic if we review what we know. It isn’t some little crush between Haruki and Touma, but a raging flame (nothing less would have convinced Haruki, the model student, to cheat on his girlfriend). And Touma hasn’t ever been this close to ANYONE. We can infer that they really, really want to be together.

      I know it isn’t right and isn’t likely to win me very many internet points, but I’m going to come out and say it anyway. It’s not like Haruki and Setsuna were married. It’s not like they were sleeping / living together. They were dating. Why didn’t Haruki simply break up with Setsuna before running after Touma? Probably his feelings for her are real (I’m definitely projecting since I was more than a little in love with Setsuna that voice myself despite shipping H & T)–I guess this is the explanation the anime seems to provide. And when you get right down to it, Setsuna knew about Haruki and Touma already anyway.

      So if I had to pick an unrealistic aspect of the story, this is it. It seems like a great deal of drama and heartbreak could have been easily avoided if Haruki broke up with Setsuna before confessing to Touma.

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  14. This is an excellent analysis, but could you tell me just which episode you took the screenshot from for the “weak and insecure people” link? I’m having trouble finding that moment in the series.

    It would have been better if the series mentioned just what caused Setsuna’s childhood friends to abandon her, or the true circumstances behind Kazusa’s conception (I expected it to be a major plotline from what I’ve read in the game, but her father makes no appearance in the story, apparently having been a “cut-and-run” affair). Still, this series deserves all the praise it can get, and I hope a sequel covering later events in the game is released soon.

  15. I just stumbled upon this by accident so I’ll just share a bit. I agree with what you said for the most part. One of the other brilliant aspects of White Album 2 was the way the story was presented. The timing of the cut scenes and the way these were introduced again later on when their significance was most needed.

    Take for example Setsuna and Kazusa’s talk at the cafe. They cut the discussion and brought it back during “sound of destiny”. So many times they picked just the right moment to withhold information from the viewer and brought it back at the right time so that you will understand why they acted that way and why the other characters who “didn’t know” acted the same.

    One thing you should remember though is that the animated portion was just the “Introductory Chapter” there are 2 more parts to this story and the Anime only portrayed the “setup” so to speak.

    For those who are willing to be spoiled I found this site which details the events of the next parts : http://mdzanime.me/2013/12/29/white-album-2-concluding-chapter-coda-rough-summary/

    • I agree wholeheartedly that the writers for the anime did a brilliant job of withholding information from the viewers. The way they pace it really help you understand the tragedy here. It all could have gone so differently at a few pivotal moments.

      Touma could have confessed to Haruki after the concert. She was really close to it. Haruki was even fishing for a confession. How dense does she have to be? No, she’s not dense, just scared. The show really works that theme of taking responsibility for your own happiness.
      Haruki might have simply rejected Setsuna. Yes, we understand he has real feelings for her. Pivot points would be less meaningful if these decisions were easy, but it still could have gone the other way, methinks.
      Haruki could have broken up with Setsuna before confessing to Touma. See my rant higher up on this page.
      Setsuna could have confronted Haruki about Touma BEFORE he actually cheated on her. She knew how they felt. She knew that he didn’t show up for her birthday. What if Setsuna had broken up with Haruki at that point? Would Touma and Haruki still have parted ways at the airport?

      I suppose the writers of the anime are using incomplete knowledge as the main reason for the tragedy that strikes these three people. The cafe scene, the night after the concert–these are pivotal points where I think we could have easily seen things go differently if any of the characters had simply turned left at Albuquerque.

      • I thinks Haruki have tried to break up with Setsuna, especially in the last day. but it is difficult to say what they have done out of sudden, and he don’t want to just break up with out giving a reason.

  16. I actually laughed far too much throughout this anime. I read a fair amount of this post before watching it (without spoiling myself), and after finishing it two hours ago I don’t feel sadness but rather an immense amount of cringe seeing all of the tropes played on throughout the series. It really felt like all the crying was for the sake of crying and wasn’t really… “proportioned” accurately to the depth of emotion fitting to the situation.

    The point of this post saying “nothing was learned” is something I don’t refute (Setsuna pretty much made the egocentrism theme pretty obvious in the last two episodes), but I don’t contend that this anime was going for anything deeper than that or that the characters were realistically portrayed in any aspect.

  17. God. Damn.

    Finished the show like 3 hours ago and I was crying almost non-stop for the last 2 episodes straight. This is on Clannad Afterstory levels of good.

    I didn’t expect this to go from the lighthearted semi-romance show of the first 5-6 episodes to the heavy drama of the ending half.

    I don’t even know what to do anymore.. The sadness.. fuck

  18. This review really gives more perspective to an already thought provoking romance anime ( NOT A COMEDY THANK GOD).

    If its alright could you recommend a few romance anime perhaps some with similiar tone but not necessary. Thank you again.

  19. So I’m finally watching White Album 2, prodded in part because recent references to it in various ANN reviews… likely in Bobduh’s Oregairu/SNAFU reviews, but maybe also because it shares a director with School-Live! and Muv-Luv Alterntative Total Eclipse. I don’t know, it just seems like a year and a half later, people are suddenly talking about this show.

    Honestly, the main reason it was in my Crunchyroll queue is that someone somewhere said this was as close to a spiritual successor to Rumbling Hearts as we are likely to get. And I definitely see that vibe: well-meaning people doing really terrible things because they can’t help themselves, yet without this childish “oh, you’re not perfect, so this should just be School Days and everyone should kill each other” moralizing reaction either.

    I’m eight episodes in, done with the festival and its aftermath, and I’ve tried to poke around this essay without getting too spoiled, though some of what’s coming is all but inevitable given the setup. It took awhile for White Album 2 to click for me, but now it really has.

    As visual adaptations go… y’know I volunteered to be the third-seat for the Clannad ANNCast because none of Zac and Hope’s friends like it (imagine that!), and while I like that show well enough (while sharing much of Bobduh’s frustration with its show-every-arc structure), it’s not my top VN romance adaptation. Right now, it’s in fourth place, behind Rumbling Hearts and both seasons of ef. By the time I’m done with White Album 2, I expect Clannad to slide to fifth.

  20. well said.. well done sir.. thanks for the great essay.. adding more depth and view to the anime itself..

    believe it or not.. this things happened.. although maybe not as cruel or events unfold as extreme as the anime pictured.. yet.. the feeling’s the same..
    been there.. done that..

  21. Well i just watched this anime recently, and I must say this: It’s funny but weren’t there suppose to be 4 characters in the Light Music Club? Why isn’t Takeya not a protagonist of the show? He was left in the dark closet most of the time, only relied as the man working behind the scenes, and a best friend to Haruki that isn’t inclusive to also have Takeya join their outing at a hot spring bath. And instead of rooting the story to have a guy to a girl, probably Haruki with Setsuna, and Takeya with Kazusa given the story plot already running in such a way it flows like this (an episode where setsuna trust secrets to haruki and another episode where kazusa rejects harukinoffer of help everytime). I’m very confident that Takeya has some good qualities that could be brought to light to matching Kazusa’s dark episodes. Yet, this romance drama chose to left it in the typical but terrible triangle romance plot where one inevitably hurts another for their own personal desires..

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