Golden Time Collection 1 (Episodes 1-12)(Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD/2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running time: 293 minutes approx.
Romantic dramas in anime tend to follow the same formula – boy meets girl, they fight, spend time together, fall in love, the end. Or perhaps there is a harem set up and the boy has one true love but has to deal with a plethora of other adoring females too.
Yuyuko Takemiya’s light novel series Golden Time dares to fly in the face of such predictable plotting and instead focuses on the growing pains of a new relationship born out of an unusual situation with a fascinating bunch of characters, sticking to a few conventions with a little twist for some added spice.
Banri Tada arrives at his first day of law school, a little lost and lonely until he meets up with fellow new student Mitsuo Yanagisawa. Just as they arrive at the main building, a glamorous young woman approaches them carrying a bunch of red roses, with which she proceeds to beat Mitsuo around the head!
She is Kouko Kana, Mitsuo’s self-professed girlfriend despite Mitsuo wanting nothing to do with her. Kouko is clinging to a childhood pact swearing they’d always be together which Mitsuo clearly has no desire to honour. Kouko has applied to the same university to be close to Mitsuo but ends up spending more time with Banri.
All this takes place in the first ten minutes of the first episode so we know we are in for a heck of a ride with this series but don’t think you’ve sussed out the story just yet – there is plenty more to come. So far it seems we have a love triangle involving Kouko, Mitsuo and Banri but this is not the case, since Mitsuo firmly rejects Kouko at every instance.
Banri is not even on Kouko’s radar as she continues to pursue Mitsuo whom she is driving insane. However Banri has a love interest of his own but he isn’t aware of it, as an accident a few years earlier left him with retrograde amnesia. The girl in question is Nana Hayashida aka Linda, an old high school friend who may have been in love with Banri but he certainly was in love with her.
Linda is now a year above Banri at the university and a member of the dance club which Banri and Kouko join. Linda looks out for Banri like a good senpai does, and whilst she remembers everything she doesn’t let on to Banri, who finds himself troubled by odd flashbacks.
Meanwhile Mitsuo has a crush on the diminutive Chinami Oka who rejects Mituso’s confession, but for Kouko, this is enough to deem Mitsuo a cheater and finally dumps him, which is just as well as Kouko is starting to warm to Banri. Now if only Kouko could control her jealousy over the platonic relationship between Banri and Linda…
And that is still only half the story! We haven’t even discussed Banri’s next door neighbour, surly punk rocker Nana or the lonesome otaku student friend known as 2D-Kun, or the devilish recruiters from the tea drinking club who seem to enjoy beer more. This wonderfully engaging supporting cast bring plenty of light and shade to this deftly modulated show which slips effortlessly between sturdy drama and ebullient comedy.
Very much a character driven show, Banri is hardly your usual milquetoast male lead, a decent chap with morals and a backbone, whilst Mitsuo is part comic relief, part totem for the less fortunate sidekick. Linda is cute and selfless as the mother hen of the group and Chinami is the token short girl with the big personality, unaware of her own appeal.
Punk rocker Nana is the leveller of the cast, the reluctant responsible adult who will kick their butts as she might save them but the true star is Kouko. The daughter of a wealthy hotel owner, her backstory isn’t revealed beyond her childhood with Mitsuo but her chic wardrobe and taste for the high life suggests she is spoiled.
Something has made her become an obsessive and possessive person and her caprice is as big a problem as her jealousy, but she is also utterly adorable too and once she is understood she is potentially a dream girlfriend. But it is early days yet although Kouko and Banri have already had some ups and downs.
There is also another facet of this story which is less successful and distractive to the narrative – a heavy handed metaphor to illustrate the central message of letting go of the past in which Banri is already dead and his ghost, who remembers everything, watches on hopelessly as living Banri gets together with Kouko instead of his true lover Linda.
Aside from the accident putting Banri a year behind Linda academically and giving him a free pass to pursue Kouko without compromising his feelings for Linda, the plot could just as easily roll on as it is without this spectral presence. The message will remain intact and Banri’s character never changes anyway rendering this an idea that is surplus to requirement in eschewing the tired conventions of the genre.
JC Staff present us with a vibrant looking show with lovingly detailed artwork and fluid animation to bring the character to life, complimenting the energetic performances of the seiyuu. Character designs are fairly typical yet carry enough distinction to make the cast recognisable, especially Kouko, to whom special attention has been paid. Everyone wears different clothes for each occasion but Kouko’s outfits stand out, right down to the little details of jewellery and other accoutrements.
Putting the supernatural distraction aside Golden Time has plenty to offer viewers of both genders, be it the comedy or the drama. The story has enough nice twists and keeps the pace brisk to hold our attention and interest but its strength is in the refreshing take on the romance genre by having the story built around a relationship and not just teasing one.
Volume two can’t come soon enough.
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ****
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