Merry Days of Anime 2020: Given

The last couple posts on my 2020 Merry path have been quite long, so I’m hoping to write this one with more brevity. As nice as it is to write 1,500+ word essays every time, my schedule just cannot withstand it, lest I push posts to super late at night and I disregard all other hobbies (which would mean death).

To reveal my feelings upfront, I find Given to be about the same caliber of quality as JoJo. This is especially ironic because I think they share a lot of the same aspects, both good and bad. A heavy focus on characters, their backstories, and monologuing until my brain explodes. Really, Given is basically JoJo except placed in reality and music-based.

Jokes aside, there is a pleasant quality to this series that could’ve been great had it not been so dang inconsistent. The monologuing really bogged down the series throughout and only added to the generally overdramatic tone to the series. A lot of screentime is dedicated to a bunch of moody teenagers moodily monologuing about their moody lives and moody problems. Yeah, we understand that you’re in a rut. We can see you being in a rut. Adding edgy dialogue only makes it redundant.

He makes this face a lot.

Among the main cast, there’s Ritsuka, Haruki, Mafuyu, and Akihiko. Of them, they sort of range in importance to the plot, but the main story is between Mafuyu and Ritsuka, the high school boys with a blossoming relationship. One keen strength is in their camaraderie, as I felt that their overall chemistry added a lot to the immersive quality of the story. My personal favorite was Akihiko, because I seem to be drawn towards drummers and, along with his playfully serious personality, he pushes the plot forward about as much as necessary to keep the pace going. All have good qualities to them, except maybe Haruki, who kind of flounders about the whole series, but the characters end up bringing down the series almost as much as they bring it up.

Initially, I did not like Mafuyu. He behaved far too much like some bizarre, cutesy dandere that came off as fake. From reviews I’ve skimmed of this series, many applaud it for being “Grounded” and “Down-to-Earth” and what-not. Starting off with some weird conversation between a dude who looks like a hard-ass and a puppy-like cutie-patootie does not fit this moniker to me. Eventually, the story gave him more flexibility to behave more realistically as a person dealing with past trauma, and it became easier to give him the benefit of the doubt. And with this, Ritsuka became a little more fake, dealing with a lot of the tired “What is this feeling in my chest? What is this sensation?” garbage that every teenage romance story seems to cover. If it wasn’t one, it was the other, or maybe something involving another cast member that I neglected to mention. There’s quite a few characters present here.

Look at this hunk.

WARNING: The following paragraph contains spoilers.

Probably the biggest issue with Given for me was just how much they left under the rug when all wrapped up. Remember when there was a female classmate that liked Ritsuka? Yeah, they resolved that in a couple scenes and she never appeared again. What of the relationship between Akihiko and his lover? Given (ha) a backstory, he’s featured two or three times, but is relatively unimportant. Oh, and Haruki has a thing for Akihiko, too. Some time is spent on that, and then it kind of just floats away as the main story takes off. In fact, the pivotal climax occurs in episode nine; there are eleven episodes in this series. The last two episodes flounder about with the aftermath of everything, then ends with tons of material that begs for a sequel. With so much left to see, it’s deflating to know that all that build-up and focus on a variety of characters ends up incomplete.

I will applaud episode nine though; as a climax, it was sufficiently climactic. All throughout the series, Mafuyu was intentionally quiet and reserved, with every opportunity to showcase his singing ability skimmed over or muted. Once he starts belting it out at the last-minute opportunity, it definitely struck an emotional chord. All things ruminating in his mind—guilt, sadness, loneliness—came pouring out in perhaps one of the most impactful performances I’ve seen in anime. The song they performed was also pretty good, which was a welcome surprise. It wouldn’t surprise me to know that episode nine single-handedly garnered this series the popularity it currently has.

He hasn’t even experienced episode nine yet.

I was rarely bored watching Given, and while I have a collection of small problems with it, it’s definitely a recommendable series. Doesn’t finish nearly as well as it could, but the characters (eventually) improve the experience to a point where the “Grounded” label that’s placed on this series feels slightly earned. Whether you’re here for shounen-ai romance or a casual coming-back-from-trauma story through the spirit of music, this is a strong showing.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

For more anime reviews, check out the associated archive.

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

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