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Golden Time – Review

by Anthony Sulwer

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We all have shows we don’t want to admit we like watching. They don’t fit into any of the normal genres we watch. Maybe it’s a silly show about a group of friends, which offers no antagonist or specific quest, and often deals with topics you would normally never associate yourself with.

If you live in America, are under forty years of age, odds are fairly good Saved by the Bell was one of those shows for you. You’re not sure why you watched it, but when it came on, you made the immediate excuse, “Ah, well, I mean, nothing else is on,” even though you didn’t bother checking at all to see if anything else was on, and you watched greedily while brutalizing a box of Bugles. Then, like you’re someone whose family has gone all-organic vegetarian for a year only to sneak a greasy cheeseburger, afterward you feel guilty. You then try to poke holes in the show to remind yourself you don’t really like a show like that. You won’t tell your friends you watch, but you might tell the cool, nerdy-girl who could potentially have a penchant for “relationship shows” all about it, admitting you’ve been a fan since the pilot all along… Enter Golden Time.

Golden Time is an animated series based on the Light Novel and Manga series of the same name. Light novels are a bit different from standard magna fare, as they tend to delve into relationships and romance. Directed by Chiaki Kon (Higurashi: When They Cry, Umineko: When They Cry) from scripts by Fumihiko Shimo (Clanned), Golden Time contains virtually none of the attributes most casual viewers of anime are used to. No swords. No guns. No magicians. No giants. No ninjas. No wizards. No mech suits. No femme fatales. No ancient deities. No magic. No impending apocalypses. No aliens. No vampires. No werewolves. No cyborgs. No vampire-cyborgs. No alien-werewolves. No online-gameplay-turned-into-reality. No alternate dimensions. No evil, centuries old demon who needs the blood of a virginal girl born in Tokyo on the last full moon during the last dynasty… or something of the like. Nope, Golden Time follows a small group of friends during their first years at Law School. This isn’t to say there aren’t one or two pseudo-supernatural questions to arise during the first season, but the show handles them with brilliant symbolism married with existential explanations and philosophies to produce unexpected outcomes.

The first – and likely only – season runs for twenty-four episodes. Episode one, “Spring Time,” opens with Tada Banri – the central protagonist of the series –en route to his first day of Law School in Tokyo. Through inner-dialogue he informs the audience he has no memory prior to a few months ago. The day after he graduated high school he was in an accident, and now has amnesia. **Now, hang on! I know you may be tempted to stop reading, or dismiss Golden Time as some hackneyed, run-of-the-mill amnesia-soap-opera story based on what you’re read so far… don’t! Keep on reading**

After arriving at school, Banri discovers he has come late for the entrance ceremony. In an effort to blend in, he follows and meets another student, Mitsuo Yanagisawa, and they become fast friends. Mitsuo is late to the ceremony as well but he’s also lost.

On their way across campus to find their orientation, a gorgeous, young girl approaches them with a large bouquet of roses, and then proceeds to swat Yanagisawa about the head with them. Mitsuo explains to his new friend the girl was named “Kaga Koko,” and she had been pursuing him as a husband since they were children. He even snuck off to law school to get away from her, but she used her contacts to discover where he was going, and she enrolled at the same university. Thus begins the formation of a group of friends who will later include fellow Festival Club members, “Chinami Oka,” and “Linda,” two girls, and another boy nicknamed 2D because he dislikes the three dimensional world.

There are a few other supporting characters, such as Banri’s neighbor Nana – a Goth musician who has a knack for slicing all the fat off of a situation to get to the harsh, but rich, Kobe beef center.

The greatest strength of the Golden Time series is deeply flawed, realistic characters. They cause the very drama that gets blown out of proportion, and ultimately endure it while learning something valuable about themselves or each other. No one ever has the right answer and – as is usually the case – they make decisions based on incorrect assumptions, misinformation, and typical teenage hormones run amuck.

A relationship blossoms between Tada Banri and Kaga Koko when the latter realizes her feelings for Mitsuo Yanagisawa were an obsession from childhood she never took the time to really think about.

The real trouble starts when Tada Banri begins to get his memories back from before his accident. It is discovered Tada Banri and Linda had a relationship during their time in high school. Linda hid the truth from Banri because she did not want to interfere with his pursuit of Koko. Throughout the season, a distant part of Banri’s memory is still hanging on to his deep love for Linda, but his present self – the one with no cognizant memories of his past – has fallen head over heals for Koko.

It may sound odd to hear an anime based on a light novel series about a group of six college students can be deep, thought provoking, funny, and surprisingly insightful, but Golden Time achieves all of those things and then some. I found myself anxiously awaiting getting to the next episode, and even singing along with both the opening and closing songs. Golden Time is definitely worth your time if you’re looking for something different than the usual crazy haired, enormous weapon wielding, manga anime series you’re used to.

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Author: Anthony Sulwer

A freelance writer living in Denver, Colorado, Anthony fell in love with anime while working part time jobs at video stores in the 90s. Nights off were spent watching Akira, Ninja Scroll, Fist of the North Star, and anything else to appear in the small "Specialty" section of the large chain stores.

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Comments

  • http://breakbang.com/ Advait Panchal

    One of the best romance anime I have seen in a while!

  • truman

    Pretty interesting show but your description hits the nail on the head, guilty pleasure