Episode 3 – Nightscape
University is a wonderfully odd place. Some would call it a right of passage, taking you on a journey of self-discovery accompanied by some of the best friends and the most deluded basket cases that you could ever dream of meeting. So far, I feel like Golden Time has painted us a fairly accurate picture of university life, albeit with a much higher concentration of gorgeous women, but all in all it has been a pretty down to earth representation. After a rough start, this show managed to pick itself up and dust itself down in episode 2 so will it continue going strong into episode 3?
Last episode set us up for a club trip with Banri and Kouko and that is exactly what we got, but since the club member never really explicitly told them the name of the club it could have been any number of obscene things. As a general rule, university clubs are split into three types: sports, special interest societies, and then there is the grey area where the unofficial ‘clubs’ lurk. In the case of my university this is made up of a multitude of oddities like the Viking Society, the Super Villain Society, and it used to include a Pirate Society before they somehow plundered enough members to become official. However, clearly none of those sounded nearly crazy enough to Golden Time, so this time around we find our protagonists being indoctrinated into a religious cult preaching the truths of the universe…
Honestly, this isn’t completely unrealistic judging by some of the people I’ve met at university, but it is certainly what you would call a worst case scenario. They might have been in a bind, but what this allowed for was a chance for the audience to ponder how Banri and Kouko would react in a situation completely out of their comfort zone. At first, both seemed lost despite their best efforts to think of an escape plan, but then Banri surprised me.
In episodes 1 and 2, Tada Banri came across to me as a nice guy with some unusual emotional depth, but little else stood out about him except his underlying amnesia backstory. What I didn’t expect was for him to be so cunning! In no way did I think that he would be able to lie so convincingly and to an extent I guess I was correct in that assertion considering he actually had to tell the truth about his amnesia to make it sound convincing. After seeing his reaction to the text message in episode 1 that reminded him of his amnesia I assumed that it was a very touchy topic, but after getting Kouko into this situation he wanted to get her out no matter what, even if that meant sacrificing his own privacy.
Episode 3 was an even bigger tease than episode 2 when it came to implying a growing bond between Banri and Kouko, but their relationship still has a long way to go. From the beginning, they are both exceedingly flawed characters, but there are parts of their personalities that are a mirror image of each other. Amnesia left Banri with absolutely nothing. Waking up to a world where everybody is a stranger, even your parents and closest friends must be terrifying. Suddenly, you have no place anymore and even if you tried to become the person your friends once knew and loved, you would no longer be yourself. You’d feel invisible. Faux-depression or not, Kouko muttered those exact words last episode and I think her playing them off in this episode was merely an act, or at least she recognises that it was at least 10% true. Their situations are not that different, but until something groundbreaking happens involving the apple of Kouko’s eye, Mitsuo, it looks like Banri will be trapped in his beta male role for a little longer at least.
Pacing has not been Golden Time’s strong suit in the first 3 episodes, but being so heavily character based I am willing to give it some leeway. As long as we keep getting long, revealing dialogues like this week then it can go as slow as it wants because I love that kind of anime. Call me brainwashed by Bakemonogatari, but I think seeing some insight into a character’s feelings this early on is invaluable because when everything hits the fan the emotional impact grows ten-fold knowing how soul destroying it must be for them.
All Golden Time is missing now is a big twist. Something that will drop Kouko into reality. I have no clue what will happen, but my speculation is that Mitsuo will meet another girl and all of a sudden Kouko’s entire world will come crashing down around her. She said it herself, she doesn’t feel, “complete,” without Mitsuo because she has lived her entire life around him. To have him suddenly torn away from her after she felt so betrayed when he moved university to avoid her will trigger something titanic in Kouko, but as for what that will be I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Golden Time has got the ball rolling now and despite its pacing being less than perfect, it is still standing up as a great romance with some very true to life emotions. The drama hasn’t started yet, but I am seeing the first signs of a simmer and once Kouko comes to the boil I think we’re going to see something quite special. Keep an eye on this little gem, it might surprise you.
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