Of the many anime series I have watched, I can probably count the series that took place in a College setting on one hand. Usually these series are set in a middle school or high school with graduation being the final goal. Even the most popular series generally find a conclusion once their characters graduate high school. As such Golden Time being set in a college, albeit one focused on freshmen students, is already off to a different start. From the author who brought us Toradora!, will Golden Time get off to a successful start with Collection 1?
Tada Banri has just moved to the bustling city of Tokyo to attend a private law school. Despite how challenging this might be considering he is not only late on his first day but also knows no one within the city, he is happy to be living alone and taking a step forward with his life. In fact, his new found freedom is quite the blessing because immediately after graduating from high school Banri was involved in an accident that left him with retrograde amnesia, leaving him with no memories of the past eighteen years.
After spending a year trying to recover, he has moved on with his life, though the past will continue to haunt him throughout the series. After managing to make a friend with fellow law student Mitsuo, he is introduced to a girl that Mitsuo has been trying to escape from for years, his childhood friend Kaga Kouko. Ever since they were children Kouko has planned their lives together and thanks to her wealthy upbringing, she never was given a reason to deviate from her plans… other than the fact that Mitsuo wants nothing to do with her of course.
With Kouko’s die-hard desire to marry Mitsuo and his desire to avoid her and find someone he really loves, problems quickly rise to the surface. Still, after meeting and becoming friends, it becomes clear that Banri and Kouko appear to be meant for one another as Banri is a boy with no past while Kouko wishes to move past hers. However things are never that easy, especially when memories of Banri’s high school crush Linda, who also attends the school and has become quite close to Banri despite knowing he doesn’t remember her, begin to surface.
The first half of Golden Time has its highs and lows but one of these highs happens to be the way that it handles its characters. Rarely do we see any semblance of a realistic relationship in an anime series, with characters usually locking away their feelings until the final moment but in Golden Time there is actual discussion and development that feels believable, giving the cast a human quality that is necessary considering some of the idiotic situations the cast ends up in.
It is also interesting to see a dime a dozen type cliché like amnesia actually be used to create a worthwhile plot point. Thanks to the way Banri’s amnesia and past are explored over the course of the first half of the series we watch as he struggles with the feelings that are warring within him. A certain aspect of how it is being handled leaves much to be desired however as it not only doesn’t fit with the realistic tone of Golden Time but also feels like an attempt to force drama into Banri’s life and new relationships.
Despite the forced feeling that the ghost of Banri’s past has, its existence does serve as a way to represent the conflict between Banri’s new life with his friends and his past memories and relationships as well as a tool to test his faithfulness with Kouko. This results in a number of interesting events, but at the same time the forced feeling of “Ghost Banri” drags down the feel of the series due to its unnecessary existence and the way that it makes a story already plagued with disjointed events and odd occurrences, even worse does the series no favors.
On the other side of the coin, we have Kouko who starts as a character that will easily rub viewers the wrong way but eventually shows character development thanks to legitimate conversations and not forced drama. While Kouko may be an over-the-top character that tends to be clingy and a bit possessive, the reason that she is this way is not only elaborated on but can easily be inferred by the viewer thanks to her past and Banri’s situation. That being said, I can also see her being a character that people will find annoying if they do not understand why she is acting like she is.
Golden Time was animated by JC Staff which can be hit or miss depending on the property they are working on and thankfully Golden Time just so happens to be one of their hits. Featuring detailed character designs, especially in regards to Kouko’s ever-changing clothing, a gorgeous color palette that is nicely presented in Blu-ray, and nicely detailed environments Golden Time is quite a visual treat.
Character expressions tend to lean towards realistic which is a nice touch, though there are a number of times that they are taken to the extreme to try and pull off some laughs but generally fail to do so. It is also worth noting that there are noticeable drops in quality whenever a mid-range or group shot is used as facial expressions and even character designs dip noticeably.
Sentai Filmworks has released Golden Time: Collection 1 with only the Japanese voice track accompanied by English subtitles, but this shouldn’t disappoint many as the series sports a fitting Japanese voice cast with a large number of series under their belts, except for Banri’s voice actor who is more of a fresh voice.
The background music throughout Golden Time is quite fitting for a series focused more on romance than comedy and it does a nice job of not overpowering any given scene. The opening theme for this first half is “Golden Time” while the ending theme is “Sweet & Sweet Cherry.” Both of these songs are performed by Yui Horie, the Japanese voice actress for Kouko and although the ending theme is a bit sub-standard the opening theme mixes English and Japanese lyrics together to create an enjoyable tune that will be hard to skip past.
As far as bonus features go, Golden Time: Collection 1 is about as bare bones as they come. The release sports a clean version of the opening theme and ending theme as well as trailers for other Sentai Filmworks releases and the disc credits.
Over the course of Golden Time: Collection 1 viewers will witness genuine character development and realistic interactions interlaced with forced drama and strange events. Thanks to the way things have been handled in the series so far, it is hard not to fall in love with characters and also become frustrated due to certain events. With the first half of the series leaving off on an interesting note as Banri continues to try and leave his past behind and move on with the insecure but loyal Kouko it will be interesting to see where things will go in the second half.
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