I’m always on the look out for the unusual types of anime. While the standard types are fine, I’m not a wild fan of romantic anime series. Only a few catch my eye. That’s not to say that romantic anime shows are not good, I just don’t watch that many of them. One of my main pet peeves is that the show literally waits until the final episode to get our heroes together. However, in Golden Time, that is not a problem.
Banri Tada starts his life in Tokyo and university off badly. He’s just on his first day and has gotten horribly lost. Luckily, he finds Mitsuo Yanagisawa, an equally unlucky student looking for the campus on his first day. Of course, Yana (as he becomes known) is about to have an even worse day. A taxi pulls up, a beautiful girl gets out, congratulates him and then pounds him with a bunch of de-thorned roses until he falls over. Meet Koko Kaga, a girl so in love with Yana, he’ll do anything to get away from him. Together they start college and the start of something for Banri that will take him from being a blank slate to a person with a path.
As we learn about Banri, we learn he’s a young man who’s had the reset button hidden on him pushed: he has retrograde amnesia. An accident after high school graduation meant he lost all of his previous memories so his family, friends and even himself are alien to him. An incident soon after he began recovering caused him to want to go to Tokyo from his hometown to study. So in a sense, we learn about Banri at about the same pace as he does. We get only very little about his life before the accident in these first 13 episodes so his introspection comes from his new life. He grows as a character and we see him forge a new identity amongst his new friends. Yana is at first more concerned with fleeing from Koko but as the show goes on, even he wants to move past Koko and be with other people. He finds Chinami, a shy but excitable girl who quickly makes friends with Banri and Yana, and tries to ask her out only to be shot down in one of the best comedy moments so far. In the middle of a party, Yana blurts out that he loves Chinami, she stops him cold with a smile and everyone just stops but only Yana and Koko freak out. So Banri just puts both of them in with the tea festival club next door (they’re a bunch of freaks) and does so with a smile.
Koko herself is a whirlwind, a series of contradictions for how to feel, act and react in any one given moment. She’s working to some plan in her head of how her life’s supposed to go but naturally it doesn’t go to plan, either with Yana and then after they break up, with Banri. The difference between Yana and Banri is that while Yana liked but didn’t love Koko, Banri adores her for the precise reason that she’s unpredictable and wild. He loves her because she has all of these ideas and idiocracies. But even she is a flawed person and their relationship changes immensely even over the thirteen or so episodes I watched.
One of the most curious characters is the spirit of Banri. This spirit is the essence of the boy before he had his accident. In a sense, he’s the person Banri should be but because of the memory loss, a new Banri was created, “our” Banri. Interestingly, this Banri longs to be free of his body but knows that doing so would kill our Banri and the spirit Banri as well. So he looks on as Banri makes a life for himself and reconnects with old school friends from before his accident while spirit Banri lets us know that one of the people our Banri reconnected with is the girl he was in love with. There’s a melancholy to how he says this like a person describing a character in a book he’s reading. Spirit Banri, for me, represents the road not travelled. He could have been the main character in the show we’re watching but he turned off the path and now has a different chapter in store for him. Whether or not Banri meets up with spirit Banri it will be interesting to see where the character goes from here on. On a sidenote, I love how one of Banri’s neighbours is NANA, as in the character from Ai Yazawa’s manga of the same name. This Nana also dropped out of school, leads a metal band and is gruff with everyone. Why is she here? Why not, since the characters don’t try and break the fourth wall and talk about Nana? Another aspect of the show that I love.
Animatsu’s blu ray of the first thirteen episodes is spot on with only minor banding issues for some of the darker scenes that I spotted. The animation itself is decent with occasional flourishes toward the more fantastical elements of a scene, be it in jest or not.
The show’s main draw is the fact that it can at a moment’s notice change from happy to sad as Banri experiences life in all of its complex and unpredictable moments. He doesn’t want to leave his life in Tokyo but he’s not prepared to lose himself to people and forces he can’t control. By accepting himself, he has the potential to be a person, true and honest, and not just a jumble of memories that we can call a person. His relationship with his friends is assured simply because he knows they’re flawed. But it’s his relationship with Koko that I’m fascinated by. Is he being honest with her about himself and herself? Is she truly in love with him or is it simply she needs someone to connect beyond the bubblegum, happy go lucky attitude of hers? I will be looking forward to finishing this series out.