Watching seasonal shows is a hard business venture. Especially when you only have a limited amount of time in a day or a week to watch a select amount of shows. There are always a lot of shows that end up interesting enough for me to watch that appear every three months. The problem is that I don’t have all the time in the world to watch everything that comes out or instantly jump into for the mainstream audience after something huge happens. With that fact in mind, Given was a victim of being cut from my seasonal list. I didn’t think it was something special when I watched the first episode, but then it exploded on twitter weeks later. Wow. Well, I’m finally glad to have gotten to it. Yay!
Spoiler Warnings: I’m going to spoil some of the major things and themes of the anime in this review because I have to talk about how I think it executed about all of that. While this show is far from my usual sort of material like on Wednesday with Build Fighters Try, but that’s ok? All a show needs is some love and music for me to get interested in it. That’s what Given has at a minimum. In general, the who show itself is a great musical anime with a fantastic love story. Please check it out.
Given is a boy meets boy series, but that’s simply where the anime starts of the feeling. There are so many things going in the background of this show that don’t appear until the right moment that connect the show whole together in a good package. I say this because the beginning of Given is relaxed with a feeling of melancholy somewhere off in the background. You can feel it’s there. Ritsuka Uenoyama meeting a boy during lunch time at his nap spot. A spot in a distant hallway. The boy’s name is Mafuyu Sato and he’s holding a guitar with a distant look in his eyes. Mafuyu asks Ritsuka to each him to play the guitar after fixing his guitar’s strings and Ritsuka takes Mafuyu to see his band that day. This is where the story begins.
This is an anime involving a lot of things in it. It’s a boy meets boy anime and they fall in love with a sort of way that feels absolutely normal. It knew what it wanted to achieve and what it wanted its watchers to feel, so it achieved them all very well. Mafuyu acts like a lost puppy until the reasons why he is like that start showing up. It starts when a friend from Mafuyu’s former life appears and scares him off. Ritsuka has to bring him back to his senses. That goes along with Ritsuka not only showing him the ropes of the guitar and music world. His bandmates Akihiko, the drummer, and Haruki, the bass guitar player, happily greet Mafuyu and allow him to join. You know, after Mafuyu showed he had some singing talent but no words yet.
That’s what this story is about. Mafuyu coming to terms with the drama from his past relationship and confronting it. How does he do that? Music of course. Ritsuka takes the song that Mafuyu hums and made the guitar part a song for it. The other band members act in kind and create their own parts for the song. It’s pretty clear what the season is about, that song. It’s what we wait to see all season because it even throws the band itself apart before it appears. The moment the song happens is in episode 9 and that episode is filled with all sorts of tension. Love, drama, will the band hold together, and so many other things here. Will Mafuyu sing? He does and it’s amazing and so sad too. You know, with the emotionally wrenching song throughout. Damn, I’m still thinking about it and have the rhythm going in my head a lot when it needs some empty air time.
Ritsuka gave Mafuyu the means to finally release his emotions and it’s great. That doesn’t mean that Ritsuka didn’t develop either, because he did. This guy is what usually happens with you have a genius character without motivation and that’s Ritsuka with a guitar. Mafuyu entering his world gave him the missing creative spark that he’s been missing for a long time. I feel like that is why Ritsuka fell for him. The thing is that Ritsuka is such a dork that tries not to be one and continually fails. He tries to not show it on his face or act like he’s falling in love, but he is and it’s obvious to everyone else except him and Mafuyu for some reason. You know, until after Mafuyu’s song and Ritsuka kisses him off stage. OMG, powerful moment there.
I know that the show is named after the guitar given to Mafuyu, hence “Given”, but it really does symbolize the relationship between Mafuyu and Ritsuka. Or you know, just Mafuyu’s life in general? When Ritsuka finds Mafuyu, the guitar was impossible to play because the strings were broken. Ritsuka fixing the strings thus brought Mafuyu a direction in their life. Also, the guitar strings breaking right before their performance on stage really showed how much tension there was in their relationship up to that point. Fixing that tension was the key to making the band itself work. It’s just crazy times for sure, but also fun times for sure.
Of course, I can’t finish talking Given until I at least mention the adult characters who are really good characters by themselves. Haruki is a disaster in love with Akihiko and makes money for his band and living in general by working at a coffee shop during the day. He’s also basically the team mom and is very soft and warm with everyone. Akihiko is a grad music student who lives at his ex’s apartment when he’s not playing music. He knows everything that is going on with Mafuyu and Ritsuka and is just a very fun and soft guy. The mom and dad of the band Given are pretty great. I honestly can’t help but really enjoy their whole presence.
Of course, Ritsuka’s sister Yayoi needs a pretty special mention too. She isn’t a prominent part of the anime itself, but she’s such a great character with wonderful interactions with other people. Especially with her brother, Ritsuka. Their interactions are honestly perfect sibling ones. We also get to see a lot of her in a small amount of time. At home, she’s a bit of a slob but she’s also a model or at least a model in training. She dresses up pretty great and even knows and has a crush with Akihiko. Her one hair check she did with Akihiko shows that. Yayoi is such an older brat and I honestly can’t help but really enjoy her and wish her presence was stronger.
Which is a great way to talk about the direction and visuals of this show. Given isn’t a show with a high-level production budget and set of resources. Instead, they work with the smaller resources that they have to make something special. Something that I’ve learned to be Studio Lerche’s style of production considering how many anime series I’ve watched from them now. The show in general does a great job of using minimum resources to give you the setting of the anime, tell you their feelings through focusing on things. Feet, heads, long empty spaces, and everything else. The music animation wasn’t that exceptional and used a lot of cg or just focused shots away from hands. That’s fair, music is hard.
Given is just one of those shows where I can’t say a lot of things wrong about. It’s one of those aim small, miss small shows that just have a lot of power behind them. If I had a criticism beyond it’s lack of production values, I think it would be the teenage drama was a little too much at times? Not at unbelievable levels, just a little frustrating because that one girl in Ritsuka’s class was a little annoying. That’s a nitpick really. In all honesty, Given is a romance anime that I’ve been wanting to watch for a long time. There just haven’t been a lot like this in recent times which is sad. More general romances need to just exist. For me at least, please? I think some other people might enjoy them too. Anyway, Given gets a solid from me.
This has been on my plan to watch list since it aired but I just never got around to it… I guess I’ll have to check it out when I’m done with some of the seasonal stuff 🙂
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Man, this reminds me, I need to catch up on this show.
How does it compare to something like Carole & Tuesday though? They’re both music based anime that came out around the same time.
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I like both, but I feel like Given is hyper focused on things so it feels like a complete experience.
Carole and Tuesday has a lot of things going on it’s second half and doesn’t balance everything as well as it could so it’s a little sloppy.
I’m glad you enjoyed it, this show surprised me a lot by how much I ended up liking it.
And the staircase is a character all on it’s own. When you said the setting was an important part of the visual design my mind went right to that empty sunny school staircase and how it would become bleak in more emotional times. Great post, made me enjoy the show again!
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I can definitely say the same then.
And yeah, totally agree that the staircase is it’s own character. You and Karandi were always smarter then me in that regard then.
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We got a bit too attached to those stairs…. It’s easier when you are going episode by episode, you did a perfect summary!
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Those are a good set of stairs if I’ve ever seen any.
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