White Album 2-3: Bolero

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This show is beginning to remind me of how Maurice Ravel’s Bolero begins very quietly and very slowly, gradually building up, until it comes to a loud climax at the end of its 13 minutes. White Album’s muddled beginning is finally giving way to some clarity and focus and is laying the foundations for much dorama and angst to come.

The True Tears comparisons are beginning to make sense now. White Album more or less occupies the same place this winter season that TT did last year: it’s a subdued, relatively serious romance between people who really can’t seem to be straight with each other. They’d rather be polite and dithering, saying the things they think the other wants to hear. It’s all very (stereo)typically Japanese and to tell the truth, this is one of the things that makes watching anime distinct from watching Western media. Frustratingly distinct, in many cases, but still.

This one, though, is even more low-key than True Tears–there’s no Noe, bird seed, or chickens to keep us laughing while we go through fairly ho-hum love triangle happenings. Nor does it have the occasional poignant metaphor or beautifully placed insert song to vault it into the orbit that Honey and Clover occupies, with Toradora occupying the next lower orbit. The judgment that Ray gave this show initially, that it’s “plain,” still applies. Haruka is the only girl, in my opinion, that has any real spark of life in her. Yuki is nondescript to a fault, and Rina is just starting to come into her own but is still behaving like the prototypical “pop idol.” There’s a chance that she’ll get the “Ami Kawashima treatment,” where we get a fine look at the complexities behind such a person–for instance, we see that her rather controlling brother can become a flash point for conflict. The central character, Toya, remains a cipher. He’s pretty much buffeted by the scheduling whims of the pop idols in his life and it’s hard to see, given all these circumstances, how he could sustain anything like a healthy relationship with Rina or Yuki. Not that this has ever stopped anime creators, of course, from trying to setup a classic love-triangle setup no matter how realistic or unrealistic it may be.

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Except, of course, for Haruka. Might this threaten to turn into a harem?

The newly acquired focus has had its positive effects. The characters and the plot are easier to follow now, and a rewatch of episode 1 will likely clear up some questions I had. It nevertheless retains its “loose” feel, with many long scenes spent in the cafe that honestly could be trimmed a bit. Combined with the soothing-verging-on-bland OP, ED, and the pretty insert song in episode 3, the effect the show creates is one of deceptively relaxing calm. It’s pretty obvious what’s being set up here, an eventual competition between Rina and Yuki and also possibly Haruka; and it’s a mark of the relatively subtlety of the dialogue that this is much more apparent in the characters’ actions rather than their words. Since we have our typical passive male lead, it’s probably going to end badly with lots of hurt all around: if KimiNozo taught us anything, it’s that passive males who can’t decide = epic heartbreak.

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I have to concede that I’m now more interested in watching this show than my original impression implied: if only to watch how all these bottled emotions will burst. It’s like a very crude approximation of an Ozu film, where everybody smiles and bows to each other until, finally, all the nasty and sad and horrible words get said and everyone feels sad at the end. In short, it’s my kind of crap, and I think I’m going to keep blogging about it.

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