Face Off: Ray and Mike Play the “White Album” and Riff on the 1980s


Ray:I’m wondering if I should continue to watch White Album. It’s…frankly, seemingly a little plain vanilla.

Mike: You know, I think that’s a good description of it. It felt very bland and unfocused. The character interactions were very flat.

Ray: Aya-chan is being the imouto character, but I didn’t feel any chemistry between her and the male lead. Or maybe that’s the mood they’re trying to create? Drifting apart?

Mike: I think so. If my commenter is right–that this is going to turn into serious dorama. I can see that happening, it being about the pain of separation and such–which I wouldn’t mind, if it’s done well. But so far the first episode hasn’t given me so much confidence that it is.

Ray: Like I said, it has some taste but it doesn’t quite tickle my taste buds. And yet it’s not completely flavorless. It needs a pinch of salt, some spices and maybe some cinnamon. Or maybe vinegar. It’s like a plain vanilla ice cream with little flavoring. I probably won’t follow it for long.

Mike: Yeah, I’m now in a skeptical posture.

Ray: I’m sure at a certain point, I’ll just scream “get over it!” and give up.


Mike: The problem is that the characters are not interesting. If the characters are interesting, their interactions will be too and we will want to follow them regardless of story or plot.

Ray: She needs to have Haruhi’s personality.

Mike: Yeah. Haruhi was an interesting character–unique, individual, and lively.
The characters in Toradora! become interesting in due time.

Ray: I mean, even Aya-chan is just playing a plain, nice girl in this one. She’s trying to do more moe stuff recently, like her character in Hyakko, but this time, she’s bland. I feel like they are using her as the trump card to draw crowds, and this is NOT the drama she should be doing.

Mike: Well, perhaps if they enrich the character development, it might be worth watching.

Though here’s a funny thing: they make some deal about this being set in 1985 or 86, but there isn’t all that much period detail other than people using pay phones instead of cell phones I wonder, why the time period?


Ray: 1986. There was the currency exchange rate, and the hair of one of the guys seemed rather old fashioned. But everything else just didn’t give me a feeling of the 80s. Maybe it’s the music? I don’t know. I watched Mnemosyne (odd example, I know), and I thought, “Wow, this is more 80s and perhaps later.” But this one, for some odd reason, just doesn’t cut it. It could be that I’m not familiar with 80’s Japan, but something that feels 80’s tend to stand out in my mind (having recalled my memories back in that period over and over again to relive them).

Mike: Some of the dress actually, I remember, was kinda 80s like. The costume the girl was wearing near the end was very Priss-like in some ways, like something out of the old Bubblegum Crisis.


Ray: Yeah, those. But the key term here is “kind of.” The problem is we’ve been having 80’s stuff being recycled a little bit in recent pop culture, that it can be hard to tell. Maybe I’m way off on that one? I don’t know, it just doesn’t strike me as very much, dead-on 80s.

Mike: Not really. It could be a reflection too, that in some ways life wasn’t all that different. The main thing that has really changed is computers, the internet, and cell phones, and come to think of it, a lot of slice of life anime doesn’t hinge on those things very much.

Ray: Yeah, but we’re talking about 20 years worth of difference.

Oh I know! The art style! No matter what they try, this still looks like a post 2000’s production.

Mike: Anime character design and shading has definitely changed a lot since then.

Ray: Remember the 80’s Macross or other anime that you saw? It’s vastly different from today’s stuff. This show’s style, while they can’t help it, just doesn’t look 80’s. Maybe that’s what was bugging me.

Mike:Maybe they should have brought in Haruhiko Mikimoto again That would have definitely made it look 80s.

Ray: I know! I mean, did they get some young guy who tried to remember the 80’s to do the art? Puleeeze.

Mike:Well, in a way, maybe that’s not what the show is trying to do. Like I don’t think it’s trying to replicate the visual style of the 80s so much. It’s more like a post-2000s anime that uses the 80s as a setting.

Though actually, did you feel the OP was actually more in the style of the kind of pop songs that J-idols did then? I actually thought it sort of did.

Ray: As little as I know about 80’s J-pop idols, I cannot say.

Mike: I was specifically thinkig of the kinds of songs I heard in the old Macross, the OP to Gunbuster, the OP of Maison Ikkoku (1985), or the kind of music you heard in Kimagure Orange Road.

Ray: But the OP here is slow, right? I only know Gunbuster. Maybe a little of old Macross, sure.

Mike: Yeah it’s more like a slow ballad.

Ray: Mizuki Nana just doesn’t have that 80’s voice. Maybe I’m biased, but overall, the setting doesn’t cut it. It probably works for the average 30 something and older Japanese crowd (read: Otaku).

Mike: Well presumably, the creators of this show are probably all 80s kids–i.e., in their late 20s-30s-early 40s.

Ray: But I don’t think that was the intended audience, so it’s probably just trying to present a simulated mood for the ’80s, but at the same time, trying to reach out to today’s people. Because to me, the so-called 80’s setting looks really just like a gimmick that probably makes young people say: “Wow, that happened in the 80s!” or “So that was what the 80’s looked like! Now I finally get what my older loser brother was talking about!”

Mike: “You mean the exchange rate was that low?”


Ray: “Wow, people used payphones?”

Mike: “How did people send email back then?”

Ray: “That girl’s dress looked too funky…” “How did they text message?” “I can’t even remember where to meet most of the time without calling on cell! How did they arrange to meet?” “Of course he’d miss her! Because they forgot to buy cell phones!!!!! Oh…there wasn’t any?” XD

Mike: This reminds me of how people were complaining about the first act of 5 Centimeters a Second, when the characters are still kids. They said, why don’t they talk on cell phones and just meet up that way? The answer was: because cell phones weren’t common then!

Ray: Wow…you know, now I wonder how survived the 80’s without internet!!!!!!!

Mike: No kidding. It really has changed the way we communicate. Heck, I sometimes wonder now how I could live without my iPhone! And that’s just from a year ago! I think when something doesn’t exist, of course we can’t think of anything better. That’s just the way things are. And when the technological advance comes, we think, “how come I never thought of that?” And then it becomes part of our fabric of our lives.

Author: gendomike

Michael lives in the Los Angeles area, and has been into anime since he saw Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1999. Some of his favorite shows include Full Metal Alchemist, Honey and Clover, and Welcome to the NHK!. Since 2003 he has gone to at least one anime convention every year. A public radio junkie, which naturally led to podcasting, he now holds a seminary degree and is looking to become Dr. Rev. Otaku Bible Man any day now. Michael can be reached at mike.huang@animediet.net. You can also find his Twitter account at @gendomike.