The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

White Album 2

Title: White Album 2
Genre:  Romance/Drama
Company: Satelight
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 05 Oct 2013 – 21 Dec 2013

Synopsis: Haruki Kitahara is the last member of a dissolving light music club. He had been practicing his guitar everyday by the window in the hopes that he could perform in his school festival. It is the last year of his high school life and so it would seem his dream is not to be. But one day, as Haruki plays the song “White Album,” a beautiful voice and a fluid piano melody harmonize with his guitar playing. His hopes of playing in the school festival reborn, Haruki’s life would forever change in this moment, just maybe not in the way he imagined.

The Highlights
Not really a sequel: A sequel in name only, as it is not related to the original.
Drama: Restrained, dignified and subtle.
Characters: Extremely well developed, nuanced, likable, and believable.
Atmosphere: Somber and melancholic soundtrack creates a lovely mood.

A disclaimer is in order here – White Album 2 is a sequel in name only. Besides a few minor references to characters and the use of a couple of the same songs, the story in White Album 2 is in no way related to the original White Album. Furthermore, the staff behind both projects is different, and so beyond both anime being musically themed, romantic dramas, they could not be more different.

White Album 2 is not just different from the original White Album, though; it is unlike most typical romance anime, period. Whereas your typical romance show tend to be filled with obnoxiously loud characters and aggravating melodrama, White Album 2 manages to be a more dignified, restrained, and quiet experience, even though it is set in high school. It does not try to surprise anyone with extreme plot developments and wild twists, nor does it make use of any excessive fanservice and pandering devices. Instead, White Album 2 carries itself with enough confidence that the strength and presentation of its narrative alone is enough to entice the audience. Personally, this makes White Album 2 an incredibly refreshing experience compared to all the usual nonsense that seems to proliferate the genre.

Constructing a believable love triangle is not an easy task by any means, but White Album 2 makes it seem like the most natural thing in the world. Much of this is owed to its strong cast of characters who are well developed, nuanced, and generally likable people. Most importantly, however, the characters feel believably human, and so the drama that unfolds is believable as well. Illustrating this is how much of the conflict in the story unfolds in the first place; rather than forcing any unnecessary drama into the story, or making characters act irrational for the sake of it, problems arise logically from inherent personality traits clashing together. This is best seen in Haruki, whose tendency to be a busybody is both his greatest asset and his worst fault.

Although on some level this means White Album 2 is a simple and predictable story to follow, it is also a testament to the credibility of what goes on onscreen. Moreover, it is not suspense that drives the story, but the knowledge of what is to come and how that will play out that ultimately keeps you from looking away. This would not work nearly as well if the cast were unsympathetic, but White Album 2 does an incredible job at giving insight into each character’s perspective by revealing key details and character thoughts explicitly only when most appropriate. These little touches cannot be underestimated, because in a love triangle drama it is often far too easy to take sides. The beauty of White Album 2 is that it convinces you that you could not really blame anyone for what happens.

Now it must be said that White Album 2 is a visual novel adaption, and it only adapted what is considered the opening chapter. Essentially, the story is incomplete and there is more material to adapt if the creators ever choose to make a sequel. Although Studio Satelight is not what I would rank as one of the industry’s better studios, they did a really decent job on what has been adapted so far. White Album 2 is well paced, within each episode and the show as a whole, and the content is arranged intelligently so that it always leaves the viewer wanting to see more. It also makes excellent use of background music to create a somber, melancholic atmosphere that suits the story’s content perfectly. Altogether, White Album 2 is a fairly pleasant anime to just watch and hear regardless of what is actually transpiring.

White Album 2 does not necessarily tread new ground, but it breathes life into a genre that otherwise has been in pretty poor form in recent years. It proves that high school based romance titles can in fact avoid the typical drivel of the industry and make use of the characters’ ages to tell a compelling story. In my eyes, White Album 2 is easily the best romance series to have come out in years, and I dearly hope we get to see the rest of the story sometime down the line.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Reckoner

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