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White Album 2 Anime Review
White Album 2 is a 13-episode anime series aired in 2013 that was animated by studio Satelight. Satelight is known most notably for their Log Horizon and Fairy Tail productions. White Album 2 is based on a visual novel of the same name, made by the game developer known as Leaf, that was released in 2010. The anime adapts only the introductory chapter of the visual novel, which is told without any branching routes. It follows protagonist Haruki Kitahara as he forms a music club that includes himself and two girls whom he knows little about. Even though the title has a "2" in it, it is not a direct sequel to White Album, having none of the same characters but still occurring in the same world as its predecessor.
Although White Album 2 has a decent amount of side characters, the majority of its plot points and scenes involve the three main characters: Haruki, Kazusa, and Setsuna.
Haruki Kitahara is the main protagonist. He's very direct as far as what his intentions and thoughts are, never tarrying when it comes to the various articulations that he emits. He is also very decisive when it comes to his views and ideals. He makes sure everyone else knows exactly why he did or said something, if they should dare to question his logic. But this does not mean he is overconfident or thinks that he is incapable of fault. Haruki never places himself on a pedestal above everyone else, despite his dignified and well-formulated nature, and will always submit to the criticisms of others, no matter how rashly such criticisms are presented.
His highly complacent attitude often leads to problems. Although he generally is very blunt, his desire to be humble and respected can come in the way of him expressing words that are essential to the avoidance of a conflict. This is his major character flaw. His quick manner of handling things becomes recessive when he is dealing with something that he has emotionally invested himself in, meaning that his usual persona is a bit of a facade.
Setsuna Ogiso is presented as a sort of "popular girl." The other characters have a difficult time holding her in a high regard because of this, since they've come to pair popularity with arrogance, which is an understandable assumption. The only character who seems to be aware of her true nature from the beginning is Haruki, most likely due to his intuitive deductions. The reason for Setsuna's "high-class" or gaudy appearance is not because she is a histrionic, but rather because she sees no other way by which to achieve her desire for social acceptance while utilizing her skill set at the same time. Being that I've met someone like this myself, I can confirm that it is very astounding to find that someone is not as snide as they may seem. This almost makes it feel like the stereotype of the attractive, well-talented person using their gifts to reach high social acclaim is not doing so because they have a desire for power, but because they are highly insecure when it comes to how others perceive them.
Setsuna is entirely incapable of emotional suppression, and has to be fully certain of the tendencies of an idea or person before deciding to invest herself in it or them. As a result of all of her other traits, she has a very low image of herself and will usually look for ways that she can change a situation herself rather than blaming others initially.
Kazusa Touma leads a very uninvolved lifestyle. She has a cold exterior, but does not hesitate to show a bit of her warmth when she thinks that it would crucial for the moment at hand. It would not take that much effort to realize that Touma is not actually a discontent person at heart. The many walls that she erects around herself when it comes to other people are not a direct depiction of her character, but they are instead a result of her reluctance to show any kind of weakness. It could also be said that her arduous demeanor is due to her not wanting to appear unfortunate or needy, as if to say "don't waste your time on me, I don't deserve it."
The first episode of White Album 2 mainly serves as an introduction to Haruki. The other two main characters play no major part in this episode. The way Haruki is depicted is done in a very specific manner, even though this is the first that the audience sees of him. He is mostly agreeable and responsible in his actions, though the narrative is quick to show us that he is not a perfect individual. Many of the other characters find annoyance in his didactic ideology and incessant formalities. This is quite a good way of making a character likable, but also believable. At this point, I found it rather difficult to comprehend the idea that this show is based on a visual novel, because the protagonist's behavior is awfully definitive, contrary to the self-insert and generic tendency that visual novel protagonists have.
At this point, Haruki is faced with a problem--he does not have enough musicians in order to perform at the school festival. Thankfully, he soon is introduced to the unhomely and vocally proficient girl named Setsuna. The way that these two begin conversing is somewhat perplexing. The oddness in their chemistry is due mainly to Haruki's highly conscious and intricate view of the world being both complementary and comparable to Setsuna's naïve but informed likeness. We get a sense that Haruki's manner of speech and actions are somewhat over Setsuna's head, even though she is still able to stay involved in the conversation. It's interactions such as this one that prevent the audience from becoming bored with all the talking going on, due to how engaging the characters are. Nearly every segment of conversation has meaning to it while constantly building up the relations between each individual.
Once Setsuna agrees to take part in the music club, Touma's character is introduced, and she also joins the music club. The way that Haruki and Touma interact is a long shot from the way that he and Setsuna do, since Touma seems far less compassionate and careful with her words than Setsuna. During this time, it is unclear just what it is that drives Touma. She puts a great amount of effort into sounding stingy and unimpressed, but it would be a rarity for someone of her age to be a nihilist.
The conflicts in White Album 2 don't focus on the basis of the issue as much as they do the details that make them up. The characters themselves are even aware of the consistencies of each others' personalities, and directly describe them out loud, making each of them far more realistic and interesting as a result. This is a major element that distinguishes effective drama stories from ineffective ones. Unlike stories such as Nagi no Asukara which focus mainly on the idea of potential drama, White Album 2 takes things a step further and actually examines the elements and circumstances that said drama is composed of. The reason why White Album 2's approaches are more proficient is because it allows the audience to feel closer to the characters who have a cavalcade of complexities and behaviors, as opposed to being boring plot devices who exist only to produce drama.
The three characters as a whole have an interesting dynamic. Each of their interactions stem from carefully orchestrated chemistry, and they're also entertaining to listen to for this reason. The level of intimacy that the three of them achieve would not be as easy in a setting defined by four or more characters, and their encounters would probably start to get dull if there were only two of them. Hence, this is why having three main characters is often the most adequate amount, since it avoids possible non-involvement that is present in larger groups and averts the simplicity of only two characters.
During the show's middle section, it feels as if Haruki loses involvement in the story since he becomes less reactionary to the actions of the other two. Thankfully, this part of his character turns out to be a major point in the story rather than a consequence of lazy writing.
The ending of White Album 2 doesn't actually conclude the story, and many points are left open to interpretation. In reality, this is a result of the fact that the anime is only a partial adaptation of the visual novel. Still, the ending doesn't feel unfinished as all the characters said all that they needed to say, both literally and figuratively, and the narrative fulfilled all of the themes that it intended to, so this is an example of an open-ended story used appropriately.
Animation & Sound
There isn't a whole lot to say about the animation. It does its part at depicting all of the events of the show efficiently, with no noticeable flaws or shortcomings in the majority of the animation. However, some of the scenes that include a lot of movement felt a little wonky in places.
Being that White Album 2 is based around music, it should be a given that its music is well-made. Fortunately, this prophecy turns out to be true as the soundtrack is not only memorable but also fits with the essence and themes of the show. There aren't any major shortcomings with the sound or voice quality as far as I'm concerned, since I don't know Japanese very well.
White Album 2 is nearly flawless. It has a simple story and characters, but it manages to flesh itself out enough in order to remain intriguing at nearly every moment. Its characters and character interactions have an enormous amount of detail placed into them, and this is all thanks to the fact of it not having a large cast strewn unevenly over all 13 episodes. It also throws around a few ideas concerning human interaction and the like, which is also a plus. The animation and sound factors almost never fail to meet the standard either, and the music deserves additional attention. White Album 2 is highly remarkable in its presentation and substance, and fans of drama and romance would be doing themselves a massive disservice by not seeing it.