A Brief Introduction: Welcome to the first review of our “Entertainment Lounge” section. We’re expanding because, though we do love games, they’re not all that we do here at My Games Lounge. You’d be forgiven for feeling like we might. It’s in the name after all. I hope our fans will appreciate that we’re doing more to make the site grow to the best of our abilities and we’re thankful for your continued support.
In the interest of full-disclosure, pre-release review copies of Golden Time were provided to us by Manga UK.
Golden Time is a slice of life, romantic comedy with dramatic undertones. It’s a first for me in almost every aspect, given that my usual interests lie in the action-oriented anime series. As a result of Golden Time’s charm, however, I think I’ll be investing some time in to more slice-of-life shows.
To cover the contents of the Blu-ray itself, it’s light on extras but packed with show. It comes packaged with twelve episodes across two discs at the standard run time of around 25 minutes or a bit below each, and the extras feature the clean opening (without credits) and clean ending, as well as trailers for more releases from Sentai Filmworks. The show features Japanese audio only with English subtitles. I can’t say I was disappointed by this though, despite being a fan of the English dubs. The character performances are so well done in Japanese it’s hard to imagine the English version nailing quite as well. Still, if you were looking for an English Dub, it’s not here.
The story focuses on Banri Tada, a freshman student studying law at a private University in Tokyo. Banri leaves his rural life behind for the first time and finds himself to be a fish-out-of-water in the city at first, having no idea how to reach the University and following a couple of girls, acknowledging how creepy it seems, because they seem to know where they’re going. Along the way, he meets fellow freshman Mitsuo Yanagisawa, who’d attempted the same thing and ended up losing the girls in the process. They exchange stories, laugh it off, and immediately warm to each other.
On their way to the University, Mitsuo explains why it is he chose this University as opposed to the more prestigious one he could have attended. He states that a member of the opposite sex is a “calamity”. Enter Kouko Kaga, exiting a taxi with a bouquet of roses to slap Mitsuo in the face with for trying to leave her behind. Banri seems captivated by Kouko’s beauty immediately as she explains to Mitsuo how they’re destined to be together without so much as a sliver of care for Mitsuo’s own desires.
As the story progresses, Banri is rescued from a mob of University club recruitment agents, comically attempting to lure Banri to their side, by Linda. Linda, or “Nana Hayashida”, is a member of the festival club and thought Banri could do with some assistance. Banri, again, seems captivated by this Linda, outwardly stating that her lipstick is beautiful.
There will be spoilers going forward from this point.
The most interesting revelation in the show is how Banri Tada suffers from retrograde amnesia. At the age of 18, he awaited somebody atop a bridge of his hometown in the Shizuoka Prefecture when he fell off and hit his head. We later learn that Linda was the person he’d been waiting for. They’d been friends throughout high school but Banri had loved her for a long time and, having confessed, asked if they could stay together forever immediately after they’d graduated. Linda told him she couldn’t answer right then and there, and they agreed to meet the next day at the bridge. Linda was late. Too late, in the end. Banri had forgotten everything about his life before the age of 18, and when he escaped from Hospital, bumped in to Linda by chance, not realising who she was. They talk, and Linda suggests that Banri attempt to live in Tokyo if he’s bored of the life he’s living now. He takes that advice to heart and studies law. Thus, we have the Banri we have today and a guilt-riddled Linda wearing a brave face.
The aforementioned events are relayed to us via Banri’s “ghost”. The sealed memories that follow him around. The ghost seems to represent his duality, even though his memories have never returned. The ghost doesn’t “exist”, and Banri isn’t aware of it, so it doesn’t break the realism of the show. The meeting with Linda and the joining of the Festival Club stirs up emotions that Banri doesn’t understand. Banri returns home at one point, searching for clues about who he used to be, and finds a picture of himself and Linda, realising then that they must have known each other at some point and Linda had chosen to pretend as if she never knew him.
All the while, Kouka Kaga had become increasingly more involved in Banri’s life in an effort to get information about Mitsuo. Though she comes off as annoying and selfish at first, the development of her characters is well-done in the way that she explains how Mitsuo is all she’s ever lived for. Hailing from a rich family, Mitsuo has essentially been her only friend despite how beautiful she is. She had focused so much on the idea of Mitsuo and her “grand plan”, she’d forgotten to live her own life for herself. Not too long after escaping from a religious cult that attempts to recruit her, Kouko and Banri share moment after moment until Banri confesses his love for Kouko, much akin to the way his past self did for Linda. Kouko rejects him, but they continue to be friends up until my favourite moment in the 12 episodes this release contains, when Kouko won’t stop mentioning Mitsuo in her drunken state. It’s at this point that Banri tells her they can’t be friends any more because she refuses to acknowledge how much her obsession with his best friend hurts him. He hails a taxi and tells her to go, saying that he won’t wait for anyone any more. That moment resonated with me so much, knowing that Banri had essentially been waiting his entire life. Waiting for Linda. Waiting for his memories to return. Waiting for things to make sense again. It made absolute sense that he’d hit his breaking point, and it was incredibly well-performed by voice actors Makoto Furukawa and Yui Horie.
Kouko is a fascinating character as she struggles with her jealousy. She’s down on herself because she lacks self-worth and seeks to be validated in the eyes of her love interest, but she’s not weak-willed. You can see she has strength beneath it. Whether that comes to light in the future is hard to say, but I believe this show is just as much about Kouko’s journey as it is about Banri’s. Her verbal assault on the adorable Chinami Oka is enough to make you dislike her, but soon enough you can see what makes her so irrational at times, and watching her try to come to terms with herself is “golden time” on its own.
Of course, amidst all of the heavy romantic themes comes the comic relief. Interactions between Mitsuo and Kouko get even funnier as time passes, at one point bringing me to laugh-out-loud levels when Mitsuo storms out only to swiftly return and call Kouko an idiot several times in a row. A side-character, “2D-Kun”, abandons the realm of three dimensional women because they’re too complicated, and the Tea Club are a harsh group of young women obsessed with sex. Tea Club Bowling! Members of the group are sometimes dragged in to their lair and, at one genius moment, Banri offers both Mitsuo and Kouko to them as tribute because they’re ruining a the Film Club’s get together.
Having only half of the season thus far, we’re left on a bit of a cliff-hanger in regards to the triangle of Banri, Kouko and Linda. Banri has told Linda that he loves Kouko and that it’s best if they just act like they never knew each other. Though Linda has time and time again insisted she’s not in love with Banri and stated that they should just be friends, she is clearly hurt by Banri’s expression. After all, if that were the case, why would Banri’s next door neighbour Nana have been so helpful to Banri in his times of need and brought the two of them together so often? There is a moment in the show that decisively establishes Banri’s one-sided romantic interest, but then Linda’s pain doesn’t make much sense then. The flashbacks of their past indicate that they could have easily been a couple but it just never happened. The incident involving Linda’s big brother being the most prominent moment, and it’s hard not to feel for the kind-hearted Linda when she mentions having seen her big brother again recently in the present and Banri responds with “I didn’t know you had siblings”, but she bravely shrugs it off.
There’s so much to cover in just 12 episodes that it’s simply not possible without meandering in to thousands upon thousands of words, and you’re essentially here for feedback on the release, so it’s safe to say that I enjoyed Golden Time’s Collection 1 immensely. It’s charming, engaging, well-animated (granted, not that it has a lot going on visually in terms of quick movement or difficult-to-animate scenes) and funny. The drama of youth and first love, getting over them and moving on with life – these are universal themes that ring true to us all. The amnesia of Banri I can personally relate to, so that hit home with me, and I feel it’s an accurate representation. When he describes it, he says it’s as if the people he once knew are waiting for the old Banri to come back, but that won’t happen. The ghost of Banri, too, was an interesting narrative tool. It provides us with the back-story we need to be invested in Banri’s life without having the Banri we now know inexplicably remember things that he wouldn’t. The whole ride up to episode 12 is a fun, new experience that I unfortunately don’t have anything to compare to right now. Nonetheless, in this man’s humble opinion as a new-found fan of slice-of-life anime, I’d give this show the big “yes”.
Game: Golden Time Collection 1
Review Format: Blu-ray