IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED GIVEN, CONSIDER THIS YOUR SPOILER WARNING.
I enjoy most genres of anime including “boy love” or “BL”. Don’t judge. A lot of BL anime has some really good writing. I did not read the manga, so for the purposes of this article, my only source of the story is through the anime.
This past week, Given gave us its final episode of the season. When I originally saw the trailer for Given, I was pretty hyped. It was a story of two people that cross paths because of music. How can you get that wrong, right? So, how did I really feel about it? Let’s start with what I didn’t necessarily care for.
It was not the love story I was expecting.
As I lurked around the Internet, the word was very positive.
“It is a great manga!”
“It is such a great love story!”
Having never read the manga, my hype was based on the trailer. The trailer gave me the impression that Given was a slice-of-life centered around Ritsuka, a dark, brooding, and talented lead guitarist going through the motions, and Mafuyu, a quiet and reserved classmate. Through the trailer, you gather that they meet, Mafuyu sings for Ritsuka, a spark is ignited, and the rest is history. A love for the ages, right?
Wrong. So very, very wrong.
That’s not the love story at all. If you watch the trailer and Given is also unknown to you, you might also be a bit confused at what actually transpires.
Given is a VERY slow burner.
If I am being totally honest, the juice was ALMOST not worth the squeeze. Typically, I give an anime three episodes to catch my interest. By episode three, I was ready to remove it from my queue, but because I read so many other positive reviews, I continued to watch it.
Let’s flip the coin.
What I did like.
While, I was surprised that Given did not follow the normal slice-of-life romance tropes, the story is compelling. It is right up that alley of first loves, first losses, regret, and how to move on from tragedy. The story ended up actually being more mature than I expected.
Mafuyu is pretty complex.
I like complex characters. Mafuyu definitely fits that bill. As a young child, he was abused. His friend, and future lover, Yuki, is in his life from childhood to high school. They had an unbreakable bond growing up. However, when the two go to different high schools, Yuki becomes more involved in his own band. The relationship becomes strained and they have a lover’s spat where Mafuyu yells in anger, “Would you die for me then?!”
Yuki gets drunk and hanged himself and Mafuyu is the one to find him. Mafuyu is left with only one thing to remember him by. Yuki’s guitar.
The love story is subtle.
Honestly, I wanted this anime to follow the usual romantic arcs because I am a sucker for them, but I found that the love story was actually very subtle. What you end up getting is a lost and very sad Mafuyu finding happiness in music and Ritsuka. Something he probably thought he was not allowed to feel ever again. He was filled with guilt and loneliness. He was in deep mourning. In the process of learning to let go, he finds his heart is able to love another. There is beauty in that.
The music kicks ass.
From the intro music, to the ending credit music, to Mafuyu’s rock ballad to his dead lover…All great songs. If you’re a fan of math rock, you might find a song or two that grooves just right for you.
Would I recommend it?
I am still on the fence. The pacing was absolutely horrible, but after picking up the manga, it, too, is painfully slow. You will have 8 episodes of back story before reaching the moment you FINALLY get to hear Mafuyu’s song. For me, it was just too long.
While the anime took it’s sweet time getting to the point, it does not waste its time just abruptly ending.
In the end, I think it comes down to preference. If you’re a fan of that slow burn, I think this one may be for you. If you’re not into the slow burn, but want to watch a romance that has very little romance, then this might be for you.
It is not a bad anime, but it doesn’t rank as one of my favorites. The music on the other hand…I will rock that soundtrack until the end of time.