[Ascaloth] Trial Run: White Album, Episode 1

Based on a visual novel published by Leaf dating back all the way to 1998, White Album finally gets an anime adaptation by Seven Arcs a full decade after the first publication of its visual novel source material. While the casting choice of Hirano Aya and Nana Mizuki as the two female leads respectively is in all probability a large part of the appeal of the adaptation, White Album is also notable in that the male protagonist starts the story already attached to the main female lead of the story. Nevertheless, although one can certainly expect the storyline to feel as dated as its 10-year age might suggest, it somehow makes for a change from the storytelling conventions of today’s plotlines. Besides, if that’s not enough, this very first episode got panned by Impz, and we all know what happened the last time a certain green-haired loli-trap panned a romance series. :p

In any case, while it may not have made as much of a splash as True Tears did exactly one year ago, the first episode of White Album was intriguing enough that I’m going to give this the three-episode trial run. Of course, whether or not I’ll continue blogging this series depends on whether I’m impressed enough by then.

White Album, Episode 1.

Let’s begin with a short introduction of some of the characters, beginning with Fujii Touya, the male protagonist of the story. Interestingly enough, there seems to be a strong undercurrent of hate directed at this guy; apparently his character in the visual novel was one of the worst of the "indecisive spineless harem lead" types, to the level of being on a similar level as Takayuki of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien and the infamous Makoto of School Days. A surprisingly huge amount of vitriol indeed for a guy who to me seems to be a little too much of a sad dog, but otherwise rather unassuming. Is this guy really going to be as bad as they say later on? I’ll be waiting to see.

And then there’s Morikawa Yuki, the girlfriend of Touya who’s on the path to becoming the next great idol of Japan. Unfortunately, this leaves her with precious little time at all for college, or indeed for Touya. I’m not sure whether it’s just me, but one thing that strikes me about her immediately is how she keeps rambling on about the happenings in her life, barely giving Touya a word in edgewise; is this simply a one-time occurrence due to her having limited time to begin with, or is this the first sign of a character flaw of selfishness in her personality that we’ll see more of later on?

Of course, every idol needs a manager, and for Yuki, that is Shinozuka Yayoi. I haven’t seen many of her character type myself, but somehow I get the feeling that professional manager types usually don’t get a very good portrayal. Maybe it’s just me, but when the last such character type I’ve seen turned out to be an out-of-nowhere EXCELLENT EVIL type….

I wonder how tough a relationship might be if it comes to the point where the most frequent scene one sees is of the other party’s back vanishing into the distance, while one reaches out futilely for the vanishing one. This may just be a simple scene of Yuki turning away before Touya could say much of anything, but either it’s just me, or there’s something profound in this scene.

Sawakura Misaki, a friend or at the very least an acquaintance of both Yuki and Touya. Though one episode isn’t nearly enough to show us very much about her, she does have a similar vibe to Andou Aiko of True Tears about her. Let’s just hope she doesn’t become entirely peripheral to the storyline altogether like the latter did.

And besides Touya is Nanase Akira, the designated sidekick character who’s probably going to be to Touya what Miyokichi was to Shinichiro, again in True Tears. That said, dude, you sound way too much like Sunohara. Plus what Touya mentioned about "five years"….yep, poor guy’s gonna get the shaft in the affairs of romance. I wonder what it is with guys who are perfectly willing to follow a girl around for years on end without daring to confess; do they think it’s somehow romantic in some way? Too bad I’ve learned early on from first-hand observation that it’s hardly an effective or efficient strategy to win over a girl’s heart.

For someone so widely disparaged as a generic harem lead type, Touya manages to be just weird enough to be funny within minutes of his first appearance. While he’s certainly no Yuuichi or Tomoya on first impression, he doesn’t seem to be all that particularly spineless either; to put it simply, he’s actually average enough of a university student to not stand out in an especially positive or negative manner. Just what is it was he going to do later on that gets him his bad rep?

And then there’s Kawashima Haruka, whose speech pattern was just….plain weird. Somehow the speech pattern she exhibits seems familiar, but I can’t quite place my finger on where I’ve seen something like it before.

Also, she appears to be a childhood friend of Touya, from what he mentioned about her. Interestingly enough, Touya seems especially reluctant to discuss her mannerisms and her past with Akira, so it’s pretty clear that there’s a plot point going on here.

And we finally come to the other main female lead of the show, Ogata Rina. Apart from the fact that she’s the top idol of Ogata Productions as well as the president’s own sister, feared by all within the employ of the company and yet a good friend to Yuki for reasons unseen as yet, there’s also not much known about her for now, as it is really for all the characters shown so far.

Just like the other guy that "Sunohara" plays sidekick to, it also seems that Touya has issues with his own father, although apparently for different reasons. Come to think of it, there are a lot of questions about the background of the characters, which no doubt will be answered in time.

While we’re at it, it is worthwhile to note that the art and animation displayed so far actually looks very good indeed. As seen here, the episode sometimes jumps to the kind of special visual effects that True Tears also displayed on occasion at times, and most prominent are the words displaying Touya’s thoughts appearing every now and then, looking like a cross between what might be expected from direct experience of the original visual novel, and what might be expected of SHAFT‘s ef series. Throughout the episode, one certainly gets the feeling that they’re experiencing a romance drama from the previous decade, with all the dated, almost nostalgic feel enamating from the meandering pacing, the surprisingly normal behaviour and interactions of the characters, and a certain sense of melancholy pervading throughout the events portrayed just in this episode alone.

While we’re on that, it’s also worthwhile to note that by this point, Touya and Yuki already have an established relationship, and the both of them are now dealing with the difficulties of living increasingly separate lives. It almost feels as if we’re beginning the story in the middle, since we don’t really get to see how the two of them first met, got attracted to, and started a relationship with each other, and are instead thrown straight into the beginning of the "trials and tribulations" portion of their story. The experiences of an average university student and a budding idol are just so different; without knowing what brought them together in the first place, can we say for certain that they can go through this difficult period together? Or perhaps, is the failure of their relationship already an inevitability?

Despite getting mixed reviews, the first episode of White Album is to me an intriguing prospect, enough so that I was willing to try out blogging it. Although many have expressed an aversion to the story seemingly going nowhere at the start, I liked the vibes of nostalgic artsyness that the episode was full of, although it also seems as if this general vibe has a definite possibility of crossing the line into pretentiousness. Nevertheless, this is one of the few Winter 2008/9 series I’m picking up this season to watch, the only one for blogging, and if my guess is correct, it will be the dark horse of Winter 2008/9, just as True Tears was for Winter 2007/8. Naturally, I have high hopes that White Album will be a great story, despite it being a decade old. Or perhaps, because it is a decade-old story, that is what will make it such a worthwhile watch amongst current-day offerings even if only for the nostalgia factor.

This is Ascaloth, submitting the first RIUVA article of A.D. 2009, signing out.

9 Responses to “[Ascaloth] Trial Run: White Album, Episode 1”

  • Nice first episode and Yuki is cute. :)

  • My big worry is that it’s going to be overwhelmed by angst. There’s a lot of it there already, but it’s all brewing under the surface, which does, admittedly, already give the story more than one layer. But, if you’re gonna tell an angst-filled story, you need really strong characters or else the audience won’t have anyone to care about. And if people are already comparing Touya from the game with Makoto and Takayuki, well, that doesn’t bode well in my opinion.

  • Nice review :)

    I’m pretty optimistic, but then again because I _want_ drama. I _want_ angst. And based on what I’ve seen so far, we’ve got a nice setup of diverse characters to enjoy.

    Keep it going!

  • Finally, a White Album review that doesn’t poke fun at the show’s expense! I do hope you follow through with this show. :)

  • Is TJ_Han dead? If he is not posting anymore , I will cry. I am his number one fanboi that refresh this site 100times a day even though my rss feed does not show any updates.

    Lol , ok , anyway , I have high expectation for White Album . But please be reminded that I have high expectation for that Akasaka too. So I think my anticipation may jinxed this show and make it become some lol stuff like Akasaka. I am a harbinger of misfortune , I supported Bayern Munich since 2002 and after that , they did not win a champoin league anymore lol.

  • I agree with the above: this setup screams angst-overload.

  • >>And then there’s Kawashima Haruka, whose speech pattern was just….plain weird. Somehow the speech pattern she exhibits seems familiar, but I can’t quite place my finger on where I’ve seen something like it before.

    Yeah I totally agree on this. Lol she’s dressed a little eccentrically… but after putting in the 10-year-ago factor… :/

    Those girls remind me of Idolm@sters… lol!

  • I was just rather unimpressed. I am still going to watch it but I probably will start cursing at it when it goes into emo-drive.

  • i’m also on the “let’s watch 3 episodes and see” wagon, although i must say the first episode was better than i was expecting. Yuki reminded me somehow of Kotonoha from School Days?! (maybe it’s just me).

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