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AKA: ゴールデンタイム
Genre: Romantic drama, comedy.
Length: Television series, 24 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Sentai Filmworks, but also available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Content Rating: PG-13 (mild fanservice, mature elements)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Ai Yori Aoshi, NANA, ToraDora, Waiting in the Summer.
Notes: Based on a light novel series by Yuyuko Takemiya, with illustrations by Eiji Komatsu. There is also a manga and even a visual novel game on the Playstation Vita.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars
 

Golden Time

Synopsis

Banri Tada lost all of his memories after an accident where a scooter knocked him off a bridge and the resulting fall sent him straight to the hospital. Still, this didn't stop him from recuperating physically and later attending law school in Tokyo, though with no memories whatsoever from what happened before.

There, he meets and befriends Mitsuo Yanagisawa, who's got a problem of his own; his girlfriend, Koko Kaga, has followed him there, as the two are destined to marry, she feels, and isn't about to take no for an answer.


Review

One could easily assume it's quite telling that the creator of ToraDora is behind this one, since both shows start out by having the main female lead attack someone. But while Taiga Aisaka's attack was made due to a misplaced love letter, and done by way of a wooden sword, Koko's tool of attack is a boquet of roses (with the thorns removed, as the show makes sure to point out later on.)

In other words, both shows have a female lead that ... doesn't make the best of first impressions.

Stig: Which means that, normally, I would have ditched this show like a glowing piece of metal being dropped into my hands, but since I already knew what was mentioned in the notes section, I chose not to in the hopes that it would improve later on. Which it did.

Unlike Ryuuji, however, our main lead for Golden Time is a bit of a milquetoast. Indeed, Banri isn't really all that much different from most anime male leads; a vaguely indistinct male lead with short hair and a relatively nonconfrontational personality. Could this be chalked up to his amnesia? Not really, since the show quickly makes sure to point out that, even before the accident, his personality wasn't really all that different. It bears pointing out that, unlike said milquetoast leads, however, Banri does at least seem to have a will of his own, because you need a will like that to make stupid, stupid mistakes. As such, it's not entirely certain why said amnesia aggravates us; it's weirdly specific, created solely to drive the drama, and is about as far removed as real amnesia as it could possibly be.

Koko, on the other hand, is ... very appropriately named, mostly because I imagine that she's going to come across as a few beans short of a cocoa puff for a couple of episodes. Her opening scene is literally her walking up and slapping the destined love of her life with a bouquet of roses, and then proceeds to spend the next couple of episodes stalking him and making general crazy talk about destiny and whatnot. It is downright baffling why our main lead seems to take an interest in the girl, even if it is mostly due to pity, though her being stunningly gorgeous probably doesn't hurt either. Eventually, he becomes her friend, and... well, you know how it goes. Again; creator of ToraDora at work. Nothing new to see there.

Carlos: I loved ToraDora, even despite its flaws, because unlike many other shows, where you don't get to the relationship's true beginning until close to the end of the piece, we actually get to see characters interact and adapt during the course of a relationship. I was therefore anticipating a college-aged version of that show; this was not entirely an inaccurate expectation, but at times I felt the characters were somehow less mature than the previous series' high schoolers. Given how I remember my own college-age "golden time" ... that may not be too far off the mark.

Apart from Banri and Koko, whose interactions really make the show for me, we have their upperclassman Nana Hayashida, whom everyone calls Linda, who is friendly and helpful, and seems to be somehow familiar with Banri. Koko's erstwhile love interest, Mitsuo, sticks around as part of the nucleus of the series "Scooby gang", while video-game-otaku classmate Takaya (always called by his nickname 2D-kun for his preference for fictional relationships over real ones) and token mini-moe film club girl Chinami round out the central cast.

There are also occasional and almost invariably hilarious scenes involving a mysterious upperclassman punk rock singer known only as "Nana-senpai" who is for all intents and purposes a 24-7 cosplayer of exactly the character she sounds like. (Yazawa-sensei, please come back and finish that series already!)

Stig: Curiously enough, Koko eventually gets the clue when Mitsuo publically and quite loudly rejects her... again, and we suppose even her tenacity and storage of denial has its limits. The show then gets into the groove of bringing her and Banri together, which is easily the show's strongest part. Despite Koko's attitude to love, destiny and obsessive-compulsive planning of futures, the show's attitude to the process of love and dating is curiously mature, especially compared to most anime's way of putting that stuff on auto pilot. And crazily enough, once Koko comes to the realisation that she might be a bit... dominating, she makes quite a good fit for blank slate Banri.

Carlos: While I enjoyed the rest of the cast, really in the end, it all comes back to the rapport between Banri and Koko. Mostly Koko, because veteran seiyuu Yui Horie does such a fantastic job selling the character, down to all of her quirks, because she is clearly not your run-of-the-mill debutante. For me, watching the progression of the core relationship made this show the must-watch show of my week through a great part of the fall and spring 2013-2014 seasons.

Stig: There are shadows on the horizon, though, and they all bear the name of Banri's amnesia. If the mere term of "amnesia" makes you shudder, then don't worry; your fears are quite justified. The show wields the character trait like a huge war hammer, demolishing the mood like the rocks in the training sequence from Turkish Star Wars, shrapnel flying everywhere. And we're all in the danger zone. If things look as if they're going to be alright, the amnesia will pop its head up and go "not on my watch, pal". It manifests as a shadowy ghost at first, but will later intrude more directly, and never for the better. It kind of turns into a tool to inject barriers when characters are too sensible, which kind of gets in the way of more honest and understandable mistakes that the characters make throughout the story, which they also sort out with the thoughtfulness and maturity you normally don't get in romantic drama.

Carlos: I too had problems with Banri's amnesia, because that's not actually how amnesia works in real life - instead what we are subjected to bears far more resemblance to a cross between the frustratingly inane spirit-possession of Natsuyuki Rendezvous and the very worst "amnesia" tropes of American daytime soap operas, threatening to wipe out every iota of character development at any given time in the latter half of the show. Even the resolution feels contrived and awkward, and therefore that much less satisfying in the end. While it never gets to the point of ruining the show, it really wrecks the pacing, forcing unnatural cliffhangers and bogging down development until circumstances demand a conclusion. It's a shame, because the handling of the amnesia angle could have been really interesting, but instead devolves into a simplistic and overdramatized duty vs. desire scenario that just isn't very compelling and honestly doesn't even make that much sense.

Stig: I actually liked the first half of Golden Time a lot once Koko got over her hangup and the two started dating. Despite the shadow of amnesia looming overhead, the relationship forming between Banri and Koko was both sweet and curiously respectful towards either of them. Said amnesia doesn't completely kill the show, but it leads to many a facepalm moment during the last half -- mostly because it becomes the sole go-to instigator for drama -- so that part got a bit wearisome to get through. On the whole, though, I rather enjoyed this.

Carlos: The disappointing thing about both this and its predecessor ToraDora is that we have great characters and a great love affair which get bogged down by details and drama. In this case, at its core, Golden Time is a bright, shining example of how to portray a mature relationship - that is to say, lovers who are great friends and equals rather than just objects to just gaze upon. The devil's in the details though, and I have to wonder if the replacement of real-life psychological phenomena with what almost seems like non-proverbial demons is simply symptomatic of a lack of understanding of the human mind or just a bad case of poetic license ruining what is otherwise a wonderful story.

The annoyances we had with the amnesia angle don't completely manage to kill the show for us, but do keep this from being great. Golden Time is basically an enjoyable, if sometimes frustrating, ride.Carlos Ross and Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: The show is a bit weird about its fanservice. There isn't much in the conventional way, like nudity or cameras at iffy angles, but we do get our prerequisite beach episode (with surprising outcome) and one (or maybe two) of the episodes partially take place in a birthday party for a group of people who are crossdressers or transsexuals. This is where Mitsuo, being the lean, muscular guy that he is, also brings a little something for the ladies. As for the guys; Koko is a stylish woman, and while she isn't prone to wearing boob-windowed outfits, they don't exactly hide her voluptuous figure either.

The third episode has an unnerving one-episode arc about a school club that's uncomfortably close to a sect that keeps its potential initiates captive, probably meant as a fictionalization of Scientology or one of the Japanese New Religions such as Aum Shinrikyo or Happy Science.



Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream from Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Golden Time © 2013 J.C. Staff / GENCO.
 
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