White Album 2, Episode 1: Heart Strings

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Despite dropping White Album only after the first few episodes back in 2009 and being further unimpressed that there was a sequel in the works, I was rather amazed at how the series sprung back to life. Mind you, I have no experience with the visual novels, so source material will serve no basis of comparison here. So far, it appears that you do not have to watch the first White Album to understand where this show is going and is actually set a few years since the first season ended. The premise? Very simple at its core. Read on after the break to find out whether this is a slice-of-life romantic drama you think is worth your time to check out this Fall.

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Yet another light music club is on the brink of collapse and it’s up to our main characters to save it. So what makes this different from other shows dedicated to the formation of music groups in high school (K-ON!, I’m looking right at you)? Like I said, this has nothing to do with the first White Album. In fact, the only mention of that timeline ten years ago is in male lead Kitahara Haruki’s inner monologue stating his musical influence coming from the first series main female lead.

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From there, it seems as though the similarities stop and the musical journey begins. Haruki practices his supposedly novice electric guitar riffs in one of three music rooms in the entire school. He knows he’s a beginner. He knows he’s not good. He knows the current Light Music Association is going under because of the lack of confidence in their lead singer. Yet he finds solace from these short practice routines by himself and an unknown yet talented piano player on the other side of the wall in music room two willing to accompany him regardless of the song’s complexity (or lack thereof). And this is where I was absolutely captivated by this show so far.

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Heart strings. They are bound to be plucked. Some will probably snap, which is what the first few scenes of this episode were alluding to. It has so far been subtle with the introduction of the three main characters, with Ogisu Setsuna so far getting more screen time than our other mystery female lead (at least so far, her name hasn’t been mentioned and her face not shown as much except for in the first few scenes) and sharing with us her dislike for popularity and attention despite her raw talent and beauty. That is, until Haruki can convince her that it’s not her own insecurities she should be worrying about but of her fans and friends who backed her simply because they know she deserves the praise and support. Setsuna’s characterization should help us identify her as a humble person and should create a lasting impression when her friendships/relationships with Haruki and mystery-piano-girl start to change for better or worse.

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Character dynamics. Haruki as the male lead for this show is quite the warm welcome as he shows early on his penchant for communication through both casual conversation (first seen when he turns Setsuna’s insecurities around and helps her feel good about her talent) and musical ability (seen when he shows his habit of opening the window to let the sound of his guitar reach the very pianist he’s never met). This was a strong opening episode in my opinion simply because of its ability to portray spoken and unspoken communication so well. If this show can keep up the pace, there is no telling how many emotional loops the writers can tie on the relationships between these three, especially since we’ve already made Setsuna out to be someone easy to get along with whereas mystery pianist prodigy may be the opposite.

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First Impression: With no profound relation to the first season, White Album 2 started off strong with effective introductions to the three main characters, each with contrasting personalities that we can make out so far. It makes me wonder just how difficult it will be to start the Light Music Association back up again despite of talent and teamwork from each of the three (demonstrated by the seemingly non-coincidental musical accompaniments throughout the episode). Character design is clean and backgrounds have lots of detail, but the soundtrack seems to be the winner here so far and really sets the level of emotion of any given scene. I’m looking forward to how the band came together and am equally excited to find out how their story will eventually conclude. For a show considered to be a slice-of-life romantic drama, I expect a decent amount of tears to be shed and some nasal passages to be cleared, especially after a strong first episode.

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