With his current mental state leaving him no other options, Tada Banri takes a leave of absence from college and returns home. His past and present collide one more time to determine his future.
This was exactly the gushing, sappy conclusion I both expected and wanted from Golden Time. Much like the past couple of episodes, it was almost physically painful to watch Tada Banri look Koko in the eye and not recognize her. In a series full of intense, stomach-churning drama, they saved the best/worst for last. Of course that made Tada Banri’s return to a complete a person that much more triumphant, as the final chase and confrontation with Amnesia Ghost made for a fitting conclusion to that part of his life. Giving Linda her final moment with old Banri made their relationship bittersweet to the end, but it was still an appropriate end nonetheless.
Overall this final episode certainly doesn’t surprise you. It doesn’t blow you away with any crazy plot twists or stunning visuals. But as it closes with Tada Banri and Koko joining hands one last time, seated next to their makeshift Eiffel Tower, would you want it any other way?
Jel’s Final Impressions
More often than not, when an anime is hyped by saying “From the creator of (insert popular series)” it only ends in disappointment. I’m happy to say that’s not the case with Golden Time as it is the best romantic comedy since the author’s previous work, the immensely popular Toradora. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Golden Time manages to do so without taking any cues from its predecessor. It stands alone as its own unique work, telling a different story in a different setting while still being just as satisfying in its own right.
What makes Golden Time particularly great is the way it smashes the anime romantic comedy rules. It’s often said with fiction that successful relationships are boring, and so most romances unrealistically focus on the “chase” and not the relationship itself. Not so with Golden Time. The story focuses on Tada Banri and Koko’s development as people above all else, and their relationship remains fascinating as they try to navigate their growth together. If there’s one thing Golden Time does inherit from Toradora, it’s author Yuyuko Takemiya’s ability to write amazingly self aware characters. Their self evaluating conversations hit hard as they touch on issues we’ve probably all considered at some point in our lives, adding a layer of depth that goes well beyond the trite blushing and hand holding that define lesser romance anime. Granted there is still some of that as Tada Banri and Koko’s romance remains unusually chaste for their circumstances, but even the physical aspect of their relationship is addressed far more openly than we might see otherwise.
The supporting cast also defy their typical roles and do an amazing job enhancing the story. Linda is star crossed and heart broken, but remains the rock solid foundation that everyone else depends on. Mitsuo is a far cry from the pervy loser best friend, instead he’s rather charming and sensitive. Chinami seems cute and sweet but is also refreshingly blunt and frank. And we can’t forget 2D-kun, who despite being billed as an anti-social otaku manages to be one of the most outgoing, helpful friends in recent memory. Add in the post-high school setting and the fact that they even manage to squeeze a new twist out of the amnesia plot device, and Golden Time manages to be different than just about anything else.
A great cast and setting can be easily wasted on a poor story, but Golden Time succeeds in that regard as well. The plot takes you for a ride of emotional highs and lows as the characters try to smooth out their imperfections with their genuine love for each other. Many episodes have you laughing and smiling one moment only to sink your heart in the next, but it never feels too melodramatic or unnatural. In our weekly watching, Iro introduced me to the term “bathos”: a hard shift in tone that makes even the most serious moments feel silly or absurd. I would pan lesser shows for doing that unintentionally, but in Golden Time’s case I feel like the writer knows what she’s doing at all times. Just like in real life, sometimes you can only cry so hard before you have to step back, put things in perspective, and laugh at it. It’s a beautiful feeling that Golden Time taps into time and again, making every episode a joy to watch.
The only negatives I would point out are on the technical side, as the production values for Golden Time are average at best. It’s not the type of series that demands top notch animation and it never becomes an overwhelming distraction, but the poor quality does become painfully noticeable in some episodes. Fortunately the voice acting is top notch, which is arguably more important in this case. Makoto Furukawa, Yui Horie, and Ai Kayano bring more than enough life to Tada Banri, Koko, and Linda to pick up the slack.
If you’re the type of anime fan that’s been clamoring for something different from the same old tired high school romances we get every season, Golden Time is the show you keep watching for. It shatters the molds of anime romance without feeling unfamiliar or pretentious. In fact it’s a fine example of what a romance story should be in any medium, defining the characters beyond the romance itself while composing a beautiful love letter to that magical time of your early 20s. It’s a Must Watch series that I would gladly recommend to anyone.
Marlin’s Final Impressions
I’ve been waiting a long time for a show like Golden Time. Romance is a very tricky thing to get right. Often times the problem is one of base maturity. Even some of my favorite romances fall into these issues, where even the most basic things like kissing become major deals (looking at you Kimi ni Todoke). That’s why it was so refreshing to watch this show. Its characters were the right age to tell a more mature romance story, and we get a much more developed love story because of it. No one is perfect, and everyone has insecurities. The way Golden Time handled these issues of coming into adulthood was absolutely masterful.
To start off, the characters are make it-break it when it comes to good romance. Tada Banri is no knight in shining armor, and Kaga Koko is no perfect princess, but it’s because we get to see these two as flawed people that we can buy into their budding relationship over the series. Tada Banri is a man who is sometimes even hard to root for, despite being the protagonist. He often lies about his past or covers it up simply due to fears about how people react to it. His lack of trust is his major flaw, and it is by opening up with Koko that he gradually becomes a better person. In the same way Kaga Koko starts out as a very frightening girl. Her manic and obsessive personality is easily her worst trait. What’s worse is that unfortunately sometimes she’s not even in the wrong by being paranoid. As Banri starts to grow, she starts to trust him until his memories start returning again. While the both of them never fully grow out of their bad habits, we do see some growth as their former destructive personalities start to give way to trust.
I think Yuyuko Takemiya’s greatest strength in both Toradora and Golden Time is that her entire cast is well rounded. While there may not be a great deal of major characters, each one plays an important roll in the overall story. Linda is a perfect character in the context of this amnesia plotline. As a current student and former classmate of Banri’s, she is a good lynchpin between Banri’s old life left behind and the new Banri molded in his absence. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Linda as the story unfolds. She once had feelings for Banri, but due to hesitation and her own guilt, she is unable to act on them. Once Koko gets into the mix, it is like a kind of release for Linda to let Banri go and forge a new life. Mitsuo, while initially quite a major character, gets relegated to the sidelines after Koko and Banri start dating. His later attempts at confessing to Oka and wooing Linda show someone who is just as immature about romance as Koko. Still, he tries to understand what he wants through his pursuit beyond just establishing a relationship. Oka was a bit more of a subdued character. Initially just a funny side-character, she later shows vulnerabilities and insecurities that come with people that are not sure of what they want until it’s too late.
And finally, there is 2D-kun. I’ve had nothing but kind words to say about this man, and they are well deserved. 2D-kun is the kind of friend I think we all wish we had. Always caring, always going that weird extra mile that once you think about it in retrospect becomes really sweet. He is the heart of the group, always trying to keep everyone’s spirits up and make sure things don’t fall apart. It seems a bit cruel that he is left out of the loop on many of the group’s secrets despite the positive roll he always plays in trying to bring them back together. His final gambit in the last episode had me in stitches, and cemented his place as Best Bro of 2014.
Still, Golden Time was not a perfect show. Amnesia Ghost was constantly a confusing and implacable force in the show. At times it seemed like he legitimately held spiritual powers, but at other points it made him seem totally helpless. This last episode in particular I was very confused and disappointed with how Amnesia Ghost was finally dealt with. It seemed like a scene that should have taken twice the time, so the pacing feels awful and rushed. Linda’s sudden confession to Ghost Banri was never explained and the whole dreamworld sequence almost immediately gives away to the final pathos between Banri and Koko as we finally get the reunion. I suppose it’s better than Amnesia Ghost never being brought up again, but it seemed so slapdash that it took away from the episode as a whole.
That said, Golden Time was definitely a close second to my favorite show of the year. Its characters had a lot of heart, and its romance was something so refreshing that I always enjoyed watching it. Even when scenes became painful, they were only that painful to watch because we had such close attachment to these characters, and to see them blow up hurt us as if we were their own friends. While there were a few plotlines left unfinished, from the position of an unfinished story, Golden Time picked a great point to leave off. The main focus was and will always be Banri and Koko, so having them reunited in the end is the payoff we needed. The other relationships remain and give the world a greater feeling of depth. There are still tales left untold, and what we got to see was only a small snippet of the whole story.