First Look: Given

Manga Adaptation by Lerche
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Uenoyama is a skilled guitarist who has lost his passion for playing, while Sato is constantly carrying around a prized guitar that he has no idea how to play or restring. When he begs Uenoyama to fix his guitar and then teach him to play, Sato becomes completely attached, and the relationship is cemented when he tags along to Uenoyama’s band practice and listens to him perform for the first time.

Artemis’ verdict: In Tune

This was a lot better than I expected going in, mostly because I have extremely low expectations of yaoi anime in general thanks to the genre’s track record and usual creep-filled tropes (rape as love, sexual and emotional abuse, formulaic seme/uke relationships, etc. etc.). While Given may yet indulge in some of these conventions for all I know, the premiere was entirely free of them – in fact, you could probably mistake this for being nothing more than a music-centric show whose two male leads bond over their passion for guitars or whatever; the romantic hints are definitely there, but not in any overt manner. For those who prefer their romance to be on the more understated side of things, the show may well appeal – and when was the last time you watched an anime about music that actually looked and sounded decent? So far, this is hitting all the right notes for me, from the characters themselves to the perfectly respectable visuals and rock-happy vibes. Even if yaoi isn’t generally your cup of tea, I’d say Given is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Jel’s verdict: Seriously how do you have a $3000 guitar and not know you can replace the strings?

I like the idea of this show and I even like the cast, particularly the surly but kind Uenoyama who really carries the episode. I just did not feel like the writing was good enough to accomplish what they are trying to do. It’s hard for me to explain without going off on a huge tangent, but the characters did not feel believable. For example, in the first few minutes we see the main character has been carrying around his guitar everywhere (including school) for possibly years, occasionally laying down and hugging it and being sad. That’s weird in itself, then we learn he doesn’t know he can replace his broken guitar string or even what a “band” is. I know he’s supposed to be a bit of an airhead, but that was ridiculous.

I’m not saying I expect anime people to be realistic per se, but the further you get away from behaving like an actual human being the harder it is for me to feel emotionally attached. My problem with Given is that it feels like this is a result of both incompetency and perhaps adhering to anime/manga conventions more than a creative choice to make the characters different and interesting. It doesn’t make the show unwatchable, in fact I think if I adjust my expectations I can probably enjoy it. I’m a sucker for band stories and as I said earlier, I like the characters. So maybe another episode or two can win me over.

3 thoughts on “First Look: Given

  1. ” I have low expectations of the genre with regard to its generally abysmal track record and creep-filled tropes (of the ‘rape is love’, formulaic seme/uke-based relationships, and sexual and emotional abuse played as romance variety)”

    I don’t know if you’re talking about BL anime or BL in general, but just in case it’s the latter – honestly, I think the prevalence of these tropes is more memetic at this point than anything. BL is not a genre, it’s a fairly diverse area of manga/etc with lots of genres and variation on themes, tropes, subversions (and subversions of subversions…), and so on. I certainly wouldn’t characterize BL as such as having an abysmal track record and constantly indulging in creep-filled tropes. Also, those same tropes are just as prevalent in other types of anime and manga, like certain brands of shoujo romances (or hell, just certain brands of romances regardless of target audiences), many of which are fairly high profile and rarely criticized for shamelessly wallowing in these tropes.

    • I’m talking about BL anime here (not being a manga reader at all, although I have no doubt that there’s a lot more variety to be had in that regard). It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve watched at least a few episodes of literally every single BL/yaoi anime released up until around 2012 or so – I wrote my PhD dissertation on anime and had a whole chapter on BL anime specifically, so I don’t speak from total ignorance. That said, I do certainly recognise that BL is hardly the only genre (or subgenre, if you prefer) to wallow in such tropes, and I’d like to think I come down equally hard on these whenever I encounter them in other anime, regardless of genre or targeted demographic.

      • I see – I wasn’t trying to imply that you were speaking from total ignorance, and BL anime in itself is a different beast, mainly because of its position and target audience. I’m just finding that BL in general keeps getting this particular attitude from many people, and I think it’s very much exaggerated at this point. Especially given that other types of romances (shoujo/shounen/etc. – not that these labels are particularly relevant anymore) tend not to get the same treatment even though the exact same things are also present in them as well.

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