White Album – Final Thoughts

White Album – Final Thoughts

I’ve seen a number of harem titles (Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki, Love Hina, Ai Yori Aoshi, Hand Maid May, etc.), including a number of titles based on hentai bishoujo visual novels (Kanon, Air) and one non-hentai visual novel (Clannad). In all of the harem anime titles I’ve seen and in all of anime drama’s I’ve watched, I’ve never felt like I was watching a soap opera. That all changed with White Album.

I’ve never been a fan of soap operas, though many, many years ago, I did watch one (which one, I could not say because I don’t remember). I watched it for a few weeks out of curiosity to see what the appeal of this form of entertainment was. While I still didn’t care for this soap opera, I did understand that one of the appeals of the soap is the serial nature of the storytelling (in the 80’s, TV shows were still very much tied up in episodic storytelling which only changed in more recent times). However, I would not classify a series that is serial in nature as a soap opera as there are many anime titles which are serial (Fullmetal Alchemist anyone?).

While I may not be able to cleanly define what makes a show a soap opera, by episode two of White Album, I had the same feeling watching this anime that I felt years ago when I watched a soap opera. That feeling stayed with me for most of the episodes throughout this 2-season series, but I do think that is one of its strengths.

White Album is also a harem anime and is based on the hentai bishoujo visual novel of the same title. As such, there are a few cliched elements in White Album — a single lead male, a male sidekick character, and a bevy of hot anime babes all interested in the male lead and luckily for them, the lead male is nice enough to help them if they need it. That’s where the similarities end.

The lead male this time is Touya, a college student who’s dating an up-and-coming idol he’s known since high school named Yuki. Sounds normal enough, right? Well, since Yuki’s star is on the rise, Yuki’s female manager, Yayoi, is determined to make sure nothing gets in the way of Yuki’s career and that includes a boyfriend. So what does she do? She ends up offering her “services” to Touya as part of her efforts to keep Touya away from Yuki and what does he do? Why he has sex with Yayoi over and over and over again.

Touya doesn’t stop there. While still continuing to say that he’s dating Yuki even though he doesn’t see her much, Touya ends up sleeping with several other girls in the series. On one hand, he’s a nice guy but on the other hand, he’s the worst scum bucket out there. If it is pretty and female, Touya is very likely to “hit it” if at all possible. I’d have to say that he’s one of the least likable lead characters in all anime and while we may accept someone like a Tenchi having a harem, Touya’s having a harem is just downright irritating, even more so when he screws the girl his best friend really likes and managed to date for a time.

The girls in the series are mostly head scratchers when it comes to their interest in Touya. Yuki is somewhat understandable at the start, but her sticking with Touya throughout is more of a mystery. Rina’s interest is also understandable at first since she’s lonely and he’s a safe male (since he’s dating Yuki) but after she discovers what a scum bucket Touya is, she’s still in love with him. Haruka has been with Touya ever since they were kids but he’s always ignored her. She let him “hit it” when he finally saw her as a women, then lets him move along. Ohhhh-kay.

Masaki’s interest was never understandable to me other than she must be attracted to the wrong sorts of guys. Mana’s interest was confusing in that there are implications that she knew of Touya, picked him on purpose to be her tutor when she didn’t need one, yet deluded herself on the realities of Touya dating Yuki. Menou’s interest in Touya stem from a single childhood event which even if remembered, how would she recognize the the adult Touya as the child she helped years earlier? Yayoi’s interest started with keeping Touya from Yuki, but she too is lonely and horny and Touya helps her in that regard.

The series suffers the way most bishoujo visual novel adaptations do (including Fate/stay night) in that it is very difficult to incorporate so many girls and their storylines in with the main storyline. However, I will say that Seven Arcs using the soap opera method of storytelling to keep things meshed better, though some of the girls can’t help but get lost in the mix for periods of time. That lessens the impact of a girl suddenly not being around as the audience gets caught up in the moment of whatever soap opera event is going on.

Another problem with the series, especially early on, is the confusing style of story presentation. There are no proper introduction of characters. For whatever reason, Seven Arcs just threw in characters who then came and went. I suppose the audience was expected to be those who’d been fans of the game since it game out in the 90’s, who would already know everyone. Well, I never played the game before and I didn’t like trying to figure out who was who.

While the story does get caught up in Touya’s issues with women, it also tries to show another side of the idol industry in Japan. Frankly, had Seven Arcs done more of this, I think this anime would have been much better and still retained its soap opera aspects. Instead, we get a taste of different things such as the idol group Sakura-dan abusing Yuki. We see the friendship of two idols that can turn into a rivalry because of changing record labels. We see the ruthlessness with which idols who don’t draw in the money are discarded like garbage. We see that some idols are actually much older than they look or claim to be. We see that sometimes an idol won’t even sing her own material as it will be dubbed for her by a more talented but less attractive girl.

So as you see, the anime did sample several different things about the idol life but because they didn’t go into these issues on any deep level, it felt like a wasted opportunity to me. Then again, Seven Arcs is going to be somewhat constrained by fans of the original visual novel. I can understand that ’cause if one veers too far from the source material, one runs the risk of alienating fans. And it is fans who are going to buy the DVDs and such.

The series is supposed to be set in the 80’s and depict Yuki’s rise to stardom as an idol, through the eyes of Touya. The problem is, I never really felt we were in the 80’s. Sure, the anime went out of its way in the first season to point out people using the green payphones that were so commonly used before cell phones became commonplace. However, that didn’t really give it enough of an 80’s feel because there are still payphones today.

The series also tried to show some electronic equipment to give an 80’s feel to it — boom boxes with no CD player but only a tape player; an answering machine tape player; car phones instead of cell phones; etc. Yet despite this, the show never felt like the 80’s. Instead, if felt like a modern-day series where people didn’t use cell phones for some reason. The clothing felt modern (except for Haruka’s jacket vest), the hair styles felt modern, and just everything felt modern most of the time. I really wish something had been done to make the series feel like it was set in the 80’s rather than just using a few props (as seen in this screen capture I put together showing the alarm clock on Yuki’s bed).

I think that the musical choices would have gone a long way to help this. None of the songs Yuki, Rina, or others sing have the sound of the 80’s. I don’t know if there were songs in the visual novel or not but if not, then there’s no excuse for not having music that sounds of the 80’s. Trust me, if I were to play some 80’s Japanese music, I believe you could identify it as such rather quickly. Sample some 80’s anime titles set in then modern day Japan (Kimagure Orange Road springs to mind, but the OP/ED for titles like Urusei Yatsura or Dirty Pair are good examples as well) and see for yourself.

From an art an animation perspective, at times White Album is very beautiful and highly detailed. At other times, the animation quality drops and the character designs look ugly, especially for more distant shots. At other times, the series did pick up a style of art reminiscent of the “Take on Me” video, only in color. Musically speaking, I already mentioned how the music did not sound like it came from the 80’s. Even if this series were not supposed to have been set in the 80’s but in modern times, I still wouldn’t have cared for the music, but that’s just my tastes. It isn’t bad music as such per se, but it does nothing for me.

I look back over what I’ve written and while a lot, I find what I wrote to be mostly negative. Yet for the most part, I kept coming back for more, thanks to the soap opera aspects of the series. Not only that, but I was entertained for the most part as I watched this. So in that regard, Seven Arcs have managed to make an anime series that has some unconventional story presentations at times, some confusion about things that are going on at times, several story elements that are presented but never really explored, some plot threads that are dropped or not really resolved, an unlikeable male lead, a harem of females all wanting his junk, and more and somehow turn it into a very watchable and entertaining series. However, I find its rewatch value to be nil.

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7 Responses to “White Album – Final Thoughts”

  1. furei kinoko says:

    White Album is ” Naki-ge+ Utsu-ge” dramanime…

  2. AstroNerdBoy says:

    White Album never made me cry, unlike Kanon or Clannad. However, it is memorable, so yeah, “naki-ge” is appropriate.

    Utsu-ge — well, the anime didn’t depress me and it ends on a note that says that Touya hooked up with someone. My guess is that the anime folks decided to leave that choice up to the viewers and as I said in my episode 26 review, I decided that Touya ends up with both Rina and Yuki. *lol*

  3. […] same drive that made her an idol.  Her manager’s decision to end that dream reminded me of White Album, where the idol Yuki’s manager Shinozuka-san did whatever it took to keep Yuki from being […]

  4. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Ugh. Back in the day when my love for images within the posts was a bit too much. Still not sold on the right-left approach to fix the issue with the new blog, but it does work.

  5. […] I got into the catchy, 80′s-styled OP music (though I did mention this kind of music in my White Album final review). I’m rather tempted to try to see if I can get the CD with this song on it, but […]

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Have you watched White Album 2 yet? It’s better than the first one.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      I never did get around to that. I just didn’t have any enthusiasm for the series after White Album. Maybe I should take another look-see.

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