Golden Time is a slice of life/romance genre anime, featuring a fairly small amount of great characters, a simple plot, and fine artwork. I very much enjoyed watching it. I would not rank it as high as some similar anime I’ve seen, but it was still quite good and enjoyable.
First of all, this anime doesn’t make the mistake that some animes do and have so many characters that you can’t remember some of them episode to episode. Most of the characters are pretty memorable, and beautifully designed. Particularly, these characters have a lot of depth, which is to be expected of this genre, but still they’re notable for that.
While the main character is of course Tada Banri, the unhappy high school graduate turned college freshman who lost his memories in an accident, he plays almost a supporting role. But he does so in a way only a main character can, giving the supporting characters a true raison d’etre. His friends that he meets with along the way do a good job of contributing well to his development and his interactions with the two main girls, but don’t ever intrude so much into the story as to cause confusion or seem out of place. This was well done in that regard, and those characters are memorable. Oka-chan and her camera, 2D-kun (what’s his real name again?), Mistuo who of course is the main source of the story at the beginning, dear sadistic and nihilistic Nana and her heart of gold (actually Linda’s name is also Nana–not sure why the author chose this). But of course, the story revolves most heavily around Koko and Linda.
This anime uses that familiar dynamic of two girls who are in love with the same guy, but uses the added element of Banri’s memory loss to make it quite interesting and difficult. Without telling the whole story again here, Linda basically was Banri’s love before the memory loss, and Koko afterward. How they deal with his situation is the basis for all the twists in the story. You feel for Linda more strongly than Koko. Pretty quickly after her introduction, you can tell Linda is not only suppressing her feelings about what happened, but has been severely injured by it. The change in hairstyle, her continued attempts to get close to him despite her nonchalant attitude, and above all her interest in the cultural club all tell of her attachment to her past and her unwillingness to let it go.
The cultural club thing in particular is interesting. While I’m not versed in exactly what they were doing in the club, it suffices to say they were preserving rituals from the past, and this speaks strongly to how Linda feels. But the anime leaves you no uncertainty about Linda destiny. That’s solidly the past, and no matter what, she’s not going to be with Banri. Her subconscious acceptance of this is painful to watch. Whenever she gets close again, like there might be a chance, she immediately either retreats or gets pushed back again. One of the late episodes where Banri’s memories are returning and she has to comfort him, but he runs away and she’s left crying in his apartment is most difficult. You know what she’s feeling and that she can’t escape it. Honestly, I was glad she lived through the end of the show, and this show didn’t take that turn. I could see her pain taking her in that direction, either by her own hand or accident, but it didn’t, so I was glad for that.
One other interesting thing about Linda is the choice of actress for her voice. Ai Kayano is well known for Darkness in KonoSuba and most recently as Alice in the last season of SAO. If there’s anything you can associate with Kayano, it’s strong female characters. I love that about this selection, but honestly I didn’t have any idea who it was until I found it by chance afterwards. Linda’s voice is beautiful but doesn’t strike me like Darkness’s voice and even Alice’s. Perhaps I associate the unnatural deep tone with Kayano too much! Nevertheless, always an excellent choice.
Kaga Koko. From the slap with the roses to her last kiss with Banri, she is heartfelt and amazing. She is beautiful, far more than the other characters. She’s definitely one of those characters you look at and say “Omg she’s beautiful!” She is the center of everything when she’s around. You can feel why Banri would attach himself to her. But equally, you can see why Mitsuo would dislike her. This is a great feature of the depth the author gives her character. For ultimately Koko is defined by complete and utter selfishness. It conflicts with her goodness of heart, but ultimately all of her decisions are selfishly motivated, and this is pretty obvious throughout the show. As happy as someone like her could make us feel initially, we can all probably imagine how that aspect of her character would become difficult to deal with over time, and any friendship with her could be deeply injured by it. It’s only her sweetness and personality and her occasionally lapses into sincerity that overcome that strong selfishness, and ultimately redeem her completely. But I appreciated this aspect of her character. The author obviously is very observant about human nature and how it affects relationships. Koko is going to get what Koko wants, and damn the consequences. It makes Banri’s life difficult at times, drives Mistuo crazy, pushes away Oka and 2D-kun a little even, and it makes Linda’s life nearly unbearable at times. It is very sad.
But through it all, she will be remembered as a sweetheart who saves Banri from his (ongoing) fall. If I had to say she reminded me of someone else, it would be Kaori from YLiA. There’s not a lot of personality similarity (even if it could be argued that Koko could become Kaori given Kaori’s state), but their appearances and effect of their presence is similar. All the blonde hair and the light rouge are present in both of them. Obviously they’re very different in how they make us feel (I don’t know if we’ll ever feel about anyone as we did about Kaori–I still remember the feeling), but both still elicit strong emotions. And that’s what makes great anime characters, emotional memorability. Koko definitely has that.
While Violet Evergarden hangs over the world of anime, everything else of the highest quality remains a 9. The quality comes almost entirely from Koko. While the others are without doubt well drawn and designed, Koko is heart-stopping. Her hair is always massive and flowing, and abundantly asymmetrical, and always notable. Her eyes are not a fancy color like some characters, which is interesting, because so many memorable characters have a very distinct or unnatural eye color. Not Koko. But she definitely doesn’t need it. Although, and this is interesting, her eyes could be described as a golden color. But they are remarkable on her face regardless, and definitely grab attention. I enjoyed just seeing this anime for its artwork, and that raises it a lot in my estimation.
The story is unremarkable mostly, but that’s good, as it serves the characters’ purposes and stays out of the way otherwise. As with many animes in this genre, it does have a very undulating feel to it, as Banri ebbs back and forth between pre-accident and post-accident, Linda and Koko. I kept anticipating twists coming, but they usually didn’t. And when they did, they were quite effective. Chiefly, this occurred at the end, when the unthinkable suddenly began happening: his previous memories began to return, wiping away his memories since the accident. The first time it happens, you instantly think of Koko, and then Linda. Linda runs to his rescue every time, and you feel all kinds of tension arise, wondering what’s going to happen.
Something I felt they neglected a little which I liked during these events was what brought Banri back to his senses a couple of times, and that is any mention of Koko. That was so sweet, that she would embody and restore his memories of his time after the accident. It doesn’t help poor Linda much, but still it’s a couple of sweet moments in the story. Ultimately these just become moments though, and although he ultimately remembers Koko, it’s not just her that restores his memory, so that was a bit of a bummer.
Yes, the way it ends and resolves itself is silly. The apparition that follows Banri around representing his former self and how that all settles out is silly. But it does serve to resolve everything, leaving Linda in an acceptable state and Koko and Banri together. So I can’t argue about it from that point of view!
Something that I never could quite resolve was the title, Golden Time. I saw the phrase at one of the events the culture club attended, maybe even a couple of different episodes. I don’t know enough to know if this is just what we get as a translation of a phrase which has more meaning in Japanese, so that’s possibly what I’m missing. If the two English words are intentional, then a couple of things come to mind right away. First, the idea of “gold” or “golden” has long been considered a literary device to describe a vast array of things, ranging from simple treasure to fire to feelings and thoughts and things we hold dear. So broad is that field, I hesitate to dive into it, but it could be the source of some interesting findings and thoughts. I’m much more interested in the word “time” here though. Obviously the show centers on time and memory and how time and memory are intertwined and related. I don’t want to go crazy into that, as it is a big subject, but it’s an interesting way to consider the title in context. Romance anime titles are often fraught with meaning, more so than many other genres, and so it’s interesting to consider title a little in any discussion of anime in this genre.
This was a good one. Easy to watch, beautiful design and execution, amazing characters, and does all kinds of fun things to your heart. Easily memorable but not epic, this one has a top 20 place on romance lists for sure. If you’re a fan of the White Album series (me), you’ll enjoy this show.
Bring on the rage, the love, the commentary!