Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Nov 19th 2013
White Album 2
Haruki Kitahara and his fellow light music club member Takeya have a problem – all of the other club members have left the club mere weeks before they are supposed to perform at the school festival. All-around nice guy Haruki tries not to let this get him down, and he continues to go to the club room to practice his guitar to the accompaniment of a mysterious pianist in the next room. One day while playing the hit song “White Album,” he notices that a singer has joined in, and the sound the three create is amazing. Haruki tracks down the singer, reluctant school idol Setsuna Ogiso, and the pianist and convinces them to join the club and perform with him. But when a love triangle rears its head, will the show be able to go on?
Based on the second of two adult visual novels loosely linked by a song, White Album 2's numerical title does not present an impediment to watching, even if you've never seen White Album, similar to the recent Devil Survivor 2. Like that show, White Album 2's name is strictly derived from the game it is a recreation of, presumably to attract fans of the the original, but if you like gentle love stories and you pass this one by based solely on the number, you're missing out.
The story, which calendars take pains to tell us is set in 2007, focuses on the light music club at a Tokyo high school. When the show opens, only two members of the club remain – Haruki and Takeya, and their plan for a concert during the school festival seems ruined. Takeya goes off to do other things, but Haruki continues to come to the clubroom after school every day to practice his guitar. In part this is because he really enjoys playing, but he has another motive as well – sometimes a pianist in the special practice room next door will play along with him through the open window. Haruki and the mystery player play the hit song “White Album” over and over, but one day they get a surprise in the form of a vocalist adding in the lyrics. When Haruki runs to the roof, he discovers that it is none other than the reluctant school idol Setsuna Ogiso, and he sets out to recruit her into the club. Eventually he also uncovers the identity of the piano player as well, and it seems the concert may be back on.
As with many simply plotted stories, much of the charm of White Album 2 resides in its characters. While there are several other named players, such as Takeya and friend Iori, the story fully revolves around Haruki, Setsuna, and Kazusa and their intertwined relationships. All three do fulfill the basic stereotypes as seen in many romances for a male demographic, but there is enough else to make that matter less than it otherwise might have. Haruki is the usual Nice Guy, coming off as kind and mostly harmless, but he is also the school's go-to man for anything that needs doing, sort of like a less hyper version of Madoka from Rinne no Lagrange. His calm demeanor makes him the ideal mediator, and one of the first tasks he is faced with is dealing with the fact that female school heartthrob Setsuna really doesn't want to be part of this year's pageant. She is uncomfortable with the notoriety and would very much like to decline the nomination, which, she adds, she did not seek. Haruki handles the situation well, looking at both sides of the issue, and it's pretty obvious that Setsuna starts to develop a crush on him. Haruki, however, looks to be more keen on prickly Kazusa, the tsundere of the piece. Dark haired to Setsuna's light hair, Kazusa is a musical prodigy with a very cold and crusty demeanor. There is a very good reason for this, however, elevating her out of the realm of “tsundere because it's hot” to “tsundere because of trauma.” For those who don't care for (or are sick of) this particular character type, this makes her much more palatable, even if she can still get a bit grating.
Despite the musical aspect of the series, White Album 2 is basically a romance. With Setsuna falling for Haruki falling for Kazusa (who may be falling for Haruki), there's plenty of fodder for moments of awkward tension, sweetness, and general confusion (in a good way). All of this combines to give the series a gentle feeling, slow-moving and devoid of the hyperactive hijinks that can strike this sort of romance. Along these lines, there is very little boob or panty flashing, with the fanservice taking more subtle directions – it's still there, but it isn't in your face every three minutes.
While many viewers are well aware that this is a show based on a visual novel, it does not suffer from some of the pitfalls of more awkward adaptations, such as moments when you just know that there was a dialogue choice on the screen or you can tell that an ecchi bit has been cut out. The designs are fairly typical for what most expect of VN adaptations, meaning that they are somewhat generic, but they are on the whole quite pleasant to look at. The animation is fine, with no spectacular nor horrific moments, which works, because as I have said, it's really the characters who drive the story, along with the pleasant pop music sounds of the soundtrack.
White Album 2 is a peaceful, pleasant romantic tale against a light JPop background. If you aren't looking for another supernatural harem (reverse or otherwise), gorefest, or hyperactive comedy, and you don't require high amounts of fanservice, this is a really nice show to check out. It's a bit like anime comfort food, so if you aren't in need of a fast pace and just want to revel in some relationships, give it a chance.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Sweet, relationship and character focused show that moves at a gentle pace. Enjoyable soundtrack.
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