by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 10 of
How does an anime like Given even follow up an episode as show-stopping as last week's?
Anyway, here's Wonderwall.
It's reassuring to see that most characters in Given deal with the aftermath of Mafuyu's inaugural performance the same way I've been dealing with it—by thinking about it constantly and watching a YouTube video of the concert on loop. That was a huge statement, so it only makes sense for the characters and audience to find some reprieve in the quiet moments following. Given returns to its meditative pace, but there's nonetheless the sense that a major shift has happened in the tectonics of Mafuyu's life. There's no turning back from this point, nor should there be.
Mafuyu's performance was obviously a big deal for him and his own feelings, but he was far from the only one impacted by it. Music is communication after all, so before we even see Mafuyu in this episode, we instead focus on select members of the concert audience and their reactions. I think it's especially interesting that Mafuyu's old classmate/Kasai's current friend gets her own scene. She's such a minor character that I don't remember if she's even been named in the anime, but even she was struck by Mafuyu's outpouring of emotions. Hiiragi puts on airs, but he too is happy to see Mafuyu finally processing his grief. Haruki's fellow bassist friend Take works at a fever pitch overnight to edit their performance of “A Winter Story” into a presentable video. Ugetsu also sees some special and undefinable potential in Mafuyu. It's like the entire cast of minor characters were swept up into this one moment.
Ritsuka, naturally, has been swept off his feet most of all. As the heat of the moment cools off, he finally reckons what actually happened and loses his mind just a bit, providing some much-needed levity after last week's gravity. It's especially funny how his holier-than-thou pity toward his sister's heartbreak quickly morphs into panic as he remembers his own passionate kiss with Mafuyu. Since Ritsuka is unable to be cool about anything, he's a nervous wreck until he works up the courage to visit his bedridden love interest. Even then, his internal monologue devolves into an almost unintelligible assault of squees and groans as he's overcome with just how much he loves the sick and sweaty boy in front of him. Given treats its character's insecurities and traumas with uncommon sincerity, but it's also a story about discovering and rediscovering love, with all of the wonderfully embarrassing sappiness on proud display.
While everyone around him has been touched by his performance, Mafuyu has also changed in subtle but noticeable ways. He's a lot more assertive than he used to be. It's cute to see him plead with Ritsuka to stay longer at his apartment, and later he deliberately pokes at Ritsuka's nervousness by explicitly calling their destination a date spot. Mafuyu can flirt again. It's a huge development, as if he's been cracked open by the impact of his impromptu song. He recognizes how liberating it felt in spite of all the stress surrounding the concert. It's been a while since I've performed in front of an audience, but there is something undeniably transformative about that particular space. Within that confluence of jittery nerves, sweltering lights, and hundreds of eyes focused on your person, I've experienced moments that felt transcendent and therapeutic—moments my timidity might never have allowed otherwise. Ritsuka muses in the episode's opening about how guitar strings only produce sound when they're wound tight enough. Mafuyu searches in vain for guitar strings that won't break. People's hearts exist in a tenuous limbo state between exhilaration and exhaustion, and we can't fulfill them without risking them being broken. The performance arts are definitely an extension of this, and Mafuyu confirms within himself the importance of continuing to heal his heart by putting it on display.
The entire band also gathers to confirm their path forward over some barbecue. The mood is light and celebratory, but it gives Mafuyu an opportunity to voice his feelings to his bandmates. Hearing him volunteer that he wants to write another song shows how serious he is about growing as both a musician and a person. The nonchalant naming of their new four-piece setup is also cute. It's good that Mafuyu provides the seed word “give,” acknowledging Yuki's legacy in an admittedly abstract way, but Akihiko just conjugates that and calls it a day. This rings true to my experience with most musicians (especially those just starting out); they don't care about the “branding” as much as they care about putting their sound out there. And the newly-christened Given is already making moves, creating a Twitter page (which is real, by the way), and getting new concerts and bigger venues lined up. Success could be just around the corner.
Meanwhile, success of the romantic sort has already happened. A newly-energized Mafuyu drags a hesitant Ritsuka to a popular date spot by the ocean. The location can't be coincidental—the ocean was an important place to him and Yuki as well. However, this particular location is not the same beach he visited with Yuki and revisited by himself. That will always be important to him, but now he has the opportunity to make new memories in new places. The sea is vast, and the cool breeze whips through his hair and brings a smile to his face. Ritsuka, who previously marveled at how Mafuyu's thin visage could have concealed so much anguish, now stands dumbstruck at the happiness and beauty of the boy next to him. Whether he was conscious of it or not, Mafuyu spent the months following Yuki's death searching for a place where he could feel like a person again. He's found it here, nuzzled against the new person he loves.
Given delivers yet another graceful installment of this delicate love story, cooling down from last week's passionate display, yet still full of its characteristic warmth. All I needed was Mafuyu reciprocating Ritsuka's feelings, so I couldn't be happier with the episode's ending. As long as Ritsuka doesn't screw up his follow-through (which, Given his predisposition towards the disastrous, could still be likely), they now have a chance to build something beautiful together. It's sad to think we only have one episode left, and since the manga is ongoing, it's bound to leave a lot of plot threads hanging. I doubt we'll get any satisfying resolution to Haruki and Akihiko's simmering will-they-won't-they, but that's okay. Even if this ends up being all the anime that Given is allotted, it will still stand as an adaptation full of remarkable thoughtfulness.
Given is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Steve is lost in space, but he can still stream anime so it's okay. A communications relay has been established on his Twitter.
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