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This Week in Anime
Given Unites Fans' Love of Music and Romance

by Michelle Liu & Andy Pfeiffer,

Given's thoughtful and soulful take on boys-love has critics and fans alike cheering for an encore. This week, Micchy and Andy discuss the characters and conflicts of this band-driven drama.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet

You can read our weekly coverage of Given here!

Hey Andy, I grew up on primarily classical music and Broadway showtunes, so I can't say I know indie rock bands like the [checks notes] Artistic Monkeys all that well, but something tells me "Why'd You Only Kill Me When You're High" isn't an actual song, can you verify?
This is some Berenstein Bears shit, and as much as I love the Arctic Monkeys, I can't help but feel Given's universe got the better version based on that song title alone. At least some other things never change.

Whatever rights issues keep anime from using actual band names, I guess there's always time for Radiohead. But silly alternate universe band names aside, this is Given, the compelling story of a boy and his dog.
Sorry, I meant a boy and his puppy-boyfriend.
I'm gonna lose it if they bust out this song at their first performance.
Okay, straight-up calling Mafuyu a puppy is unfair; he's got more emotional depth than the show's mascot pomeranian. But also look at him he's just so precious.
Also this is his phone avatar.
Anyhow, Given is a story about precious music boys, who love both music and boys.
Boys with plenty of emotional baggage unpacking their feelings through music and getting flustered around each other, the most powerful combo.
They're very good at attempting to hide their feelings and thinking they're doing a good job, when the reality is closer to this.
Thankfully, they're also oblivious enough to both their own feelings and those of others that the pairing of band drama and romance is going together wonderfully so far. This is one of the best-paced shows of the season, and its pure emotional weight is impressive.
Given has such confidence in its ability to tell a compelling story through subdued drama alone. It's pretty free of hackneyed soap opera contrivances, content to let the boys' relationships grow organically.
And it gets right down to business! We go from this:
Immediately to this, in one of the fussiest meet-cutes I've ever seen:
Our boy Ritsuka finds a puppy napping in his usual spot, and his first reaction is to be a petty ass about it, completely oblivious that he's halfway to falling
for him already.
I love that his plan to get rid of the puppy is to feed it and care for it, and then he's shocked when it won't go away. He even parades him around to his friends!
As straightforward a guy as he is, Ritsuka is also damn terrible at figuring out emotions. He doesn't hesitate to say what's on his mind, and he's never shy about letting people know how he feels, but most of the time he's barely aware of what those feelings mean.
Which is great because it leads to a lot of this:
When it comes to emotions, Ritsuka has about two brain cells that refuse to talk to each other.
To be fair, one of those brain cells is busy with guitar things, and the other is busy trying to carry the load of everything else in his life. What's important is that while he might fail to understand his own motivations, he's always trying very hard.
Since he's loud about everything, it's both a strength and a weakness of his.
I mean, how many of us have the courage to ask Google Pollo for dating band member advice?

Less embarrassing than almost asking your grumpy sister about it, I guess?
Oh right, this may be a show about boys loving boys, but let's not discount how great the girls are,
especially her.

You can tell Yayoi and Ritsuka were cut from the same cloth, since they're such blunt jerks to each other. Luckily for Ritsuka, his tendency to charge straight into emotional confessions works well with Mafuyu, who's frequently stuck in his own head overthinking his feelings without voicing them.
Mafuyu's inner thoughts on his feelings were shocking to hear, because while he may not verbalize them, his facial expressions constantly give away his exact feelings at any moment.
They may not be specific enough for others to understand the circumstances behind them, but they do just enough for even Ritsuka to understand his feelings.
What makes the two of them work is that Ritsuka, while dense as hell, will dive in headfirst to support those he cares about the moment he gets a whiff of something wrong. He's like an emotional Kool-Aid Man breaking down the walls that Mafuyu has built around himself, direct and sometimes tactless, but always quick to address what's wrong.
Over time, he realizes he doesn't need Mafuyu to explain, he just needs him to act on his feelings the same way he's acting on his. It's okay if they express things in different ways, as long as they're on the same wavelength. This is where their personal relationship and the concept of the band really tie into each other.
The band is their avenue of communication. Ritsuka struggles to convey exactly what he means in words, so he does it through music. His goal of inviting Mafuyu to the band is to bring out his voice so they can speak to each other without the constraints of normal conversation.
To Ritsuka, music is raw honesty. It's why he got into fights with his previous band, it's why his current bandmates understand him, and it's why he's so focused on sharing it with Mafuyu because he struggles to convey his feelings in any other way.

He's spent years honing his technique, refining his own personal language, and now he's trying to teach his language to someone else who also can't deal with regular words. But letting someone else into his world also introduces feelings he can't brute force his way through, feelings he doesn't have words for yet. So yeah, these two boys are gonna have a hell of a time talking to each other for a while, be it through music or otherwise.
Good thing they've got experienced upperclassmen to help guide them.

Ah yes, the unreadable flirt and the gay disaster mom friend, they're very helpful. Spoiler: not even the grad student has his shit together, which is accurate to actual grad students.
Rare: Anime featuring someone older than high school
Super Rare: Anime featuring college students that are actual adults
Ultra Rare: Anime featuring the reality that grad students are barely functioning adults
The fact is that grad students' minds are usually held together by chewing gum and duct tape.
I also appreciate that their interactions with high schoolers are extremely healthy. The relationship aspects of everyone involved remain centered in their own age groupings, so while they might have similar levels of emotional failure, it's still explored in the appropriate arenas.
Ritsuka and Mafuyu are still stuck at "what is love", but Haruki is perfectly aware of the stupid-ass decisions he's making by keeping his mouth shut about his EXTREMELY OBVIOUS CRUSH.
Speaking of which, I enjoy that until the confirmation in episode 5, you could still easily tell Haruki's feelings because his reactions were exactly the same as the jealous girl in Ritsuka's class.

My boy ain't subtle about his thing for Akihiko.
Good thing Akihiko makes himself easy to ignore.
Oh wait no, I meant the opposite of that.
Akihiko, king of sending mixed messages.
Haruki is understandably galaxy-brain-confused by this.
That's the face of a man whose boner just exploded his brain.
Somebody save this poor man from himself.

It sure is bound to be a complicated love triangle with Ritsuka's sister, as Yayoi insists Aki hasn't dumped her, and we have seen them get along pretty well. Sure hope there isn't anything else that would further complicate the state of the band.
Well, shit.
"Live-in boyfriend" is a hell of an omission, yeah. It's okay though, at least Ritsuka and Mafuyu are probably gonna work out.
IT'S NOT HELPING. Everyone is an emotional mess for one reason or another, these boys are all gonna suffer and I can't wait to see it play out.

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