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This Week in Anime
Great BL? That's a Given

by Monique Thomas & Steve Jones,

Its romantic drama and emotional vulnerability made Given a hit when the TV series premiered in 2019. The sequel film keeps the formula that audiences fell in love with while focusing primarily on Akihiko Kaji and Ugetsu Murata.

Disclaimer: This column includes discussion of sexual assault and contains some sexually graphic material. Reader discretion is advised.

This movie is streaming on Crunchyroll

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 @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Well Nicky, the day of Valentine is nearly upon us all. And whatever your relationship status is in this crazy world, I think we can all band together and agree that the best way to prepare is watching a sequel to my favorite romance anime (and one of my favorite anime, period) of 2019. That's right, the Given movie is finally here!

Oh no, I just remembered all the crying!
I too love to spend my romantic-based holidays by suffering. There's sincerely nothing I find more romantic than a good ole wad of overwhelming angst and emotions. Therefore, Given is absolutely my jam.

I actually had this show still on my backlog despite a fervent recommendations lobbed at me before the movie came out so I also had the pleasure of binging the whole series right before watching this.
Wow, lucky you! And lucky us! This film sequel grabs the Suffering knob on the TV series' emotional amplifier and cranks it all the way to 11.
Not like it's all gloom and doom though! Though there were times where I was glad I was watching it by myself just so no one could see me crying along with the characters. Just make sure you have tissues. While Given had previously tracked some heavy material in the past, the series ended on a high-note of the two main characters getting together. Given: The Movie tracks a bit away from the main couple to focus on their more adult bandmates, Haruki and Akihiko.
Yeah, It's pretty much a direct sequel to the series (and if you need a refresher, my episode reviews are still there wink wink). And while I loved Mafuyu and Ritsuka's arc in the first season, I'm really grateful for the focus on the adult characters this time around. Like, I understand why serious adult romances don't end up getting a whole lot of anime adaptations, but that makes me appreciate the few we do get all the more.
It also makes sense why this material was saved for "The Movie" because even though I consider the tone of Given to be rather grounded and laid-back it doesn't shirk away from the real-life dramas and feelings that come from having to form relationships. Some of that may be triggering to folk, as it deeply involves Akihiko's toxic relationship, some brief displays or mentions of sex, including an instance of sexual assault
For sure. We've got one big messy love triangle between Ugetsu, Akihiko, and Haruki, and nobody comes out of that unscathed. Meanwhile, Mafuyu acts as an observer and aspiring therapy musician, hoping to use the power of song to mend their relationships like he did his own. And Ritsuka is barely in the film, but at least he's doing fine and enjoying some burgs.

Immediately one of my favorite things about the film is how unflinching it is regarding Akihiko's scumminess. The very first scene, we have Mafuyu accidentally walk in on him getting paid by a woman in a convertible. I mean, THAT is how you start a movie.

Yeah, and he fully knows it and obviously he is aware about it enough to have some shame about it but even though we had hints of him being a wild bronco in the series we never truly go to see it in full-display. The movie opens with that and it sets the tone.

Mafuyu's arc also isn't totally irrelevant to the movie. While the series dealt with him moving on from trauma and grief the movie attempts to answers the question "Well, where do we go from here?" Mafuyu spends most of the movie trying to answer that question and uses that to propel him and his other band mates forward. Which means writing a new song and an opportunity for another big concert, the countdown festival.

This time he's actually really excited and inspired to see what lays ahead though, where previously he had been stalled out, and that note of confidence is also important.

In other words, Mafuyu can have little a self-actualization, as a treat. It's very good! And as we see him open up more, I really like that we see more of his quietly perceptive side. Who knew the spacey kid from the beginning of the story had this kind of emotional intuition?

Not even five minutes into the film and my dude immediately clocks that Akihiko has a big problem letting go of a relationship that needed to end a long time ago. Mafuyu is a force to be reckoned with.
Yeah, since we're stuck in Ritsuka's perspective in the series Mafuyu comes off as a bit of a mystery-box but he's a really sensitive and perceptive kid even coming off as he's mature beyond his years after everything he's gone through and the series points out that's exactly what makes his sound echo so loudly into the hearts others. Trying to branch out and resonate others also benefits him and keeps him from hitting walls, musically.

The thing that keeps this movie from simply being heartbreaking is seeing all the ways everyone supports each-other, after all, they're a band.
Yeah, Given ultimately is about doing the work of cultivating positive, supportive relationships that all members and acquaintances can rely on. Music is relationships, and relationships are music. And this film, specifically, is about that work being very difficult.
This man exudes suffering. Look at that unkempt hair. Although, the lone genius Ugetsu appears in the series it never fully deals with the complicated (understated) nest of insecurities he and Akihiko have built for each other proper.
Yeah I'm very glad the movie digs into their whole mess, and furthermore, does so in a surprisingly thoughtful way. There was a time when I thought for sure the series was building Ugetsu up to be this shady manipulator, but nope. He and Akihiko were just a terrible fit and they're still sorting through all the baggage.

It seems like there's an even bigger swirl of inner-problems surrounding Ugetsu that would make him a perfect villain for the series but the film is actually pretty sympathetic towards him and shows that sometimes even if a relationship is toxic it doesn't always have to stem from a singular "bad guy".
That's the key thing! Given lends a serious eye to a toxic relationship and the way it twists up both the partners and the people around them, and it does so without villainizing anyone or dulling their edges. These are just genuinely flawed people crashing into each other and navigating the ensuing wreckage. I live for simultaneously sincere and messy dramas like this one.
I'll be honest I was pretty nervous whenever Mafuyu gets left alone with him considering his interest in him and how similar they are in their "troubled but quiet genius" personas. (I call him, Dark Mafuyu). But it's totally relieving to see even he can find a bit of solace with the help of others.
Dude just genuinely needed some friends. And I hope he can find them! Like, having someone who's not Akihiko to talk to definitely would've helped this whole situation a lot.
A lot of this also comes in props with how the situation is portrayed, mainly, through coffee cups and other drink vessels.
Spoilers: it was not just a mug.

Even in movie form, Given isn't a particularly virtuosic-looking anime, but it still has a firm grasp on its visual language and knows how to use it.
Yeah, the movie looks p much the same as an hour-long episode as the tv show. It isn't bad looking but it's mostly serviceable with a few flourishes, like some sweet drums.

In the series we often see Akihiko with two mugs, a short one and a tall one, and overall I'd say it replicates the trap of being in an un-equal relationship. In the flashback we see that after his parents split and he moves in with Ugetsu he tries to establish an equal relationship, but it doesn't work out that way. Despite having more success than Akihiko (which he resents), Ugetsu obviously is dealing with his own feelings of inadequacies. WHICH IS WHY HE MUST DRINK FROM THE TEENY BABY MUG
Maybe that was the root of the problem: not enough caffeine.
Perhaps if caffeine stood for confidence. You can kinda see this in their relationship too, even though Akihiko is the freeloader, Ugetsu is also clearly dependent on him emotionally, he's always mothering him, serving him, and pedestal-ing him. This is why he doesn't throw him out even after they've technically broken up because it all felt smothering. It doesn't help that Ugetsu decided to live in a concrete block of a house that essentially feels like a prison.


fun fact: I hate brutalist architecture.
Dude's just living that minimalist lifestyle. I've been there. I even like a lot of brutalism myself, tbh. But symbolism or no, it's not like there's anything inherently wrong with living in a place like that—the fact that it eats away at Akihiko is the problem. Again, I really like that their problems aren't caused by some lone and easily-attributable personality fault, but by the ripples that form when the two of them come together. It's tragic, in a sense, but some relationships are just doomed like that.

And hey, maybe Ugetsu's next bf will be an interior decorator. Win-win.
I think part of it is that I feel like Ugetsu's lifestyle is just a little self-destructive and he does a lot of that on purpose in order to drive his boyfriend/not-boyfriend away instead of just telling him outright. He seems to have both a bit of superiority complex when it comes to music but also some personal low self-esteem, though we never see him work all of that out with the hour-long runtime because it's not totally about him.

So as we go from coffee to beer cans, here. Let's talk about my good man, Haruki.
Ah, yes, speaking of suffering.
Ugetsu isn't the only one with self-worth issues, he often tries to make Akihiko lose confidence in himself despite being a jack-of-all trades, but as the other members of the band continue to flex their musical prowess, Haruki, who has been essentially the Band-Mom to this point, feels more and more left in the dust, talent-wise.

Even though, he's more like the actual protagonist of this movie.
Pretty much. He also starts off feeling left behind relationship-wise, as Akihiko's trouble with Ugetsu means he's distancing himself from the band as well, which includes Haruki. And there aren't many moments of what I'd call levity in the film's rising action, but I have to respect the nasty audacity of this scene.

Listening to your crush get sucked off over the phone has got to bite big time.

Also, probably another good example of why they made this into a film and not a second season proper.
Yeah, Akihiko basically spirals out as things start feeling desperate after his roommate kicks him out and he's basically left with no choice but to kinda kiss up to others in order to have any sort of financial or emotional stability, and he's not exactly open about it but also not that good at hiding it from his fellow band-members.
I'd argue that phone scene proves he's about as bad at hiding it as any one human being possibly can be. And I have to imagine there's probably a bit of a cry for help buried in there. Akihiko is just not in a good place, and it gets worse before it gets better.
Eventually he ends up all the way at Haruki's doorstep, which gives Haruki, who has a crush on him, some pretty conflicted feelings, and they're about to get more complicated.
And this is where we get into the upsetting nonconsensual stuff, with a drunk Akihiko attacking Haruki's feelings and then physically overpowering him while he tries to initiate sex. All the while Haruki is a torrent of flailing emotions, and it's just plain rough to watch. The film, thankfully, understands that this is supposed to be the lowest point for both of them, but it's still something to keep in mind as a potential trigger.
It's not that long or that brutal of a scene but it's pretty big turning-point. Akihiko even admits that he was wrong but adds insult to injury by continuing to clam-up about the bigger issue. Which, to Haruki adds insult to injury. Though, I do find it pretty ridiculous and BL-like that Haruki states that he wanted it so it was "basically consensual" and is more upset about being rejected than anything.

In a worse series this would be a big ding from me.
Yeahhhhh it's not perfect, but I also couldn't tell you what a "perfect" version of this scene would look like, if such a thing is even possible. On the other hand, like, duh, Haruki wants a relationship with Akihiko, but definitely NOT like this. The line has to be drawn somewhere. At least he manages to find another place to spend the night, although I can't say I agree with all of the ensuing decisions he makes.

RIP those luscious locks.
Look, as soon as I get out of quarantine I'm doing the same thing. Character-development haircut, wait for me.
Absolutely freaking same, but that's because mine is long and gross, while his was beautiful and anime.
Though yeah, Haruki gets pissed off but still has to let Akihiko crash at his place after returning from a friend's because the dude really has no where else to go. But the feelings from their previous argument ripples and the other two members can totally hear their discordance with each-other, particularly with Haruki.
Given continues to be very unsubtle about the whole "music is relationships" thing, but music doesn't have to be subtle to be good.

Yeah, Haruki is always there supporting others but this time Akihiko swoops him to support him when he needs it most.
"Bro we're in a BAND. That means we're gonna SMOOCH in a good way eventually but first we both gotta work through some stuff."

For one: learning how to live with a roommate.

They don't immediately jump into dating or anything but I think that kind of support is what makes their relationship come off a lot better than Akihiko's previous relationship, there's a lot of point of contrasts to make you soften on the whole thing as Akihiko really seems to start letting go and enjoying life again now. Though a lot of it is also because these adults are allowed to set up boundaries, something he didn't have before.
Yeah turns out being mature enough to be emotionally honest with both yourself and your partner makes for a good relationship foundation. Who could have ever guessed? It's good that they're able to work this out in the open and learn to be more comfortable with each other, but this also means that not even Haruki can escape the perceptive eye of Mafuyu.

The kid is merciless.
Maybe it's payback. It wasn't too long ago that he was on the opposite end of the prodding stick. Kid learns fast.
And he also pays them back with a whole song! Like the first season, the big climax is the debut of their new song with extremely loaded lyrics, only this time Mafuyu wrote it not for himself but for his elder bandmates, in the hopes of resolving their big messy love triangle.

He also helped Ugetsu comes to term with his own feelings after Akihiko got confident enough to fly the coop.

If the whole being a musical genius thing doesn't work out, Mafuyu can always fall back on being a therapist.

Anyway, like the first one, the song's a banger. It's always nice to see a story about music get the music right.
But yeah, my good son has come a long way, and his song message does come through pretty clear, don't let the past hold you hostage, try to pave a way for a new future. Though it also has lots of lingering sentiments about how those past good feelings you felt were important and real too. This is how Akihiko is able to resolve his love....for the violin?!
Look, baby steps. First you master the violin, THEN you can fully mend the bond you nearly broke with the most important person in your life.
They didn't end up getting into the concert, which is a bit crushing but Akihiko decides to set up on a journey to better himself and his love for music.
I'm not familiar with the manga, but it sure does feel like everything after their audition crams a whole bunch of material into a neat little montage so we can get to the big emotional payoff. Weird pacing, but I can't fault it too much since ultimately it still centers Akihiko and Haruki's relationship.
I definitely want to check out more of the manga for the in-between bits but it's the best place to end the film as a whole with the spring of a new romance.
Yeah I can't possibly fault a film that ends on THIS scene.
And it feels earned, both characters feel like they really changed enough that they're ready for it. I feel like that's a pretty mature take. Lot's of anime romances feel more rushed without any regards to the consequences. Akihiko is even kind enough to like actually ASK for consent this time, it shows a much greater level of understanding and respect.
Especially that! Small detail on the surface, but it shows his (and the writing's) commitment to acknowledging his past mistakes, owning up to them, and being a better person in the present.
Overall, I give Given: The Movie a solid heart-warming "D'aww". Even most non-anime movies don't show this level of understanding of what makes a relationship-clock tic.
It's a very worthy follow-up to a fantastic series, and I hope we see even more in the future. I guess you could call that my Given take.
Me, @ that attempt of a pun.

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