Started watching a new (well, new to me) anime a little while back after finally finishing Silver Spoon. It’s called Golden Time, and I’m not entirely sure how I became aware of it, but it was in my Crunchyroll queue and had intrigued me, so I decided now was the time to check it out.
On paper, it’s a fairly straightforward slice-of-life anime. Protagonist Tada Banri is starting his new life at university, and in the process meets a number of new friends, including the obligatory harem of potential romantic interests. Of the main cast, however, the most interesting — and the one highlighted in the show’s opening and ending titles — is Kaga Koko, a strikingly beautiful young woman from a privileged background who has shown up at Banri’s university in pursuit of her childhood friend and supposed love of her life Mitsuo. Mitsuo, meanwhile, wants nothing to do with Koko, having surreptitiously switched universities in an attempt to get away from her, but she wasn’t about to let him escape that easily.
Central to the show is the developing relationship between Banri and Koko as the former tries to help the latter come to terms with the constant rejection she gets from Mitsuo. It’s a troubled and unconventional relationship, and doesn’t follow the usual tropes of anime romance stories, largely because Koko is such an unstable but delightfully fascinating character.
When Koko is alone with Banri, we see what is clearly the “real” her. She’s frank, candid and honest, and willing to open up about her feelings — though she’ll pretend that she’s putting on a front to garner sympathy from others. Occasionally she lets some obvious, genuine feelings slip, however, such as in one of the early episodes where she complains to Banri that no-one will talk to her because she has the reputation of being “that rich, beautiful girl that is out of everyone’s league”. Banri consistently gives her the time of day, however, and quickly falls in love with her; she rejects him, however, and puts him well and truly in the “friend zone” with her constant and emphatic reiteration of What Good Friends They Are.
When Koko comes across Mitsuo, though, her whole personality changes. She becomes obsessive, jealous and irrational. When she sees Mitsuo with the adorably cute Chinami, whom Mitsuo has taken a liking to, she is extremely rude to Chinami; Chinami, however, is a lot stronger than she looks, and brushes off the torrent of abuse she gets, even going so far as to deliberately try and befriend Koko in later episodes. Koko claims to Banri that the person she is when she’s with Mitsuo is the “real her”, but it’s abundantly clear that the complete opposite is true; the only person with whom she can truly be herself is Banri.
The other interesting twist in the tale, aside from the complex and difficult relationship between Banri and Koko, is the fact that Banri is an amnesiac. Prior to the events depicted in the show, Banri was in an accident that cost him all of his memories from before he turned 18 and left for university. He doesn’t remember who he is, what his personality is or what his relationships with others were like. As the show progresses, he starts to uncover things about his past — and I’m only a short way in so far, so I’m not sure how far it goes, but it has a lot of potential to be very intriguing indeed.
Interestingly, Banri’s amnesia is depicted not only by him struggling to recall things, but by a ghostly apparition of his past self that occasionally narrates short sequences. The ghost describes himself as having “died” the day of the accident, and that the current Banri is nothing but an empty shell. Again, things aren’t that simple, though, as amnesiac Banri starts discovering ties to his past — and the fact that people whom he thought were strangers and new friends actually have a lot more to do with him than he initially thought.
There are two big things I like about the show as a whole: one, that it’s constantly raising new questions and drawing the viewer in through Banri’s journey of self-rediscovery; and two, that a lot happens in each episode. So often with slice-of-life anime, things just sort of pootle along for a while and nothing really happens; this is fine, so long as the characters are strong enough to carry this sort of nothing-really-happens story, but Golden Time sidesteps this style of slice-of-life in favour of something that, while obviously the stuff of fiction, is plausible, believable and emotionally engaging.
I literally have no idea how things are going to turn out by the end of the 24-episode run, but I’m looking forward to finding out. I’m enjoying the show a whole lot so far, and cautiously recommend it to anyone looking for a slice-of-life show with a bit more depth than many other offerings.