「Like Someone In Love」
(Author’s Note: I’m filling in for MissSimplice on Giventhis week. Thanks for reading!)
What I would say about Given after two episodes, aside from the fact that I rather like it, is that it fills a niche we don’t see filled in anime too often. Several, in fact. A rock anime that takes the music pretty seriously, a romance between guys that doesn’t appear to be mostly about pandering, and a musing on the art of teaching. The latter is an especially fascinating subject to me and while I suppose it’s probably not going to be a huge part of the series going forward, it’s been dealt with in a very intelligent way thus far.
Having labored through the process of trying to learn to play the guitar (and discovering that I wasn’t naturally gifted at it) I definitely empathize with Mafuyu here. The tuning thing especially annoyed me, as with my tin ear and lack of an auto-tuner it took me forever to do it every time. And with a guitar (Ritsuka wasn’t kidding) the smallest thing can knock it out of tune. Putting it in the case, taking it out of the case, humidity changes, temperature changes, looking at it funny… It sounds like such a small thing but to a newbie trying to get a grip that – and callouses – are a big hurdle to overcome.
My favorite part of this episode, honestly, was the uneventful first part which basically consisted of Ritsuka’s internal monologue about teaching, Ritsuka explaining stuff to Mafuyu, Mafuyu saying “Un” and Ritsuka grimacing comically. It has to drive him a little bit crazy that a total noob has such an amazing axe (and I think not even Ritsuka realizes just how amazing it is) and a total lack of appreciation for it. I totally get Ritsuka getting frustrated with Mafuyu because as an audience member, I find his lack of response frustrating myself. But the truth is, up until the latter moments of this week Ritsuka really wasn’t asking him any questions.
It’s a truism that teaching is very differently than doing, but no less true for that. I also find that teaching someone else to do something almost invariably changes your perspective on doing that thing yourself, an effect whose significance cannot be overstated. Especially for someone as young as Ritsuka who himself still has so much to learn, this can be an incredibly valuable experience for him as a musician. Setting aside the romance angle (which we know is coming) his relationship with Mafuyu – while frustrating – is already paying dividends for him.
I’m also enjoying the interplay between the two younger lads and the two college dudes, Hiiragi and Haruki. As Ritsuka takes Mafuyu under his wing it’s clear that they’ve already done so with Ritsuka, and they watch over his mentoring of Mafuyu with affectionate amusement. At the studio in Shimo-Kitazawa (which is the live music and general hipster capital of Tokyo with no other area coming close) Mafuyu has a new world slowly open up to him. Hell, he has no idea what pickups or pegs are, never mind what an amp is and how to use it.
Inevitably (this is a story after all) Mafuyu proves have a good ear despite his total lack of musical knowledge. Ritsuka finally does start to ask questions and show Mafuyu that he’s interested in who he is, but the first one is a bit of a bomb scare – Mafuyu didn’t get the Gibson from his father because he doesn’t have one. But the second question is more fruitful. “What’s your favorite song?” yields a demonstration rather than an answer – and Ritsuka now knows that his pupil has a gift which his band can actively make use of.
It sounds funny for me to say after rebutting the charge against Kono Oto Tomare!, but the one thing I’ve found a bit frustrating in the first two eps of Given is the almost total lack of actual music. That should change now though, what with Mafuyu learning a few chords and showing off his pipes. I’m enjoying the depiction of the mundane reality of being in a band – like the need for a part-time job (or jobs), and the romance element is surely on the horizon, but ultimately music is surely going to be a major determiner of just how successful Given will be as a series.