ANIME & MANGA - Review
14:44 - 8th July 2016, by David West

Golden Time, Collection 1 Episodes 1-12

Tada Banri, a freshman at law school, is fairly bowled over when he meets Koko Kaga. She’s bold, stylish and determined to marry her childhood sweetheart Mitsuo. She makes quite an entrance – stepping out of an expensive car to wallop Mitsuo with a bunch of roses. Sadly for Koko, Mitsuo wants nothing to do with her – in fact, he chose this law school to try to get away from her. But faint heart ne’er won fair game, and Koko has followed her intended to Tokyo – where Tada becomes pulled into her maelstrom of romance and falls for the erratic beauty.

Golden Time is all about romance and melodrama, with a script by Fumihiko Shimo (who wrote the tear-jerker Clannad), and directed by Chiaki Kon. The story involves not only unrequited love but amnesia and metaphysics, courtesy of Tada, who lost his memory in an accident. However, unbeknownst to the protagonist, his memories survive in the form of a spectral doppelganger that watches him like a ghost.

Tada, like all too many leading males in romance series – particularly those of the harem variety – is something of a blank slate. In this instance that’s partly explained by his condition, but a stronger personality would make him more compelling. The series’ biggest challenge, however, is Koko. She’s insecure, narcissistic, insanely possessive and irrationally jealous, all of which begs the question of why Tada falls for her. The answer, depressingly enough, seems to be because she’s so pretty. No matter how poor her behaviour, from insulting other girls to insisting on constantly being the centre of attention, it’s all forgiven because she’s gorgeous. Ugh.

There is another girl in Tada’s life – his senpai Linda. She’s entirely more likeable than Koko, simply by virtue of not behaving like a psychotic loon, but the series torpedoes any possible suspense about which girl Tada will choose because the entire opening credit sequence consists of Tada and Koko making lovey-dovey faces at each other. Most of the conflict in the show comes either from characters failing to talk to one another, or from Koko being a massive drama queen. Fair enough, these are young adults, so some social awkwardness is to be forgiven, but too many plot strands rely on characters deliberately not communicating to create tension. The overall style of the series is fairly grounded, which makes it a little jarring when Tada’s intangible memories appear in episode five. In essence, he’s haunted by his past self, the pre-amnesia version of Tada who at least has the common sense not to fall in love with Koko.

Another surprise is the appearance of a character very obviously meant to be Nana from Ai Yazawa’s manga of the same name. She has the same hair, the same snarly attitude and plays in a band, just like Yazawa’s heroine. The punk rocker is a recurring member of the supporting cast here and it’s amazing that Golden Time is able to get away with, ahem, paying homage to someone else’s creation.

Koko and Tada’s romance has plenty of high-pitched melodrama, although the series does little to make either of the two leads very likeable. And giving away the resolution in the opening titles is just plain dumb. Anyway, at least Koko’s hair looks amazing even as she pitches another tantrum that Tada can blame himself for. A chump says what?
SCORE: 3/5
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