Oh, what could have been.
It’s unfortunate when the good episodes of a show server merely to throw into stark contrast how bad the bad episodes have been but that’s what we have on our hands with Golden Time. The events of this episode and the way the characters acted were much more reminiscent of the good Golden Time we saw back around episode twelve. The problem is that the intervening episodes make the contrast between this episode and what came before incredibly dissonant. It’s impossible to take the characters’ behavior at face value because it’s all completely contradicted by how they’ve been behaving for six episodes. Consistency in characterization has never been Golden Time’s strong suit and it really showed this week.
It also showed how it would have been possible to fix Golden Time, or at least make it less bad. Arguably everything from episode fourteen through to the last part of episode twenty could simply be eliminated and almost nothing would have changed about episode twenty-one. We’d still need to introduce the idea that Mitsuo has feelings for Linda and Chinami probably still has to cut her hair for some reason but really all of the content that matters from those eight episodes could have been condensed into one episode. It’s never a good sign for a show when a third of the show is almost entirely pointless.
It was almost comical to see what I had been expecting out of Golden Time ten episodes ago finally come to pass. I had likened Banri to a ticking time bomb that could revert to his old self at any minute but nothing like that happened for so long that it was almost forgotten. Now he’s doing what he probably should have done much sooner instead of the author feebly attempting to get the viewer to appreciate Banri and Kouko’s relationship. I also had previously wondered why Kouko was even interested in Banri and I figured that it must have been some scheme on her part rather than genuine affection. After taking the time to try to convince us that Kouko’s feelings were really genuine she just walks out on Banri at the end of this episode which honestly should have happened sooner.
We were also back to observing how truly dysfunctional Banri’s relationship with Kouko is when Banri was practically hysterical in his apartment begging his friends not to tell Kouko about his sudden memory restoration. It seems to me that if something this major happens to you and you’re completely unwilling to tell your girlfriend about it that might be a sign that your relationship isn’t what it should be. This would have been a good time for Banri to recognize how bogus his relationship with Kouko is but he gamely hangs on which, while not ideal, is at least defensible characterization. I really did like that whole sequence, maddening as Banri’s behavior was, because it represented real human emotion that had been sorely lacking from this show for some time. In addition to the breakdown in his apartment, the scene between Banri, Mitsuo and 2D-kun on the bench was one of the most emotionally potent scenes in the entire show as Banri spilled his guts to the two of them. There’s definitely a good show lurking in here somewhere and it’s clear that Takemiya Yuyuko has some writing talent in her even if she’s been missing more than she’s hit lately.
That’s not to say that everything about this episode was good. We opened with a reproduction of the blame game from episode sixteen, this time with the festival club blaming themselves for the fallout from Banri’s breakdown. Getting cut off like that after the incident at the festival seems harsh but it isn’t an excuse to get all mopey and guilty over a freak incident. There were also times where the characterization was out of whack and it seemed like Kouko had become the down to earth and perceptive one while Chinami was the completely neurotic one. This inversion could have been defensible if it had been properly justified but once again it seems like things sometimes just happen in Golden Time without any basis in previous events. The same goes for Chinami’s sudden affection for Mitsuo. I guess you can argue that it took Mitsuo not being interested in her to make Chinami realize she liked him but I never saw her as petty like that and she really took her time realizing her feelings. It was also weird how a Banri who supposedly had completely reverted to his past self, to the point of not even recognizing his own apartment, somehow managed to recognize a version of Linda that’s two years older and had cut her hair.
But I’m getting too down on what was arguably a step in the right direction for Golden Time. I don’t think it’s possible at this point for Golden Time to be a truly good show but I’m much more inclined to believe there’s something salvageable here than I was a week ago. That’s probably almost entirely because it seems like Banri and Kouko are on the outs, but a win’s a win. At least until it suddenly becomes not a win next week when Kouko’s true motivation for walking out is revealed. I don’t want to get my hopes up too much since I’ve been burned in the past but still, little victories.