Sometimes you get what you wish for and realize it isn’t all it was cracked up to be. This is one of those times.
I had been looking forward to this episode of Golden Time for quite a while. Not episode twenty-two in particular but the episode where Kouko finally breaks it off with Banri. Unfortunately, this episode managed to continue to frustrate me even as we got what I wanted. It would be easy to blame it on the characters acting irrational and childish but that part actually made sense, at least in this case. All of them were going through a new situation and none of them had any idea of how to deal with it. Kouko had seen the changes in Banri and she got scared and made arguably an unwise decision to just dump him outright. In a moment of surprising self-awareness for her she actually thought to get her father to give Banri a ride and then meet up with him the next day to apologize for being so hasty. You could argue that she should have been more straightforward regarding where they stood as a couple but overall she did a pretty solid job with the break up.
The real mistakes were made by the rest of the cast which is odd inasmuch as it makes Kouko come off as the sane, rational member of the group. Really they should probably keep out of this and merely comfort Banri and Kouko as needed. Instead Mitsuo starts lecturing Kouko about how she can’t do this and the others join in. It may seem irrational from their point of view but Kouko has every right to break up with Banri for rational or irrational reasons. Of course that’s easy for me to say as the impassionate observer and it’s understandable that they would react in this way. That doesn’t make it right but at least it’s defensible writing which is a step in the right direction for Golden Time.
The actual problem with all this is the fact that all this behavior is built upon the central premise that Banri and Kouko’s relationship was something that was good and worth saving. If you buy into that then first of all I’d like to know why on earth you buy into it, but also this episode probably worked for you because Mitsuo and the rest were voicing valid concerns as they worked to save something precious. If, however, you’re like me and thought that Banri and Kouko’s relationship was a mess from the start and that fact should have been clear as day to anybody around them then seeing people react so negatively to the two of them breaking up is a head scratcher. Ideally in this situation you’d want Banri’s friends to work at helping him through this and making him feel better while also knowing deep down that this change was for the best for both Banri and Kouko. Mitsuo’s outburst, while understandable in a vacuum comes off as excessive when you consider what he knows about Kouko and how she handles relationships. If anything Mitsuo should have internally congratulating Banri on getting away from somebody as crazy and unstable as Kouko. In general it felt incongruous that when Banri was going through such an unstable time mentally his friends thought that what he needed most was more time with Kouko. Like last week this all felt like reasonably good romantic drama that was undermined because the central premise it was all built on was flawed.
My ultimate question here is why Kouko is doing all of this. Clearly she’s concerned about Banri’s current mental state but I have to think there’s something more going on here. Then again, I thought the same thing when Kouko originally entered her relationship with Banri and that seems to have been genuine as much as anything she does is. Still, for Kouko to jump ship now and then declare that she might be done with college altogether leads me to believe that she’s less sure about this choice than she’s letting on and wants to avoid second thoughts. With only two episodes left to go I have a hard time seeing enough time to explore a long journey back to sanity for Kouko which pretty much only leaves a sudden reversal which would be terribly disheartening. I’m hoping that Golden Time can surprise me but surprises to the upside have been few and far between with this show.
While all that was probably a net positive, the good parts of this episode were sandwiched between quite a bit of awful content. The episode opened with Banri melting down in front of Kouko’s father. It was understandable that he was distraught but even then I felt like he oversold it a touch. I kept rewinding the episode trying to figure out what Kouko’s dad had done to make Banri freak out like he did but it seemed like the freak out was entirely willful on the part of Banri. Speaking of willful freak outs I still don’t understand why Banri seems to be so worried about “disappearing.” I suppose that losing your memories and not knowing who you are is a form of disappearing but he already did that and since the initial accident he hasn’t lost any memories, he’s only gained them. It isn’t like old Banri is coming back and replacing the new one. It isn’t like his memories continue to fade. He went through a single traumatic injury that caused his initial amnesia and outside of the brief breakdown when he was suddenly back on the bridge in high school, he’s maintained his memories ever since. This fear seems entirely unfounded and it made for a pretty farcical closing scene where Banri and Linda tried to find out who could get more worked up over nothing.
Again, you can forgive Linda for some of her behavior since she was clearly caught off guard by Banri’s break up and the fact that he’s back on the market and ostensibly available to her. However, like a lot of the rest of this episode, and a lot of Golden Time in general, I think she oversold this. The shoving match they had came off as more absurd than anything else and it really killed any momentum the rest of the episode may have had. Thus we’re left with even the person who arguably stands to benefit the most from Banri’s break up being in the tank for Banri/Kouko. All of this combines to make me think that ultimately the two will get back together and I’ll be left slamming my head against the desk and wondering what these two morons see in each other.