Well that sucked.
This episode of Golden Time, like the show as a whole started off agreeably enough. I had some misgivings about Kouko being on the verge of tears over Banri’s break up video. It seemed to me like he was taking it pretty well so if you’re in Kouko’s shoes and you chose to break up with him I’d think you’d be happy that he’s doing well given the circumstances. Then again, it was clear that Kouko wasn’t really sure about this break up and might still have feelings for Banri. Why she still has feelings was never really explored which was kind of the whole problem with the show really. Still, it was a minor gripe and the scene with the mirror more than made up for it in emotional potency. In general I liked the reflective tone the show took on as Banri returned home bringing his memories of his high school life with him but none of his college life. I liked the idea of Banri trying to go back to two years in the past and move forward again despite everybody else having left him behind. It’s an interesting concept (one explored much more effectively by Nagi no Asukara than this show) and I wish the show had left more episodes to roll with that. I was actually ready to talk myself into a relatively open end with Banri back home in the country and Linda helping him re-assimilate into society at that point in the episode.
Unfortunately, this was all derailed (like most good parts of Golden Time) but the return of one Kaga Kouko. It isn’t exactly traveling from England to Japan to return a pencil but Kouko taking the train all the way out to the country to return a DVD was pretty weak. I know it’s kind of an important DVD and it was really an excuse to see Banri but it was about as thinly veiled as my excuses to talk about K-ON. What followed made that questionable choice look positively sane by comparison. Banri suddenly remembering Kouko by looking at the mirror was the culmination of a mechanic that has been nothing if not plot convenient throughout the show. At least in this case it was somewhat justified by the mirror but really it seems like Banri’s memories are whatever the show needs them to be at any given time rather than following any sort of logical mechanic. Banri proceeds to run off and Linda… brings him his shoes? I have a hard time seeing the logic here when a person who has been known to be unstable runs off unexpectedly and you just hand him the tools to run off even faster to who knows where on the assumption that he probably knows what he’s doing? I mean we have the benefit of complete information but there is no reason for Linda to do what she did for Banri there.
This was followed up by the even more inexplicable reappearance of Ghost Banri (!!) who I had thought was the representation of Banri’s past memories. But if that’s the case, why is Ghost Banri showing up after “real” Banri has regained those memories. If he isn’t those memories than what is he? Banri isn’t dead, he isn’t missing any memories, what’s the reason for Ghost Banri to exists again? Then he’s greeted by Ghost(?) Linda (!!!!) who represents god knows what in this mess of a show. The lost memories and ghost mechanic may have been mostly plot convenient before but at least they represented something rather than being completely arbitrary and having no larger thematic significance. Ghost Linda then declares her love for Ghost Banri which I guess means that Linda was planning to say yes back in high school? Except Ghost Linda has her hair cut short and is dressed like present Linda? Or was that actually REAL Linda? But then how did she get there? And how can she see Ghost Banri? Or did Banri make Ghost Linda up to justify his actions? I simply can’t construct a coherent version of the events that took place on the way to that bridge. Any way you look at it things start to fall apart.
The kicker was Linda’s declaration that she loves the part of Banri that loves Kouko which, what? Is she saying she loves Banri as a friend/brother and supports his love of Kouko but in that case why was the answer “yes” since the question way back in high school clearly had romantic intent? Does it mean she’s romantically in love with Banri but she’s happy to let him go because his relationship with Kouko (one that has supposedly ended by the way) is so damn perfect? Does it even matter what the ghost version of an otherwise normal character supposedly thinks when we’re ten minutes from the end of the show? The answer to that last one is clearly no, but it was still completely inexplicable to introduce all of these points so late in the game. I was wondering whether this was an ending haphazardly inserted because the source material is still ongoing but a quick check shows that the novels finished early in March making all of these decisions quite puzzling indeed. The balance of the episode was pretty standard Golden Time fare: glorifying the clearly flawed Banri/Kouko relationship as the paragon of positive male/female interaction, 2D-kun doing typically inexplicable 2D-kun things and Mitsuo and Chinami continuing to make the least of their limited screen time.
Evaluating Golden Time raises the question of how much the failure of part of a show should hurt the overall verdict on a show that had a lot of good elements in it. Golden Time certainly had its good parts and it’s reasonable to ask if it’s really fair of me to dock it significantly merely because I happened to not like the main couple. My reasons for doing so are twofold. First, the positive impressions I had about the early parts of Golden Time were based on the false assumption that certain things weren’t exactly as they seemed. Primarily, I had assumed that Kouko didn’t actually fall madly in love with Banri that quickly because that would make no sense. Ultimately, it turned out that, yes, Kouko did fall in love with Banri that quickly and yes, it did make no sense. I can’t exactly credit a part of the show that seemed dumb on the surface when it turns out it actually was as dumb as it seemed. The second reason is the fact that the simple lack of chemistry between the two leads infected the entirety of the show because of how much of it was devoted to the furthering of this relationship that always seemed like it should be a disaster waiting to happen. The fact that absolutely none of the characters seemed to be ready to acknowledge this left me more confused than entertained by Golden Time. In the end, the anime that I had hoped would allow me to relive the experience of watching Toradora instead left me wondering where the author of Toradora had gone.