What They Say:
Getting lost wasn’t how Tada Banri wanted to start his first day of law school, but making a friend of fellow student Mitsuo along the way sort of made up for it until Mitsuo’s childhood friend and arranged future bride Kaga Koko appears and slaps Mitsuo with a bouquet of roses! Awkward.
It’s even more awkward to learn that Koko’s now a fellow law student as well. However, “Awkward” is practically Banri’s middle name, as he’s suffering from a form of amnesia that’s erased most of his memory since high school and he’s becoming used to running into uncomfortable situations caused by actions he doesn’t remember. Join one of the most star-crossed group of friends ever as they attempt to make sense of life, love and the legal system!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the newly created English language dub for this release, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that doesn’t have a lot going on in general as it’s very much a dialogue driven piece, but it’s one that doesn’t use a lot in the way of placement since it’s usually single character focused. But that focus is well done as there’s a lot of great performances throughout with emotion that comes across in a very clean and warm way that’s required. The show does have its moments of placement of course because of multiple characters around and some of the minor “action” pieces work the directionality a bit, but that’s not the focus of the show. What it does do, it does well, and the mix comes across in a very clean and clear fashion here that will work well for fans.
Originally airing in 2013 and 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-four episodes series is spread across three discs in a nine/nine/six format with a good bit of space to work with. Animated by JC Staff, the series has a really great look here with very appealing and detailed character designs, a real world setting that has a lot of detail itself and a beautiful color palette that often breathes its own life into things. The transfer captures this all very well with what it does as the colors are vibrant and striking in many scenes, the detail in Kouko’s clothing is a real plus and the backgrounds have a very solid look to them that lets it stand out while taking in all the detail within it, especially the building exteriors. The show is one that won me over in its look during the simulcast and the high definition release here takes it up quite a few notches in color quality and solidity during regular playback, making it a great enhancing experience.
The packaging for this release changes things up from the previous editions nicely even if it doesn’t use a burst sticker on it to denote the new dub. The standard sized Blu-ray case has a hinge inside to hold two of the three discs while the front cover uses new artwork. This brings us a look at the cast from different points where they shine in being dressed up a bit, whether for the dance or just in a suit. It makes clear who the primary characters are and puts them in a good setting that we get just a touch of but feels right enough for them to be in. The framing is simple but effective and the bottom strip with the logo provides for a good slot for the episode count and disc count as well. The back cover uses some of this same coloring so that we get two strips of shots from the show along the top and middle that provides a good look at the variety throughout the show. The summary of the premise is pretty solid with what it lays out and we get some good character artwork here as well. The set gives us a clean look at the extras included and a technical grid that breaks it all down as to how the set is put together. Sadly, no show related extras are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the series is one that plays up some really nice design aspects as it avoids using cover materials for it. The layout is standard where across the discs we get the navigation along the left, which is really beautifully done with its white and golds and the roses along it, while the rest of the menu works in the artwork. The layout works well and I love the pieces that we get across it, whether characters are together or separate, because they’re done from a distance so that they don’t take up the whole thing and it becomes more about the pieces and montage, such as the use of the Eiffel Tower in the second volume. Navigation is quick and easy to use and it looks good when utilized as a pop-up menu as well.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the eleven volume light novel series by Yuyuko Takemiya which ended at the same time that the anime did, Golden Time is a twenty-four episode series animated by JC Staff. The show was one that I had caught during its simulcast run and it was hugely appealing right from the start. With so many shows featuring either middle school or high school students, getting into something with a college age crowd – even freshman – is something that stands out for me. What also helped is that as the series progressed, we got characters that actually talked to each other and expressed their real issues, fears and intentions. There’s a lot of conflict in here, but also a lot of resolution and working through of the issues. That’s a rarity in a world where most series have such simple issues that largely revolve around “do they like me” or not.
With this release serving as the complete collection with both halves together for the first time, it was also a show that got a significant and unexpected investment in a new dub. I didn’t think we’d see it for a two-cour show, no less. But the dub is definitely something that fans will enjoy and I think I even like it more than the Japanese side. Mike Haimoto handles Banri well with the way he’s struggling just under the surface throughout and has these moments where it spills over. The emotional context and weight is definitely here. And it’s balanced well against Koko as played by Christina Kelly. The character is a bit all over the map early on but Kelly nails the depth and stronger moments as we see the more vulnerable side of the character as it goes on. She may not have a huge number of roles but this was a really strong leading role for her to get and should be a showcase piece for future roles of a similar nature.
There are a lot of smaller roles alongside them, such as the casual friend Mitsuo that has a key role in moving things along here, but the other main role that we get of note is Linda. Melissa Molano does a really good job with this role as well as there’s a good history she gets to play with and a real connection with Banri to be explored. She’s a welcome bit of reason amid some of the more emotional players and a fun balance to someone like Chinami where Caitlynn French gets to have fun. The scene stealer for me, however, isn’t a character that gets a ton of time. But I’ve long enjoyed Kira Vincent-Davis’ work and her playing Nana was just spot on as that’s how I’ve always kind of envisioned her.
The premise for Golden Time is a good one as we’re introduced to Banri Tada, a freshman going to college in Tokyo. He’s going there to get away from all the problems he had back home, which stemmed from the fact that after his high school graduation, he was involved in an incident that caused a severe case of amnesia. When he woke up, he had no recollection of who he was or who anyone really was. That put a lot of strain on family and the friendships he had, so to make it easier for them and himself, he went to a place where nobody knew him in order to start again. This is an issue that is really central to who Banri is, because we see that kind of uncertainty about himself and his place in the world because he feels like he rebooted at this age and is starting from scratch. There’s an appeal to that, but so much of who we are is bound to our childhood experiences that a blank slate is likely to be either wildly outgoing or cautious. Banri is cautious, but he wants to have the interactions of life in order to feel alive.
The exploration of the character over the series, and this half of it, is fantastic. He has some real trauma going on here to deal with and we see his fears coming out as he talks aloud by himself but also with others that he trusts above all else. Having him truly reveal his fears, deep seated things about being alone, fighting against the feelings that surface within him, are really engaging. He has a key moment for me where feelings from a past almost-relationship surface so strongly that it makes him want to drop everything in the present and just try to get that back. But it’s without context for him. It’s just the powerful emotional feeling, not the real connection to that person. The only downside to this is that at times in this season, which doesn’t happen until about halfway through, is that we see a ghost-version of the old Banri watching over the new Banri while feeling ineffective in trying to get his life back and to go back to who he was. That internal conflict is a little awkward visually in what it’s trying to represent, but it does start the real conversation about the kinds of internal conflicts that he has.
Banri’s arrival at college doesn’t go so well at first, but he ends up making a friend named Mitsuo, who has his own issues to contend with. He came to this college instead of the prestigious one he could have through the elevator system as he was trying to get away from a girl he’s known since elementary school. She’s made his life hell over the years by devoting herself to him at at the exclusion of nearly everything else and that’s made for a rough high school life because he has no real romantic interest in her, especially because of her super clingy ways and the jealous side of it all. Simply put, the girl had an unhealthy attachment to him and saw all her worth tied up in him. So it’s little surprise that she’s followed him to this college and is still trying to pursue him. That makes for some spectacularly embarrassing situations to happen early on in getting settled into college, but it also introduces Banri to her. Kouko Kaga is quite the young woman, as she’s the daughter of a hospital administrator, comes from money and is definitely the kind of elite young woman that you’d expect. But you also see the personality issues that drove Mitsuo nuts, making it clear why he’s been trying to ditch her as long as he can since he never really dated her.
What makes the show works so well is that over the first half dozen or so episodes, we see how she tries to insert herself into his school life and ends up spending time with Banri along the way. Banri is a peacemaker type personality and he tries to see the good side of her while making Mitsuo understand that he doesn’t have his baggage with her, so he’s not going to be so frustrated by her. In fact, because of Banri’s own issues, he and Kouko are pretty well suited to each other as she’s able to throw herself into him as they discover they have feelings for each other and that helps him to feel cemented in who he is. That he matters. For someone that feels as ephemeral as he does in a lot of ways, this is crucial for him. Kouko’s clingy nature and hands on approach grounds him in ways that he can’t really verbalize.
So that the two end up in a relationship is a given, and we see that others have varying issues with it, some because of connections to both of their pasts. There’s a lot going on here as we get to know some of the supporting characters, notably Linda, who was a classmate of Banri’s prior self, and that adds its own kind of tensions and subplot material that affects the relationship between Banri and Kouko. But at its core, it’s the relationship between Banri and Kouko that really drives this show. I was thrilled episode by episode during the simulcast as it progressed and we saw the way that the two really communicated with each other. There are terrible things they think of themselves based on their lives and what they’ve gone through, negative thoughts that grow and feed on themselves, but articulating it and trying to connect with each other through them is fascinating to watch. While I see a whole lot of shows, few characters really feel like they’ve got faults and issues that seem real. While the ghost-Banri annoys me, what he represents is supremely valid in this situation and is explored well. The same can be said for Kouko, who starts off coming across in the worst way, but as we learn more and more of her past and her issues, it reminds you of the old adage of not judging a book by its cover. The more pages you read of these two, the more you care for them and thoroughly love how they help each other through their issues.
With the second half of the series, things certainly get a lot more complicated here because of some of offscreen parts of the show. There’s plenty of good stuff in watching how Banri and Kouko get along and the way that so many others find themselves very happy for them and drawn into it all the more because of it. While the others aren’t in relationships themselves, they see what these two are like and yearn for something similar for themselves, which is a very fun thing to see as we have teases of Chinami showing interest in Yana while Yana himself is pursuing Linda. And Linda is complicated enough herself with guilt over what happened to Banri but also is deflecting Yana because she can’t imagine how he would want to pursue with how little he knows of her. There’s some cultural stuff that comes into play a little bit as well, but mostly it’s heavily filled with Linda not really thinking that someone would want to be with her.
This half deals with a lot of the trauma going on in Banri’s head because there are more and more instances of the old Banri surfacing. These are freaky moments when they happen because when the old Banri makes it to the surface, he has no memory of anything since the bridge each time. And coming “awake” in the middle of Tokyo, in different clothes, different places and surrounded by people not sure why you’re acting funny as nobody besides Kouko knows the truth just ramps up the fear factor. And Banri in this form really does feel afraid, both through the visual and the acting because of what he’s experiencing. It’s not played for comedy, nor are there silly moments because of it, but rather a play on the fear and worry that comes from both sides. It moves quickly sometimes and lasts long others, both of which has its own issues depending on when they come up.
One of the things that starts all of this coming to the surface more is when the main four go off on a beach trip only to have it get rained out. There is a lot of fun with the actual time in the rain that really highlights their age, the joys of youth and living the moment, but the drive back to the city goes badly when Kouko is driving and falls asleep – along with everyone else. They have a very minor accident overall considering what it could have been but it’s enough to really jar Banri even more and allow his old self seemingly more access. It’s also one of the sequences that has a difficult scene because it’s done so culturally. When they get back, Kouko’s father has come to drive her home and his first instinct is to slap her to the ground for what she did. This has her turn in on herself for awhile and creates a minor wedge between her and Banri. But it was watching as the others just stand there and watch this happen, nobody speaks out and nobody goes to help Kouko up or to make sure she’s ok. It’s something that doesn’t make sense for me, though I grasp it in context to the situation and the people involved.
There’s a lot of ups and downs in this season as Banri and Kouko go through things, as she struggles with his situation as it becomes more and more apparent that his current self is going to be lots and she gets a bit into the self preservation mode. Banri also realizes at times that he should just leave all of them so as to not hurt them, but he’s also so much in love with Kouko and has such strong feelings for all his friends that it really creates a schism within him, something that makes it easier for the old Banri to break through more and more. The ups and downs are difficult to watch because it swings so widely with feelings and emotions, and the impact of others throughout are made plain as well. This isn’t limited to just the main two characters with a touch on the others, but rather keeps them fairly well engaged, especially since Linda is very close to it and that sprawls into the others.
With this series coming out at the same time that the original work ended, they were able to bring this to a fair conclusion. I haven’t read the original so I don’t know personally how closely it hews to it, but what it does here works very well as we get the current Banri lost as the original one takes over and he falls back into his old life back at home for awhile to acclimate to everything. There’s some really interesting stuff here as we see Banri in a way that we haven’t before, almost a different person in many ways, but also the struggles he’s facing alongside Linda and the others. A lot of it does come down to a very internal struggle, though not a physical representation internally, as there’s some very good dialogue and closure brought through in order to bring everything to a true moving forward point. One that does largely leave you pleased and hopeful for a bright, promising future.
The college period of life is complicated enough in general but when you have the issues that the main characters are going through here, it’s going to be even crazier and more complicated. The way things go between Kouko and Banri is all over the map, but it may seem silly or unrealistic unless you’ve been in a chaotic relationship like that before. There’s a lot to like in seeing the struggles that they all go through, individually and in pairings as well as a group, and that we really do get a resolution here rather than just something that could be left open. Though I will admit, I’d love to actually follow their stories after all of this to see where their lives would go because relationships, especially one involving Kouko, are more interesting to watch than the will they or won’t they admit they have feelings for each other things.
This series is one of the better relationship anime series of the last few years and one that deals with kids outside of high school, which is an even bigger bonus. I really enjoyed this show, hated the ups and downs because they resonated too well, and simply enjoyed seeing the overall progress of it all. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it hit many sweet spots for me.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 17th, 2019
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.