One of the more interesting shows that I had the “pleasure” (if you can call it that) of watching this year was one I had only heard stories about, yet never knew why it was one of the more iconic visual novel adaptations and romance stories in anime. It’s not necessarily a popular story, but it’s an interesting one for varying reasons. One of those reasons being how White Album 2 portrayed adolescent romance quite differently from many anime of its kind. This isn’t really comparable to your Toradora‘s, Sakurasou‘s, or even OreGairu‘s in terms of a typical romance story; it’s sort of a mixture of those anime, but decides to go a different direction with its story and characters.
A major factor of why this show stands out to me is how the romance is told through the focus of our three characters and how this romance has not only caused them to grow as people, but also how the pains of romance can truly take a toll on ourselves and others. I’ve written about some topics of these factors before with Blast of Tempest, but a lot of those characteristics are also prevalent in this show, although the setting is a bit more simplistic compared to Blast of Tempest‘s more complex one. That doesn’t really affect the narrative of White Album 2 though, as the setting is less important than the timeframe of when the events happen: during high school, one of the more drastic and emotional times of someone’s life when you’re trying to figure things out the most.
Haruki, our main character, through various circumstances ends up becoming friends with two of his classmates, Setsuna and Kazusa. Both of them end up becoming really close friends to Haruki through the school music club, whether it’s being an actual assistance to his learning of the guitar or in performing a concert for the yearly school festival, or if it’s through emotional assistance in building up his confidence and skills in order to be able to be able to perform on stage with them.
Calling this series a “love triangle” would be incorrect for a majority of the show; it has the setup of one, yet never really seems to follow through on the standard “love triangle” beats. Setsuna and Kazusa end up becoming friends with each other, and although they have their philosophical differences in how to do things, they really do care for each other, and Haruki as well. These three are friends, and want to remain friends as they continue through their lives together.
And yet good things always seem to come to an abrupt end.
Romance intervenes, but when you’re in a close relationship with two of your closest friends, and you know that one of them will eventually be hurt in the process by a relationship with either, what choices do you have? Any move you make puts you into a cage; one where any choice you make will hurt the other people involved. No amount of growth or support from your two closest can help you now, and especially when everyone involved just wants to stay friends with each other and enjoy the happy moments together. The only person that can help you now is yourself by learning from those past experiences and using those to make the best decisions moving forward.
That’s the kind of anime White Album 2 is; one of happiness, one of love, and one of sorrow.
Yet, someone still has to make a decision, as the opportunity of losing even one of your dear friends is too large of a risk to take. It’s better to try and make both of them happy, even if that will end up driving them apart in the end, ruining the harmonious relationship in place.
It’s times like these where I tend to think that a polygamous relationship would be beneficial to all parties involved, but I don’t even think that’s a proper solution regarding White Album 2. The differences are too large and the stakes are too high for both Setsuna and Kazusa, as they both have had such an influence on Haruki, which in turn has led to changes in their own lives as well. It becomes a sort of competition, and thus, the “love triangle” begins, or perhaps it was always lying beneath the surface waiting for that opportune moment.
Everyone involved in this friendship now has to make choices, whether their friendship is more important than love and whether they can put the support of one party above their own feelings. When your friends have influenced your life to the point where they’ve seriously improved the path your life was taking, on top of realizing that no choice results in disparity and choosing one over another means someone will be left behind, it’s terrifying to know that the days of being happy are over once again for yourself and the troubling times have returned. It’s no surprise why the latter half of this show is so serious, so bitter, and so sincere.
This all comes to fruition in the final scene of the anime, really showing the pain and despair of these characters having to come to terms with what’s been decided among themselves. Even though no one wants to necessarily be the one to make the choice, the choice has been made and is accepted to be the “best” outcome for the scenario. Not everyone can be pain-free or free from the despair caused by all of the turmoil of them becoming close to one another resulting in this outcome, but this has what’s been decided as “for the best”.
After all, not all stories have fairy-tale endings.