Well, I wasn’t expecting this. I bought Golden Time thinking that I was getting a soppy romantic comedy, but it turned out to be far, far more than that. It starts out that way, with Tada Banri* turning up for his first day at college, feeling completely bewildered and lost, making friends with the similarly bewildered and lost Mitsuo, and then Mitsuo’s stalker non-girlfriend showing up and bashing him round the face with some flowers.
The flower face-slapper is Kaga Koko**, who has issues… major issues. She has been in love with Mitsuo since they were little children, and has their future together completely entrenched in her mind. The problem is that Mitsuo now finds her a creepy, frightening stalker whom he does not love (well, not in that way), and wants rid of her. The series soon takes a major left-field twist by pairing up Banri and Koko.
The logical thing you might think would happen from there was that the new couple would have issues with Koko still being hung up on Mitsuo. Refreshingly, that never really happens at all. For all Koko’s faults she is unwavering in her faithfulness and love. Her obsessive tendencies transfer to Banri, but he is head over heels in love with her so can happily work through that, but instead a very different problem rears its head.
Before he started college Banri had a serious accident, and lost his memories. Although he is unaware of it, the girl he loved is somebody who has become a part of his new life, there to keep an eye on him. This sets up a massive issue. If his memories come back, will he still love Koko? Will he forget everything that has happened since then and go back to being the person he was? You can imagine how this plays into Koko’s insecurities.
As the series progresses, the original Banri starts to reassert himself, at times appearing as a ghostly figure. That takes a bit of getting used to, but it just about works, and makes the point that Banri is genuinely in fear of ceasing to exist, in terms of the person he has become. He feels like he is going to die – the fate that awaits him is essentially the same thing. It’s a frightening concept.
Throughout the entire 24 episodes I found myself rooting for Banri and Koko as a couple. All along I suspected things were going to take a turn towards Banri ending up with his former love, with the backstory being set up so strongly and Koko being a character that some viewers may find it hard to warm to. But by the end of the series I think it will be relatively unusual for a viewer not to warm to Koko, and actually feel desperately sorry for her at times.
Most anime series of the romantic genre tend to have about 12 episodes, so I found this very refreshing, with the story being able to breathe over 24 episodes, with a satisfying conclusion at the end. I haven’t even mentioned the other characters, but they are also a very entertaining bunch, particularly “2D-kun” (who just can’t handle 3D girls!). Don’t underestimate him. I do love a series that takes an apparently lesser character and makes him absolutely key to the resolution.
You’ll find so much food for thought here: obsessions, insecurity, friendships, and the nature of love and existence itself. Oh, and 4 great opening/closing songs, all performed by Koko’s voice artist Yui Horie, who has the voice of an angel. I’ll leave you with the trailer, which showcases one of her songs. RP
* In Western terms, first name Banri, second name Tada. You’ll find his name listed elsewhere as Banri Tada, which is a commonplace Westernisation (am I just making words up now?) but in Japan the surname comes first. Golden Time isn’t dubbed, so after watching 24 episodes with the main character being called Tada Banri, I just can’t quite bring myself to write his name back to front.
** similarly, Koko Kaga in Western terms.
My favourite song from the series, “Sweets and Sweet Cherry”: