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Given anime cover

Score: 8.23/10

Given

JP Title : ギヴン

Year : 2019

Genre : Drama, Music, Romance, Shounen, Slice of Life

Season : Summer 2019

Status : Complete

Rating : PG-13 - Teens 13 or older

Episodes : 11/11

Duration : 22 min. per ep.

Studios : Lerche

Synopsis

Tightly clutching his Gibson guitar, Mafuyu Satou steps out of his dark apartment to begin another day of his high school life. While taking a nap in a quiet spot on the gymnasium staircase, he has a chance encounter with fellow student Ritsuka Uenoyama, who berates him for letting his guitar's strings rust and break. Noticing Uenoyama's knowledge of the instrument, Satou pleads for him to fix it and to teach him how to play. Uenoyama eventually agrees and invites him to sit in on a jam session with his two band mates: bassist Haruki Nakayama and drummer Akihiko Kaji. Satou's voice is strikingly beautiful, filling Uenoyama with the determination to make Satou the lead singer of the band. Though reticent at first, Satou takes the offer after an emotional meeting with an old friend. With the support of his new friends, Satou must not only learn how to play guitar, but also come to terms with the mysterious circumstances that led him to be its owner. [Written by MAL Rewrite]

I think that many of you won’t even try the first episode of this series because of its “shounen-ai” tag. A simple “no thank you” and you will return to your other occupations.

I can understand that “shounen-ai” (and by extension “yaoi”) can’t be a genre that fascinates you. The “yaoi” often represents the fantasies of fujoshi / fudanshi rather than reality. We can have the usual “uke” (the “passive”) and “seme” (“active” character) relationships and it can relate harassing, non-consensual relationships and maybe beyond. But forget all your preconceptions because to be honest, Given is probably the most surprising series of its season.
If I tell you that Given is perhaps one of the most realistic series I’ve ever seen. Would you believe me?

It is more a series that explores the characters, their worries, their inner struggles in their daily lives. Uenoyama, for example, is a bored character until he meets Mafuyu, who shows him his broken guitar. Uenoyama decides to fix it and thus begin their relationship. Friendship although Mafuyu seems really attached to Uenoyama. It would be difficult to perceive romantic relationships in the first episodes. Of course, I don’t want to spoil you but their relationship will be more complex and will develop gradually.

Meanwhile, Uenoyama invites Mafuyu to join his band “the seasons” that he created with his elders (who are at the university) Haruki and Akihiko. You can guess that music has an important place in addition to the possible relationships that will be created within the group.
The series has a slow pace and takes time to explore his characters. But honestly, the series is all the more convincing because it is obvious that in order to play on a stage, it requires improvement in its instrument performances (or singing for Mafuyu) and that it is not only in 2-3 days that you can enter in perfect harmony.

However it will be more complicated than expected. The characters have their worries and that disturbs the progression rhythm. Some characters will also lose their motivation, their inspiration. And the most mysterious element is Mafuyu. His past is a bit gloomy and seems to hide something unmentionable, it is very interesting because his past is explained implicitly. Many unsaid things that are ultimately more interesting to interpret.
The romance is also very appreciable. The discovery of love and especially of first love as a teenager has been achieved in a very realistic way. This is not your random crush written in 10 minutes but a friendship that gradually evolves in more complex feelings. (In order not to detail even if you can easily guess)

On technical aspects, the series presents really authentic settings, that are perfectly suited to the contemplative aspect (especially when Mafuyu walks alone), there is not much animation but I was not disturbed by the animation of the concerts. (no disturbing CGI) You’ll see a slight drop in animation quality with episodes 7 and 8, nothing troubling.
I can’t forget to mention the songs whose lyrics are really meaningful especially and the voice of Mafuyu really portrays the rage and frustration that mafuyu has accumulated until his concert. The soundtrack is excellent and very well used, coupled with quiet moments to enhance immersion.

Depending on your preferences, there are still some minor issues. Around episode 5, there is a character who tries to disturb the main relationship and tries to dissuade Uenoyama from continuing this relationship. Unfortunately this character is mostly used to be hated like a punching ball. Indeed, the character is opportunistic and has a hateful behavior but I think we must also admit that everyone can make mistakes. Personally this character did not bother me and had potential but its development is unfinished.
I said I enjoyed Mafu’s performance, but I mostly talked about songs. At the beginning of the series you will have to endure his constant “LALALA” (the acapella version, lol) and honestly, the voice made me uncomfortable. However, I consider that it is not a bad thing either. About these both issues, the spectators’ comments were quite amusing to read, so it may be less terrible than they seemed the first time.

I definitely can’t convince everyone to watch Given, but if you want to get out of your comfort zone and/or if you’re fond of contemplative slice of life or just love following artists, I think you should really give it a chance. You can also free Given anime watch online and free anime download.

Given strikes the rare balance of being openly gay - none of that maybe he is, maybe he isn’t crap - while not indulging in over the top eroticism to pander to a niche viewership. This is a vanilla, realistic, down to earth romance that can be watched by anyone open minded to love that exceeds conventional desire. It is fairly unconventional for a single cour romance to have convincing characterization...yet Given makes this a strong point. Each of the band mates are given practical goals, motivations and fleshed out backstories that are sprinkled into the narrative as the episodes progress rather than forcefully crammed in a short span of time. This methodical progression helps the episodes flow very smoothly, as it rarely feels as though there is a dominant character focus for any particular episode. It is a great touch for the instruments of the characters to serve as a reflection of their inner struggles and/or role in the narrative. Lead guitarist Uenoyama, for example, is a hot headed prodigy who has been rejected by previous bands for creative differences. He must learn how to channel the volatile improvisation required of his instrument while accepting the input of his partners and empowering them to reach their ideal performance level. Mafuyu struggles with severe trauma to the extent that he is handicapped from genuinely expressing his feelings to others in ordinary conversation. It is only through his singing, songwriting, and encouragement from his fellow band members that he finds a means of finding closure to what tormets every waking moment of his life. Aki and Haruki are both in supporting roles as the drummer and bassist respectively, true to their positions as the oldest members of the band who serve as the voice of reason to their younger partners and the very foundation that keeps them together. In isolation these characters are lost. Together, they build each other up to reach their true and ideal selves. Given is entirely absent of the plot contrivances that plague romance anime today - no ill timed misunderstandings that take an entire arc to resolve, no sudden childhood friend love interest interrupting romantic progression, no almost kiss scenes that are interrupted by a sadist. Just a continual build of trust between two friends who grow to like each other until they agree to become lovers. The relationship between Mafuyu and Uenoyama is founded upon principles that mirror actual strong relationships in the real world today. Beautiful stuff. Similar to other great anime of the genre such as Nana, Kids on the Slope, most recently Carole & Tuesday, music is used as a platform to unite people of different backgrounds who probably wouldn't associate with one another otherwise. This gives the narrative a feeling of "destiny"; that it was meant for these characters to be together in this exact moment and create something special that will change their lives forever. Given does well to hammer this theme and make the viewer feel as if they are watching legends in the making. A fair criticism is the lack of a strong OST track list - there are few outstanding background songs and many of the scenes are without music entirely. But this "flaw" can be considered an intentional creative decision to reflect real life circumstances. After all, in real life we don’t have on the go orchestras narrating our lives in the background and award winning singers belting out our emotions during times of distress. So this detail actually works to make Given more convincing that it would be otherwise. In the climax of this narrative - the signature "big breakout performance" that is a constant of the musical genre - it becomes EXTREMELY gratifying to listen to the most powerful track in a single defining moment. Even thinking about it gives me goosebumps. Another criticism, and one that I actually agree with, is that the narrative ends at a point where so much more can occur. The ending isn’t abrupt to the extent where you should feel cheated, but there is obviously much more of a story to be told in terms of relationship development and progression of the band. This is a common consequence of anime adaptations for continuing series and in truth the only thing keeping me from giving Given a perfect score. So guess it'll just have to settle for being the best anime of the season. Should you watch Given? Yes. Why should you watch it? because it's good. Do you need to affirm your sexuality before watching it? No, contrary to the tendency of every critic who throws out that tired tagline of "I'm a 100% straight male and I surprisingly loved this gay anime". Given excels for reasons that are not at all dependent upon orientation, and the open minded person should find no less value in this narrative than other musical themed romances that use a common passion as a vehicle to develop human relationships. I eagerly look forward to the movie adaptation (confirmed for 2020!) for a continuation of this great story.

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