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.