There’s no way we were not going to have a post dedicated to Given for Doki Doki Days! Welcome on back to day four and buckle down because we’re going to be getting into Given The Movie! As a quick background, Star and I absolutely love Given. I discovered it when it aired last year and promptly got Star to watch the entire thing with me. Since then, I’ve read the manga (and am keeping up with it to this day). I was psyched when they announced the movie and so was Star. Especially because it was animating probably my personal favorite storyline in Given. We counted down the days, we waited, and in early February–it finally dropped in early February. So how’d the movie do? Well let’s get into it. And just so you’re aware–spoilers ahead.
So as I said, the Given movie was focused on my personal favorite storyline in Given as a whole, and that storyline was all about Akihiko. I always find this funny because he’s not even my favorite character, but I found his involvement with both Haruki and Ugetsu to be both complicated and…raw. Okay–so maybe the storyline isn’t entirely about Akihiko but he’s an important player, as are Haruki and Aki’s boyfriend Ugetsu. An adult romance. Not to say that Uenoyama and Mafuya’s romance isn’t great (or complicated), but this one was even moreso. To sum up: Akihiko and Ugetsu are in a straight-up toxic relationship and find themselves each unable to move on, but both knowing it’d be better if they did. Ugetsu, a violin prodigy, knows that he’s hurting Akihiko–knows that he will always love music more than Aki–tries to push him away, but can never do so because he loves him too much. Meanwhile Akihiko continues to come back–continues to love Ugetsu no matter what he does, even though their love is literally crushing him and taking away his love of music and the violin as he can never measure up. Their relationship is downright tragic–even moreso because they both really did love each other and had so many good memories. But their story, is about having the courage to move on. The way that their story was handled in the movie–it was the best part. Having read the manga and watched the movie, I can wholeheartedly say that they did not skimp on the drama between the two nor the backstory, and I feel as though they portrayed their feelings beautifully and in a raw and earnest way. It honestly made the whole story feel more alive–more real. Like someone out there could read it and really feel it. Which is one of the best parts of Given to be honest. No matter who you are, if you’ve been in love, you likely understand how at least one character feels in it. It’s very true–it’s not super romanticized–it just is. But for how much I loved the Ugetsu and Akihiko portion, I did find it fell flat with the other main storyline–Haruki.
Haruki is my favorite character in Given. Period. I often find his emotions on inadequacy something that I personally can relate to on some level. In the movie, despite it seeming to revolve around him as a main player…it didn’t hit as hard as the manga. I think there were definitely some sequences missed with him, ones that showed the growing distance and displacement he was feeling with his band. Even his talk at the beginning with Take-kun was cut short, and I felt like had it just been a minute longer we would’ve seen more of him. I wished they’d included the portion where he said that playing in his girlfriend’s band had been fun when he tried it out. To see the contrast between him enjoying himself playing music vs. him feeling displaced and a little stressed in his own band would’ve really helped show the isolation he’d been feeling. Not to say that the movie portrayed this badly by any means, I just felt like the pacing of the movie was fairly unforgiving and in result some important tidbits were missed for Haruki. Another great moment would’ve come in the time Akihiko and Haruki were living together. Take-kun comes to visit and he and Haruki have a conversation, and we get to hear a better explanation of what Haruki is feeling then, despite having been so hurt by Aki previously. It’d also give a little context to Take’s take on Haruki and Akihiko–which would’ve just been kind of fun to see. Despite the missing pieces though…it was still well done in what time they did have. And Haruki’s facial expressions? One word: heartbreaking. Truly. Animation captures emotion that manga just can’t and his painful expressions were truly painful to witness.
Speaking of animation–loved it. Loved it so much. The tears were so REAL it was crazy. The characters looked beautiful. I hardly noticed any strange or odd sequences in the animation, and the CGI for the music scene was surprisingly good despite them using more of it than the performance from the actual show. And can we just take a moment to appreciate all of the animation, and the entire sequence of when Akihiko officially breaks up with Ugetsu, Ugetsu almost turns around to stop him but then doesn’t? Because that’s the shit. Like it was so good lighting wise, animation wise, tears-wise. Even the small intercut of Mafuyu saying it was okay, GOSH it was so good. SO SO GOOD. Beauty. Grace. We love to see it.
As for the overall pacing and direction of the film? It was okay. The direction was great and the scenes framed wonderfully (as they should be). But honestly…I had a bit of an issue with the pacing. It was a good movie at an hour long but it would’ve been a great movie if it was longer. They were just trying to fit so many things in the movie it honestly felt condensed and in turn some parts didn’t feel as fleshed out as they could be. Not only that, but because of that the movie felt very cut and paste at the beginning with so many short sequences that would last maybe a minute tops and then cut to a different scene in a not-so-seamless transition way. I get why…it was just a tad odd in my opinion. But I think the greatest misstep made by the movie was not including the Mafuyu storyline into it in full. See, the movie wanted to focus on the mature love which is nice, but we miss the portion of the story of Mafuyu and Uenoyama growing closer, but also this great (awful for making me cry) scene where Mafuyu stays over at Uenoyama’s house and while Uenoyama is freaking out about whether or not to make a move, Mafuyu can’t sleep because the clock in his room was the same one Yuki had. Uenoyama thinks Mafuyu is sad about it and hugs him…but Mafuyu hasn’t said what he needed to. In truth, the manga very much gives the feel that the song Mafuyu writes based off of Ugetsu’s feelings, is applied to everyone–including himself. He also wants to be able to let go of Yuki and be able to fully be with Uenoyama. It’s a piece of the story that would’ve been great, if Given ever gets a second season. Still, I did kind of like how the adults got a movie all about themselves because that complicated love is so real.
The stories they chose to tell in the movie were refreshing to see in an anime. I feel like not a lot of anime, or stories in general, go into what it feels like to be in a painful or toxic relationship and unable to move on because of how much you claim to love each other. It can be hard to say goodbye to someone that you once loved. To be able to even acknowledge that you don’t love someone anymore as you once did. And then you can fall into the same toxic cycle Akihiko and Ugetsu did. But instead of becoming someone who is toxic like the relationship, you can choose to walk away even if its painful. You can still find love. You can improve yourself or work on yourself. You can move on and still be breathing–maybe even better than before. Love is complicated. There’s never a right way, and there’s often not even an easy path–it’s hard. And I appreciate how Given consistently illustrates that along with the messy and often-complicated feelings that come with love. It personally, make me feel seen for everything I may have felt before, even if I was never in the same situations as the characters. I wish more anime would explore routes like this–routes that are bittersweet and messy but feel real and raw. Some shoujo do, others fall into so much melancholy it loses reality and some fall into being too happy and unrealistic. I like how a Boys Love story absolutely nailed the delicate topics and portrayed something so realistic. It’s truly amazing to me.
Oh last thing–the song itself? A straight up bop. Not as great as the Fuyunohanashi, but still amazing all the same. The lyrics were great, the way they cut into it to show Akihiko and Ugetsu’s emotions was a great sequence. And you know? Mafuyu’s songs are like magic. It made me tear up a little thinking how I’d like to be able to love again. To move on from old wounds. Also I just want to add in that it felt so good to finally hear this. Having read this part in the manga, I had no idea what the lyrics would be or how it would sound. I even purposely never watched any trailer for this movie in case I heard sneak peeks. I wanted to experience it all at once with the movie–and it exceeded my expectations.
So overall, Given The Movie had it’s hiccups but overall it was a big hit. I thought it was super good and Star & I certainly enjoyed it. I think there’s a lot to unpack when watching it (well–when watching Given period). So if you haven’t seen it, then you should definitely watch it. It’s very good and it’d be perfect to watch on Valentine’s Day. But that’s all I have for today’s post! Hope you liked it. Thanks for joining us for day four of Doki Doki Days! Hope to see you tomorrow for day 5!