Kouko is becoming less of an idol, and more human to our eyes
“We did everything together”, Kouko says as she proudly shows off images taken progressively farther away from Mitsuo. Yeah. I think he got tired of her right around elementary school. Which, considering they are now in college, was a relatively short period of time.
Banri’s settling into college life, but Kouko doesn’t seem to be getting much of what she wants out of college, which is more Mitsuo. But could opinions be changing this episode?
Obsessed or Misguided?
There’s always open space around Kouko
Last time, it was really easy to call Kouko a crazy obsessed stalker creep. We were getting Mitsuo’s exclusive input on her character, so of course we’re going to get quite a bit of negative bias. As if to make a point against that, this episode gives us a contrasting point of view from Kouko herself. It’s not something so contrived as Kouko attempting to convince us that she’s not a scary person. Instead, Golden Time strategically has Banri spend some time with her. And in this way, the show is able to seamlessly work complexities into Kouko’s character. Yes, all she talks about is still Mitsuo. But there’s nothing that stands out as particularly strange about her requests. When you’re fellow college students, asking about a friend’s schedule and clubs isn’t in the least bit disturbing. Now, obviously Mitsuo doesn’t consider Kouko a friend per se, but at least they know each other well enough that these questions aren’t creepy. In fact, Kouko would have asked him directly if only she could get ahold of the guy, so her going to a mutual friend is understandable.
Moving on, we see that Kouko is also a lonely person despite her prestigious background. Actually, it’s precisely because of this prestigious background that she’s neglected by other students; it’s certainly intimidating to approach someone with so much clout, after all. Now, this is technically circumstantial regarding Kouko’s behavior towards Mitsuo. But before you call it a blatant attempt to exploit sympathy towards her, which it really is, consider that Mitsuo used to be the only person who ever interacted with her. And then this only friend abruptly acts like everyone else and gives her the cold shoulder. So it’s no surprise that the poor girl feels invisible in spite of having easy access to all the physical comforts she could ever want. Now with Banri showing up, this is obviously going to change. But assuming Mitsuo really did start avoiding Kouko after elementary school, that’s about an 8 year gap during which she’s been totally isolated. Knowing this, it starts to look less ominous that she’s so desperately trying to hang on to him.
Mitsuo may try to pass it all off as an act to gain sympathy, but I’m not buying that after seeing this side of Kouko. How can the guy say such spiteful things about her all the time? I’ve yet to see any concrete examples of behavior from her that deserves such harshness. And now that I think about it, has he even confronted her directly and explained that he doesn’t want to be in her future? It seems the only thing he’s done is run away, leaving her confused and disheartened. If anything, he’s hurting her more.
The Loneliness of Kaga Kouko
There’s always people talking about Kouko, tho
Sumairii mentioned it, but I think that because the episode was so focused on it (Heck, it was even named “Lonely Girl”), it’s not overdoing it to keep talking about Kouko’s isolation. It’s definitely one of those ‘hide in plain sight’ kind of things, because even if she’s the center of attention, none of that ever gets to her. And I think it says something good about Kouko that she doesn’t sit around moping about it, even though she’s slightly oblivious to it. But perhaps focusing on Mitsuo so much is precisely because she never had other people approach her, she never had anyone to divide her attention.
I think it’s great that Banri calls Mitsuo out about his attitude
And she really becomes a more sympathetic figure throughout this episode, even discounting Banri’s suspicions (and Mitsuo’s insistence) that it’s an act. Even Kouko finally seems to admit to herself that Mitsuo is intentionally avoiding her. And her pointing out that no clubs are even trying to recruit her, even as she doesn’t really want to be in a club without Mitsuo. Her feeling that she’s become ‘invisible’, even as Banri hears everyone else talking about her from a distance, is touching, and probably something that’s really hard on even someone as self-confident as Kouko seems. And Banri is right to call Mitsuo out on it. He’s spent the entire time he’s known Banri talking about how unbalanced Kouko is, and pulling Banri away from Kouko and putting her in the worst possible light. But Banri points out that even if Mitsuo doesn’t want anything to do with her, he shouldn’t poison others against her, and he shouldn’t tell Banri how to think of her. And to Mitsuo’s credit, he acknowledges that Banri’s right about that.
But I also think that Kouko’s not the only “Lonely Girl” in this episode, as we see a little bit more of Linda, both in a quick scene of her thinking about something (put together with a scene of Kouko trying and failing to reach Mitsuo), and again as she talks to Banri just person to person. More about Linda in the Spoiler tag, even if I’m going to try to not give away exactly what I know.
Exciting College Life!
Prepare to meet your doom, Banri
I think it’s also worth talking about the way the show is filling out the rest of the college experience. It’s doing well not spending all its time on Mitsuo, Kouko, and Banri. And I think the setting up of the Tea Party (I think they’re much more into partying than tea) as a significant force is interesting. I don’t think they’re just a fanservice setup, although it does seem like the place for party girls to go and terrorize some first-year boys, and it’s probably a good thing they’re in the Tea Club, otherwise they’d be going around as a gyakunan group.
What’s impressive is that Kouko can even deter Shi-chan and Sao-chan
And the show even gets us an event for Kouko and Banri, at the same time as it shows that there’s at least someone in the school who’s not afraid to talk to Kouko. And talk and talk and talk and talk and TALK and talk and talk and talk… But even with all that talking, it sounds like both Banri and Kouko are interested in the “Happy College Event Circle” (which honestly sounds like an awesome club I wish I could be in). Let’s see what happens next week at the welcome weekend.
Finally, someone who’s not afraid to talk to Kouko!
Bonus Tea Party!
With Banri spending so much time with Kouko this episode, and apparently next episode as well, it’s starting to look like the two might actually get to gether as the OP implies. But knowing a good romance, it is still far too early for these things to be decided. At the moment, I believe Banri is simply being the nice guy who can’t leave a damsel in distress alone. We know that he’s a hopeless romantic, but there’s no clear indication that he’s considered making a move on her. Then there’s the mysterious opening segment, which no doubt builds off of the bridge accident slipped in at the end last time. I want to say that the person behind the flashlight is Linda, but it’s really hard to tell. Seeing as she’s clearly keeping an eye on Banri, she looks rather suspicious though, don’t you agree? But I guess for now the show will just keep slipping in these little dramatic tidbits piecemeal until we get the full picture.
Golden Time really is seeming like a great anime for a more grown up audience. It seems a bit more subtle about some things than most, and the college setting really confers a maturity on the characters and the interactions. I’d love to see more anime set in college with college aged characters, because they have a freedom that the high school shows don’t seem to. And it’s not that they don’t have silly antics and goofy stunts (witness the Debauchery Tea Party), it just seems more natural when they do.
I kind of wish we’d just get all this backstory with the accident over with, it feels like we’re just being teased too much (and why would someone who’s obviously a hospital patient be running around the woods?). But I’m sure they’ll get to it sometime soon.