“I’ve changed my mind. I’ll….wear the mask of an adult.”
I cannot help but be slightly in love with Golden Time. Besides the fact that it has large Toradora shoes to fill and a rather disappointing animation direction (due to a lack of budget), it keeps managing to surprise me with new and interesting twists. A part of me enjoys it for being the weekly romantic comedy about relationships and falling in love, while the other half of me finds the introspective and often sentimental tones about the consequences of rushing your feelings to be much more appealing, even if there is a ghost love story involved (yes, you heard right).
At first sight, we are led to believe that Golden Time will be a story about Mitsuo and Kaga falling in love, though the OP tells us otherwise. The real main character is Banri, is a boy who has lost all his previous memories but remains to be a kind individual. Kaga is rash, selfish, sometimes obnoxious, but very lonely. Mitsuo is stubborn and messy. If it weren’t for the setting that these were college kids, we would have almost thought that the three are high schoolers, from the way they act. Immature taunts as thrown at each other and fits are made over the smallest of things. Luckily, things take a (predictable, once again due to the OP) twist. Banri and Kaga end up falling for one another, and a cliché of love triangles is avoided.
Except, it all happens a little too fast. By Episode 7, Banri and Kaga are truly lovebirds. They do everything we’d expect out of a typical teenager couple: wait for each other before and after school, take walks, eat lunch and go out to dinner, and even participate in the same club. Kaga calls Banri “Romeo” and he calls her “Juliet.” They say they love each other almost every episode. It is almost so sappy that even their friends cannot handle the saturation of romance in the air and often tend to leave the two alone.
True love, right? Wrong, and even Golden Time seems to know it. Kaga is literally blinded by her love for Banri to the point where she’s incredibly possessive of him. “Look only at me. Spend your days with me. Don’t waste your feelings on anyone else.” She rarely lets Banri spend time with Mitsuo, let alone friend (and ex potential lover of the past Ghost Banri) Linda, and when he does, she closes him off and becomes extremely insecure. At one point, when Banri spends some time with Linda talking about the past life he never knew, Kaga shuts herself in her apartment for a weekend, and eventually confesses to him that she is afraid of what will happen – that he will leave her, just like Mitsuo did. It’s here where we realize that Kaga and Banri may be in love, but it is Kaga who is in love with love. An ideal form where she is the apple of Banri’s eye; always beautiful, always perfect, and always there. But this love, as much as it brightly burns, cannot last forever. As much as these two may have sincere feelings for one another, Golden Time clearly shows us that the relationship is hogged by Kaga and is founded upon naive and somewhat false ideals that easily shake with miscommunication.
It’s not just Kaga. Banri too has had his share of naive love with devastating consequences. Episode 9 shows us a scene where Past Banri – the memories of Banri that he’s forgotten, but are narrated by the form of Ghost Banri – is in love with Linda and seeks a relationship with her. Linda and Banri at this point in high school are close friends to the point where they constantly rely on one another. However, things get serious when Linda finds out that her brother’s fiancé is having an affair, she decides, with the help of Banri, to take pictures of the fiancé in her illicit relationship to destroy her life. It’s only afterwards that she realizes how foolish and selfish she’s been and deletes the pictures, choosing to talk individually with the fiancé instead. What follows afterwards is an emotional confrontation between Banri and Linda, where Banri promises that he will always be there for her no matter what – an ideal but foolish promise, considering how things really turn out.
Banri says he’ll find a way, but instead, he falls (while waiting for a response from Linda after confession, ironically) and loses his memory, becoming the current Banri that dates Kaga. In one of the more heartbreaking moments of the series, Linda brings up her brother in a discussion, and Banri, having no knowledge of this trust and bond he shared with Linda at a point in his life, asks her who her brother is. Linda pauses for a moment, smiles sadly, and leaves, telling Banri nothing, and it’s here where we realize that sweet love is sometimes an illusion for the short sighted and foolish. There are neither Prince Charmings nor Romeos in life, and both Banri and Kaga are examples of people who have treaded too quickly into relationships with the expectations of high schoolers, only to suffer tragic results.
Golden Time may be funny, sad, dramatic and a little supernatural, but its tale of souls who wander too fast in relationships is something I love dearly about it. I look forward to the ups and downs it chooses to take as it continues to explore the idealism and naivety we often stumble across in a love that’s often too young, too tender, and too fragile.