EDIT: For anyone coming into this review, make sure that you read the edit at the end of the post first. It will give you a bit of an update on my more current thoughts on the series before you read through the entire review.
White Album 2 is based off a visual novel and, while set in the same town and referencing some of the characters from the first White Album, is basically not linked at all. For any hope White Album had of getting a potential watch from me, that’s a good thing.
White Album 2 follows the love triangle between Haruki Kitahara, Setsuna Ogiso and Kazusa Touma. Like most love triangles, the one in White Album 2 is at times touching, at times devastating and always pulling on your heartstrings. Beginning with Haruki convincing both girls to join his band for the school’s festival, it quickly becomes obvious that Setsuna has feelings for the amateur guitarist, but Touma’s feelings are kept veiled (or at least less explicit) until much later in the series. Ordinarily, this would be a good thing, streamlining the romance and leaving space for resolution. The problem comes in episode seven, when Setsuna and Haruki begin dating, immediately after a decently laid out hint that Haruki and Touma have feelings for each other. Haruki proceeds to make the simultaneously understandable and inexplicable decision to abandon his own feelings and begin to date Setsuna.
As expected, feelings begin to get hurt and revelations start to come faster in the second half of the series (highlighted by the very touching montage showing how Touma and Haruki fell in love). However, in episode 10, things start to go off the tracks. Haruki, up to that point, had been one of my favorite male protagonists in a romance and had shown himself to be a good human being. In a gut-wrenching move, he betrays his current girlfriend and gets rightly slapped for it. At this point, my faith in the anime was a bit shaken, but I still hoped for a good ending.
Episode 13 destroys everything good about White Album 2. Throw together cheating, a mindless sex scene that comes as a punch in the face, the anime pushing the blame primarily onto Setsuna and the unfeeling kiss scene at the airport and you end up with a depressing end where no one is happy, everyone has been selfish, and the audience is left drained and angry.
If White Album 2 had been, up to this point, anything between a bad and merely decent anime, such an ending would be much more acceptable. However, the black hole that is created by the final episode erases a ton of very well done emotion, a beautiful color palate, gorgeous music and one of the better male leads in any romance. White Album 2 successfully captures a wide range of potent human emotions and desires, including the unitive power of music (particularly meaningful to me with my background in music), the desire to belong and real love. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, Haruki is a surprisingly human protagonist. Rather than being a generic husk meant only as an excuse to show off a number of girls, he is very well-rounded, being a genuinely nice person, with feelings and faults. He displays regret, confusion and pain many times and is remarkably prone to tears. Thus, his almost out of character missteps in the final episodes are even more painful, despite his recognition of fault in the aftermath.
In short, White Album 2 is wasted potential for a meaningful, uplifting and inspiring story, pulled down at the end by the weight of betrayal without redemption. Forgiveness is not really ever addressed and all the mistakes that were made are left only as a pile of regrets. Honestly, from an objective standpoint, the series is really, really well done. It’s honest, authentic and is stunningly accurate to life. But that can’t redeem the depressing ending. It was so good and just ended up so sour and sad. I hate that. I hate what I’m about to say after this, because I wanted this show to be one of my favorites.
It pains me to says this, but do not watch White Album 2. Sadly, the ending destroys most of the good aspects of the anime beyond repair. Find something with a happy ending.
For the record, I was rooting for Touma most of the series & the depiction of her love for Haruki, especially the way she helped him learn the guitar from the piano was the highlight of the series. That is real love: loving when you aren’t seen and aren’t getting anything in return. I hate that it was ruined in a moment of selfishness in the sex scene at the end.
I am adding in this edit because, while my recommendation for this series has not changed (yet), my feelings on it have become more conflicted. Following the ending of White Album 2, I was angry and felt betrayed by the show. Yet, for a show that caused such powerful negative feelings (feelings which, I might add, I am usually quick to dismiss), White Album 2 has continued to linger in the back of my mind to a startlingly degree. I am somewhat convinced that this is somewhat due to the show’s relentless pursuit of realism. I still feel that the show squandered a chance to promote a powerful, uncontrived message of forgiveness and redemption.
Despite all this, White Album 2 is now a fixture in my re-watch queue. I don’t understand it. But the re-watch will happen, and I’m interested to see how that experience alters (or not) my perceptions of the show.
At this point in time, I still can’t justify recommending such an emotionally devastating anime to anyone. But I no longer feel that this recommendation is set in stone, just like how I was once certain I would never watch a sequel, if it were to come, and now I am absolutely sure that if White Album 2-2? appears, I will be watching it. I honestly don’t know what to do about this anime. I will keep you posted.