White Album is a ★★★☆☆ ︱The Exophora in the Language of Love Songs

The first series for “White Album” is not only the progenitor to many other harem/cheating sub-genre series, like the infamous “School Days,” but it also is a cornerstone in effective, anime drama! It has a realistic engagement with infidelity, the pressure of musical stardom, rivalry in love, prioritizing relationships over work, and grieving over a deceased parent—”White Album” takes a mature approach to ALL of these issues, though it flounders a bit towards the end!

⚠️ This review will have spoilers ⚠️

—Story/Characters

Synopsis: Can a relationship between a regular college student and an idol singer survive? That is the question that White Album tries to answer. Tōya Fujii is a normal college student with normal worries—namely balancing his classes and his job he works to pay for school. He is also concerned about the amount of time he has to spend with Yuki Morikawa, or rather, the lack of it.Being an up and coming idol singer, Yuki has concerns of her own. Even though she’s not yet as popular as experienced veteran Rina Ogata, Yuki is turning heads and landing interviews on television. This should be a good thing, but not everyone is happy about the attention she receives from the media and from Rina. The idol industry is surprisingly cutthroat, and rival singers have their eyes on Yuki. While it may seem exciting to watch your girlfriend on television, how does Tōya really feel about all this? Between the challenges associated with Yuki’s career and other people that Tōya meets at his university, their relationship may not last…

First of all, this series has nothing to do with The Beatles’ “White Album” —you can click out of this review if you’ve lost interest. The anime “White Album” is an interesting character study into a protagonist (Tōya Fuji) that has dependency issues because of the death of his mother and a strained relationship with his father. Because of the trauma from the death of his mother, he’s kind of a deadbeat—doesn’t have a stable job, but despite this, he manages to have a really good relationship with his childhood friend, now girlfriend, Yuki Morikawa.

Because of his loneliness, Tōya had always expected Yuki to be around, so when she suddenly breaks into the entertainment industry and starts becoming a famous idol, he has a crisis of being. This is illustrated in the strange directing decision employed in the very first episode, the television screen that Yuki is on morphs and it slowly drifts away from Tōya. Yuki is out of his grasp, far away from where he could ever reach her! Despite their sudden separation, Yuki and Tōya attempt to keep in touch over brief telephone chats, but since this takes place in the 1980s, they always miss each other. I mean, Tōya can’t be hovering over his Dad’s ※landline forever, waiting for the bustling, Yuki, to give him a ring!

※Their relationship probably wouldn’t have been as stilted, if cellphones or email had been a thing!

Yuki’s sexually desirable manager makes things more difficult by offering her body, in exchange for him cutting contact with Yuki, because she doesn’t want her talent’s reputation to be ruined. Tōya, being the jobless nobody with mommy issues, of course chooses to hook up with the manager! And the plot thickens even more when Yuki’s music composer, Eiji Ogata, has romantic feelings for her. The end of the first cour comes to head when Tōya watches Yuki’s first concert, and he can barely get in because the venue is so full, and when her talent shines—he realizes that there growing schism between their two worlds! Man, that was such a good scene! Later, the episode shows him: conflicted, guilty, tormented—running through a snowy metropolis! Not only that, but Eiji makes it clear to Tōya that he’s amorously pursuing her, and it’s the start of his unhealthy obsession because he refers to her as his muse, so he can basically implant his personality onto her! The same thing he did to his younger sister, Rina Ogata!

The second season doesn’t live up to the intrigue and psychological strain. In the first season, there’s this great scene in Episode 11: “Time Does Not Solve the Thorns In Our Heart. It Just Puts A Label of Oblivion On It,” where Yuki has a nightmare in the car while her manager is driving, where the cord to the landline is cut and when she walks onstage, everything is dim and when she opens her mouth, she can no longer sing! It was a perfect embodiment of her anxiety about both her career and her faltering relationship! The second season isn’t as good because instead of giving more meaningful conclusions to the the loose threads, it just creates more by having the main character sleep with a few more female characters. Even the ones that he ISN’T even attracted to! In the anime, he seems genuinely put-off when his other childhood friend, Haruka Kawashima, gets naked in front of him… but, he sleeps with her anyway! Why? …who really knows…

The second part is like a muddy melange of different routes, all dumped into a mystery stew! As one would expect, Eiji’s insanity comes to a head and he’s arrested for swindling money from the production company. There’s this entire subplot with these new characters, where there’s a performer and her friend, and the uglier one is locked in a room and forced to write and sing songs for the prettier one to lip-sing to; but, it was very difficult to care about this underlying twist, because the audience barely knows the characters involved. I’m sure that they’re both more emotionally compelling in the visual novel, but since so much is crammed into the story, it’s hard to get to know them well. The best part about the second part was the music and a somewhat satisfying conclusion, it’s like the Christmas tree scene in “School Days,” where Makoto Itō apologizes to Katsura Kotonoha. Tōya and Yuki make amends, but Rina’s story kind of gets shafted in the process.

—Technical

Luna’s Favorite Works by Each Respective Creator = ✅

Aquaplus (original creator), notable works:

  • Comic Party (series) ✅
  • Tears to Tiara ✅
  • To Heart
  • To Heart 2 ✅
  • Utawarerumono (series) ✅
  • White Album 2 ✅

Commentary: It’s rather strange, but a chief director isn’t credited to the anime adaptation of White Album, there are only episode directors, such as: Tomokazu Tokoro (director of “Haibane Renmei,” worked on eps 15, 22), Naokatsu Tsuda (director of “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (TV),” worked on ep 25),  Tetsuya Watanabe (director of “Kimi ga Nozomu Eien,” worked on ep 12), and Yuki Yase (director of “En’en no Shōbōtai,” worked on ep 7). If anything, the beautifully fluid pictographic shots can be attributed to Kō Yoshinari (storyboard, key animation, character design), he is known for his expertise in making animation scenes bloom with livelihood! Aquaplus themselves are a really wonderful visual novel company, their stories are usually intricate and heartfelt, though they often get overshadowed by the other “plus,” that’s right… Nitroplus, Gen Urobuchi’s company!

Tomoaki Maeno as Tōya Fuji, notable roles: 

  • Hak Son, Akatsuki no Yona ✅
  • Jun’ichi Tachibana, Amagami SS
  • Masamune Matsuoka, Aoharu x Kikanjū (“Aoharu x Machine Gun”) ✅
  • Dino, Blend S
  • Natsume Asahina, Brothers Conflict
  • Jet Link (“002”), Cyborg 009 VS Devilman ✅
  • Haruki Izumo, Danbell Senki Wars
  • Decim, Death Parade ✅
  • Hokuto Hidaka, Ensemble Stars! ✅
  • Free Underbar, Fairy Gone
  • Haruitsuki Abeno, Fukigen na Mononokean (“The Morose Mononokean”)
  • Yoshihido Usaida, Gakuen Babysitters ✅
  • Akira Kageura, Ginga e Kickoff!! (“Victory Kickoff!!”)
  • Genpachi Inukai, Hakkenden: Tōhō Hakken Ibun
  • Hakkekkyū U-1146, Hataraku Saibō (“Cells at Work!”) ✅
  • Kōsuke Ōshiba, Hitorijime My Hero
  • Leon Lau, Jūshinki Pandora
  • Hiro Hayami, King of Prism ✅
  • Hajime Tenga, Kiznaiver ✅
  • Kiyokazu Fujimoto, Kotbato. ✅
  • Naotsugu, Log Horizon ✅
  • Iwato Namito, M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane
  • Gōta Midorikawa, Mahōtsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora (“Someday’s Dreamers II: Sora”)
  • Takeru Ōyama, Maken-Ki!
  • Kyō’ichi Sakaki, Mayonaka no Occult Kōmuin (“Midnight Occult Civil Servants”)
  • Bonten, NAMUAMIDABUTSU! -UTENA-
  • Pain, Naruto: Shippūden ✅
  • Kō Yukina, Sekaiichi Hatsukoi (“World’s Greatest First Love”) ✅
  • Ieyasu, Senjūshi (“The Thousand Noble Musketeers”)
  • Saku Ōyagi, Sora no Manimani (“At The Mercy of The Sky”)
  • Daisuke Seki, Stand My Heroes: Piece of Truth
  • Shū Kuga, Starmyu
  • Haru Kaidō, Super Lovers
  • Kyō Kusanagi, The King of Fighters: Destiny
  • Yukimura Sanada, Tono to Issho: Gantai no Yabō
  • Atsushi Dōjō, Toshokan Sensō (“Library Wars”) ✅
  • Yamanbagiri Kunihiro, Tōken Ranbu: Hanamaru ✅
  • Haru Yayoi, Tsukipro the Animation
  • Bull Kuramochi, Uchi Tama?! Uchi no Tama Shirimasen ka?
  • Camus, Uta no☆Prince-sama♪ 
  • Foia, Yume Oukoku to Nemureru 100-nin no Ōji-sama: Short Stories

Commentary: Mr. Maeno did a great job in his role as Tōya Fuji, especially in the first cour! The tension between him and his father, over his deceased mother. Not to mention the expression of emotion that he was able to convey over his guilt and grief over the inability to reach Yuki is really harrowing. The decrease in sympathy-inducing traits in the second cour isn’t the fault of the seiyū, but the writing staff’s inability to converge all of the routes in a meaningful conclusion. Mr. Maeno is a very talented man, great work!

Aya Hirano as Yuki Morikawa, notable roles: 

  • Miu Asakura, “Bungaku Shōjo”
  • Minata Nagase, Akaneiro ni Somaru Saka
  • Misa Amane, Death Note
  • Mamori Anezaki, Eyeshield 21 ✅
  • Lucy Heartfilia, Fairy Tail ✅
  • Mei Etō, Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight! ✅
  • Kahlua and Tequila Marjoram, Galaxy Angel Rune
  • Paiman, Gatchaman Crowds
  • Nobume Imai, Gintama
  • Ayumi Nonomura, Hyakko
  • Mai, Itsudatte My Santa!
  • Garnet, Jewelpet
  • Lumière, Kiddy Grade ✅
  • Ume Kurumizawa, Kimi ni Todoke ✅
  • Migi, Kiseijū: Sei no Kakuritsu ✅
  • Hannah Anafeloz, Kuroshitsuji II ✅
  • Megami, Moe★Gaku5
  • Layla Serizawa, Nana ✅
  • Chizuko Mikamo, Nijū Mensō no Musume
  • Kana Ienaga, Nurarihyon no Mago
  • Momo, Otogi Story Tenshi no Shippo (“Angel Tales”)
  • Nanael, Queen’s Blade ✅
  • Pachira, Renkin San-kyū Magical? Pokaan ✅
  • Sasha, Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas ✅
  • Ekaterina Kurae, Seikon no Qwaser
  • Haruhi Suzumiya, Suzumiya Haruhi no Yūtsu ✅
  • Kaoru Akashi, Zettai Karen Children (“Psychic Squad”)

Commentary: Ms. Hirano especially excelled in the singing department for this character. Her rendition of “White Album” (the track that the forlorn lovers are destined to see in the franchise; see Setsuna Ogiso in “White Album 2” for further exemplifications of the trope) is absolutely haunting, and shows off her vocal chops. More series with her should have tracks like this and “God Knows”! Her characterization of Yuki Morikawa is strong, as she feels a rift between her and her boyfriend growing, and she can’t do anything about it because of her busy work in the industry, and her anxiety about her growing fame and the expectations that are being hoisted onto her are brilliantly orchestrated! Ms. Hirano is as gorgeous and talented in this role as she always is, great seiyū!

Nana Mizuki as Rina Ogata, notable roles: 

  • Nanase Kotobuki, “Bungaku Shōjo”
  • Allison Whittington and Lillianne Aicasia Corazón Whittington-Schultz, Allison to Lillia
  • Akiko, Aoi Bungaku Series
  • Oboro Iga, Basilisk
  • Kururu, Binzume Yōsei
  • Saya Kisaragi, Blood-C
  • Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo
  • Misaki Kirihara, Darker Than Black: Kuro no Keiyakusha
  • Nanami Takatsuki and Ricotta Elmar, Dog Days
  • Hannah, Dragon’s Dogma
  • Sieglinde Baumgarde, Dragonaut: The Resonance
  • Cisqua, Erementar Gerad
  • Wrath, Fullmetal Alchemist ✅
  • Bi Fei, Gin no Guardian
  • Lydia Carlton, Hakushaku to Yōsei
  • Tsubomi Hanasaki, HeartCatch PreCure! ✅
  • Yu Minamoto, Ichigo 100%
  • Kotoko Aihara, Itazura na Kiss
  • Tsugumi Shibata, Jigoku Shōjo (“Hell Girl”) ✅
  • Sora Yamato, Jikū Tantei Genshi-kun
  • Tiz, Jū Ō Sei
  • Yin Fu, Ken En Ken: Aoki Kagayaki
  • Roya, Kiba
  • Yuno Rukina, Kiss Dum: Engage Planet
  • Alois Trancy, Kuroshitsuji II ✅
  • Janice Quatlane, Layton Kyōju to Eien no Utahime (“Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva”)
  • Nyamo Naamo, Love Hina
  • Sayaka Mizushiro, Magical Canan (“Magical Kanan”)
  • Fate and Alicia Testarossa, Mahō Shōjo Lyrical Nanoha ✅
  • Hotaru Shirakawa, Memories Off
  • Mizuki Hibara, Mokke
  • Magaret Liones, Nanatsu no Taizai ✅
  • Hinata Hyūga, Naruto ✅
  • Kaho Serizawa, Natsu-iro no Sunadokei (“Hourglass of Summer”) ✅
  • Shinobu, Ninin ga Shinobuden ✅
  • Ann Takamaki, Persona 5 ✅
  • Rue Kuroha, Princess Tutu ✅
  • Yufa, Ragnarök the Animation
  • Rin Ogata, RideBack ✅
  • Moka Akashiya, Rosario to Vampire
  • Pandora, Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas ✅
  • Tsubasa Kazanari, Senki Zesshō Symphogear ✅
  • Mave, Sentō Yōsei Shōjo Tasukete! Mave-chan
  • Nana Suzuki, Shichinin no Nana
  • Kanon Seena, Shining Tears X Wind
  • Utau Hoshina, Shugo Chara!
  • Morinas, Simōn
  • Aria, Sister Princess
  • Suzu Edogawa, Tactics
  • Colette Brunel, Tales of Symphonia the Animation ✅
  • Sylvette Suede, Tegamibachi ✅
  • Neju Na Melmas, Tenchi Muyō! GXP
  • Chizuru, Tokyo Marble Chocolate
  • Sunao Konoe, Tsuyokiss
  • Matsuki Akino, Wakaokami wa Shougakusei! ✅
  • Maria, Witchblade

Commentary: Ms. Mizuki has such a vibrant presence and like Aya Hirano, she also has a gorgeous singing voice! Her duet with Ms. Hirano in “Powder Snow” is so darned good! Her characterization of Rina Ogata is very vivacious and youthful, it reminded me of her roles as Tsubomi Hanasaki in “HeartCatch PreCure!” and Tsubasa Kazanari in “Senki Zesshō Symphogear.” Rina isn’t just “the other woman” character, like Sekai Saiyonji from “School Days,” but the character individually comes across as a powerful and easy-to-symapthize-with personality! Both of the main idols were so easy to like, that it was difficult to choose between them! Nana Mizuki is very famous for a reason; what a wonderful voice!

Other notable seiyū talents: Romi Park (Edward Elric from “Fullmetal Alchemist”), Haruka Tomatsu (Asuna Yūki in “Sword Art Online” ), and Shō Hayami (Nicholas D. Wolfwood in “Trigun”).

Conclusively, I personally thought the characters in this story were more likable, relatable, and down-to-Earth than the cast in “White Album 2” (—I will get around to reviewing that one eventually). The second half suffered from being congested with too many pathways, which is often an issue with visual novel adaptations, and it seemed to deviate from where the original plot line was leading towards. If you’re looking for an interesting drama with ’80s aesthetics and scenes with an interesting vision, as well as a character that actually cheats because he has legitimate psychological issues, then give this one a try! I give White Album: The First Season an 8/10 and the Second Season a 4/10, the combination of the scores makes a 6/10!

Rankings:

White Album: Season 1 ★★★★☆

White Album: Season 2 ★★☆☆☆

Published by eggheadluna

H.E. Rodgers is the author of the Juniper's Tree series, also known as the 真柏Project. MyAnimeList: https://myanimelist.net/profile/Egghe... Twitter: https://twitter.com/EggheadLuna #真柏Project #JunipersTree

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