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Geek It! Anime Review: Given

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From the animation company behind Assassination Classroom, Radiant, and Astra Lost in Space, GIVEN is the latest musical anime by Lerche Studio that has taken the music genre by storm.

Based on the manga series of the same name, Given revolves around a group of four students in an amateur rock band. An anime about guitars and rock bands? Why not? But there is actually more to the story than guitars and rock bands. Surprisingly, Given is foremost a boys-love story, and without further ado, this concept immediately piqued our curiosity.

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The story of Given began when Ritsuka sees Mafuyu holding onto a guitar so tenderly and protectively. Seeing the broken strings on Mafuyu’s guitar, Ritsuka offers to repair the strings. From that moment on, Mafuyu then asks Ritsuka to teach him to play the guitar.

This moment was the start of a unique friendship.

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Despite refusing to teach Mafuyu, Ritsuka introduces Mafuyu to his other team members – bassist Haruki Nakayama and drummer Akihiko Kaji — and allows Mafuyu to observe the band practice sessions. After hearing Mafuyu’s random vocalisations one evening, Ritsuka quickly realizes that Mafuyu has great potential to be the band’s singer.

So when Mafuyu gets chosen to compose the lyrics to Ritsuka’s melody for their upcoming performance, he starts to feel major anxiety. Struggling to deal with his depression and the message he wants to convey through the song, we see tension rising amongst the band. Can the group help Mafuyu overcome his hardship? Will Mafuyu write the lyrics in time? What will Ritsuka do now with his internal strife and newfound feelings?

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As a viewer, we had high expectations for Given. However, it was initially quite a disappointment. The art and animation is above standard yet sometimes admirably beautiful. For a story that focuses on rock bands, we see guitar riffs here and there but they’re nothing out of the ordinary. This mediocre contribution fuelled our disappointment even further as we expected more from a story that was initially promoted as a music anime.

Taking the above into consideration, we strongly hoped Given‘s narrative would please us. When Given first introduced the audience to Ritsuka Uenoyama and Mafuyu Satō, we honestly didn’t know where the story was heading. 

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When we look at modern yaoi stories, they are usually dramatic and revolves around a dominating-submissive relationship. Given, on the other hand, is rather indifferent and it all came down to its ordinary and relatable characters. Ritsuka is your typical teenager who is lively for one second and moody the next. Mafuyu, on the other hand, is notably depressed and lifeless due to unknown circumstances.

As we embark on this rollercoaster ride with them, we explore issues about self-confidence, depression, suicide, and overcoming adversity. Being an adolescent is no easy feat, and in this chaos of adolescence, the mixture of raw, feel-good and hard-hitting moments between Ritsuka and Mafuyu will surprisingly motivate viewers to continue the anime.

They’re not the best people at communicating and sharing their problems, but as we watch their bond evolve into something, they will either make you squirm with delight or overwhelm you with their relationship’s intensity.

But most importantly of all, it will remind you of the times when love problems – as an adolescent – seemed bigger and more important than anything else in the world. And we’re all for it. 

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Thankfully, the story of Given doesn’t just focus on one relationship — it also focuses on other relationships, including a brewing bromance between Haruki and Akihiko.

At one point, we became intrigued by their complex bromance that we didn’t even want to go back to Mafuyu and Ritsuka’s romance. Not only was it refreshing to see how Given intertwine these worlds so effortlessly, but it also enables insight into the characters’ interaction and their bonds’ development over time. 

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Rating: C+

GIVEN is a ultimate hit and miss. The story kicks off in a spectacularly anti-climactic fashion but the slow-burning story requires much-needed attention and patience from viewers.

While it may seem all bitterness on our end, our overall impression of Given dramatically changed when we witness Mafuyu (and the band) bringing the house down. The audience in the story was reduced to tears and speechlessness — and so were we.

And believe it or not, we gradually fell in love with Given.

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