Back in 2019, Crunchyroll streamed an underrated gem that received little traction aside from a few devoted fans and a writeup on Anime News Network. That series, Given, was the story of how a young adult, Mafuyu, finds his purpose in life and begins healing from trauma. His therapy? Learning to play the guitar, writing songs, and falling in love with the classmate who teaches him. He also learns more about music thanks to the two university students that are in the band that Ritsuka also belongs to. After eleven episodes and an hour long movie, I can honestly say that this series also made me regret not learning guitar at one point in my life. However, damn if this series hasn’t reignited my love for music. I’m not normally a person who’s into BL, but watching this series was engrossing in all of the drama.
In the first episode of the series, we see Mayufu staring at what appears to be a body hanging while clutching a guitar. Later on, we learn that this body was Mayufu’s boyfriend. He keeps his late lover’s guitar and, one day at school, runs into Ritsuka, pissed that Mayufu’s in his usual napping spot. Ritsuka is a guitar player and horrified that this idiot before him is clutching a quality guitar without any clue how to play. He’s horrified at how clueless Mayufu seems to be — until he teaches Mayufu to strum a few chords. As it turns out, Mayufu has a gift: his voice and his natural musical inclination for music. He picks up the guitar right away, much to Ritsuka’s astonishment, and the surprised teacher introduces Mayufu to the other two members of the band that he plays in:, two college students, Haruki on bass and Akihiko at the drums. Eventually, Mayufu discovers his talents and learns to heal through the power of music. He also finds new love with Ritsuka after coming to terms with his boyfriend’s death.
Given: The Movie focuses on the two adults of the group.
As fans of the series know, Haruki has secretly been in love with Akihiko ever since they met at university despite the fact that Akihiko is a bit of a player. Akihiko also has a rather tempestuous relationship with his roommate, a famous violinist. Ugetsu is a pain, but Akihiko can’t stay away from him. That is, until watching his two younger bandmates’ budding love reawakens his own passion for music…and for Haruki. There’s definitely a happy ending with these two, setting up for a potential sequel season. If you can’t wait for the anime gods to bless us with a second season like me, there’s always the manga that’s available now.
The movie is only an hour long, so it just gets to the story right away instead of meandering all over the place. However, be warned: if you’re just jumping into the movie, it might be a good idea to watch the series first or at least get some spoilers or read the manga. Animation wise, it retains the clear direction and style it maintained during the series. The soundtrack…man I wish this was licensed on Apple Music for the West, because it’s some of the best I’ve heard for an anime. Kudos also goes to the voice actors as well, especially Mayufu’s actor who can sing for real. At just 59 minutes, the movie’s a pleasant way to spend a rainy day.
Character-wise, I still love Haruki the best, probably because being surrounded by people who seem to be more successful and creative at what they do than you are is something that I can personally relate to. In college, it seemed that everyone was more talented, accomplished, and always working on something cool (I went to an art school for a few years to major in video production/film). I also struggled with personal issues myself. In the end, though, I found my own groove. Mayufu also finds his groove and comes into his own as a musical genius, which really resonated with me.
What drew me to Given originally was the music. Idol/music anime is a favorite genre of mine, and I had heard a snippet of the OP one day and became interested. I’m also not normally interested in yaoi; the last series that I got into like that was Yuri on Ice, and one could classify that as more of a sports anime. However, I’m a sucker for a good romance anime every so often, and Given fits the bill.
Secondly, I liked the fact that it stars adult characters. I love Haruki, and Akihiko is a rarity in anime in that he’s bisexual. As a couple, they have nice chemistry. I’d love to see more on them, other than the short hour we get for the movie. In the meantime, for fans (like me) who can’t wait for a second season, the manga is available now from SuBlime.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy high school rom-coms as much as other anime fans (especially this season’s Horimiya) but sometimes I’d rather watch something that features people more around my age and characters that I can more directly relate to.
Lastly, I got into this due to the music, as I’ve mentioned before. There was something about it that hit me when I first heard it. It’s not the usual perky JPop; it’s rock and roll and it works. And while idol anime is a guilty pleasure of mine, it’s not too often that a rock band is the focus of a series unless there’s a gimmick to it. It reminded me a lot of BECK: Mongolian Squad, which was one of the first anime that I had ever owned. I hope to own both the movie and the series one day.
So if you’re looking for an anime with romance and a banging soundtrack, Given is definitely worth a look!
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