I was wondering what to post about in my seasonal spot now that the season is over. When I happen to catch the special episode of Given, I figured it would be perfect. Well except for the fact that I thought it was a 6-minute mini-episode. Spoilers, it went by really fast for me. It’s regular length but it flew by…
Given on the other hand is a single episode length ova that was bundled with the first season of Given. (I reviewed that season with Karandi if you’re interested). It is currently available on Crunchyroll and if you were a fan of the series, let me save you the end of this post and say you should go ahead and watch it. It’s a perfect continuation of the story.
Given on the other hand takes place at the same time as the events of the movie and even ends on the scene of Kaji telling the band he is now dating Haruki. A very cute scene I might add. But it follows Ueno and Mafuyu instead.
Basically on the other hand explores what happens after the rush of courtship dies down and a couple has to settle into the reality of actually being a couple. And we rarely get to see this particular moment in relationships. I love it. Of course, it’s a time with a lot of particular challenges. Mafuyu is in his first relationship since Yuuki and still has a lot of trauma to deal with. Honestly, all things considered, he’s doing great, way better than I would have.
Ueno on the other hand (ha) is a bit of a mess. He’s never really been in any sort of meaningful romantic relationship before, let alone with another man, and he has no clue what to do with himself. He’s jealous but he doesn’t even know why or of who. He trusts Mafuyu and honestly doesn’t think he would get cheated on but it still irks him that Mafuyu has other interests. He’s both excited about and simultaneously terrified of the idea of taking their physical relationship further.
He wants to take all of Mafuyu’s pain away, immediately. But he knows he can’t and even if he could, it wouldn’t be healthy.
Mostly though, Ueno is and has always been, a huge awkward dork. That hasn’t changed in the least. And since he is the point of view character for Given: On the other hand, he gets to really appreciate just how awkward and how much of a dork he is. And that makes him super loveable.
Through it all though, and it’s not like that much happens (Mafuyu writes a song and Ueno supports him, that’s about it), you can really tell that these two care about each other. A lot. And gosh darn it, I think these crazy kids are going to be o.k.!
On a technical level, Given On the Other Hand looks like Given. The visuals are what we’ve come to know. There is a staircase scene and to me, that’s a visual must in any real Given episode. If there are further seasons and they graduate, they are going to have to have an unexplainably similar staircase at their university if they want to make it work for me!
Fittingly, however, it’s the sound design that really sets Given apart. At least it did in this OVA. I’m not sure if I just don’t remember it properly but Given is sort of…quiet. Mafuyu pretty much whispers most of the time and therefore the other characters tend to speak a bit more quietly around him. For around 2/3 of the runtime of this episode there was no background music at all, only atmospheric sounds like birds chirping, the low din of people talking in the hallway, and the sound of chalk on a blackboard. If there was any music, it was because a character was actively playing it.
In a show so concerned with music, it’s very meaningful that they would use it so carefully and sparingly. Sure it creates a more sombre atmosphere throughout and maybe things feel a bit more dramatic than they would otherwise but at the same time, it really punctuates the impact and importance of music. At one point Mafuyu sings a cappella for an impressive stretch of time. And from what I could hear there was minimal digital alteration/correction of his voice. And it’s just such a powerful moment. The rush of emotion and earnestness coming through was astounding. Given had carefully avoided most other music during the OVA and even when other bands were playing it cut away before we got to hear their set. Mafuyu’s song was the only true song we heard, and it made it extra special.
Also, they did some pacing magic because I could have sworn the episode just started when the closing credits were rolling.
Like I said, if you enjoyed Given, I think you should watch On the Other Hand. It’s a great dive back into the show for a little while. It’s not something you can enjoy if you haven’t watched the series. It presumes a level of familiarity and attachment to the characters on the part of the audience and just wouldn’t work as a first episode. But as a comeback special, it’s better than most!