Tada Banri is just starting out as a student at a law school in Tokyo. About a year prior to this, he had fallen off a bridge, got severely injured, and completely lost his memories. Who emerged from the hospital after that accident was a very different Banri from the one that entered. Hence, to begin life anew unconstrained by what the past demanded of him, he had decided to escape to Tokyo. But being from the country, regardless of having his memories or not, Tokyo was a very confusing place, and as he was going to the student orientation he got lost. But he ends up meeting someone else who was also completely lost, Yanagisawa Mitsuo, and they both instantly become friends. On their way to the orientation, suddenly a beautiful girl appears out of nowhere, congratulates Mitsuo for entering college, smacks him a couple time with a bouquet of roses, and then leaves, leaving Banri dumbfounded. That girl is Kaga Kouko, a very rich childhood friend of Mitsuo, who was very used to getting her way, and had determined that she was going to go out with and eventually marry Mitsuo regardless of his opinions on the matter. Hence, Mitsuo had come to Tokyo to try to escape from her, but apparently his plan had failed. Still, he continues to do his utmost best to avoid her, and life goes on.
As Banri struggles with being in a completely new place and having lost all of his memories, he encounters and becomes friends with many new people. Foremost both Mitsuo and Koko, which leads to some conflicts of interest. There’s an upperclassman girl named Linda from the Festival club, which he ends up joining, and seemingly seems to have some connection to. There’s also Satoutaka, AKA 2D-kun, who Banri ends up going through a horrible situation with and they end up becoming fast friends. And Oka Chinami, a cheerful and somewhat small upperclassman girl who’s in the Film Studies club alongside Mitsuo, and ends up growing close to them as well. With the pressure of his lost memories hanging over his head and continually getting worse, a number of relationships begin and develop as Banri does his best in his new life, most prominently the one that begins when he falls in love with Koko.
Golden Time is by the same author as ToraDora and hits many of the same notes. It’s primarily about the journey a group of friends takes in terms of the web of relationships they’re embedded in, with the focus being heavily on the twists and turns thereof. But it was also a good amount more intense than I expected, and a good amount more so than ToraDora. What makes Golden Time very different is that a heavy portion of the relationship building happens immediately, by which I primarily mean that Banri and Koko start going out very early on, with the rest being focused on the challenges that their relationship faces, the largest of which by far is the issue with Banri’s memories. This memory gimmick as I like to call it, is one of the core aspects of the show from beginning to end and what consistently drives an overarching plot forward. There are a number of different facets to this, such as conflicts with relationships with Banri’s past life, as well as a fear that his old memories would return and overwrite the new him, and though a heavy portion of it felt repetitive to the point that it even got somewhat frustrating, in the end I think that helped it achieve its goals of hammering in the central themes relating to the meaning of identity.
There was a very large amount of depth to Golden Time using symbolism and subtle cues, such as most prominently the matching mirror’s Koko and Banri share, the shoes Linda gave Banri, Banri’s mother’s ring, various character’s hair, the bridge Banri fell off of, and the Okamera. These are used as a means of showing many core points, though some more successfully than others. Due to how heavily these are used towards the end leads to an ending that feels a bit lacking beyond what’s occurring in the forefront, in that essentially all plot threads other than the main one focusing on Banri and Koko have minimal endings embedded primarily in symbolism and subtle cues, which felt very hand wavy and in a way like they were shrugged off. Another somewhat different reason that this leads to a very strange ending is that it takes the metaphor related to the memory gimmick to a bizarre conclusion. Throughout the show, there is a ghost of Banri’s past life that no one can see, but is used to indicate things for the viewer. At most it seems to be a construct in the inner depths of Banri’s mind. This is until the ending, at which point things get very bizarre, and not only does Banri meet this ghost, but someone else does as well, and the ghost is even indicated to have performed a physical action. Now I believe that all of this happened in Banri’s head as a sort of hallucination, but there are a large number of inconsistencies involved with that scene, such as the fact that the ghost of Banri’s past life, and Banri with his past memories aren’t entirely the same person in terms of character or memories, and just overall it felt out of place.
Now that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the story or ending. The overall story is very well written and very well paced and definitely hits all the emotional highs it tries to, especially with the ending which in terms of the main plot is incredibly satisfying and a solid way to conclude the journey Banri and Koko go through.
The main characters were done very well. Banri was off balance for the entire show, and that felt consistent with his character, and as his entire character essentially developed from nothing over the course of the show, he got a tremendous amount of development. Koko was by far the most interesting however, and I character I liked tremendously. Her character all around was just amazing, headstrong and very unique, and in a way she ended up going through just as much development as Banri. There are a number of other characters that all have their own things going on that cross paths and develop relationships with Banri and Koko in different ways during various events, but I would argue that all of them are clearly side characters compared to Banri and Koko, as is indicated by the fact that no one else really appears in the OP or EDs. And approaching it from this perspective I think they’re handled pretty well and many of them were quite enjoyable to watch. Everyone was somewhat overtly dramatic, but at some level, when everyone’s is overly dramatic no one is, and nothing feels too out of place as you get used to it. The cast of characters being college students instead of high school students is also pretty unique, and added a sense of realism from not having to use any of the number of tropes that are used to give high school students a higher level of independence than one would expect them to have. It also resulted in their development being a bit different, in that it was less about growing into adults, and more about discovering what exactly growing into an adult means and questioning whether they were reaching that or not.
There was some comedy thought not that much and it was decent enough. The art and animation were decent. The soundtrack was pretty good. The first OP was decent, the second was strange but in a way fitting, and the the EDs were decent.
An interesting story about a guy who loses his memories and an obsessive girl falling in love that overall has a great story with a good amount of depth but has some missteps such as most prominently a layer of complexity to the loss of memories that isn’t all that consistent.