I was reading this post on OTAKU LOUNGE, and I noticed a few people recommending the anime White Album 2. I picked it up a week ago and so far, I’m enjoying it. Besides the romance, it’s also got a large musical aspect. So in this post, I’ll be doing something a bit different from my usual reviews, and I’ll take a look at some of the (in)attention to musical details, particularly of guitars, in the show.
Very minor spoilers for White Album 2 follow. Like, really, really minor.
The main character, Haruki Kitahara, is an amateur guitarist who’s been playing for around six months. So far, the anime has featured a large amount of his guitar playing. What immediately stood out to me is the sound of his guitar. It didn’t sound like a polished studio recording; instead, it sounded like someone who hadn’t been playing for long. For example, when practising White Album, his timing wasn’t perfect, and neither was his technique (episode 1, 19:35). The way he screwed up the Sound of Destiny guitar solo while rehearsing seemed realistic as well (episode 5, 00:10). I appreciate these details. The guitar-work was representative of Haruki’s skill, and this added credibility to the scenes. Also (while I won’t be discussing them) both Setsuna and Kazusa’s musical abilities were portrayed accurately. I could believe Setsuna was a self-taught vocalist with some natural talent, and Kazusa’s piano… yeah. Awesome.
Let’s get back to Haruki. An element which both pleased and displeased me was his improvement on guitar. After many hours of intensive practice, he was able to master the chords of the song White Album. I’ve taken a look at the chords, and although I don’t know the song very well, from the quick strum I had they sounded accurate. Apart from D13, the rest of the chords aren’t too hard (if you can do bar chords), so it’s reasonable that he could learn it in the short amount of time he had. What I’m not happy about is how quickly he learned that guitar solo (I say with rampant jealousy rushing through my veins). Putting it plainly, learning a tricky solo in a few days is absolute rubbish. It’s important for musicians to practise, and practising will give improvement, but practising ten hours a day for a few days won’t magically make you a good guitarist. I played guitar for five years and practised half an hour a day. It took me three or four years to get to that level. This is something that irked me. Maybe if he had started as a more skilful player, learning the solo would have been more realistic. But then there wouldn’t be the challenge of learning White Album. Problems problems…
Continuing my grump, the musical practices and performances were poorly animated in general. Now, these things probably eat into the animation budget (which is probably why they have so many shots from behind), but it’s a music-themed show, so they might as well do it properly, right? During the guitar solo in episode 6 (9:58), it’s clear that the notes being played are up the neck. So why do they have his left hand near the head of the guitar? This simply exudes laziness. Since they had someone play all the music parts anyway, couldn’t they film them and base their animation on that? It was better in the concert’s guitar solo, though. Mostly.
Apart from that though, the fingering was well-animated, especially the part directly after that bend. Okay, there were only two parts where his playing was shown, the beginning and the end of the song, but how the guitar moved on the final notes, the finger positions and the finish of the song looked solid. Well done to the animators there.
In the end, these things aren’t going to influence my opinion of the anime nearly as much as the character interactions that drive the story. But I think attention to detail shows care, makes the anime feel realistic, and indicates higher quality. How do you feel about details in anime? Can they make or break a show? Are they just extra toppings on the pizza? Or do they not make a difference?