Given is Back and is Still Good, Actually

For those unaware, Given is a manga series written and illustrated by Natsuki Kizu. It follows four students in an amateur rock band and the romantic relationships they form – between the drummer, Akihiko Kaji, and the bassist, Haruki Nakayama, and the electric guitarist, Ritsuka Uenoyama, and the lead vocalist and newest member of the band, Mafuyu Satō. It’s been ongoing since 2013, and has spawned multiple adaptations, including an anime in 2012, and, most recently, and the inspiration for this article, a live action tv show, which recently premiered on Crunchyroll. In the entirely biased opinion of this author, all three versions are very good, and you should definitely check them out.

The live action adaptation seems to be following in its predecessors’ footsteps with excellent production values, an outstanding cast, and some truly brilliant musical talent. It has so far managed to remain as respectful towards its subject matter as the manga and anime adaptation were. The story is just as sweet, gentle, and occasionally heartbreaking as I remember it from the anime adaptation (my first introduction to the series), and the characters themselves are just as lovable and loving. The care they have for each other is apparent from their first interactions on screen, and I’m excited to see how they develop their characters from here.

While both anime and live action adaptations have done very well in adapting the romance between Ritsuka and Mafuyu, the anime didn’t delve too deeply into the one between Akihiko and Haruki, (likely because the anime was only one season, and chose to use the time they had to focus on the “main” couple) I’m excited to see how the live action handles it, especially since they seem to be striving for more of a balance between the two.

It is far more refreshing than it should be that none of the conflict in any version of this story (that I’ve seen) stems from the fact that the characters are gay (unlike some recent releases I could mention). While it does have its fair share of tragedy, neither the original manga nor its adaptations ever falls in the unfortunately popular trope or How Sad and Terrible Queer Lives Must Inevitably Be.

Though it isn’t perfect, Given is a highly relatable story of young people falling in love and making excellent music, and also the band just happens to be made up of gay people. Given does an excellent job of making the queerness of its characters just another facet of the story, instead of the whole of who these characters are. They have lives and families and dreams, and they just happen to be gay, and that is, honestly, a relief for someone whose grown up surrounded by media where Being Gay is either the whole of who a character is, or an unfortunate obstacle that they must overcome lest they meet an unfortunate end. These characters are allowed to be well-rounded, genuinely interesting people, who form a rock band and fall in love, just like anyone else.

The bar for representation is in the molten core of the Earth, and Given manages to at least clear the atmosphere, is what I’m saying.

Go watch it.

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