“Given” First Impressions (Ep.1)

“Thinking back, it was this encounter that set my world racing forward at full speed.”

The six-episode live-action Given series is here, and it is beautiful. Given is an adaptation of Natsuki Kizu’s manga of the same name, and as a fan of both the manga and animated series, I admit I was a little wary of the live-action version. The anime does a brilliant job of weaving music, healing, and grief together in a tapestry of feels that is easy to relate to. It made me fall in love, setting a high bar for the live-action version.

I am not disappointed.

Although only one episode of the live-action has dropped, I already know it’s going to meet expectations. It opens strong with a spotlighted silhouette of Ritsuka Uenoyama (actor Jin Suzuki) playing guitar as a woeful voice-over narration expounds on his declining passion for playing the instrument. It’s apparent he’s searching for a lost musical part of himself. It’s this inner struggle to find what made him love music in the first place that drew me into the story the manga and anime told. No matter how much a person loves doing something, there often comes a period in life when stress and lack of inspiration swallow the joy and passion doing it once brought us.

Loss of passion for something you’ve dedicated your life to leaves an emptiness behind. Ritsuka Uenoyama is empty and weary. During this time in his life, he stumbles on Mafuyu Sato (actor/musician Sanari) sitting on an open staircase, hugging a damaged guitar.

The thing I love most about Given is that it tells a story about how even the most minor encounters can change the future, something as simple as stumbling on a small, depressed boy desperate to learn how to play the instrument he clings onto so tightly. There’s a story behind Mafuyu’s guitar, an attachment to it that the viewer instantly recognizes. It’s easy to see what draws Ritsuka to Mafuyu from the beginning. There’s something tired and lost about both of them.

For Mafuyu, Ritsuka is spectacular, a cool, talented person who can teach him how to play the instrument that holds him hostage emotionally. For Ritsuka, Mafuyu is the path back to inspiration. Teaching someone something you used to love can renew a personal passion for it.

Ritsuka and Mafuyu need each other. This apparent need captured my heart in the animated series, and it’s this same need that caught it again in the first episode of the live-action version. Capturing this desire on film is what this drama needs to succeed because there’s a complicated story of grief and burgeoning romance to tell, and that need is the foundation of the love destined to grow from this healing journey.

I look forward to walking this path with Mafuyu and Ritsuka, as well as band members Akihiko Kaji (actor Kai Inowaki) and Haruki Nakayama (actor Shuntaro Yanagi). Akihiko and Haruki only had a small part in the first episode, but their appearances tease a fuller story.

Whether you are a fan of the manga/anime or know nothing at all about it, I can promise that this is a love story you won’t want to miss. Join me in watching. You can find Given on WeTV/Tencent Video and CrunchyRoll.

Rating- 4.5 out of 5

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