When the live-action remake of the Japanese manga/anime ‘Given’ was announced, fans were thrilled. And sure, there were many who were skeptical of whether it could match up to the standards of the anime version. Originally written and illustrated by Natsuki Kizu, ‘Given’ is a music themed story that follows the lives of four youngsters in an amateur rock-band. The musical number in the climax of the anime had given several viewers goosebumps (including me), not because the song was amazing, but because all the pent up feelings of the protagonist is finally voiced in a beautiful lyrical impromptu performance. The singer’s grief and catharsis is passed on to the viewer.
With only six episode in the live-action series, a lot of fun scenes and side stories do not find their place in the 2021 version directed by Miki Koichiro. The story primarily focuses on Ritsuka and Mafuyu, two strangers, who meet by the staircase of their school, the only thread binding them is their interest in music. So does the live-action remake come close to the magic of the anime? Well… let’s discuss the cast first.
Suzuki Jin as lead guitarist Uenoyama Ritsuka and Sanari as Satou Mafuyu are pretty perfect for their roles. Jin looks every bit the good-looking arrogant Ritsuka, and is able to emote both the hot-headed and soft-side of his characters with ease. Some fans have complained about how Sanari looks old for a high-school student, but funnily, the actor was only 18 at the time of shooting, making him the youngest member of the main cast and also the only one who is closest to the age of high-school student. Even though ‘Given’ is his debut role, Sanari plays the complex role of the shy emotionally scarred Satou with a lot of heart, and exudes the vulnerability of a teenager who has lost someone important. A much older Yanagi Shuntaro looks just fine as the child-like Haruki, who is the most easy-going member of the band. Only Inowaki Kai looked very out of place and miscast as Kaji Akihiko. While Akihiko’s personality in the manga/anime is passionate, intense and intimidating, Kai seems laid-back and harmless (and forgettable). Onodera Akira as Yuki also came across as a casting misfire.
Visually, ‘Given’ has a slightly retro vibe to it, as if it’s set in the late 90s or the early 2000s. Some of the camerawork is really good, especially a 360 degree shot in the first episode, where the screen pans in a circular motion between Ritsuka and Mafuyu, when the latter asks if he can get Guitar lessons. The scene perfectly symbolizes how their world is spinning out of their control. Each episode ends with a little cliff-hanger and a fun closing credit song titled ‘Strange Day’ by Panorama Panama Town. I loved the song, it really fits into the whole high-school rock band set up.
While the first five episode move fast, and stay largely loyal to the Manga, there are a few changes to tighten up the script more. It’s only during episode six, where the mood of the series dips a little, but manages to pick up in the final climactic minutes. The final Mafuyu song is not as hair-raising or emotional as the one in the anime version, so that comes as a slight disappointment, but the immediate scene post the song between the two leads washes it off.
The end feels a little abrupt, but will seem so only to those who have watched the anime version, where there are way more scenes. However, it actually makes for a more clean, sweet and optimistic ending than the Anime adaptation. If the makers decide not to continue to the series and we don’t get a season two, just this 6 episode show makes for a good standalone show by itself. However, a sequel would be very nice, because what has been served by director Miki Koichiro only feels like the beginning of something.
For a lot of fans, the re-watch value of this 2021 adaptation will not be as high as the anime version, but it’s worth a one-time watch. It’s a 7/10 for me.