On the surface, Given has a simple premise. This is an anime series about a group of guys who get together to form a band. As you dive deeper into the series, you'll discover there's a bigger, more intimate story beneath the bright visuals and cool guitar riffs.
This BL anime takes its time to build up to the main plot, but it’s an emotional journey that will tug at your heartstrings. When Given reaches its climax near the end, this anime comes pretty close to perfection.
Given Anime Summary
11 episodes + movie sequel
Around 4 hours + movie sequel
Calm and gentle
Yes, written by Natsuki Kizu
Yes, Given features multiple BL romances.
The series begins with a high school student named Mafuyu. He seems soft-spoken and reserved, with a vague air of melancholy around him. Mafuyu lugs around a guitar case with him wherever he goes, even though he has no idea how to play the instrument. Deep in his thoughts, Mafuyu tries to convince himself that he's not lonely. There’s something bothering him, but what is it?
One day, Mafuyu has a chance encounter with another student at his school. He is Uenoyama, a budding teenage musician who’s currently part of a three-man band. Uenoyama is aloof and just a little prickly, but he helps Mafuyu fix his guitar in a random gesture of kindness. As the two of them get acquainted, Uenoyama slowly learns more about his new companion, including the skeletons from his mysterious past.
"It all started with that chord I played. I had no idea that I was strumming hard on his heartstrings with my own fingers. Thinking back, it was this encounter that set my world racing forward at full speed."
Given Anime OP
Given Anime Characters
Yuuma Uchida (内田雄馬)
Uenoyama is a high school student and the guitarist of his band. Although he looks cool and aloof, Uenoyama is actually quite loyal and friendly once you get to know him. He invites Mafuyu to join his band after a chance encounter at school.
Shōgo Yano (矢野奨吾)
Mafuyu is a high school student and the vocalist of his band. He is a sensitive and soft-spoken teenager who often gets lost in his thoughts. With a mysterious past, Mafuyu doesn't know much about music, but seems very eager to learn how to play the guitar.
Masatomo Nakazawa (中澤まさとも)
Haruki is a college student and the bassist of his band. He has a warm, easygoing personality and can get along with pretty much everyone. As a side gig, Haruki is a model for his friend's online hairdressing vlog.
Takuya Eguchi (江口拓也)
Akihiko is a college student and the drummer of his band. Although he might not seem that approachable or talkative, he is the effortlessly cool guy of the group. Akihiko lives with his roommate Ugetsu, who is a talented violinist.
Yuuki Shin (新祐樹)
Shintarō Asanuma (浅沼晋太郎)
Fumiya Imai (今井文也)
Taito Ban (坂泰斗)
Ayaka Asai (朝井彩加)
Takeuchi Ryouta (竹内良太 )
Given Anime Series Review
Anime Review Score: 8.8
Given is a great BL anime, and I know this because it's one of those shows that stayed with me long after finishing it. I still remember some of the scenes vividly from Episode 9, and recall all the emotions that Mafuyu's song evoked out of me. In that one single episode, Given reached such incredible emotional heights that it made up for the slow start or whatever minor misgivings I had about certain plot developments. An anime that made me feel so strongly is rare, and I know to cherish it in my heart.
I think how much you'd like Given may depend on how engaged you are with Mafuyu's storyline. Personally, I was so emotionally invested in discovering his story. Every episode, they would reveal just a little bit more about him, peeling layer after layer to a nuanced character. It was devastating to learn about Yuki's death, and the role that Mafuyu may have played in it.
A tragedy of that magnitude would've overwhelmed anyone, but Given also did a good job at depicting Mafuyu's healing process. The music, as well as Uenoyama's affection, helped Mafuyu gain closure and recover from some of his deep emotional wounds.
Given did a fantastic job tugging at my heartstrings. However, I don't want to give anyone the wrong impression that Given is a depressing show. On the contrary, the anime is pretty uplifting considering its subject matter. There's a good mix of comedy and lighthearted romance along with the more serious elements.
It's an anime about healing, moving on, and finding joy after a devastating loss. Given may make you a little emotional at times, but it will also make you laugh, think, and maybe hum along to the catchy melody. You'll discover a sense of bliss after watching Given, just like Mafuyu did by the end of the series.
📖 How is the story?
The story about these guys coming together to form a band was decent, but the story about Mafuyu coping with his boyfriend's death was the main selling point for me. In this storyline, it's impressive how Given touched upon some big universal themes like grief, loss, depression, as well as the healing process. They did an exceptional job portraying this story.
💕 How is the romance?
The romantic arc between Mafuyu and Uenoyama was ultimately satisfying, although it did leave me wanting a bit more from them. I gotta say, Uenoyama was extra cute in the last two episodes when he was fretting about his relationship with Mafuyu. 😊 As for the romance between Haruki and Akihiko, it felt a little sidelined in the anime, but hopefully that will change in the Given movie (which I have now watched!)
🎨 How is the art?
I thought it was pretty good. The four main characters looked pretty distinct, each with a unique personal style. I especially liked how Haruki's hairstyle would change its appearance in between the episodes.
😎 Who's the best character?
Mafuyu is the most complex character in the anime, and there's no denying that he has the biggest emotional arc in the series. I liked learning a little more about Mafuyu each episode, and it felt like an epic journey when we explore his full backstory in Episode 9. As a side note, I also have a soft spot for Haruki and find his character immensely likable.
🍆 Is there any fanservice?
Yes, we actually see a quick glimpse of Mafuyu bottoming for Yuki in Episode 9. It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, but it's there. Other than that scene, the fanservice is on the tame side in Given.
🎯 Are there any triggers?
Yuki's suicide is very triggering, and it gets worse once you learn about the circumstances of his death. The entire anime is about Mafuyu learning to cope, move on, and forgive himself over what happened to his ex-boyfriend.
⭐ What's the best part?
Can I say the OP? I must've watched that opening dozens of times. My favourite part is that brief second when we wee Yuki's arms wrap themselves around Mafuyu and his guitar. I don't really know why, but that single shot always stirs up my emotions. There's just something very poignant about getting a phantom embrace from your dead boyfriend.
📝 What would you change?
More Yuki. I think an extra episode focused on his relationship with Mafuyu, including their full argument, would've really hit the spot. I also would've liked if they amped up the pacing a bit more in the beginning. It felt like the first eight episodes were like the rollercoaster slowly going up the ramp before reaching the climax of Episode 9.
Given Anime ED
Given Anime Episodes
Given has a total of 11 episodes. Each episode is around 22 minutes long. This is a medium-length BL anime, and you can finish the entire series in approximately 4 hours. There is also a movie sequel that takes place after the anime.
⭐ Best episode: My favourite episode in Given is absolutely Episode 9. That’s not to say this is the only remarkable episode in Given, since the others are quite good as well, but it is the one that made the biggest impression on me. If you’ve watched that episode, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Since I've referenced this episode a couple of times in the review, I want to elaborate on it more in the next section.
Mafuyu going up on stage and singing his song was not surprising in the least. Anyone who watched anime, or consumed any form of fiction whatsoever, could've seen this obvious plot development coming from a mile away.
Of course he was gonna sing the song, despite having no previous inclination to do so whatsoever. That's just how Narrative 101 works, okay? I wouldn't have anything to write about if Mafuyu stood up on stage and just thought about his dead boyfriend silently. You need to vocalize your grief, baby!
I gotta say though, if Mafuyu pulled this crap on me in real life, I'd be so mad at him. Like, you couldn't decide to announce that you were singing the song earlier, back when your band was stressing for days about what to do? Or when you guys were practicing in rehearsal? Or even in the moment right before you stepped onto stage? You gotta pull this surprise here and now with no damn warning!? Mafuyu is lucky he got the pipes, or else this diva behaviour would've gotten him kicked out of any band, pronto.
Mafuyu and Yuki flashback
I really liked the flashback montage that was used during Mafuyu's song, giving us a quick but revealing overview of his relationship with Yuki. We saw a glimpse of his childhood, where a wide-eyed Mafuyu witnessed his father's arrest, with Yuki holding his hand for comfort. This scene put into context of how long the two of them had known each other, and how strong their bond was since they were young. Yuki wasn't just some fling from middle school, but he was a dear childhood friend whose relationship with Mafuyu blossomed into love.
Knowing this, of course, only made what happened to Yuki all the more tragic. It added another dimension to Mafuyu's grief.
Mafuyu and Yuki kiss
To demonstrate how intimate Mafuyu and Yuki were in their relationship, we even saw a kiss and a sex scene between them. Oh come on, don't act like you aren't excited. You know you mainly watch BL for scenes like these.
Again, this scene gave us context and more insights into their relationship. We've heard before that Yuki was described as "dominant". Now we know exactly why. 😉
Mafuyu's last words to Yuki
"Are you willing to die for me then!?"
Yikes. Talk about words that you'll live to regret. The impact of this sentence during Mafuyu's song sent shivers down my spine. Given didn't have to show the full argument (although it would've been nice to see) for me to understand the high emotions in this scene. I can paint a pretty clear picture, knowing what happened to Yuki afterwards, and witnessing the sorry state of Mafuyu since then.
What Mafuyu said to Yuki was incredibly hurtful, but I can also understand that it's something you'd slip up and say in the heat of the moment. You don't mean it, but you wanted a way to express your anger or your hurt, and the choice of words just happened to be melodramatic. Had Yuki not died, what Mafuyu said wouldn't have registered that much. But it was the unfortunate correlation between Mafuyu's words and Yuki's death that made these final words all the more tragic.
Mafuyu's memories of Yuki
Another detail I liked is when they showed Mafuyu looking at random people and then associating them with his memories of Yuki. For example, he'd see two girls chatting at the train station, and it'd weirdly remind him of the time that he was chatting with Yuki in this location. The connection doesn't make sense, but that's the nature of grief. When you're mourning, something unexpected may trigger your memory and you suddenly get reminded of somebody or something that used to happen.
This was just a very quick moment during the flashback montage, but I liked how it showed the state of Mafuyu's psyche. He sees Yuki at the train station, he sees Yuki when Uenoyama talks to him, he sees Yuki everywhere in his surroundings, but he is also nowhere at the same time.
Of course, we can't have a flashback montage of Yuki without the moment that hurts the most: his death. If you watched the first scene in Episode 1 carefully, they actually showed the circumstances of Yuki's death right from the start. A floor sprawled with empty beer cans, Mafuyu looking up in shock, and Yuki's lifeless feet dangling in mid-air. You wouldn't get it at the time, but these visuals really register with you on a rewatch.
I bet there's discourse about how responsible Mafuyu might be in Yuki's suicide, but I don't wanna play the blame game. Pinning Yuki's death on Mafuyu is such an unreasonably enormous cross to bear. Mafuyu found the dead body of the man he loved, which was already such a traumatic event. The poor kid suffered enough already without having to feel like he caused Yuki's death as well.
Mafuyu's song lyrics
I also want to take a moment and comment on the song lyrics. One of the downsides to watching foreign-language BL is that words get lost in translation, especially for something as open-ended as song lyrics. Nevertheless, I think the translated lyrics capture the essence of Mafuyu's emotions perfectly. Every line in Mafuyu's song has a special meaning, and their impact only amplifies when you splice in his flashback scenes with Yuki.
I just think Mafuyu's entire song was handled magnificently. From the lyrics to the animation, Given polished everything to perfection. There's a reason why I could write so much about a single scene in an anime episode. They did such a terrific job with this episode, and it just resonated with me so much.
Mafuyu and Uenoyama kiss
After the performance, Mafuyu rushed backstage, followed by Uenoyama who immediately seized this opportunity to kiss him in the mouth. That's some hardcore swagger right there, am I right? Look at this motherfucking rock star, who just came off stage from an electrifying performance, and now he thinks he gets to tap dat ass as well. Move over Jim Morrison, we have a new sex icon right here!
Of course, Mafuyu was an emotional mess and I don't really know if kissing him was supposed to make him feel better. Poor Mafuyu's body was trembling, and he could barely catch his breath, but Uenoyama took one look at him and thought: "You know what Mafuyu needs right now? A tissue? Some water? NO, LET'S GIVE HIM A FULL-ON KISS!!! 💋💋💋"
I'm just joking. I think it was probably the right time to include a kiss between these two characters, at least from a narrative point of view. It was all because of Uenoyama that Mafuyu:
- Learned to play the guitar
- Joined the band
- Wrote the song
- Found the courage to perform
- Gained closure on Yuki's death.
During the series, Uenoyama sometimes gets eclipsed all the angsty drama happening, but he played an important role in Mafuyu's healing process. Uenoyama helped Mafuyu a lot and he deserved a little reward, hehe.
After the emotional song and the exhilirating kiss, Mafuyu finally broke into tears and then fell into a catatonic shock for the rest of the show. His reaction made sense, to be honest. Mafuyu just bared his soul in front of a live audience, singing his innermost thoughts from the heart. It was painful, it was vulnerable, and it was as emotionally raw as we've seen his character.
What made the episode so effective was that Given had been building up to this moment for the past eight episodes. In the past, we've seen Mafuyu in a constant state of melancholy, wandering through life sadly and aimlessly. He never outright addressed Yuki's death, choosing to hide or run away when Hiragi confronted him about it. Mafuyu's defense mechanism seemed to be bottling up his feelings so that he'd feel numb about Yuki's death and life in general.
After repressing his grief for the whole series, this song was like Mafuyu breaking down his barriers and unleashing a tsunami of emotions all at once. It was such a powerful release of all his regrets, his sorrows, his loneliness, and his anguish from losing Yuki. This was the breakthrough that Mafuyu needed to let go of Yuki's memory and move on with a new chapter of his life. This episode represented an enormous character development for Mafuyu, and I'm glad to see him reach this point in his personal journey.
Mafuyu Song in Given Episode 9
Given Anime Movie Sequel & Remake
Given Movie 2020 anime movie Anime review
After finishing the anime series, fans can continue the story with the anime movie that was released in 2020. The Given Movie is a sequel that takes place after the anime series has completed. It focuses more on the love story between Haruki and Akihiko.
Unfortunately, I don't think the Given Movie is as good as the anime series, but it's still worth a watch if you're a hardcore fan.
Given 2021 live-action series Drama review
A live-action remake of Given was released in 2021. With only six episodes, it's a much more streamlined version of the story, leaving out many of the nuances that make the anime so great. It basically follows the exact same plot as the Given anime. The main difference is that some plots are condensed or cut out for the sake of time.
I would not recommend the Given drama, which is inferior to the anime series. The last episode isn't entirely bad, and the last episode still resonates with hefty emotions, but it's rushed and lacks nuance. If you're a fan of the anime, you might be disappointed by the quality of this drama. At least I was!