Uenoyama and Mafuyu form a connection over music in the Given series.

Given is a Japanese BL drama adapted from a manga, focusing on a group of musicians in a band. When the main characters meet in school, they form a connection over their shared interest in guitars. However, one of them is harbouring an emotional wound, which can only be healed through music and love.

Although I tried to keep an open mind about the Given series, it seriously underwhelmed me. Maybe I’m too biased due to my attachment to the anime, but this uninspired remake lacks heart and soul. Instead of watching the live-action drama, I would strongly recommend the Given anime for a much stronger reiteration of the story.

Give Series Summary

What is the drama called?

ギヴン

When was the drama released?

2021

Where was the drama made?

Japan

What is the language used in the drama?

Japanese

What is the drama’s genre?

Music

How would you describe the drama?

Deep and thoughtful

How long is the drama?

6 episodes

How long is each episode?

Around 22 minutes

Plot

Uenoyama is a high school student and a guitarist in an indie rock band. One day, he encounters another student named Mafuyu at school. Although Mafuyu carries a prestigious guitar with him, he doesn’t have any musical expertise. As they chat more, Mafuyu asks Uenoyama to teach him how to play the instrument.

Uenoyama initially declines the request, but changes his mind after he’s moved by Mafuyu’s persistence and sincerity. Along with one-on-one guitar lessons, Uenoyama also introduces Mafuyu to his band. His bandmates are Akihiko and Haruta, who play the drums and the bass respectively.

During one of their guitar lessons, Uenoyama is pleasantly surprised by Mafuyu’s powerful singing voice. Moved by his vocals, Uenoyama asks him to join their band and become the new vocalist. Mafuyu rejects the offer at first, because he doesn’t have the confidence to perform on stage. However, Uenoyama believes in Mafuyu’s talent and insists that he joins the band.

Beneath his gentle persona, Mafuyu harbours an emotional secret. His past is filled with a devastating personal tragedy, tied to the guitar that he carries. Uenoyama soon discovers that his new bandmate has more hidden depths than meets the eye.

Given Series Cast

Characters

Uenoyama Jin Suzuki (鈴木仁) Jin Suzuki Instagram

Uenoyama is portrayed by the Japanese actor Jin Suzuki (鈴木仁).

Uenoyama is a high school student with a passion for music. He is the guitarist in an indie band. Uenoyama has a stern, tough-talking persona, even though he’s a bit of a softie inside. He lives with his older sister, who is currently dating his bandmate Akihiko.

Mafuyu Sanari (さなり) Sanari Instagram

Mafuyu is portrayed by the Japanese actor Sanari (さなり).

Mafuyu is a student who attends the same high school as Uenoyama. He has a quiet, timid personality and can’t express himself articulately. Mafuyu possesses an expensive guitar, but doesn’t know how to play it at the beginning of the series. However, he is a fast learner and figures out how to play the guitar quickly.

Akihiko Kai Inowaki (井之脇海) Kai Inowaki Instagram

Akihiko is portrayed by the Japanese actor Kai Inowaki (井之脇海).

Akihiko is the drummer in Uenoyama’s band. He is a cool and slick young man with dyed hair and piercings. He also smokes heavily and rides the motorcycle. Akihiko is dating Uenoyama’s older sister.

Haruki Shuntaro Yanagi (柳俊太郎) Shuntaro Yanagi Instagram

Haruki is portrayed by the Japanese actor Haruki Shuntaro Yanagi (柳俊太郎) Shuntaro.

Haruki is the bassist in Uenoyama’s band. He is friendly and sociable, getting along with everyone in the band. Haruki is close with Akihiko and has a secret crush on him. However, he doesn’t dare to act upon his feelings.

Supporting Cast

Hiiragi is portrayed by the Japanese actor So Okuno (奥野壮).

Hiiragi

So Okuno (奥野壮)

Yuki is portrayed by the actor Akira Onodera (小野寺晃良).

Yuki

Akira Onodera (小野寺晃良)

Ugetsu is portrayed by the Japanese actor Yu Inaba (稲葉友).

Ugetsu

Yu Inaba (稲葉友)

Uenoyama's sister is portrayed by Arisa Yagi (八木アリサ).

Uenoyama’s sister

Arisa Yagi (八木アリサ)

Kasai is portrayed by the Japanese actress Riko Nagase (永瀬莉子).

Kasai

Riko Nagase (永瀬莉子)

Itaya is portrayed by the Japanese actor Ryutaro Yamasaki (山崎竜太郎).

Itaya

Ryutaro Yamasaki (山崎竜太郎)

Cast highlights

  • Hiiragi’s actor So Okuno appeared in the 2021 Japanese BL movie Pornographer: Playback, where he played a supporting role. This is his second appearance in a BL adaptation without playing a character in a BL romance.

Given Series Review

Review

Drama Review Score: 6

C-
Story

★★☆☆

Romance

★☆☆☆

Acting

★★☆☆

Ending

★★★☆

Uenoyama and Mafuyu have an intimate moment after their live performance.

If you haven’t watched Given before, I’d recommend starting with the superior anime series instead of this uninspired live-action drama. Both versions are remakes of the manga and tell essentially the same story. However, the anime delves much deeper into the plot and fleshes out the relationships. Sadly, the live-action Given series is underwhelming and doesn’t compare to the emotional nuances of its anime counterpart.

The biggest difference between the two series is the length. While the anime has eleven episodes to build the narrative, the Given drama must condense everything into half the amount of time. Realistically, I do think the story could be told in six half-hour episodes, but it would need a very skilled storyteller with a clear vision. This live-action remake struggles to convey the events coherently, resulting in a rushed narrative stripped down to its necessities.

Uenoyama’s character is a wreck. He takes the moody teenager archetype too far, coming across as rude and disrespectful. His hostility towards Mafuyu is a turn-off, and I don’t sense a romantic connection between them. Treating your love interest nicely should be a prerequisite to a BL romance, but even Haruki shows more warmth towards Mafuyu than Uenoyama does. Mafuyu’s character is also a bit reserved, lacking the charisma that you want from a lead. He keeps his head down, mumbles his lines, and wears a perpetually dazed look on his face.

There’s a tiny romantic subplot between Akihiko and Haruki. However, it doesn’t have enough time for development and feels incomplete with loose ends. If you haven’t read the manga or watched the anime, the vague relationship dynamics will leave you feeling frustrated. Surprisingly, the one storyline that Given handles well is Mafuyu’s friend, Hiiragi. It’s mostly because of the actor (So Okuno) carrying the scenes with delicate sensitivity. He kinda makes me ship Mafuyu and Hiiragi together, more so than I do with Mafuyu and Uenoyama.

After a streak of mediocrity, Given ends with a strong and poignant finale, unleashing a powerful tidal wave of emotions. The last episode earns back some of my goodwill, exciting me in the same way as the first time I watched it in the anime series. With that said, the Given anime does everything better than the live-action drama, from the more comfortable pacing to the deeper character development. Maybe I’m too biased towards the anime, but the Given series feels like a lacklustre remake without as much heart and soul.

Story

Okay story
Uenoyama looks at Mafuyu before his live performance.

Annoyingly, I’m going to keep comparing the Given series to the anime counterpart because it’s a good benchmark. In the anime, there’re eleven episodes to tell the story. In the series, you get only six episodes. Imagine drinking a beverage, and then being told that you have to pour out half the contents. That’s how the Given series feels like to me.

Given has a good story at its core. However, it’s way too streamlined and condensed in the live-action series. It includes all the major events, but lacks the emotional nuances to make us care about these characters and their relationships. The stories simply don’t have enough time or room to breathe. Even two extra episodes would’ve made the difference, allowing the narrative to expand upon the characterizations.

Uenoyama
Ueonyama mopes around when he starts falling in love with Mafuyu.

Is it just me or is Uenoyama a bit of a jackass? I was taken aback by how aggro his character is all the time. He stomps around in a huff of anger, he scowls at everyone in sight, and he’s quite sassy towards Mafuyu. I don’t know if it’s because of the actor or the writing, but Uenoyama carries a negative aura and I don’t like him in this series.

I was also shocked when he seemingly developed feelings for Mafuyu out of the blue. Most of their interactions up until that point indicated otherwise. Uenoyama acts like he barely tolerates Mafuyu on a good day, so where did this attraction come from? It doesn’t help that the two actors don’t have much chemistry, so their scenes together feel flat.

Also, what’s up with his ~panic attack~ after he discovered Mafuyu had a dead ex-boyfriend? That was so awkward to watch, oh my god. Uenoyama’s mood swings are just too volatile and I don’t understand this character at all.

Mafuyu
Mafuyu asks his boyfriend Yuki to die right before his suicide.

Mafuyu is supposed to be a very complex character with sophisticated emotions. Unfortunately, the actor portrayed him too passively and I don’t get a sense of intrigue from him. Even though Mafuyu is supposed to be the protagonist with a vivid backstory, he feels mundane. He gets outshined by Uenoyama (who draws attention, as unlikable as his character is) and the supporting cast. That’s not a good sign.

A considerable part of Mafuyu’s character is his grief over Yuki, his ex-boyfriend who passed away. Before his death, Mafuyu’s final words to Yuki were: “Would you die for me!?” As you can imagine, it isn’t the best sendoff to give to your dead boyfriend, and Mafuyu’s guilt has been eating him away.

The way Given handles this storyline is okay, but it almost depicts the events in a very matter-of-fact manner. Yuki died. Mafuyu is sad. That’s it. There’s not much emotion emphasized. In contrast, the anime does a better job conveying the melancholy, sprinkling a little bit of sadness and sentimentality across all the episodes.

Romance

Uenoyama and Mafuyu
Uenoyama and Mafuyu share a kiss after the performance.

I’ve already mentioned several times in my review that the Uenoyama and Mafuyu romance is a bust. The characters don’t interact meaningfully, the actors don’t have much chemistry, and the scenes don’t have any spark.

In the drama, they keep repeating how Uenoyama has feelings for Mafuyu, but I don’t sense it. Uenoyama and Mafuyu don’t act like two people who are falling in love with each other. From a romantic perspective, most of their interactions have been underwhelming. Even their kiss in the final episode doesn’t feel that epic.

Akihiko and Haruki
Haruki got nervous when he shared a bed with Akihiko.

I was intrigued by Akihiko and Haruki from the little that we saw of them. By little, I meant that they had a total of one scene together. Or maybe one and a half scenes, if we’re generous. I don’t know if Given was betting on a Season 2 to expand on this relationship, but the Akihiko and Haruki couple really got sidelined here.

Still, even with minimal content, there was the foundation of a potentially interesting relationship. I liked the Akihiko and Haruki scene because it successfully depicted their dynamic without any dialogue. Based on their reactions and glances alone, we can guess how Haruki and Akihiko felt about each other. It was a very effective moment, and I wished we got more scenes like that in the Given series.

Mafuyu and Hiiragi
Hiiragi and Mafuyu are old friends who reconnect after Yuki's death.

The most successful thing about the Given series is that it turned me into a Mafuyu x Hiiragi shipper. I don’t believe that was the intention at all, but I sensed more of a spark between Mafuyu and his friend than Mafuyu with Uenoyama. When the main couple doesn’t appeal to me, my imagination always finds a way to create its own BL romances, no matter how random they may be. 🙈

What I like about Mafuyu and Hiiragi is that they already have a pre-existing bond. Hiiragi knows Mafuyu longer and understands him better than Uenoyama. Both lost a close childhood friend, and nobody can relate to their memories of Yuki except for each other. Although they drifted apart after Yuki’s funeral, Hiiragi makes an effort to reach out to Mafuyu. He wants to repair this relationship and you can feel the sincerity behind his attempts.

Another factor is that the live-action series removed Shizu’s character, the fourth friend in their circle, who appeared in the manga and anime. Without Shizu, the scenes between Mafuyu and Hiiragi felt more intimate because there were only the two of them. Inadvertently, the Given series created lots of one-on-one time with Mafuyu and his childhood friend. Their poignant exchanges seemed more meaningful than Uenoyama acting moody towards Mafuyu all the time.

Acting

Okay acting
Hiiragi cries while watching Mafuyu's performance.

The acting in Given is unremarkable and the cast doesn’t put in a particularly memorable performance. Mafuyu’s actor (Sanari) seems reserved and lacks on-screen charisma, always wearing a flat expression on his face. Uenoyama’s actor (Jin Suzuki) is better, but still doesn’t feel completely persuasive in delivering some of the moments.

I liked the sensitive performance by Hiiragi’s actor (So Okuno) a lot. Earlier this year, I’ve watched him in another role in the BL movie Pornographer: Playback, where the actor shined as well. I wanna see more of him! Someone needs to snag up So Okuno and give him a proper leading role in a juicy BL drama before the straights claim him.

Ending

Happy ending
Mafuyu gives a powerful emotional performance in the last episode.

Given has a powerful ending where Mafuyu gathers the courage and sings his song on stage. Previously, he clammed up and didn’t sing a single word. The others actually thought he didn’t finish writing the song in time for their live show. Like his usual self, Mafuyu kept his everything bottled up and then surprised his band at the last moment.

Mafuyu’s song is written about his relationship with Yuki. The performance was electrifying and unleashed all of his repressed emotions in one exhilarating moment. Uenoyama offers a great allegory about how the strings in Mafuyu’s heart finally snapped, freeing him from his burden and distress.

After the performance, Mafuyu and Uenoyama walk off stage, where they share a tender kiss in the heat of the moment. Mafuyu thanks Uenoyama for guiding him through this difficult time. The Given series ends with a conversation between Mafuyu and his friend Hiiragi. The two of them seem to be on much better terms than before, breaking the ice since Yuki’s funeral. Mafuyu admits that he might be falling in love again, and Hiiragi is happy to hear that Mafuyu has started moving on from his heartbreak.

Ending explained
Mafuyu and Hiiragi find closure in the Given series ending.

The Given series ending signifies that Mafuyu has begun the healing process over his grief. He had been stuck in the past, unable to move on since his ex’s death. Performing that song was a therapeutic moment, allowing Mafuyu to express all the emotions that he repressed. It’s a happy ending for Mafuyu, as his character starts warming up to the prospect of falling in love again after Yuki.

The decision to end this series with a Mafuyu and Hiiragi conversation was really clever. Their relationship has been the emotional core of the series, and it’s fitting that Mafuyu finds closure with his oldest friend. The emphasis on Hiiragi’s character has been well-executed, one of the only storylines that doesn’t get rushed during the series.

Given Series Episodes

Episode Guide

Given has a total of 6. Each episode is around 22 minutes long. This is a medium-length BL drama, and you can finish the entire series in under 3 hours. The Given series aired its first episode on July 17, 2021 and ended on August 21, 2021.

Episode 1

★★☆☆

Episode 2

★★☆☆

Episode 3

★★☆☆

Episode 4

★★☆☆

Episode 5

★★☆☆

Episode 6

★★★★

💋 Episodes with kissing

Episode 5, 6

Hiiragi witnesses Mafuyu and Yuki kissing in the classroom.

There are two kisses in the Given live-action series. The first kiss occurred in Episode 5 during a flashback. Hiiragi witnesses Yuki and Mafuyu kissing in the classroom. The second kiss happened in Episode 6, where Uenoyama initiates a kiss with Mafuyu after his live performance.

👨‍❤️‍💋‍👨 Episodes with intimacy

None

Akihiko has a close relationship with his roommate Ugetsu.

Given isn’t an explicit series and we don’t see the characters having any physical intimacy. Not even between Yuki and Mafuyu, who aren’t shown on-screen doing anything more than kissing. However, we do see Akihiko sharing the same bed with Ugetsu in Episode 5, even though their relationship is left to the imagination. Akihiko also shares a bed with Haruki in Episode 3, although Haruki got nervous and nothing happened between them.

💪🏻 Episodes with skin

Episode 5

There's a quick Akihiko shirtless scene in Given Episode 5.

We only get one shirtless scene throughout Given. Akihiko quickly gets shirtless in Episode 5 when he leaves the bed with Ugetsu. There’s a dark and distant shot of his shirtless body.

😡 Episodes with triggers

Episode 3, 6

Uenoyama is shocked to hear that Yuki had a boyfriend in the past.

Episode 3 is triggering because it’s when we first learn about Yuki’s death from Uenoyama’s classmate Kasai. What she says will come across as a bit homophobic, implying that Mafuyu is a “dangerous” individual because he caused his ex-boyfriend to die.

In Episode 6, we finally hear the full conversation between Mafuyu and his boyfriend. During their argument, Mafuyu tells Yuki: “Would you die for me?” right before his death. We don’t actually see Yuki’s death on screen, but you can feel the impact from Mafuyu’s powerfully chilling words.

Given Series Remake

Anime Series

Given (2019)

Anime series
Music
Deep & thoughtful
11 episodes
Given started out as an anime series.

The Given anime was released in 2019, adapting the story from the original manga written by Natsuki Kizu. Both the Given anime and the live-action drama follow an identical plot with similar scenes. If you watched one version, you don’t really have to watch the other unless out of curiosity.

Personally, I believe the anime series is the far better remake. With eleven episodes, it can tell the story in a more nuanced way, fleshing out the characters and their relationships clearly. I would highly recommend watching the Given anime over the live-action drama.

Differences

The live action series of Given and its anime counterpart are largely similar. They both feature the same characters and follow the same story structure. However, the Given live action is different in some parts because it has to condense or eliminate content for the sake of length. As a result, the Given series is missing a few details that are evident in the anime or manga.

Mafuyu & band

In the anime, there’s more focus on Mafuyu integrating himself as part of the band. A couple of episodes are dedicated to Mafuyu learning more about the guitar and gaining music knowledge. We also see Mafuyu interacting more with Haruki and Akihiko, so they’d have meals together and make casual chitchat. This content is missing from the live-action series, cutting away all the day-to-day events of the band.

Mafuyu is closer with his band in the anime.
Mafuyu is more distant with his band in the live-action drama.

Akihiko & girlfriend

Akihiko’s girlfriend (aka. Uenoyama’s sister) doesn’t play a huge role in the anime or the live-action series. However, Akihiko actually breaks up with his girlfriend during the anime, whereas they are still dating in the drama.

Akihiko breaks up with his girlfriend in the anime.
Akihiko and his girlfriend are still dating in the live-action series.

Akihiko & Haruki relationship

Akihiko and Haruki’s relationship really gets the shaft in the live-action drama. The anime features these two characters more prominently, showcasing their interactions together. Akihiko is more openly flirtatious and affectionate, while Haruki secretly pines for his bandmate from afar. In the drama, their scenes together are minimal and these two characters don’t get much emphasis independently.

Akihiko and Haruki had more scenes in the Given anime.
Akihiko and Haruki get less emphasis in the live-action series.

Ugetsu

If you have no idea who Ugetsu is in the live-action series, I don’t blame you. His character doesn’t get any introduction. He just randomly appears and we know nothing about him. In the anime, we actually learn who Ugetsu is and find out more about his relationship with Akihiko. His presence makes sense, instead of being just some random guy who appears in the drama.

Ugetsu gets introduced in the Given anime.
Ugetsu doesn't get any introduction in the live-action series.

Shizusumi

Shizusumi is the fourth musketeer in Mafuyu, Hiiragi, and Yuki’s circle of friends. He appears in the manga and anime, not super prominently, but at least he has a presence. However, his character doesn’t exist in the live-action drama. In the anime, Hiiragi and Shizu usually show up in scenes together. In the drama, it’s only Hiiragi interacting with Mafuyu all the time.

Shizu's character appears in the Given anime.
Shizu's character doesn't appear in the Given live action drama.

Mafuyu’s song

Mafuyu sings a different song during the live performance. In the anime, he sings a song called Fuyu no Hanashi (A Winter’s Story). In the drama, he sings a song called Memory Lane. I’m guessing there might be licensing complications that prevent the same song from being performed? In the anime, Mafuyu is also spliced with more flashbacks between him and his ex-boyfriend, including a quick second of them having sex.

Mafuyu sings Fuyu no Hanashi in the live performance.
Mafuyu sings Memory Lane in the Given live action series.

Aftermath

The Given series concludes right after Mafuyu gives his performance. The Given anime continues for two more episodes afterwards, exploring the aftermath. We get more relationship scenes between Mafuyu and Uenoyama as they solidify their romance. We also get more band scenes as they come up with the new name “Given”. All this aftermath is missing from the Given drama.

The Given series ends right after Mafuyu's performance.
The Given anime continues for two more episodes after Mafuyu's performance.

Given Series Music Video

Given Series Online

Links

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