Happiness is a transient thing, like the falling snow...
White Album 2 (ホワイトアルバム2) is a Japanese Visual Novel produced by Leaf, the same company that produced the To Heart series as well as Tears to Tiara. Although it shares the same name as White Album as well being set in the same world, albeit almost two decades later, it bears little connection to the first game/anime aside from the songs that it reuses from the former: the titular White Album, sung by Yuki Morikawa, and Sound of Destiny sung by Rina Ogata.It's close to the school festival, and Light Music Club members Haruki Kitahara and his good friend Takeya are in a bit of a pinch. They want to perform for the school festival, however they're pretty much all that's left in the club. They need to find new members, both for the performance as well as ensure the LMC's survival, as with just two members they've fallen well below the numbers needed to be considered an official club. Despite the gravity of the problem, Takeya hands over the responsibility to fill out the club's numbers to Haruki.Through luck and circumstance, Haruki somehow manages to find the members they need: Setsuna Ogiso, a beauty known for her participation in the school's beauty contests and who Haruki discovers has a wonderful singing voice; and Kazusa Touma, an introverted yet extremely talented pianist, and the mystery performer from the adjacent room that Haruki's been playing along with his guitar for a while now. Though getting the two to agree to help the LMC seemed innocuous at first, Haruki unknowingly set into motion a series of events that would bind the fates of the three of them together for the rest of their lives...Produced by Satelight, an anime of the same name aired during Fall 2013 Anime Season, and adapts the first part of the series, Introductory Chapter. As of yet, there is no news of whether the second part, Concluding Chapter will be adapted as well.A fandisc for the series is scheduled to come out, and will contain playable After Story-style epilogues for both Setsuna and Kazusa's True ends.
This work provides examples of the following tropes:
Because You Were Nice to Me: Kazusa falls in love with Haruki because of the fact that he kept being nice to her no matter how much she tried to push him away.
Bittersweet Ending: Let it be clear that none of the endings provided by the story can be considered completely happy; someone will always be shortchanged in the end. Indeed, for the three sub-heroine ends for Concluding Chapter, that someone will always be Setsuna. The two "True Ends" in Coda are also pretty much this as well. To whit:
In Setsuna's True End, which is as close to a traditional Happily Ever After end for the series, Kazusa and Setsuna reconcile, and what's more Setsuna finds ways to that Kazusa won't have to be so alone anymore — like helping her make friends with Takeya and Io — and give her a way to stay in Japan via recording an album with her and Haruki to make her more "visible" to even casual music listeners. Everyone becomes friends again in the end, with Kazusa even playing accompaniment for Haruki and Setsuna's wedding reception. However this glosses over the issue of the condition of Kazusa's mother Ryouko, who's apparently dying of cancer. There's also the implication is that Kazusa will never reach her real potential as a pianist, but hey everyone's happy again right?
In Kazusa's True End, despite going steady with Setsuna for more than two years already, when Kazusa returns into his life, Haruki decides that it's about time to stop lying to himself. He breaks up with Setsuna, and runs off to be together with Kazusa, despite the both of them coming to realize that they're terrible people for what they're doing. The two of them alienate everyone in the process, but it is almost outright stated that it is only when Haruki and Kazusa are finally together that they can reach their full potential — as a performer for Kazusa, while as a person for Haruki. Two years later, Kazusa is now married to Haruki, and the former is rightfully now an internationally-acclaimed pianist. However the two have cut all ties with Japan, and what's more Kazusa seems to be regularly suffering nightmares. Then, much to their surprise, they receive a video message sent by Takeya and Io, with Setsuna in it. She plays them a song on Haruki's guitar, and ends the video with this line:
And let's not even get into the Kazusa Good, aka the Cheating Chapter here, where everyone gets shortchanged by Haruki's indecisiveness. Haruki bounces between Setsuna, and sleeping with Kazusa behind her back. This culminates in Haruki and Kazusa going on a private trip to the inn the three of them visited way back in Introductory Chapter, where the two of them spend a night of passion. Despite this, she declares that it's over between the two of them; only for the winter, as she promised. After her final concert Kazusa leaves without a word, but despite everything Setsuna still forgives Haruki, and lets him back into her life. Kazusa's future however, seems bleak: with the inevitable death of her mother approaching, she's going to be literally left with nothing but her piano skills, and what's more has admitted that she will never be able to love anyone else other than Haruki.
Call Back: Setsuna's last line, listed above in the Bittersweet Ending entry, is this to an earlier line spoken to her by Haruki in Concluding Chapter:
Haruki: The girl that I love most in the world is the Setsuna that sings.
Censor Shadow: In full force for episode 13 of the anime, to cover up Haruki and Kazusa's vigorous lovemaking. Ironically, Kazusa was actually dressed (she was still in her school uniform) for most of it.
Club Stub: The Light Music Club as of Introductory Chapter.
Contrived Coincidence: The famous musician that Haruki was supposed to interview in Europe for his job... turns out to be Kazusa.
Demoted to Extra: Surprise, Haruki, in Setsuna's True End. He does this on purpose, as he realizes (rightly for a change!) that intervening directly would just make the situation more difficult than it already is.
Easily Forgiven: Haruki, to a ridiculous degree. No matter what he does, or how much he's been a jerk to her, Setsuna will always welcome him back, no questions asked. Even if he cheats on her with another woman, as in Kazusa's Good end, she'll still take him back. Indeed, in Kazusa's True End, Setsuna gets angry instead at her own family for ganging up on Haruki, instead of Haruki himself. She's either a saint or, in the opinion of the less charitable players, insane.
And in Coda, Kazusa. Kazusa pretty much ruins Setsuna's life by proxy by forcing her fiancee to break up with her, and what's worse, makes himself alienate himself from his oldest friends and Setsuna's family. When Kazusa tries to make amends by deliberately crippling her playing hand — and thus ending her career as a pianist forever — Setsuna stops her because, while she hates Kazusa for what she did, she still also loves her as her best friend.
Friendless Background: Kazusa. Coda also reveals that she's still friendless five years later. She's just that socially awkward.
Green-Eyed Monster: Kazusa, to Setsuna. In Coda, she flatly states that she hates how Setsuna seems to have everything needed to survive in the real world, like friends, an understanding family, and (at that point) a significant other — unlike her, who can't cook, can't keep her affairs in order, and has no friends. All she has is her skill with the piano, and nothing else.
Hated Hometown: Kazusa, as of Coda, hates Japan. It's because it's the place she left Haruki behind in. That's why her decision to return to the country for a concert surprises even her mother.
If I Can't Have You: First person comes to mind for this trope is probably Setsuna, but surprising it is Haruki who fits this trope better, In the events of Idol Who Forgot How to Sing, he denounced his friendship with a supporting character because that supporting character confessed his love to Setsuna. Haruki makes the statement that even though he can't be with Setsuna, he doesn't want to see anyone else with her.
In Media Res: The anime starts with the concert at the school festival. The first half of the series focuses on the events that led to that point.
Lonely at the Top: Kazusa and to an extent Setsuna. One is daughter of famous pianist, one is school idol who rejects all advances.
Love Makes You Evil: Haruki, Setsuna, and Kazusa all do a little bit of this. Indeed later on, Haruki and Kazusa admit to being terrible people due to what they do for love.
Love Redeems: Haruki becomes less indecisive and tries to repair his relationship with Setsuna, eventually winning her back in the Setsuna end of Concluding Chapter. Also Setsuna's platonic love for her friend Kazusa saves the latter from emotionally imploding in Setsuna's True End.
Multiple Endings: Par for course, due to the visual novel format. There are three endings for the sub-heroines in Concluding Chapter, as well as a good and "true" end for Setsuna. Finishing the latter opens the way to Coda, which adds three more: Setsuna True, Kazusa Good aka the Cheating Chapter, and Kazusa True. However, due to the nature of the story and the characters, none of these ends can be truly considered a "happy" end. See the Bittersweet Ending entry for specifics.
Nice Guy: Haruki. Subverted in that there's more than enough lingering hints that he's being nice because he's got nothing better to do.
No Ending: Introductory chapter, despite published on its own, has no ending. The White Album 2 series as a whole does have an ending though.
Old Flame: Kazusa, when she runs into Haruki again in Coda. Her return causes a LOT of drama, for sure.
Put on a Bus: Kazusa leaves for Vienna at the end of Introductory Chapter, and as such is absent for most of the events of Concluding Chapter. However...
The Bus Came Back: ... A chance run-in with Haruki in Europe brings her completely back into the fold of the plot.
The Promise: Kazusa foists one on Haruki as a condition before they set out on what they need to do in her True End: they will not have sex while they are in Japan. They can go at it like bunnies after they leave, but until then, it will serve as a sign of the seriousness of their resolve. This is a big deal, especially since, as Concluding Chapter had shown, physical intimacy was one of the ways Haruki used to blow off his frustration and anger.
Releasing from the Promise: A heartbreaking example too: In Kazusa's True End, Setsuna realizes that she will never really completely own Haruki's heart — in her own words, she'd just been borrowing it for five years. Now that its true owner Kazusa had returned, all she could do was to give it back. And so, she releases Haruki from the promise he made to her, so he could be with Kazusa again. Just to double the heartbreak factor, all of this happens at the exact same bridge where, two years before, she and Haruki had managed to reconcile. Ouch.
Secret Relationship: While hints of this already appeared in the anime, Setsuna's True End confirms that Takeya and Io seem to have been dating the entire time.
Sex for Solace: Happens more than you'd think, particularly in Concluding Chapter. Let's just say that Haruki has a whole lot of issues that he's struggling to deal with, and physical intimacy is one of his outlets for his anger and frustation. See how he spends a whole week having sex with Chiaki at his apartment.
Shipper on Deck: Takeya and Io, for Setsuna. The huge bulk of Concluding Chapter has the two of them trick, connive, and do everything humanly possible to get Haruki and Setsuna together. It's why the two are positively devastated when Haruki breaks up with Setsuna in Kazusa's True End, which literally ends their friendship with Haruki then and there.
Something We Forgot: Haruki realizes that he forgot something, just as he and Kazusa are boarding the plane to leave Japan, forever: his guitar. While at that point he decides to leave it behind, as he from this point on he's not going to need it, it has one more part to play after all. In the video message that Kazusa and Haruki receive from Io and Takeya, it's the instrument that Setsuna uses to accompany her song to them.
Star-Crossed Lovers: Haruki and Kazusa. Haruki is a normal, if friendly and helpful guy, while Kazusa is a budding pianist with potentially world-class talent. The climax of the anime hammers home the fact that, in any other circumstance, it would still be impossible for them to be together. Which is exactly what happens in the end: Kazusa leaves to further develop her craft in Europe, and leaves Haruki behind in Japan.
Story Branch Favoritism: While Maruto and Leaf are quiet at what the "canon" plot is supposed to be, players of the games seem to favor the timeline that leads from Setsuna's route in Concluding Chapter, to Kazusa's True End in Coda. Not only due to the incredibly cathartic nature of the latter, but because it's counterpart was just too perfect and involved Haruki being reduced to a supporting role.
Time Skip: Done twice. Concluding Chapter starts about three years after Introductory Chapter, with Haruki and Setsuna in college. Coda starts around two years after Concluding Chapter.
The Loins Sleep Tonight: Played for drama rather than comedy as usually is the case. Despite the promise Kazusa drops on him — see The Promise entry for details — Haruki still tries to sleep with Kazusa anyway during Kazusa's True End. It doesn't work, as before he could even start the guilt from what he and Kazusa are about to do to everyone they know and love stops his libido cold.
Third-Option Love Interest: Concluding Chapter introduces three: Chiaki, one of Haruki's schoolmates at the university he goes to; Koharu, a high schooler going to Haruki and Setsuna's old school; and Mari, Haruki's boss at the Hirasakura Company, where he works at. All three represent facets of what might help shake off the lethargy he's been living through, which can be summed simply as: looks like Kazusa (Koharu), acts like Kazusa (Mari, albeit more socially-adjusted), and is not like Setsuna (Chiaki, who has no ties to and cares little for Haruki's past).
Third Wheel: Despite her best efforts, Setsuna quickly realizes that she's become this to Haruki and Kazusa. It leads to a whole lot of awkward situations.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Haruki, for most of Concluding Chapter and, depending on the player's choices, in Coda as well. Has to be read to be believed.
Twelve Episode Anime: Supposed to be twelve episodes with episode 13 supposed to be an unaired special, which is why it surprised many when it aired on TV anyway. The final episode adds context to some scenes in the previous episode, like the aftermath of the confession, which led to Haruki and Kazusa spending the whole night before her flight making love, and makes a clearer bridge bridge to the next part of the story, Concluding Chapter, if and when it gets adapted.
Yandere: Ogiso Setsuna has a slight tendency of this post the events of Introductory Chapter. Especially in omake short story, The Idol Who Forgot How To Sing, where she is shown to obsessed with Haruki
Your Cheating Heart: In full force during Kazusa's Good End route. Haruki sleeps with Setsuna as normal, but also sleeps with Kazusa almost nightly, and even runs off with her for a secret trip north with just the two of them.
We Used to Be Friends: Pretty much the ending of Introductory chapter and the whole point of Concluding Chapter with Haruki, Setsuna, and Kazusa.
What the Hell, Hero?: Done by both Io and Takeya to Haruki when the latter decides to break up with Setsuna, despite being already engaged and being in a physically intimate relationship with her for almost five years, all just to get back together with Kazusa. This is followed soon after by the same, except done by Setsuna's whole family. Ironically Setsuna herself doesn't call Haruki out on this; instead she avoids and ignores him for as long as humanly possible.