The first half of 1980s-based drama White Album certainly brought us plenty of just that, with the series turning into a veritable soap opera as it progressed complete with a major cliff-hanger to leave us on the edge of our seats as it hit its half way point (and enjoyed a six month hiatus before continuing when originally broadcast in Japan) - It really wouldn't have been a surprise to see episode thirteen finish with the infamous Eastenders drum beats.
Amazingly given the expectations set out by its first half, the concluding thirteen episodes manage to ramp up the levels of soap opera demonstrated by the series even higher. Despite his father being hospitalised, the ever-more detestable Touya Fujii still manages to find both the time and inclination to sleep with an ever-larger number of the girls which surround him, all of whom somehow seem unable to resist whatever apparent charm he has; charm that I'm frankly unable to detect at all.
Brother of Rina and owner of Ogata Productions, Eiji, also features heavily in the drama stakes, as his mental frailties are revealed and taken advantage of by a rival production company, before revelations regarding an idol under his care threaten to destroy both his career and his company entirely. Couple this with numerous other unfolding stories surrounding the show's various characters, and you have yourself an occasionally rather depressing but oddly gripping affair, which only loses its lustre somewhat as it finally tries to explain and make excuses for Touya's behaviour in a frankly rather unbelievable manner that harks back to his childhood.
Just how much you enjoy all of these goings-on as they are all-but thrown at your screen on occasion depends on two things - Just how much you enjoy all of that soap opera as it reaches almost hysterical levels, and whether you can stand to watch Touya apathetically destroying the lives around him while seemingly living a life free of worry. Guilty pleasure though it may be, I found myself enjoying much of the drama served up by White Album (aside perhaps from some of its more ridiculous moments), but Touya's negative influence as a character over all he surveys is a tougher barrier to overcome. If you can learn to love to hate him as the kind of pantomime-esque villain that adult visual novel adaptations tend to breed, then shouting insults at the screen may well become an equally guilty pleasure, but if you find him to be nothing less than a major irritation then White Album is probably best avoided for fear of over-inflating your blood pressure.
It feels hugely unfair to label White Album as "trashy", but in terms of its story and plot progression that's exactly what it is - A sordid tale of sex and damaged characters that doesn't really resolve itself satisfactorily, despite its attempts to hide itself behind a genuinely impressive look, animation style and musical direction that promises something altogether classier. However, if you aren't looking for a realistic take on human life and relationships, and are more interested in some good old-fashioned entertainment, then that "trashy" tag is actually not much of a criticism at all - Much like other adult visual novel derived series such as School Days, the shock value and sheer intensity of your dislike for some of the characters work out as a net positive. Add to that the interesting twist of White Album's 1980s setting, and there are worse ways to spend a few cold winter nights, even if you might not want to admit to anyone that you've watched and enjoyed this series.
At the time of writing, White Album in its entirety is available to view in streaming format from Crunchyroll.
Japanese audio, English subtitles - Available in low quality, high quality, H.264, 480P and 720P streaming resolutions.