Is it possible to hate a story while loving it at the same time?
I began considering this question after finishing the series White Album 2 and it made me realize that it is possible to hate a story while loving it at the same time. I'll be taking a look at how separating the objective from the subjective makes it possible to simultaneously both love and hate a story, using the ending of White Album 2 to illustrate my point.
Warning: I'll be spoiling White Album 2 here, so press [ctrl-f] "spoilers end" and skip down now if you want to remain unspoiled, anything below that point does not have spoilers. If you haven't seen the show but are unafraid of spoilers, come along for the ride!
White Album 2 is an adaption of the eponymous visual novel, detailing following the exploits of high-schoolers Haruki Kitahara, Setsuna Ogiso and Kazusa Touma as they prepare to perform at their school's cultural festival. Drawn together by music, they become best friends as they prepare, and their performance is a huge success. However, this performance is the last time they are ever truly happy together. After the performance, Setsuna confesses her feelings to Haruki and they begin to date.
It later becomes apparent that their group has begun to deteriorate despite their wishes for the three of them to always stay friends. Touma becomes distant, and it is clear that Haruki has feelings for her despite his relationship with Setsuna. Eventually, Haruki finds out how much Touma actually likes him, and promptly abandons Setsuna to be with Touma despite Touma leaving the next day for good to get away from her feelings for him. They spend the night together and Touma departs in the morning, and Setsuna eventually comes over to check on Haruki.
Haruki eventually confesses to Setsuna how he feels as they make their way to the airport to see Touma off. Setsuna tells him that she likes him but not to the extent Touma likes him. She admits that she began to date him because she didn't want to be alone when she saw how much Touma liked him. At the airport, Haruki kisses Touma in front of Setsuna shattering their friendship forever as Touma leaves, concluding the series.
I loved the ending and I hated it, so let's discuss why.
Why I Loved The Ending
White Album 2 is a tightly told and strongly focused story, with strong characters and a great sense of how to engross viewers in its story. Each of the characters are flawed but feel very real at the same time, each with their own motivations that drive their actions as their friendship falls apart due to a number of factors.
I loved White Album 2's ending because of how technically impressive it was, successfully incorporating all the storylines into an ending that felt extremely fitting for the series. We might describe this as loving it in an objective sense because I view this ending as fantastic for how well it wrapped up the series.
In a sense, the characters did not deserve to have a happy ending, and it would not have made sense if they did receive one. Instead, we witnessed a complete implosion of their friendship, with not one character receiving a happy ending free of heartbreak. The ending was impressive in how it just felt right for the series, and the climax was a logical and satisfying in a sense that it was a consistent and well-written end to the series.
Why I Hated The Ending
While we can say White Album 2's ending was fantastic in an objective sense, I absolutely hated the ending for a number of subjective reasons. Firstly, I strongly disliked Touma because of her personality, and later Haruki because his decision to cheat of Setsuna. Setsuna was the only one I was cheering for, to me she was the most sympathetic character and I was really hoping that she would get a happy ending. I did not enjoy seeing her cheated on, and the treatment of her character was not satisfying to me because I didn't think she deserved the treatment she got.
I'm also a fan of happy endings, which we did not get in this show. This made it really difficult to come away feeling good about the ending to White Album 2, and I felt almost a little bit unsettled. However, this can be categorized as a subjective dislike because the things I hated in a lot of cases may be what made viewers love this series. Just because I did not get a emotionally satisfying ending does not preclude someone else from getting one.
What Does This Mean?
While I thought the ending to White Album 2 was fantastic in an objective sense, I absolutely hated it from an emotionally subjective perspective. Is it a great series that I would recommend to everyone? Absolutely. Was it emotionally satisfying to me? No way. However, my subjective dislike for the way the story turned out and the endings the characters received is separated from whether I would recommend this series or not.
It's an interesting thing, and I think we should all think more often when we make a decision of whether we like or dislike something if we feel this way objectively or subjectively (I know I will). This can also be applied to games, as there are many games that can be viewed in this manner. It's important to point out that neither way is wrong, since ultimately we all have different views on the same thing. But I think we can gain some greater introspective insight if we stop to think about why we love and hate the things we do.
Check out my other work at mdubs-tep.