After 5 years of waiting for a proper translation, I've finally managed to bring an end to one of the top priorities on my wishlist. To tell the truth, back when I first discovered White Album 2 via its anime adaptation, I swore to myself that I must reach the real ending in the source material one way or another, should the translation project somehow fail I'd instead proceed to learn Japanese and enjoy the damn thing in its purest form (hats off to the team anyhow).
Apologize if this sounds roundabout but all I wanted to say is that I was that much of a fanboy over this series back then, and honestly, my enthusiasm for it a couple of months back was still fiery when I heard the news that the translation was on its way to wrapping up.
However, once again, my expectations has betrayed me as hard as the protagonist of the game did to the girls. I don't blame the writer nor the team behind this work though, I do acknowledge that it has some values in terms of themes and character progression and stuff. Unfortunately, what I sought was something more than those, and the game to me kinda became stale somewhere after the 2nd half of the Coda segment, the part hailed as the magnum opus of the game.
For starters, I did enjoy Coda overall, it matured a lot more compared to Introductory and brought closure to the Closing Chapter (the chapter naming is a bit off tho). However, as I said, the game became very "static" at some point near the end and most of it was just repeating the same routine as it had been doing in the last few sections.
Introductory and Closing Chapters might not carry the same level of drama but they did well to establish the foundation for what was to come in the final chapter. In fact, if we're talking about pure "feels", the only chapter that "got me" was surprisingly Introductory.
Yeah, it started off with a pretty cliche premise and stuff but part of me was reminded of my high school days so much that I tend to have a bias for it (and no I didn't experience anything similar to the trio of the story lol, but just the general atmosphere and stuff).
But to get back to the main topic at hand, Coda was solid until it hit a wall with the way the routes are structured.
To be more specific, in Setsuna route where this unreasonably ideal idol should be the main star, I find my attention being at all redirected over Kazusa, mostly about how she reconciled with her mother, easily one of the if not the most highlights of the entire game.
Meanwhile, in Kazusa's true end, Setsuna just casually slide in and stole away most of the iconic moments of the game.
The only route that seems to be fine-tuned is Kazusa's normal end, where our tsundere black hair girl finally got to take the lead and be less passive compared to other routes.
While it's true that I have lots to complain about the plot and meta stuff, the character portrayal, in general, was a treat. I mean Even side characters like Takeya, Io, Tomo, ..etc had managed to catch my attention, which is cool.
The secondary heroines in Closing Chapters do have their own problems but I think I had not many issues with them, maybe except Chiaki but that's more or less due to the plot dictating her to be an "alien" or some shit so meh. Koharu's route was the best of CC in terms of thematic exploitation as well as plot progression. Mari on the other hand may not have the most engaging story but I like her character when she wasn't head over heels for Haruki (not to mention her friend was pretty cool).
The most noticeable non-lead character however is no doubt Touma Youko in my opinion. Though it sucks we never got to find out who Kazusa's father was but I really enjoyed the progress she made with her daughter as well as her self-deprecation throughout the game.
A really nice thing about While Album 2 is that almost nobody comes out clean, each of them would certainly carry major guilt or some sort on their own, and how they chose to approach that is also what defined the story.
Regarding the three lead characters, damn, I don't even know where to start. When I wrote a post to state my stand on each of them, I think a lot has changed since then, but that's inevitable given the contextual change between Introductory and Closing Chapter/Coda.
When you're in high school it's often acceptable for you to make as many mistakes as you want, but as a fully grown adult, I simply can't stand the fact that the protagonist just keeps digging his own grave simply by being indecisive. I know what you might be thinking, I must admit that Setsuna's influence on the story is ridiculously strong, but the evidence is clear this guy has nothing but Kazusa in his mind for like 99% of the time, even when he tries to cover it up by using work, excuse, fatigue, etc.
I mean I have no qualm if it's merely him thinking about Kazusa while in a relationship with Setsuna, but bruh, to use Setsuna's body as a way to cover all that shit up, yikes. I might come up as being harsh but while human beings are not perfect, there ought to be a limit as to how much of a douche you can be.
For Setsuna, I don't think I've seen a girl with such illegal level of tolerance, and I'm inclined to believe that she's the real tragic heroine of the entire game.
Sure she did express her true/negative feeling regarding her "rival" but that's still far less of a big deal than physically committing all of the adultery acts yourself. I don't count myself as an expert on girls' thought processes but I'm pretty confident you don't get a shred of decency when it comes to love rivalry between girls, let alone trying to talk things through as Setsuna attempted to do so lol (was a nice moment regardless).
If anything I suppose Setsuna is an idealist to a fault. She crave for the one ending where everyone gets to be happy while completely ignore the fact that they're in a game which dictates that one of them must "lose". At some point I have to admit that it's a bit annoying seeing Setsuna clinging onto that naive thoughts but like I said, a girl like her might as well doesn't exist in real world (which is ironically what the game is trying to convince us from how I see it), so welp.
Last but not least, Kazusa remains Kazusa despite how much time flew by, and I don't mind that. The reason being the author basically placed her in a position where she was virtually drawn into a corner so that couldn't be helped. Her suppressed feelings were also something I could resonate with and find compelling enough as a substance for the story.
On top of that, the no-sex vow (for the lack of a better word) in her true end was rather unique and sets her apart from other heroines, I guess.
Additionally, her relationship with her mother was perhaps the only thing that remained unsoiled from the beginning to the end, the premise, the progress, and the closure were all covered up neatly.
And the cherry on top is how each route chose to solve this matter in their own way, giving us a different perspective every time you head over another direction of the story, quite nifty stuff.
Looking back I guess White Album 2's primary focus is human relationships. It almost captured the atmosphere of a real-life scenario where people meet each other, know each other, love each other, and break each other.
The most distinguished element lies in the way it handles each of the characters, gotta hand it to the writers for this one. The biggest flop on the other hand is as mentioned above the plot and meta structure in general. In the end, while I could not gain what I came looking for (some over-the-top sea of feels maybe), I did enjoy watching everything unfolding in peculiar ways, and the music also never failed to deliver.
P/S: Yes, I might have ended up hating Haruki as I got closer to the end of the game, but he and Kazusa are still undeniably a match meant for each other.
Best girl ranking: Kazusa > Setsuna >= Youko > Tomo > Io > Mari > Koharu > Chiaki
Best boi: Takeya >>> Haruki (for real)