The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Amagami SS

Title: Amagami SS
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Company: AIC
Format: 25 episodes
Dates: 2 Jul 2010 – 24 Dec 2010

Synopsis: Tachibana Junichi is still crestfallen after being stood up on Christmas Eve two years ago. An astronomy enthusiast, he has turned his closet into a mini planetarium, which he uses as his retreat from life. He has a childhood friend, Sakurai Rihoko, who he’s known since primary school, and his two best friends are classmates Umehara Masayoshi and Tanamachi Kaoru. After a couple of chance encounters, Junichi starts to become close to Morishima Haruka, the school’s most popular girl, but when he confesses to her, she quickly shoots him down…

The Highlights
Character designs: Exquisite; a perfect mix of fantasy and sensibleness, polished to shine.
Romance: Lacking in a lot of ways; hurt by inconsistent storytelling.
Fetishism: Amagami’s true focus, especially in the early arcs; always unpredictable, but just as ridiculous.
Drama: Often childish and stupid; pointless to take seriously.
Omnibus format: The resets are too harsh; Junichi is noticeably different each arc.
Script: Horrendous during the first four arcs; fortunately improves.

I generally think it’s smarter to minimize expectations whenever approaching a new anime. While having the obvious benefit of reducing one’s chances of being disappointed, it makes it easier to look at an anime against the background of a blank slate, free from preconceived biases. I made the mistake of expecting a serious romance drama from Amagami SS, in the same vein as another rather similar looking visual novel conversion, Kimikiss. This is nothing like Kimikiss. Does that make Amagami rubbish? Of course not. Amagami has managed to come up with several original ways of lowering itself to the gutter without asking to be compared with other anime.

Amagami follows the omnibus format, and has arguably lead a mini resurgence in its recent use. You need only look at Higurashi to see how it’s done right, or Yosuga no Sora to see how it can be done with misdirected audacity. Amagami does it flat out wrong, resetting to the point where each arc is so isolated from each other, they may as well have used different characters in different settings (but of course, that means each of the girls can’t get cameos in another girl’s arc). The way the omnibus format is used here is the epitome of gutlessness: each girl gets four uninterrupted episodes to “win” Junichi. It takes pretty much all the tension out of the romance. However, the more noticeable missing aspect in each of these romance stories is… romance.

Quite probably a consequence of the fact that each girl gets a turn with Junichi, the relationships often don’t feel genuine. Moments of sweetness instead give way to a strange, at times bizarre emphasis on fetishism. Almost every arc has scenes that are just bewildering to contemplate, and difficult to explain (so bear with me). The stomach kissing in Kaoru’s arc is probably one of the milder examples… it’s topped by scenes such as Junichi fainting from over-arousal from hearing Sae’s moaning while fish nibble at her feet (what is this, I don’t even…), a drug fueled trip through a haunted house where Ai’s finger ends up in Junichi’s mouth, and Haruka’s desperate plea after taking a bath that “if you do (love me), wouldn’t it be natural for you to come and try to take a peek at me”, which reminded me of a similarly illogical line about love from Night Shift Nurses. That’s the tip of the snow cone for the random fetishism in Haruka’s arc… there’s plenty more that I won’t spoil.

The fact of the matter is, ultimately the fetishism is the appeal of the show. Realism is an unneeded tether for Amagami, which instead gets by on its randomness and unpredictability, and its outrageousness. By investing less emphasis in story, it’s allowed to do as it pleases, which means it’s ever surprising. It even knows when to say “enough” to the random kiss-spot gag, as the last two arcs don’t have them.

These two arcs, which are much more “normal”, compared with the rest, are the best of the series. Rihiko shares a genuinely warm friendship with the members of the tea club which shines through, although she gets an ending which can only be explained if the director and writers either really hate her or really love her, and I haven’t figured out which it is yet. Tsukasa’s arc almost touches on some interesting ideas, but it’s headed by an ambiguous script and pacing issues. The other arcs all have more serious, fundamental problems: Haruka is bonkers, Kaoru’s drama is childish, Sae is overly docile and Ai’s arc is filled with inconsistency. Overall, when Amagami tries to be serious, usually it’s just stupid. When it’s not trying to be serious, it’s still stupid, but at least it does it with gusto.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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