Amagami SS – Review
December 18, 2011 Leave a comment
Amagami SS is another anime that is adapted from a video game. The game is a dating sim, and was supposedly the successor to kimikiss, with a similar plot and characters. The anime is essential a high school romance, with a harem element, except this time the harem element is slightly different. Rather than have a single male lead surrounded by a group of girls, we have 6 individual heroines with their own story arc taking place over 4 episodes. The end result is of course the same for every heroine, but I rather liked this method of doing things, essentially staying true to the different ‘routes’ in the original game and having a different story for each girl, taking place at exactly the same time of year.
The story follows Tachibana Junichi, a relatively normal high school boy who has a few emotional scars. Two years before the anime, Junichi had his hear broken by a girl who didn’t show up for a date on Christmas Eve. Now a second year student, Junichi spends his days sleeping inside his closet that he has turned into a planetarium, going to school and messing around with his close friends Tanamachi Kaoru and Umehara Masayoshi.
The way in which Amagami is set it is rather interesting, having a series of short stories, with a separate heroine and following a separate, albeit entirely familiar path. This is relatively refreshing considering the number of other dating sim adaptations that seem to get rid of various heroines as the story progresses in order that have a single female character ‘win’ in an often very contrived way, and of course generating a lot of drama, which tends to lead to melodrama. By having these short stories separate, but also interconnected, Amagami manages to get around this and provides us with what is a relatively refreshing take on a classic medium.
The biggest problem with short stories however, is the lack of time and space. There needs to be enough time, and context within each story to justify why certain plot elements happen. We have to be shown that Junichi meeting one girl isn’t mere contrivance and is happening for a proper reason, there also needs to be enough emotional depth within each story. Amagami does manga to offer us some semblance of a storyline in each story arc, although, since the story is essentially about Junichi getting over his emotional scars and learning to love again, we do not get anything spectacular.
I wasn’t expecting something revolutionary from Amagami SS though. The high school romance genre has effectively been done to death, but this doesn’t mean that a well-executed story cannot be enjoyable to watch. Essentially, as long as you know what you are watching there shouldn’t really be any disappointments.
Each individual story is well done, with some classic high school romance clichés and plot devices, the heroines are all suitably unique and easy to differentiate, which helps. There are however some issues when it comes to the character of Junichi. When you look at Amagami SS as a whole we see a series of contradictory actions and behaviour that don’t make sense or really fit together. And while we can easily say that you act differently depending on whom you are with, this approach ignores the previous stories. By doing this, you effectively make them in some way meaningless. And of course there are the aspects of various characters that seem to have gone unnoticed by everyone around them for years. This is me picking holes in the plot, because, while these contradictions exist it is far simpler to treat Amagami SS as a series of short stories. And on this level, while the plots are formulaic, they are very cute to watch, and at least for me highly enjoyable.
The artwork is relatively well done with a nice backgrounds and landscapes. Of course there is a large degree of generic places and settings, with the high school, the family restaurant, the mountain road, etc. Nothing special, but I enjoy these kinds of shows, so, despite these generic settings I wasn’t too fussed.
The character designs fit the classic model of not only high school romances, but also of kimikiss. You have the Tsundere, the childhood friend, the high school beauty, the shy girl, and the younger sister. But if we are to get annoyed at using such stereotypes you would likely be annoyed at most anime series, since they all use one stereotype or another. I like the character designs, and they are all quite distinct, both in looks and personality, which is helped by the Seiyuu giving each one a distinct way of talking and mannerisms. The characters are a little on the generic side, with classic male lead being kind, a little slow on the uptake, but always meaning well. This doesn’t mean that the characters are bad in any way; they are simply the classic stereotypes that we have come to expect from high school romance.
I did find the story of each arc a little rushed, which often didn’t leave enough time to fully define the female roles. Of the ones that I enjoyed, I feel that Haruka, Ai and Tsukasa are probably the best-defined characters in the story. Haruka and Tsukasa in particular because they appear more often and essentially have bigger roles. Unfortunately the urgency within the story to get to the big confession and ultimate resolution of each individual story arc does lead to a lack of proper character development, which while not life threatening would be nice.
The use of music in Amagami is very nice, the music itself has a distinct place within the narrative of each short story, fitting the place and the mood, but more importantly the music is not constant and significant moments within each story are emphasised not through music, but through silence, something that I actually quite liked. Good music and importantly the use of music can make anything from anime to film significantly better. The right music at the right time can produce the right kind of mood, but it is also important to know when to stop the music and simply allow the characters and the setting space to bring out the emotion within the audience.
The music does seem to be quite generic J-Pop, and although I liked the music it is not something special. We have two opening tracks (the opening sequence and song changes halfway through the season) and six closing tracks, each one sung by the voice actress for that particular character arc. I actually quite liked this little touch; it continued the theme of individual stories. Of course if your not a fan of love songs or romance you wont really like them, but at that point I would question why you were watching the series in the first place.
The voice actors do a relatively good job with each character, providing nice mannerisms and little quirks that help to differentiate one heroine from another. Maeno Tomoaki plays the role of Junichi rather well, giving the character strength, with his portrayal of Junichi providing the support for each lead actress. Unfortunately, the entire structure of the series does mean that the different heroines have relatively short roles to play. It is difficult to really get enough emotional depth from a character when you only have four episodes per arc, although they do appear throughout the series as background characters. But there is no real difference between this and a more classic high school harem, there will always be characters left out, only in the case of Amagami it is a little more obvious.
Amagami SS is not a terrible show, it is one that I really enjoyed actually, and it has some interesting points and elements. The relationships are handled very well, and interestingly the story does not fall in to the classic high school romance trap of melodrama. The characters are well defined, although their appearances are a little short, but importantly, Junichi is not the classic wishy-washy male lead. This is important and a breath of fresh air, since having a male lead that is assertive and makes his own decisions rather than following what the girls do tends to be missing from many romance anime. There are issues with the format, and while I like the idea of seeing what would happen if Junichi fell in love with a different girl, four episodes didn’t really seem like enough (could have easily been an entire series per character), with the plot sometimes feeling rushed.
I was almost always going to like this show though since I am a big fan of romance, harem and high school anime. They may be as generic as can be, but simply being generic does not make them bad. Amagami SS could have quite probably done something a little more unusual, but they didn’t, this is of course a disappointment. But at the same time, the decision to have separate story arcs, while having its flaws was an interesting one and managed to avoid the classic problem with harem shows, the harem ending. By having individual story arcs Junichi ends up with all the characters. Apparently there is a route where Junichi ends up with his younger sister, much like Yosuga no Sora, although in the anime this does not happen. Her relationship with Junichi is more platonic, and there is never any hint of romantic attachment. There is of course a sequel series to Amagami Ss being released in the winter season of 2012. In the sequel each of the six heroines have a two-episode chapter that is a direct sequel to the story from the original anime. With this I hope that there is more progression in each character.
This show clearly wont be for everyone, but if you enjoy some light romance, with a splash of comedy and of course a harem where the main character ends up with every single one of the heroines, then Amagami SS may just be a show that you enjoy.