Amagami SS+ 03 – Rihoko, innocence, and mischievous university students
January 21, 2012 Leave a comment
The major problem with the Rihoko’s arc from season one was the ending, it was never a romantic arc, and Rihoko unfortunately ended up in the terror known as the ‘fiend zone’. It was a disappointing arc for me, since, while Rihoko isn’t my favourite heroine, she is great fun to watch. And I hoped that Rihoko can finally get Junichi’s attention, thus leading to a romantic and wonderful ending. Unfortunately the episode didn’t start in the right direction, with Rihoko still firmly in said friend zone, however there are a few glimmers of hope.
During a flashback to their childhood we see that Junichi noticed Rihoko’s rapidly increasing bust size during a little height/chest size competition, this is repeated in the present day, unfortunately Rihoko seems a little too innocent to notice that Junichi does at least notice that she happens to be of the female persuasion. The problem again is that Rihoko’s was the only arc without a romantic ending, which means that if we were to see one this time around all the romantic development would have to take place in a far shorter period of time. Junichi continues to tease her about her weight, and while this may be indicative of him simply viewing her as a friend. That he can talk to her in such an easy manner gives hope to deeper feelings, we even get another little glimpse of Junichi getting embarrassed at finding out Rihoko’s bust size, again showing that he does know she is female.
We do have Rihoko offering to cook Junichi and Miya food since their parents are out of town, which gives us hope for the next episode. What’s interesting is that there are other characters, who are already fully aware of Rihoko’s – currently – one-sided crush on Junichi. Rihoko’s friends Kanae, Ruriko and Manaka all know she loves Junichi and keep giving her chances to properly confess to him thus starting their relationship properly. One of the main problems for Rihoko, along with time (2 episodes isn’t much) is her own quite aid-headedness accompanied by naivety. There are times throughout her original arc, along with this episode where Rihoko almost seems content with their current relationship. She is also still so innocent that she seems utterly unaware of how attractive she is, something that is brought up by the pretty desperate Makabe – who is apparently on a mission to make 2 or 3 girlfriends over the summer. I hope that having Makabe approach Rihoko will spur Junichi on and make him realise how attractive Rihoko really is, but again there are many things against their relationship at the moment. It is obvious who she loves, and she finally comes out and says it while refusing Makabe’s advances, unfortunately for us, and quite probably Junichi who followed them a passing train drowns out her answer. This does offer a glimmer of hope for the next episode, giving Junichi something to question her about, especially when he followed her and Makabe.
There were some nice little moments in this episode though, I especially liked the use of camera angles while Rihoko was getting ready to go shopping for Junichi and Miya. The camera is situated outside of her window, with a little gap between the curtains so we can see what is happening, Rihoko notices this, walks over and closes the curtain – when it is opened again she has changed. It’s a nice little touch that I rather liked and in a way suggests that such sights are off limits for the time being. It’s also nice to see Ruriko and Manaka back, and playing with Rihoko, giving her lots of food to increase Junichi’s vitality, something that Rihoko simultaneously gets but also goes right over her head.
To me this episode was, in part, about friendship and relationships that are something a bit more than that. It is clear to me that Rihoko and Junichi’s relationship is more than just simple friends, but less than lovers, and more importantly, it appears that both of them in some way take their current relationship for granted. Rihoko has the boy she loves in front of him, but almost seems content to leave things as they are, almost. She clearly wants to takes the next step – something that seems clear whenever she gets embarrassed around Junichi and is quick to offer to cook dinner for him. We also see this when Rihoko takes out several outfits for her ‘date’, and even goes so far as to consider changing her lingerie, only for her to take a step back yet again. Junichi for his part seems equally as guilty; he takes Rihoko for granted too often, even during club time when it is just the two of them alone in the clubhouse. This is made abundantly clear when he is talking with Miya about Rihoko cooking them dinner – Rihoko for her part is putting quite a lot of effort into thinking up a menu – but from Miya and Junichi’s point of view it appears that they are just glad that they don’t need to eat somen and watermelon for yet another day. Junichi does appear to see Rihoko in some form of romantic light though, shown when he blushes at her bust size, and also when he follows her as she is being led away by Makabe. But I think this episode helps to show how complex relationships can be, something you don’t always find in a harem anime based on a visual novel.
The biggest problems for Rihoko right now are both time and her own innocence, or perhaps naivety. We have a single episode for her and Junichi to hit it off, something that I am not dismissing. Her naivety, and perhaps innocence, are also a big issue; she willingly follows Makabe down some back alleys to a bit of wasteland underneath a raised railway. She seems too innocent and naïve sometimes, which I feel potentially damages her chance to have a romantic relationship with Junichi, something that is a great shame. It would be pretty bad if Rihoko ends up in exactly the same situation as she did in the first series; the childhood friend may be an overused cliché in anime, often simply being there to push the drama forward to some sort of conclusion, but I feel Rihoko has got the short end of the stick here. It is especially odd when we consider that Amagami SS has an omnibus format, why then is Rihoko the only heroine without a romantic ending, when even Kaoru – another good friend – gets one? It’s odd and makes no sense really, I hope that AIC sort things out and give her a proper end, since, while she is not my favourite heroine, she is great to watch, and especially with this omnibus format certainly deserves a proper romantic ending. There is love there; just neither Rihoko, nor Junichi seems willing to fully admit it to the other yet.