Amagami SS+ 04 – Fireworks, Moonlight, and True Feelings
January 29, 2012 Leave a comment
This weeks Amagami SS+ wrapped up Rihoko’s arc in the only way it could, and more importantly, the in a way that Rihoko fully deserved after that terrible friend zone ending in the first series. It did however take its sweet time and ended up messing with my emotions and nerves as we had a to and fro throughout the entire episode. It was however a wonderful episode for subtle emotions and facial expressions, one that showed us how deep the relationship between Rihoko and Junichi really is.
What this episode, and in fact, this entire arc with Rihoko provided us with, was an example of how childhood friends in most anime series always have the hardest time. If we look at any harem anime series, from Asobi ni Iku Yo, to Onegai Teacher and so on, we always see the childhood friends loosing out to the sexy older woman, the alien, or the sudden girlfriend(s). They are the girls who have always been close to the male protagonist, and it can be argued that they are too close. We often see the childhood friend overlooked, with the male protagonist being so familiar with them that they don’t notice their charms. In Amagami SS we had the exact same problem, Rihoko and Junichi are almost too close to become fulltime lovers, they know each other too well, and in many ways Junichi has been incapable of seeing exactly how beautiful, and wonderful a person Rihoko really is.
We got a glimmer of hope in the last episode of Junichi noticing certain things about Rihoko, such as her bust size, and he even followed her when she went off with Makabe. I have re-watched Rihoko’s arc from the first series of Amagami SS, and there are little signs there of Junichi at least noticing that Rihoko is growing into a beautiful woman, albeit a slightly airheaded, cake munching one. What this episode, and overall arc demonstrated to me in a way is that the relationship between Junichi and Rihoko was almost beyond words in some respects, although while that is a strength of the relationship, it is also its inherent weakness.
One thing I truly loved about this arc as a whole were the subtle facial expressions of Rihoko. Unlike Tsukasa, someone who has quite distinct facial expressions, moving from pure evil through to embarrassed, bashful and pure golden love, Rihoko’s are far subtler. Her character is as complex as Tsukasa, far more so even due her relationship as a childhood friend. It is painfully clear to her close friends and recently graduated sempai’s that she is deeply in love with Junichi, however she rarely shows it. We see subtle variations of Rihoko from embarrassed, proud, worried and often blank, not knowing what to say or think.
What this complexity led to however was a horribly drawn out episode, where a lot happened, while simultaneously, very little happening, it was aggravating to say the least. Seeing Junichi and Rihoko dance around the subject of whether or to they love each other for an entire episode was frustrating, further helped by the presence of Miya. It’s brilliant to see Rihoko genuinely happy at Junichi’s praise at her cooking, and her embarrassment at wearing his spare clothes, that are both quite masculine, but also add an element of sexiness to Rihoko (although a dress shirt would have been preferable). However, I couldn’t escape the feeling that they were manoeuvring around the subject, something that is at one and the same time, classic romance, but also incredibly frustrating. Miya, as the wonderful, and entirely insensitive little sister that she is – clearly the ability to entirely misread the mood runs in the family – wedges herself in between Rihoko and Junichi, only to kill the mood with her ‘seven flavour shredded ice’.
The build up to the confession and kiss was tense, annoying, frustrating, but also brilliant to watch, all in one little bundle. I did however like the setting, rather than run into it guns blazing as it were, we had a nice little trip down memory lane, focussing on fireworks and festivals. This to me reinforced the major problems with their relationship, but also a strength, they are close, so close that they don’t necessarily notice each other. The confession and kiss had a good setting though, on the veranda, with moonlight in the background, it was a wonderful, heartfelt moment.
My problem is that this all felt a little too slow, the confession and kiss came right at the end of the episode even. The overall feel of this arc was one of a slow paced relationship, rather than the more fiery one we got from Tsukasa arc, this in itself was a little disappointing, there was no sense of danger, like with the last arc, rather there was a sense that things were just going too slow. The ending also came across as something similar to several endings from the original series, only in many ways there was less passion involved. I still wonder why we didn’t get this end in the first series, these two episodes would have been perfect to add a little more danger or immediacy to their relationship, further pushing forward and strengthening their bonds. Part of the problem appears to be the lack of pushing from those closest to Rihoko, Kanae, Ruriko and Manaka, all took a hands-off approach towards this relationship, contenting themselves with gently pushing Rihoko into a confession. What Amagami seems to need is a character like Lemon (or Remon) from Ano Natsu de Matteru (also airing this season if you hadn’t guessed), someone who can push, prod and even force the issue when necessary.
That is not to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy this arc, and while there is frustration on my part that Rihoko’s arc lacked the fire and passion of other arcs, it did however have many good points. I particularly loved the subtle expressions of Rihoko, easily showing how much she loves Junichi, and while he may be a little dense in this respect it was clear he saw something special in Rihoko. This point is brought across when he is looking at a photo album of him and Rihoko when they were children, something that further reinforces how close they really are. Junichi is also clearly aware of how beautiful and sexy Rihoko is, something that is made clear when she borrows his clothes, and also shown in the last episode when he measures her chest. As a piece of subtle romance, Rihoko’s arc is therefore beautiful to watch, but it is frustrating at times, I feel it could have maintained this subtlety, but had the confession last series and not a few seconds before the end of this arc. At least she got what she deserved as a character and finally crossed from being a friend to being a lover.
The next arc is for one of my favourite characters, Nanasaki Ai, that beautiful, cool swimmer who isn’t afraid to show a little skin and make the first move in love. I’m interested to see how things turn out, since clearly we don’t need something major being thrown at each of these relationships like in Tsukasa arc. I’m looking forward to it that’s for sure.