Amagami SS

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, October 11, 2013

amagami-ss

Amagami SS might be the most literal adaptation of a dating sim I have ever watched. Anime based on visual novels and dating sims have tended to be the type that I have enjoyed watching the most, though they have varied in quality considerably. These games let players explore different routes and settle on a particular girl to take an interest in on each play through, with different elements unlocking as they make their way through each one. Anime adaptations have tended to pick one particular arc and head in that direction, with the occasional show letting the main character hook up with every female lead to some extent. But where Amagami SS differs is that rather than picking a particular lead as the one the main character will fall for, it hits the reset button every four episodes and lets each arc play out. It’s a different approach than I was used to, and while it didn’t quite end up being one of the most memorable romance series I have seen it still had enough to keep me entertained for the 26 episode run.

Junichi Tachibana stars as the lead character in Amagami SS, and he might just be one of the more awkward protagonists I have seen in a romance show in recent memory. Junichi was stood up on a date on Christmas Eve two years ago, and since that point he has had issues with anything romance or dating related. As you might expect, this doesn’t last for very long in the series as he spends each set of four episodes ending up with a different female. Each arc seems to follow the same general formula, as Junichi starts off at a friend or acquaintance level with a particular girl, goes through one or two episodes where they get to know each other and he does something perverted on accident, and then they eventually end up falling for each other by the end. Despite the familiarity of the setup once you’ve gotten through the first arc, what was surprising was how the series was able to use the personality of each of the girls and Junichi’s awkward moments to make the scenarios remain interesting.

I don’t want to dive too far into the details about each of the girls that Junichi ends up getting involved with over the course of the show, as there are a few arcs where giving too much information about one of the characters would give away the nuances of the story. But at its core, Amagami SS has all of the expected tropes that are typical for a romance show. There’s the popular out of the main character’s league type, the childhood friend, the junior high friend, the class representative, and two friends of the main character’s younger sister (one shy and one outgoing). But the reason that this works so well is that the series goes in some strange directions at times and also manages to establish a decent, if sometimes rushed romance between each pair. Amagami SS has some of the most downright bizarre scenes I have seen in this genre recently, as in the first arc Junichi ends up in a situation where he licks the back of a girl’s leg like a dog and pretends to hold her hostage and feed her ramen. Then in another, a haunted house/house of illusion appears to turn his current girl interest into a bowl of ramen, which Junichi claims he is going to eat. You’ve even got an arc where there is a narrator breaking the fourth wall for each of the four episodes. What I’m trying to get at is that for every character type and standard romance anime/dating sim type of situation the show throws at you, it has enough charm and strange yet hilarious ideas to keep you wanting to see each arc through to the very end.

However, despite some of the hilarious and bizarre situations and the likeable characters I can’t say that Amagami SS ranked near the top of my list for romance anime. After watching the six arcs and the two bonus episodes that focus on a secret love interest and Junichi’s sister (but not in a romantic way for once) I definitely enjoyed the storylines, but the fact that each romance was limited to four episodes made some of them come off as unrealistic and rushed compared to series that were able to spread things out for a longer period of time. Secondly, I wasn’t crazy about how some of the arcs were handled. In particular, one of the girls is regarded as being overweight and the show goes out of its way to make sure that she is the only one in the entire series that Junichi ends up being friends with instead of dating. For some reason this just didn’t seem right to me with the way it was handled, and I haven’t run into this issue that often in anime. But even with these issues, I still found myself watching Amagami SS in quick succession and it did resonate with me enough that I did want to see how each arc played out.

One of the first things I noticed was that this series looked extremely similar to KimiKiss despite the fact that they were produced by different studios (that one was done by J.C. Staff while Amagami SS was produced by AIC). But a quick search revealed the reason for this is that the dating sim the series is based on is considered to be the successor to KimiKiss and was developed by the same company, so it makes sense that the artwork is quite similar. I really liked the animation overall, as the style went for a more realistic approach rather than the chibi or moe overloads that are common for this genre. While it may not have had the flashiness of some of those other anime series on a regular basis, the more subdued and realistic approach helped to pay better attention to the individual storylines rather than constantly getting distracted. I can’t really complain about anything in particular, as I didn’t notice any particularly jarring moments and the animation seemed consistent for the entire series making it easy to focus on the story and characters without worrying about the technical elements.

Music is one area that I tend not to focus on in my anime reviews, simply because opening and ending themes don’t always stand out to me. But Amagami SS was an immediate exception, as the opening song may have been one of the catchiest I’ve heard in some time. Even though I finished watching the show over a week ago I can still hear a good portion of it in my head, as it’s the kind of lighthearted and upbeat song that’s perfect for a romance anime. About halfway in a second opening theme is introduced, and while it didn’t stand out quite as much it was still a solid track that fit the show’s tone. But what I found particularly interesting was that the producers made a different ending theme and sequence for each of the girls, so each of the six arcs and the bonus episodes have different endings. This is a small touch that showed an attention to detail that is definitely not the norm for anime of this type, and it worked quite well. As for the voice acting, Amagami SS has a slew of established actors that should feel familiar to those of you that have watched plenty of anime over the past few years. They all do a great job and make the drama and romance convincing, and at the end of the day that’s what really matters in this genre.

It may not end up as one of my favorite romance anime series of all time, but Amagami SS was an enjoyable watch that continued to draw me in for each of its arcs. Some of the relationships feel better developed and more natural than others, but I have to give the series credit for doing something different and literally hitting the reset button after each arc. If you’re into similar shows like KimiKiss or other dating sim/visual novel adaptations Amagami SS is worth checking out.

Amagami SS is available in two 13-episode DVD compilations and streaming on Hulu and Crunchyroll

http://www.sentai-filmworks.com/index.php?option=com_catalog&view=item&Itemid=54&id=653

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