|Amagami SS: A Solid Romance in a New Format||3 out of 3 users found this review helpful.|
I felt some hesitation before watching this 6+-heroine dating sim-based anime – however, it was very quickly dispelled by the solid animation quality, beautiful character designs, a great soundtrack and entertaining plots spread over 25 episodes in 4-episode arcs.
I mentioned arcs, but do not be so quick to dismiss this as a typical harem anime!
I admit: yes, the protagonist does get the good ending with every girl, but he does it one-by-one and in a way that he cannot have two girls at the same time. How is this possible, you ask?
“Omnibus” Plot Format:
The approach with Amagami SS was to *reset* the plot after every 4-episode arc concludes to start the protagonist fresh with another girl. This is referred to as the omnibus format. Amagami SS was the first (and not the last – the most recent I watched was Yosuga no Sora, nsfw) anime in the omnibus format I’ve viewed in its entirety, so I was initially worried that it’d feel a little off for me, who is weaned on KyoAni, Key visual novel-based romance anime such as Air, Kanon and Clannad, to go from one arc to another with a complete wipe. However, that was not the case! By the end of the first arc, I was completely satisfied as I would any properly concluded romance anime series and treated the new arc the following week as a separate anime.
In fact, the BluRay releases organize the volumes by arcs – a clever tactic of selling the anime to people who preferred certain heroines over the others.Before I begin, I'll include a short synopsis:
I'll begin my formal ratings with the protagonist:
For those unfamiliar with Amagami SS (based on the dating sim for the PS2 released in March 2009 entitled Amagami), it follows a second-year high schooler named Junichi Tachibana who is trying to fix the hole in his heart caused by being stood up by his Christmas Eve date two years ago. He accomplishes this as one would expect from a romance… through the pursuit of newfound love!
He’s not your typical spineless high school student protagonist. Despite being stood up on Christmas Eve and despite retiring to his makeshift, homemade closet planetarium while contemplative of his love trauma at first, he quickly comes out of that closet (His cute little sister, Miya, literally pulls him out of the closet, I didn't mean that in the way one would usually imply!) and opens up to the world of beautiful girls around him.
Upon finding one of those girls, he gradually warms up to her and becomes the most compatible guy for that girl with a mix of tact, dependability and throwing away his shame at her command (I’m really just talking about the first arc more than anything, but it’s just because those moments were so memorable!)
And by that I mean he has some very shameless moments! Since it’s all in the name of love, though – and since those moments were so entertaining, that only improves his standing with me even more.
In hindsight it seems almost a little contrived that he can be so personable. However, his quirky and slightly perverted impulsiveness is the equalizer that makes him believable. I don’t mean he goes around and does anything perverted – he doesn’t actually do anything more than kiss these girls. He has a sense of dirty humor around his close friends. What makes this believable to me is that I can relate to being a little rash with my perverted thoughts with some of the jokes I remember making in high school, too.
Overall, I’d say Junichi at his best is a memorable and at times even relatable romance protagonist that rises far above your typical romance protagonist. Unfortunately the writers are not always so consistent with him, which is why I had to say "at his best," but I shall address my problems further on with:
Although I mentioned that the omnibus format satisfied me between the first two complete arcs, the rest of the anime’s format under scrutiny does not fare as well with the exception of the last major heroine’s arc – while the first two arcs were consistent and wonderfully written with memorable heroines, the three following it sometimes lack the same level of consistency.
Due to the omnibus format, my overall plot rating comes from the average of what I felt about the arcs, by the order of how they were aired:
Haruka Morishima [5/5]:
Description: She’s a popular senior who loves cute things and, like Junichi, can be very impulsive. Like many her age, she can be very insecure about her feelings, but she doesn’t let this get in the way of doing what she wants or getting what she wants.
Amagami SS started airing Summer 2010, but even now I can still remember my favorite moments from this stellar arc! Despite how I mentioned her being insecure when she’s alone, I feel like she was one of the most consistent and best developed (no pun intended!) characters in this series. While I understand her personality lends itself to easily being very consistent (you can never go wrong with a popular girl with lots of energy and I’ve met a good share of girls in my young life who were pretty insecure about their feelings at times) they utilized it in a way that Junichi and her seemed like a perfect match!
I’d have to say that this was the best way to start off the anime, and I commend those who made that decision. Unlike with the other girls, the conflict in this arc with Haruka was pretty low-key (just her getting to face her feelings for Junichi) so during this arc we’re able to concentrate on not only the heroine’s development but also developing Junichi, who is still coping with two years ago.
With a bunch of very thoroughly entertaining moments, I’d have to say this is not only my favorite arc of this anime, but one of my favorite matchups out of all the romance/harem anime I’ve ever watched!
Kaoru Tanamachi [4.5/5]:
Description: Childhood friend who is similarly impulsive but only around Junichi and their other friend, Masayoshi Umehara. She messes around with them a lot, sometimes even to the physical extent of playfully punching them.
I actually didn’t think I was going to enjoy Kaoru’s arc as much as I did. I was misled by how she likes to mess around with Junichi and just didn’t realize how appreciable of a girl she was. As such, I was surprised with the major conflict involved later on in this arc and how despite being “just” being childhood friends, Junichi was able to both help resolve her conflict and become more than just friends with her. I don’t know why I have such a predisposed notion of childhood friends staying that way, I guess it has to do with past anime I’ve seen in general. This arc was very heartwarming!
Sae Nakata [3/5]:
Description: Incredibly timid friend of Junichi’s little sister who is inspired to overcome her shyness and start working part-time after seeing how nice Kaoru looked at work.
I had high expectations for this arc because I thought Sae was just so cute! The conflict I presented in the synopsis (it’s introduced in this girl’s first episode the time around) turned me off a little at first, but they did at least manage to make it very entertaining by having Junichi intervene as her senpai. This quickly goes a little further from a senpai- kōhai relationship, however, but not in the way you’d expect. Sae begins to address Junichi as “instructor” at some point and he goes to great lengths to teach her.
This is where the pacing and plot starts getting inconsistent. They draw out Junichi helping out Sae for a time that’s disproportionate with how quick and efficient Junichi usually is in resolving conflicts. Maybe they shouldn’t have introduced the conflict as quickly as they did. Also, Junichi even gets a little airheaded! This slows down the development to a near deadlock and everything starts suffering as a result. By the last episode of this arc, however, I feel like they resolved everything tidily enough to redeem the plot and Junichi's temporary obliviousness problem.
Ai Nanasaki [3/5]:
Description: Another one of Miya’s friends, but this one isn’t so shy. She’s having trouble keeping her grades up while maintaining her commitments to the swim team.
Didn’t know what to expect from this arc – I guess that was best, because overall I was actually very pleased with how it came out. I liked Ai a lot more I thought I would, in the end. Unlike the previous arc, a lot more happens in this arc then described in the synopsis. There’s even another conflict in addition to Ai keeping her grades up. As such, a lot of what could’ve been memorable gets brushed over, which is a real shame because it took watching it over for me to remember how nice those moments were.
Rihoko Sakurai [2/5]:
Description: An often spaced out childhood friend who is a member of the Tea Club, which runs a risk of being cut next year after the seniors, the only two other members, graduate. She also loves food but always wants to go on a diet.
Ah, this arc is what reminded me of why I thought the childhood friend doesn’t work out in romance anime… this was probably the worst of Amagami SS, I’m afraid to say. While I appreciate the members of the Tea Club, there was nothing especially engaging about them or the club itself for me to have felt that it was worth going through so much effort to recruit for. As such, there isn’t much about this arc that I found memorable.
What I found was the worst about this arc was that it totally betrays Amagami SS being a romance and ends up shortchanging Rihoko a lot. Junichi also degenerates into someone who is totally oblivious. Another shame, since Rihoko did not deserve that at all. The producers must have something against her.
Tsukasa Ayatsuji [4/5]:
Description: She’s the class rep and wants to make the school’s Founder’s Festival (which falls on Christmas Eve) the best ever despite everything working against her. Tsukasa is a lot more than meets the eye.
As I expected from all the buildup leading to this final complete arc, Tsukasa was really off the rails! I don’t know why, but even before her arc when we caught little glimpses of her interacting with everyone else in the other arcs, I suspected her to be someone who represses her true feelings when she’s out in public. No one’s perfect and she seemed like someone who had a lot of responsibility as class rep, so I guess those hints gave it away.
She was probably the most interestingly complicated character out of the cast, and they did an excellent job developing her. There are a few things about her backstory that I felt they brushed over too quickly and never really came back to elaborating on, which is a shame, but I understand that it’s difficult to manage these things over four-episode arcs. I think this had the potential to surpass even the first arc with more time.
Risa Kamizaki [I appreciated her/the arc.]:
Description: Since it’s one episode I can't really grade it like the other arcs, also I don’t really want to say anything except that it starts with a sudden love confession and ultimately has to do with Junichi’s past.
This episode had an interesting way of incorporating every girl that came before it. I found it thoroughly entertaining and a nice way to end the anime.
It’s by neither Kyoto Animation nor Key but I felt it was solid! There was nothing glaringly bad, but apparently the way they animated parts of the dating sim might have actually been done better, from what I've heard.
They cast the seiyū very well in this one. I don’t think I had a problem with anyone’s voice, really. Almost everyone cast in this has a long list of anime experience prior, too - some you might even recognize if you looked them up.
The EDs are hit or miss, but that's because there's one for each girl and they're done by each girl's correspondin g seiyu.The overall soundtrack is appreciable but nothing too memorable or ear-catching. They used the tracks appropriately on the right times and nothing felt misplaced.
The average was about 3.75; I’ll round up because I would recommend this anime to anyone who likes slice-of-life romances with a little drama and a little humor. I’ve read other reviews which pick on the omnibus format – don’t let that stop you from judging the anime on your own. I personally think the omnibus is a perfectly valid means of providing viewers great stories without having to shortchange the heroines or engage them in anything like a harem. The arcs where they demonstrated that they could pull it off really surprised me, too. I'll have no problem watching other omnibus formatted anime in the future.
Your mileage on Amagami SS itself may vary, however, depending on the girl and the arc and whether or not you're picky about your romance matchups. I was very specific about them all in my review so hopefully that helps your final judgment on the anime as well.
As a whole I loved it, however, and would recommend everyone into this genre of anime to check it out! Thanks for reading!