Amagami SS episode 08, Kaoru arc part IV – Bad Friend, GOOD END

This week the Kaoru arc reaches its conclusion, to mixed results. Kaoru was certainly a fun female protagonist for this arc, but it somehow didn’t come together with the style and pacing of the more unconventional Haruka arc. Much of it was very sweet, and true to the characters, but somehow it didn’t seem to fully realize its potential. Things start off with Junichi having his date planned for him, going into the date itself and then the night after, with a little sidestory thrown in involving Ume and Keiko. Not bad, the episode didn’t do anything wrong per se, but unfortunately it didn’t come together as well as it could by the end.

(NOTE: Yes, I did completely forget the new formatting experiment in the part II post. Oops. But I will be returning to it now, and trying to figure out a new one to try out by the time the next arc starts next week.)

Recap: Things start out with Junichi in class, his mind wandering off as his friend describes his perfect date plan. He’s still thinking about Kaoru, meanwhile Ume seems to have started going out with Keiko even if she’s being sort of tsun tsun about it in front of others. Ah, I love a good beta couple. Ume manages to get Junichi out of the room for a few minutes by faking a paper cut when Kaoru gives the signal from the hallway, sending Junichi to the infirmary. Which may have been a double plot on the beta couple’s part because it sends Junichi there while Kaoru is wearing her waitress uniform, her school uniform being repaired by Keiko’s quick stitching. Perhaps a plan within a plan here as well, as Keiko was the one that pointed out to Kaoru that her skirt seam was coming apart. Devious and cute, I like this new couple already! Once in the infirmary to get a band aid for Ume, Junichi can’t resist another peek at Kaoru in her waitress uniform, but then snaps back to attention and starts falling all over himself trying to ask her out, only to have Kaoru tease him that she’s busy on Christmas. Just that it’s with their date since she figured Junichi wouldn’t take the initiative himself.

Both of them get a bit jittery before their date, Junichi worrying about the costs after Miya starts talking about them, Kaoru having a tough time deciding on clothing and whether to wear her ‘special’ underwear. Planning something, are we? They meet up at a seaside park in front of the Port Tower that Junichi mark I, Kaoru, and Ume were discussing back in the Haruka arc. After walking for a bit, Kaoru drags Junichi up there despite his fear of heights. Using a glass floor section as a way both to tease Junichi and demonstrate their feelings for each other, Kaoru had Junichi stand on it and then goes into how her feelings developed for him. Knowing each other for so long, they know all the good and bad parts about each other, and can depend on each other when needed. Or in Kaoru’s words “I know 100 bad things about you, but I know 101 good things about you.” It was a sweet moment, describing how their relationship evolved over time and displaying the depth of it. There was a lot that didn’t even need to be said between them, and here the episode was at its strongest. Afterwards Kaoru misses the last bus home, so Junichi invites her over since his parents are out of town. They have some fun sneaking in and hiding Kaoru from Miya, and after Kaoru teasing Junichi a bit more she decides that they’ll sleep in the same bed. And even then she gets in some more teasing, falling asleep during a kiss in the last attempt. There’s a brief denouement moment at the very end, though not as far into the future as in the Haurka arc, showing Junichi and Kaoru walking on the beach and talking about all the good times to come.

Screencap commentary:

Way to be a jerk Junichi! Ume should have answered “Miya” or “your mom.”

Secondary OTP. OTP! OTP! Kyaaaaa!

Junichi mark II would do Miroku proud with all his lecherous peeks.

Despite not acting like a puppy, Junichi mark II certainly takes the initiative far less.

“Yes, why don’t you just stay home with me, Nii-nii.”

Takahashi-sensei AND Tsukasa? FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF-

Yeah, memories of True Tears…sad memories…NOOOEEEEEEEEEE!!! *breaks down in tears*.

Congratulations, you’re now the designated fanservice girl!

Oh what would she do without Hibiki?

I doubt the wisdom of this addition in a country with so many earthquakes.

DDDAAAAAWWWWWWW!

A window scene against a backdrop of falling snow. Somewhat similar to the big kiss scene in the first arc, but with a different feel. The lines of the window panes here draw the focus to the characters in the center, and it has a simpler, warmer feel to it with the brighter internal lights and blue ocean background. While the Haruka one in comparison had a more mysterious and almost isolating feeling with the green city lights in the background and empty plate-glass window as the backdrop. Definitely seemed to suit the feel of each arc.

Finding out later that he did in fact have another girl over is going to be what snaps her into yandere mood. Oh the betrayal, Miya!

So the planetarium closest is something that Junichi constructed in each arc. I guess he just stopped needing it sooner in this one.

Kaoru is just perfect in knowing how to tease Junichi, and more importantly, has an excellent sense of timing in doing so.

And once again. Behold the master!

Hmm, not sure what you’re thinking wearing that track suit around when obviously you’re not exercising, as evidenced by Kaoru’s clothes. Unfortunately this wasn’t the equal of the Haruka arc afterstory, it almost felt like the final still shot and voice over at the end of a video game.

Thoughts: As much as I liked Kaoru as the focus of this arc, and wanted to like the arc as a whole, it unfortunately didn’t go as well as the first one. The writers were on their game for the first one, and you could tell. The pacing was great, it accomplished what it needed to and then moved on, and it had great interplay between too odd characters. This time it felt like the bellybutton kiss was out of nowhere, making it seem tacked on like they had to meet a quota. And episode three and most of episode four of this arc spent precious time on things like the issue with Kaoru’s mom and the infirmary set up without drawing maximum utility from them. Neither was a waste, but when you’ve only got four episodes to tell the story you need to be efficient with your time and character development. The Haruka arc was a great example of keeping up the pace while still bringing in the content. The Kaoru arc did develop its characters, but it took too long in getting there and didn’t have a lot of time left to expound upon their realizations.

Some of this might be attributable to the slower, more subtle pace of the best-friends-turned-lovers relationship in this arc, but that doesn’t account for everything. I’m not slamming this arc or saying it was bad, just that it had unrealized potential. The moments of interaction between Kaoru and Junichi needed to be deeper and more meaningful, more like their scene in the Port Tower and less like the one where they helped the two little kids get their badminton shuttlecock out of the tree. The time spent on Junichi tracking down Kaoru when she was upset over her mother dating again could have been cut down a little too. Perhaps Junichi could have visited Kaoru’s at some point to help out with something (maybe homework, maybe buying or making a gift to apologize for making Kaoru’s mom worry when she ran off), casually like he might have done over their years of friendship. Some situation where they can really demonstrate how they can depend on each other instead of just talking about how they can.  But there needed to be something more to make the arc come together. I would have also liked a more thorough afterstory like the one in the Haruka arc. It may not be realistic for two people who got together in high school to get married, but damn if it wasn’t cute to see Junichi mark I and Haruka years later.

Well next week begins the Sae arc, which is unfortunately for me my least anticipated arc. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to manage to get through four episodes of her voice. For one there’s the pitch, and secondly she lets out so much air in a whisper undercurrent to her voice that she could probably inflate a car tire in seconds. And I’ve never liked that shy, scared moe archetype either. However, I will go into the next episode with an open mind. I would like very much to have my concerns proven to be unfounded.

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17 Comments

  1. Merq
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    I like how you take my thoughts and write them so eloquently. I co-sign everything. Yes, the best-friends-turned-lovers bit isn’t typically the whirlwind type of romance that was in the first arc, but it definitely has a lot more depth and drama than was shown in this arc. Nothing made me really love this couple. The moments, except for the confession, all fell kind of flat for me. I don’t know many people that can so casually accept their feelings for their good friend as they did. Yes, they had the whole “I can’t believe I’m falling in love with my bad friend” moments, but it didn’t seem real. It seemed way too easy for them to move their relationship out of the friend zone. I liked the arc. I wanted to like the couple, too, but I didn’t. I am now putting my faith in Rihoko.

    • Posted August 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      Haha, thanks for your co-signature :) There was a lot of potential in the couple, but it just didn’t quite connect with the feelings within the two that it could have. While I think that they speed and seamlessness of the way they moved out of the friend zone worked, I didn’t feel that it expressed the underlying feelings that moved them there. Even if they kept it as internal monologue or talking, I think it would have come off better if the show had demonstrated how the characters’ personalities would have let them naturally slip into ways of thinking that brought them together as a couple. If, for instance, Junichi or Kaoru either was alone and realized something was missing without the other, or if the two of them were together in an everyday situation and suddenly became conscious of how well they meshed. Which is why I brought up the idea of having a scene set at her house, since it would go to the way that their connection was created through everyday actions.

  2. theCorpsCommander
    Posted August 21, 2010 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    all I can say with this finisher episode is: “meh~” and I thought it’ll be like the Haruka arc ending. anyhow, can’t wait for Sae’s stories, looks interesting.

    oh yeah, welcome back ExecutiveOtaku! :)

    • Posted August 21, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Thanks! The camping trip was nice in regards to camping, but the weather didn’t cooperate for astronomy. Well, maybe next time I’ll have better luck.

      Yeah, despite my hopes for this arc I was underwhelmed in how it went. But hopefully the producers will summon up that finely tuned pacing and situation setup ability that they exhibited in the first arc.

  3. Zi Densetsu
    Posted August 21, 2010 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    I WANNA WATCH IT! I’m stuck in the middle of this ark right now, and I can’t download the last two episodes because of communism.
    From what I can see from your overview, it looks like this ark was even shakier than Haruka’s. I guess that means I’ll be turning off my brain while watching the rest of this around 2 weeks from now.

    Next is the childhood friend ark, right?

    • Posted August 21, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      Communism? I recommend activating the homing beacon linked to Liberty Prime. THE LIBERATION OF ZI DENSETSU IS IMMINENT!

      There are some good moments, but unfortunately not linked together in as tight of a story as most of the Haruka arc was. Next up is Sae, who may be something of a childhood friend if they show her and Junichi to have met early in life via Miya. Perhaps something of a Sengoku Nadeko setup. The alternative would be that he meets her through Miya more recently and it’s more of a senpai-kouhai relationship. I can’t say it’s my most anticipated arc, but I’m hoping that it will surprise me.

  4. lurker
    Posted August 21, 2010 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Regarding your concerns, the original game handled the material better. As usual, the original version is better.

    The drama with her mother was much better integrated. It’s much more central than in the show since it serves as sort of an analogy to their romance plot. She doesn’t get over it in one day, he has to comfort her more than once (actually hugging her now), and in bed, she compares her need for him to her mom’s need for another man in her life. I would have liked to see that instead of irrelevant fanservice cameos by other characters.

    The downplaying of this theme was doubly disappointing because certain lines of dialogue left in the show support it. Notice that Kaoru describes the issues of her developing feelings for Junichi and her mom getting remarried in the same terms – they come all of a sudden and she doesn’t know what to do.

    They don’t just kiss (mouth-to-mouth) thrice either (if anyone thought that was too few). The accidental kiss was accurately portrayed, but she later forces one on him again with better results. Another happens because she has a stalker while on the job and they pretend to be a couple to drive him off. Yet another one happens because they want to understand each other better. (My point is the show condenses or skips over so much so it can’t help but feel rushed).

    According to my sources, the game doesn’t detail what they get up to in bed, only that “neither of them get any sleep that night”.

    The final scene of her best ending path in the game also ends with her taking him to meet her mom and stepdad. It’s a crying shame they ended the episode when they did.

    • Posted August 21, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      The drama with her mother would have been an excellent opportunity. Last month a similar situation came up when I was retroblogging Kare Kano, and that was how it’s done. And it sounds like the game handled it in a very similar way. Time constraints are an inherent difficulty in these four episode arcs, but even so the producers showed that they could handle such quick pacing with the second half of the Haruka arc.

      The stalker part sounds a little forced to me, but other than that it seems that the game did it well. And Junichi meeting with Kaoru’s mom and step-dad would have been something I’d have liked to see within the arc itself, or at least in the denouement portion at the end. This is making me want to check out the game now…

      • Posted August 23, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

        This is the problem I have with the whole VN concept. I want my story presented to me. I want to know how the story goes. If I play a VN, there’s typically a bajillion different endings, many of which are satisfactory. While Amagami’s done a good job at presenting stuff how I like, it also leaves out so much. Is there a way for me to have my cake and eat it, too? 絶望した!*

        Miya has eyes that will LOOK INTO YOUR SOUL. Seriously. It was a little creepy the way she looked a Juunichi when discussing Christmas dinner. Or was that just me. Yandere, yandere~

        Anyways, I am also not looking forward to Sae’s arc, for precisely the same reasons as you. I’ve heard characters with high-pitched voices before, but this is at a whole new level. I’m surprised anyone can tell what she’s saying; her voice has almost phased ultrasonic.

        PS: I tried commenting on your ep6 blog, but it never went through.

        *Yeah, so what I’ve already used that one.

  5. Posted August 21, 2010 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Haruka’s just making sure that Christmas comes on time. ;D

    Yeah, I agree that this arc is a bit more low-key and less surprising than the previous arc, although I think I enjoyed it a bit more than you. Just too darn cute for me to hate on too much. Although if what the commenter above me says is true, then I would have liked to have seen the ending with Kaoru taking Junichi to meet her mom and (potential) stepdad. Would have put a nice close onto the arc.

    • Will of the Wisps
      Posted August 21, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      I enjoyed this episode as well. However, I had similar experience as the couple in this arc, so it is much easier to relate to them and to dawwww over them. Also to note for is Kaoru took the male role of confessing first, while in male clothing. Then she also took the traditionally male role of seeking sex, then being on top. In fact, I find this cute instead of horrible, but I was never one for traditionally well-defined male-female roles in a relationship.

      • Posted August 21, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

        Despite not acting like a puppy and seeming subservient, Junichi mark II definitely took the initiative less than Junichi mark I. Personal experiences can make the different arcs (and romance series more generally) more appealing because we can identify with different ones, so I see your point. The Haruka arc had some things in it that I could relate to (no, not the kinky parts!), but I still contend that the story structure and pacing would have made me like it more even if it didn’t have any personally relateable elements.

        • Will of the Wisps
          Posted August 22, 2010 at 6:09 am | Permalink

          True enough. I don’t think I can add anything to that.

    • Posted August 21, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      Oh Haruka. Given the fairly high amount of screentime she’s had this arc for a non-arc character, I have to wonder if the previous arc girl gets extra moments, or if all previous-arc girls are going to get bumped up screentime. I hope it’s the former, I don’t want everyone else crowding out my Tsukasa in the final arc!

      I’m also all about the cute, but I ended up enjoying the Haruka arc better because it did such a good job for its two character’s personalities and relationship. It was highly unconventional, but all the kink didn’t bring down my opinion of it because it felt right for their relationship. This time, an arc more focused on cute which I would on that basis find more appealing, didn’t keep up the steady, highly disciplined pacing or delve enough into the underlying emotions and motivations. It does sound like the game did a better job of it, and it seems that if it would have taken more cues from the game I would have ended up preferring it over the first arc.

  6. rpd
    Posted August 22, 2010 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    Did we find out what those three coloured things were. And why did his little sister have such a problem with the first girl and not with the 2nd. 1st i thought it was a siscon but there was none of that in arc 2.

  7. David
    Posted August 22, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    While I can somewhat agree on the idea of being disappointed at the lack of including more detail (such as about her mother), I’ll note that I was pretty well sick of the show after the first two episodes, and would have dropped it altogether if I hadn’t found out about the multiple arcs. The Kaoru arc, on the other hand, I found far more enjoyable. Yes there were things that could have been fleshed out a bit more, but for a 4 episode run it seemed to hold its mood quite well without getting overly distracted.

    Minor side note: I can sympathize with Junichi’s fear of heights. When I went to the CN tower in Toronto they had a similar construction of the glass plates in the floor (as well as the glass-walled external elevators). I don’t think even having Kaoru hold hands with me could have made me stand on top of one of those, though.

    And why did his little sister have such a problem with the first girl and not with the 2nd. 1st i thought it was a siscon but there was none of that in arc 2.

    In the first arc Junichi had no support from anyone after the date-gone-wrong. He retreated into his own world (the constellation closet), and stayed there all the way up to the start of his arc. Living with him all this time, I’m pretty sure Miya felt it was her responsibility to take care of her brother. She undoubtedly knew about the date incident, and would thus treat -any- other woman getting close to her brother with strong suspicion.

    In the second arc, his fall into depression was intercepted by Kaoru. While he certainly got depressed about the incident, it wasn’t the complete downward spiral, and would only lightly influence Miya’s protective instincts. A couple years later and they’re going to be a fairly normal pair of siblings.

    Purely speculation on my part, but my guess is that Junichi is going to meet Sae because of Miya’s setting them up together in the next arc, as a different way of her trying to help him out of his depression.

  8. Posted August 28, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    A little late here, but I’m going to have to say that I think this arc played out very well, for what they had to work with.

    I didn’t think the library scene in the second episode felt out of place at all, especially with how we see their past relationship in this ep. They have been trolling each other for a while now, Kaoru usually getting the upper hand. And with as physical as their relationship is, it doesn’t seem odd at all that he’d do something like that (ie, something embarrassing in a semi-public place – goodness knows she does it to him often enough).

    By leaving out most of the mother business from the game, it actually makes sense how the arc ended here. Their relationship has not fundamentally changed, just been added to. Even right up to the end, she is trolling him. And yet she is so completely comfortable with him, and knows him so well, she’s willing to sleep in his bed with him, with no expectations. As usual, while Junichi may surprise her at times, she is the winner. But they are best friends, even now.

    While with Haruka, we see the relationship from the beginning, to a ‘completion’ (some details left out, of course – ten years of them). With Kaoru, we see only one small (but important) step in what was already a strong, lasting friendship, which will undoubtedly be a long one, regardless of whether the romance lasts.

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