Delayed a bit by travel, I recently sat down to watch the final (non-BD extra) episode of Amagami SS and think about the series as a whole. There’s a final mini-arc with Risa as the female protagonist, something a bit unexpected but nonetheless interesting. Amagami has been a fun time overall though at times a mixed bag as far as the writing went. It was the first show to use the arc format, a format that has seemed to be catching on recently with Yosuga no Sora being the first to follow in its footsteps. Now some thoughts on the final episode and the series overall.
By its nature the Risa mini-arc had to be quick, simple, and to the point. One episode is not much time at all to introduce a new character and tell a story about her, but surprisingly it managed to be done decently. It was also interesting in that it illuminated some of proto-Junichi’s backstory. Finally it was revealed who had stood him up and with a little treat for those who’ve watched, read, or played Kimi Kiss. I noticed right away in Amagami that the school name started the same way as in Kimi Kiss: Pure Rouge – Kibitou in Amagami and Kibina in the latter. And guess where the girl who stood Junichi up came from?
Complete with the Kibina High School uniform.
Taking place after all the other arcs we get to see how things could have gone if Risa had decided to act as a sort of creepy stalker-protector for Junichi. Junichi mark VII seems a bit more jumpy than the previous ones, though all the girls around him suddenly becoming distant might do that to a guy. One by one, Risa has gone and told any girl that showed interest in Junichi that he already has a girlfriend. This provided some comedy but also was kind of a downer depending on the girl. Haruka and Kaoru seemed to take it in stride, and I’m surprised Tsukasa let her live after seeing her true nature, but Rihoko and Sae seemed genuinely hurt Risa’s trick. It was kind of hard to feel sympathetic towards her ‘protection’ of Junichi even when she explained her reasons later. She claimed that she was invited by Makihara to lure Junichi to the date and then make fun of him. So instead she redirected the other girls to another spot leaving Junichi to stand in the park. Assuming that she’s not lying again this time. In any case she seemed to at the least have shown poor judgement several times. She could have tried to use her sneaking and manipulation skills to checked out the girls interested in Junichi to see if they were really interested in him. Though of course that would jeopardize her own chances with him. Or she could have told Junichi before or shortly after the Christmas date two years ago instead of letting him angst it out since then. In the end at least she had the guts to go and beg everyone’s forgiveness, but it’s still kind of hard to let it go when she ruined things for so many. Especially for Rihoko and Sae, those poor girls.
On the series overall
Are you pondering what I’m pondering? (Image needed to be used somewhere!)
Arc format: Amagami SS was the first series (at least that I’m aware of) that has done an arc format. Dating sim adaptation anime often end up pretty weak because of a (perceived) need to balance out the time and focus that the various characters have, often leading to some harem-esque stuff with little depth. But it is the nature of the material and the fandom for studios to do this so as to try and satisfy fans of all the characters. The best adaptations I’ve seen throw this out the window. Kimi Kiss: Pure Rouge created two main male characters plus two secondary ones so as not to only have one story and one couple by the end. Another example was True Tears that just about scrapped the original game’s storyline. But now Amagami SS had presented a new option for adaptations: don’t focus on one character, but don’t go with the rapid fire harem path either.
Granted Amagami wasn’t perfect in this. The writing definitely had its ups (Haruka arc, Tsukasa arc) and its downs (Ai arc) over the course of the show. Only having four episodes to work with requires a lot of prioritization and skill on the part of the writers and staff. How many full 24-26 episode series have suffered from bad pacing or rushed resolutions? Now think about trying to hold staff to four episodes. But when it was done well the arc format proved that it can be done. The way things were planned out in the first and final arcs was an impressive sight. They were efficient but satisfying, with enough time for both fun and serious romantic drama. The arc format is already catching on with other shows and perhaps might become a preferred method for dating sim/eroge adaptations. It lets studios keep fans of each girl happy (at least in that each girl gets the spotlight for a time) and this will surely be a draw for them. On the other hand it could be a lazy way out and prevent more adventurous ideas like those in Kimi Kiss and True Tears from being greenlit. But the arc-format genie is out of the bottle and only time will tell how Amagami will affect future shows.
GOOD and NOT SO GOOD ENDS
The endings varied as did the arcs. The Haruka and Tsukasa endings were just as good and cute as their arcs were, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two endings that sped forward in time were the best ones. Kaoru’s ending felt hurried and a bit lackluster just like her arc was. Which was too bad since she was my number two most anticipated character when the series was announced. Sae’s ending kept in the comedic spirit of her arc and felt right if a bit odd. Some might not have liked the comedy angle in that arc but I thought it was a nice departure from the style of the other arcs. If you have six/seven self-contained stories with the same premise you may as well experiment a little. Ai’s arc was a complete mess but at least the ending had that “oh deer” moment. These all tend to spread out across a good/bad spectrum, but one arc still bothers me aside from the quality with which it was written…
Yes, I am bringing up that ending again.
As much as I tried to look on the bright side about it, the ending to the Rihoko arc still bothers me. It’s pretty much assumed that Rihoko will win but that it will take a while. By the end of the last episode the two are a de facto couple. I’ve thought this since the end of the arc, but as time goes by it’s been gradually irking me more and more. The arc was well written. It had some really cute moments and featured the best secondary character support in the series, along with the Tsukasa arc. But really, they couldn’t have written in a confession and a kiss by the end of it? Not even some hand holding and walking off into the night or something? It’s not like it was a BAD END or anything. Amagami could have, and I was kind of hoping it would, make one or two arcs a less than ideal end but it didn’t. This was implied to be the GOOD END but it never sealed the deal. If it was supposed to be a sort of FRIENDSHIP END then it would have insinuated that or flat out declared it. I know I’ve posted it before, but I think I’ll let Hitler speak to the rest. Considering the material in the game’s ending (available to view on Youtube in part one and part two if you can understand Japanese) there could easily have been a more satisfying ending.
Use of secondary characters and primaries as secondaries: Another feature of the way the arc format was done here is that it allowed the writers to introduce the different girls when it wasn’t there arc. This allowed them to build up characters for later arcs, a nice way to save time when time is always at a premium. And it was also commendable the way that this continued after a girl’s arc to give her more detail to her personality. Haruka’s adventures with Hibiki being some of the best of this, but Kaoru also had some great moments during the Tsukasa arc.
The true secondary characters also got a lot of use in the story. Umehara was often the cookie-cutter male sidekick but he did have hints of his own romantic endeavors going on in the background. And during the Tsukasa arc he really shined as one of the best support/best friend characters in some time. The tea club girls also played a major part in the Rihoko arc, so much so that their screentime and lines rivaled those of Junichi and Rihoko. Miya captured many a viewer’s heart with her nishishishi and by building a mini-yuri harem around herself. And last but not least in my mentions was Takahashi Maya, the lovely teacher, motivator, and friend to her students. She was there as a friend to Tsukasa outside of her arc, a time when Tsukasa could really use someone to share the burden of festival work with. During the depths of the Ai arc she had a great moment of motivation with Junichi, a bright spot in that otherwise terrible arc. And she looked out for the best interests of her students in all regards by diverting another teacher away from Tsukasa and Junichi’s decisive moment in the empty classroom.
Arc format posting styles experiment: For me this series and its arc format created an idea to try and experiment with different ways of writing posts. One type for each arc, starting out with my usual post format and trying different things for each. It certainly wasn’t easy a lot of times. Several times I ended up delaying the first post of an arc by a day or two because I needed time to think of a new format or angle for each arc. At first I wanted to try a ‘theme’ for each, but it didn’t really come to me for every arc so I just decided to try new formats/outlines for each. Over the course of it I ended up learning a good bit about different ways to structure a post, as well as thinking about what I might want to include in future blog posts. The experiment also reinforced some things that I don’t want to change. I ended up using less images on average in posts with the new format, but in my blogging heart I still really like using lots of images with captions below them. However I did like de-emphasizing the recapping of each episode and I think that in the future no matter which format I use I’ll probably go lighter on the recapping than I have before. Overall the process was a great learning experience for me, forcing me to try new things and helping me see new directions for writing. Below I added a poll for some feedback. Please vote for the two formats you liked the best. (Links to examples of each below since it’s been a while.)
Haruka arc – my usual ‘narrative’ combined recap/commentary with final thoughts style.
Kaoru arc – ‘neopolitan’ style, divided clearly between recap, commentary, and image commentary.
Sae arc – ‘mock epic’ style.
Ai arc – ‘private intel’ style modeled after Stratfor and other private intel/info companies.
Rihoko arc – ‘recipe’ recap plus ‘topics’ sectional commentary.
Tsukasa arc – ‘formless’ format that just goes in stream of consciousness.
Vote below. As always, thank you for reading and for commenting. This series has given me some great feedback and conversations on it and I’ve had a lot of fun watching together with you. My apologies about my delayed replies to the recent posts as I’ve been very busy recently.
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