Guest post: Amagami SS Review
This is my first full official post on this website as a guest author!
the following contains a full review of Amagami SS as well as a small discussion about the status of true Japanese dating sims in Australia. Enjoy!
Recently there have been a lot of Anime spin-offs of dating sims and eroge titles (Bridge to the Starry Skies to name a few) and many tend to be filled with copious amounts of fan service and a harem that only teenagers could dream of, but most of them fall flat because they introduce too many girls at one time, leading to the sacrifice of the plot and tending to leave the love polygon unresolved. Amagami SS is a different beast altogether however, rather than following the generic cookie-cutter harem anime structures that other shows tend to fall for, Amagami SS asks the “What if” question (if it’s the best way to describe it) and goes down numerous paths with different results. In essence, it’s very similar to dating sims as it tends to favour character arcs rather than dumping a bunch of different character types and let the plot sort itself out, which is a refreshing change and leads to stronger romances between characters.
Amagami SS follows the story of Junichi Tachibana, a teenage boy who got his heart broken by a girl who stood him up on Christmas eve, now he is a second year High School student wishing for a fresh start. He is a little hesitant about love and feels uncomfortable celebrating Christmas due to his painful past, however his encounter with one of the six heroines from his school will open his heart to love again.
I really love the fact that they chose to divide the anime into separate character arcs, because this allowed the focus of development between the couple which blooms into a deeper relationship, rather than having a half-assed relationship that lasts about five minutes before moving onto the next character type. Because of the larger focus on character development between the two, I can actually relate to the characters, and not necessarily feel rushed to understand the relationship (it also helps that the whole season is 26 episodes, rather than cramming it into the usual 12-13 episode season), not mention that the pacing between each character arc wasn’t too fast or too slow, it found a comfortable balance so I felt satisfied after each episode.
I really hate to label some negative points to such an excellent series, even if they are fairly minor. The character types are a bit stereotypical and this may be a bit of a turn-off for some viewers. We have the senpai (Haruka Morishima) the tomboy-ish childhood friend (Kaoru Tanamachi) the quiet one (Sae Nakata) the sporty one (Ai Nanasaki) the airhead (Rihoko Sakurai) and the responsible class representative (Tsukasu Ayatsuji). Have you seen any of these character tropes before? I am just about positive that you have. But I believe that this is easily forgiven with the deeper relationships and the interesting character developments these characters produce.
At times I felt that the plot structure in each arc was a tad bit predictable (encounter-conflict-resolution) but it didn’t bother me so much and I dismissed this idea, it just seemed to be a bit of issue according to some of my friends that have also seen this series (and they are entitled to their opinion). Those that want a strong sense of variety in their anime however should be cautious about watching this, but for most of us this isn’t a major problem that wouldn’t compromise the series.
Now in relation to dating sims in Australia (for the record, Amagami SS is classified as a dating sim-NOT an eroge!) it seems like the underdog of the gaming industry. Most people associate dating sims with perversion and heavily sexual denotations, which may be the case for western dating sims, however dating sims from Japan are not the case. It focuses more on the relationship aspect rather than the sexual one (any sexual interactions are considered a bonus above all else really). It really is hard to find a pure and meaningful dating sim here in Perth especially, you have to look very carefully to find one and if not, finding it online is the better bet. The culture here just seems to shun this genre and favour mainstream gaming (forgive if I sound like a hipster!), and a good dating sim that tests your comprehension and social skills seems more like a good change of pace.
I highly recommend Amagami SS as you can just sit back and watch this at your own pace, the relationships and character developments are easy to understand, yet so important and meaningful. There are some funny and charming moments and the final bonus episode caps off the series excellently with a hilarious (and somewhat scary) premise, it really is a great anime series for what it is and breaks from typical dating sim/eroge based anime.
Separate character arcs to strengthen the plot
-Great character and relationship developments
-Stereotypical character tropes
-Plot structure a tad bit predictable