July 3, 2010

Amagami SS Episode 1

Posted in Amagami SS tagged , , , at 1:49 am by meotwister5

I usually tend to be wary of a lot of VN to anime adaptations.  There are those that are really good ones (Clannad) and those that should never exist in the first place (Umineko).  As I’ve told others before, VNs and animes are two very different beasts and there’s really no such thing as a direct bridging between the two.  This recently came into a lot of light with all the bruhaha that came with the conclusion of Angel Beats!, Maeda Jun’s (of Key Visual Arts) pet project with PA Works.  This was billed as a multimedia project, and in essence was his first original work for an anime series, in contrast to how his work were made from VNs and adapted into animes.  Simply put, since Angel Beats! isn’t the point of this post, the series received a lot of criticism regarding its pacing, characterization and plotting.  It goes to show that being a fantastic Visual Novel author doesn’t automatically make you a good anime writer  With that idea I tend to be more judgmental of adaptations these days.  While I’ve heard of Amagami before I never actually played it, though I heard it’s follows the same genre conventions so I can have some expectations out of it.  It isn’t an eroge by the way so no sex anywhere, so you can stop looking for anything School Days in this.

What should be noticed is the different way the story is approached for the adaptation.  Unlike most adaptations where the Destined Girl is the focus and everyone else revolves around the main couple with the male lead resolving their issues without romantic involvement, Amagami decides to give everyone a chance.  That is, everyone becomes their own Destined Girl in their own stories.  For the series, apparently the creators decided to make it into a series of “What if?” short stories where they present each route as they are, with series being broken up into segments detailing the main lead’s life with every possible datable girl in the cast.

So first up, for episode 1, we have the senior slash school idol, Morishima Haruka.

"My what a big *bleep* you have there!"

Slightly tomboyish but apparently strangely interested in the male lead known as Tachibana Junichi, he’s apparently been enamored by her for a while, though he’s been unable to really act on his feelings due to his past trauma (which I will get to later).  Junichi, being the nice guy that he is, helps out a freshman get some food through the lunch rush, thereby attracting the eye of this previously unapproachable beauty.  From then on their friendship begins as they hang out together, eventually culminating him finally, after 2 years of emotional withdrawal, deciding to confess his feelings.

The result?  Well let’s get to that later.

Dazed and maybe slightly confused.

First things first is about the male lead.  Because the series intends to avoid the harem route, there’s no need for a clueless and lecherous male lead.  What we get so far in Junichi is a slightly dull and generic guy, but this is forgivable because the template of most VNs is to have the players insert themselves into the main character.  For the viewer to put themselves in his shoes they need to find some of themselves in him, and in this respect Junichi manages to succeed in a way, though since we aren’t exactly him per se, he will have to develop down his own path.

Morishima-san’s actually a pretty interesting character.  In the first episode it’s hard to really pin her down to personality archetypes and tropes, which is really a good thing because it usually means there is more to her than meets the eye.  Because the first episode manages to avoid letting her be completely described, we can expect her to be deeper than she looks.  There is clearly more to her than being generically nice and being attracted to Junichi on some level.

I should also add that I like her character design, which I extend to the females in general.  For mostly obvious reasons, the females of Dating Sim type VNs tend to have some exaggerated characteristic to them to… expand their appeal.  May it be huge breasts, oversized eyes or maximum moe, there’s something there the creators tend to use to garner attention.  Not so much here because the the females are actually well proportioned anatomically speaking.  Morishima, despite being the school idol as Junichi says, is no exception.  Some might call her body “plain” in the same vein as the rest of the girls, but I’d prefer plain bodies and plain chests over seeing breasts jiggle in my face every few seconds.

We men don't register rejection properly.

So she rejects him by the fountain.  Boo hoo.  Big deal.  We’ve all been rejected one way or another, most of us more than once (grumblegrumble)

Actually it IS a pretty big deal.  I decided to forgo discussing Junichi’s fragile emotional state until the end because I needed more space to do it without distractions.  Some of us might remember such events and laugh them off, but we have to remember that he’s a teenager, specifically a teenager with such a cocktail of hormones running through his system it would make a Coke runner call bull.  Of course, most if not all of it can be traced back to him being stood up like a chump on Christmas day 2 years prior.

"No one can hurt me here..."

Defense Mechanisms

If there’s anything that would tell us clearly how his mind works and how Junichi copes with yet another moment of emotional stress, it would be the above scene.  Specifically, the robotic way he enters his homemade planetarium, his personal escape of sorts, as if to suggest that this is practically routine for him when encountering these feelings.  What is most shocking about this scene is that he does it with such a degree of emotional detachment that you have to wonder if was ever rejected at all. At the end of OP he finds himself lost in his own world and his own fantasy, with him looking as if he feels safe and secure in his own little shell, until Miya wakes him up, and with that it’s back to the daily grind of school life.

When I consider how he’s trying to cope, I could likely conclude that he’s trying to Isolate (psychoanalysis) himself from his emotional stressor through an inappropriate, or lack of an, emotional response.  During a time where men cry like little babies back to their mommies (or maybe that’s just me) he became unaffected and somewhat listless.  He seems detached from the world around him and is solely intent on reaching his special place, his planetarium.  It’s very very common for people to retreat to a place of comfort in order to deal, or not deal, with problems facing them.  In fact, depending on the nature of his planetarium and how he sees it, it’s even possible he’s Regressing, with the planetarium being symbolic of his desire to return to an earlier state of happiness, where his emotional turmoils cannot harm him.

Whatever the case may be it’s clear enough that Junichi has some serious issues he has to deal with.  It’s precisely this quality, this human quality of the struggle against your own inner demons, that actually makes him grow on you even if he is a bit dull personality-wise.  This is of course just the first episode so there’s still a lot of ground to cover, but I’m now rather interested on how he and his potential mates can help him sort out his fears.

At the very least don’t let him have a psychotic breakdown.  I’d prefer him not to be the male Yandere thank you very much.

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