In the business of dating sims and bishoujo games, one of the hard parts in converting them into anime is how to fit an entire harem of girls and their stories into a series. The games have multiple paths and endings which can be reset in every playthrough. Anime series don’t have this option, episodes must be produced and played in linear fashion. The usual approach for game-anime conversions had been mostly focusing on the most favorite characters’ arcs, while having enough screentime for the other girls in one-shot episodes. Other approaches would include changing the stories to not include much romance for the others while having the main girl get her man in the end. And so I wonder, why is it so rare that we’re having a parallel-universe format in these types of anime? Well, some may argue that the parallel-universe format is hard to pull off in a series. I would try to explain why as this review goes, but in any case, we have a quite a guinea pig in Amagami SS as the first major separate-arc romance anime.
We have 6 girls and 24 episodes to work with, that makes it 4 episodes for each girl. We have a single male lead in Junichi Tachibana. Typical lame, slightly perverted, but necessarily kind character. He actually has a backstory in which he got devastated being stood up on a Christmas date two years ago. So here he is, meeting each girl during the Christmas season, trying to get over her trauma and starting a new romance… 6 times over. Our roster of high school girls here are of the usual dating sim archetypes. We have the popular beauty Haruka Morishima, feisty close friend Kaoru Tanamachi, shy type Sae Nakata, cool and spicy Ai Nanasaki, glutton and diet-less Rihoko Sakurai, and finally the multiple-personality disorder girl Tsukasa Ayatsuji. Each girl has her own special charm, and it shows throughout the entire series. Wait, did I say “entire series”?
Yes, even though Amagami SS runs in separate, parallel stories, you still see “each” girl, in “every” episode. It’s not as if they would totally disappear if it’s not their turn to shine. The main challenge of the parallel-universe format is how to keep viewer’s interests going even if their favorite girl is not the current focus of a particular story arc. While most other anime as I said earlier try to avoid this challenge, Amagami fights it head-on, and they somehow managed to pull it off quite nicely. Five characters may just appear as cameos to one character’s story, but they still maintain their awesomeness. And it’s not about the six main girls either. We have an entire roster of supporting characters, ranging from club members, friends, the usual sidekick, a teacher, and a “wonderful” sister for our main lead. Finally, there’s a special girl in the 25th episode which even explained Junichi’s entire backstory!
What’s amazing about Amagami SS is how all this fits together in a mere two-cour. This anime never misses a beat, and even with its relentless pace, it still manages to write up some good romantic comedy stories. As the spiritual successor to Kimikiss ~pure rouge~, it has pretty big shoes to fill. While Amagami SS can never beat the atmosphere of Kimikiss, it holds off its own quite nicely in the â€œkilig momentsâ€ (sweet romantic moments). Some of the scenes in this anime are quite surprising, and incredibly notorious. Who would ever forget the knee-pit incident? The arousing role-play in the cafeteria? Or the belly-button kissing? Remember “Glamorous Body?” Or a peeping tom’s professional apology to a not-well-endowed swimmer? Who by the way upskirts herself to reveal her swimsuit to a guy. Keeping tabs on your diet while failing every single time? How about a total ownage of a bullying girl by someone who no one in the class ever expected to have such strong fiery words? Not to mention the surprising reveal of her true character. These are only some of the moments that made Amagami SS so awesome.
Wait, I haven’t mentioned moments from the best character of all! Meet Miya Tachibana, the dreaded imouto chara. But wait, she’s not your typical anime sister who suffers jealousy and attention deficit sickness, she is a total disruptor of the highest order! She somehow steals the entire show away from the main girls, even within their own arcs, everytime she appears. Whether it be talking about her obsession with nikuman, her latest harassment scene of her best friend Sae, or merely just annoying Junichi with her rants and mischiefs, Miya easily is the best imouto character anyone could ever have. She is a pro.
Amagami SS is not by the same studio that brought Kimikiss and Hatsukoi Limited, so I was initially skeptical it would be similar to those two. Thankfully, the feel is still the same. We have pretty nice animation, decent music, and a pace good enough for its story content. I think I have just found the holy trinity of harem romantic comedy anime. It does have some faults though, like how the last episode feels rushed because it was the only one alloted for the bonus girl. Also, Rihoko’s story seems a bit unfair compared to the other girls, she didn’t actually have a romantic ending. There’s bound to be nitpicks and comparisons like this especially because there’s equal opportunity laid to each girl, which is another hardship of the parallel-universe format. I guess we shouldn’t wonder why this isn’t used very often.
Despite the drawbacks, Amagami SS is one of a kind. Despite the challenges of having separate stories and arcs, we have a well-structured, well-balanced, and entertaining anime. Of course, I would eagerly await the Miya arc, a laborious wait of a few months. Meanwhile I’ll be repeating it again just for the wonderful characters and great moments. Amagami SS is a recommended watch.