Amagami SS Episode 2 – Puppy Love
I’m not certain if it comes through in my writing style, but I’m a guy. And, even as a guy who is so socially inept that he went through most of high school friendless and now spends his free time reviewing anime episodes on a blog, I still had crushes on girls, even when I knew they were completely out of my league. And as a result of those crushes, I occasionally did remarkably stupid, pointless, or self-defeating things in order to impress said girls, even while my brain was telling the rest of me that this wasn’t a good idea.
All this is to say that when I see Jun’ichi’s frantic attempts to stay in Morishima’s good graces, a part of me understands. That same part of me wants to tell him that it is all wasted effort—but given this is a romance anime, I might be wrong in the end.
Jun’ichi emerges sleepless from his closet the morning after his rejection, in a disheveled state that understandably worries his sister and his friends. After getting excused to the nurse’s office to catch up on sleep, he finds Morishima resting there. Although he finds their reunion awkward, Morishima is happy to pick up their relationship right where they left off, even if she still has no intention of dating him. Jun’ichi happily agrees.
Although he’s only committed to continuing a “friendship” with Morishima, it’s obvious that he still has a higher goal in mind. He mines her for information on what she likes, observes anything she does for coded hints, and generally acts as her personal retainer for the rest of the episode. It’s unfortunate, however, that he doesn’t realize that he should be observing her behavior even when it doesn’t relate directly to him.
Walking back home with her and some friends, it’s revealed that Morishima joined almost every club on campus at one point, only to quit a few days or weeks later as it wasn’t what she was looking for. One of the reasons for her popularity was that the members of each club still remembered her fondly, even after she left. Later on, watching her try to join in on the swimming club’s practice at a whim, it becomes obvious that Morishima is acting purely on impulse. She goes into any situation expecting her charisma and beauty to let her do what she wants, and then leaves when she’s bored with it. She’s always sampling, but never committing.
Her behavior isn’t overtly malicious or cruel; she isn’t trying to toy with others’ affections or make people into her personal slaves. She’s just sufficiently childish and spoiled that it doesn’t occur to her that others wouldn’t stop whatever they were doing to cater to her whims, and for the most part she’s been proven right. Certainly Jun’ichi’s slavish devotion is doing nothing to dissuade her of that opinion.
Watching Jun’ichi’s mood bounce up and down like it’s on a trampoline, in response to every little hint and suggestion from Morishima, is almost painful at times. He’s like a puppy frantically trying to please his master, and Morishima (who explicitly compares him to a puppy in the privacy of her home), finds it adorable. Again, it’s not that she’s overtly abusive of him. It’s just that she doesn’t quite seem to realize how serious he is, or how much she’s setting him up for a horrible fall at the end.
At least, until the end of the episode. Having stayed through the entire day with Morishima, even the point of sticking around while she slept in the school library, he finally works up his courage to confess to her again. He knows that he’s the first person to ever confess to her a second time, and he wants to make sure she knows that he, unlike everyone else who tried, is and will remain serious about her.
Morishima, for the first time, actually seems a bit flustered, and hesitatingly agrees that it’s alright for him to keep liking her, even if she doesn’t reciprocate. Further surprised at his happiness even for that concession, she hints that his steadfastness might eventually win her over. Then, almost as if to release the tension that’s been building within her, she suddenly leans forward and kisses him on the forehead.
Jun’ichi, of course, is inwardly ecstatic about this, although whether he should be is another matter. Morishima’s intentions even in this are still very unclear. She’s providing enough positive feedback for Jun’ichi to feel justified in thinking he may have a shot, but doesn’t mean he actually does,and her fickle nature could easily cause her to switch lackeys just as she once switched clubs.
Ordinarily, an audience would be able to figure out whether such a path would lead to success based simply on whether Morishima was the lead girl of the story or not. But, and I have to give some compliments to the anime for pulling this off, I have no idea who they are intending to make the lead girl at this point. If I had to bet, I would say either Morishima (who is the first to get a character arc) or Tsukasa (his class representative, who gets the last arc) will win out in the end, but there’s no way to be certain; Morishima’s antics aren’t creating any confidence either.
That uncertainty, I think, is what makes this such an interesting show to watch. Watching a romantic comedy, where everyone knows who the one true pairing is, drains some of the tension out of any conflict, since you know everything will turn out alright in the end. Here, the only thing known is that things will not turn out alright in the short term (to allow for the other girls to get their arcs), but if what happens here is laying the seeds for eventual success, that information is still denied us. Like Jun’ichi, the audience is left in a state of radical uncertainty, unable to know the outcome but only to pick up on the clues that are dropped.
Right now I’m betting “no” where Jun’ichi is betting “yes,” but I have the advantage of not being a hormonal teenager stuck right in the middle of it all. Whatever else may be said about the creators of this show, someone has taken a lot of trouble to understand the romantic psychology of it all, making Jun’ichi’s trials feel remarkably realistic. I can honestly believe in the motivations of all the actors here, particularly Juni’ichi. Once upon a time, I might have done the exact same thing in his place.