Amagami SS Episode 7 – Denying the Obvious
It’s incredibly common for romance shows (particularly anime romance shows) to set up a relationship where one partner isn’t willing to acknowledge his or her—typically her—affection for the other partner, even when its painfully obvious to all concerned exactly what’s going on. School President is a Maid obviously exemplifies this trope, as does to a lesser extent Mayoi, B Gata H Kei, Asobi (with a secondary character), and Occult Academy, just to name shows this blog has covered. It’s practically a requirement for tsundere characters, and tsundere characters are the hot thing right now.
Amagami is forever toying with conventions, so it’s notable that, even though Kaoru looks to be the closest thing to a tsundere that this show will produce, denial of their burgeoning relationship isn’t coming from her end, but from Jun’ichi. But what also makes it notable is that I can’t understand why he’s so thick-headed about the issue. His mind’s telling him no, but his body (and his actions, his emotions, and everything else) is telling him yes.
Kaoru, as we are reminded again at the beginning of this episode, did not take the discovery of her mom dating very well. After a major (off-screen) fight with her mother, she spends the night sleeping in a manga cafe, missing school as a result. Her absence gets Jun’ichi worried. Learning that she didn’t call in sick, and is therefore missing, sends him into a panic, and he skips out of school in the afternoon to find her.
As he searches, he’s reminded of everything he knows about Kaoru, both interacts shown within the show, and flashbacks to entirely new events. Mainly he’s trying to find clues as to where she might be, but these all highlight the closeness of their relationship and much they’ve come to care for each other. Eventually, a random overheard conversation makes him think she may have gone to work, and he finds her pulling her regular hours at the restaurant.
She explains the situation to him on her break, and Jun’ichi, uncharacteristically, gives good advice, saying that maybe it’s ok for her mom to be seeking a relationship again after all these years. (It seems, contrary to my initial impressions, that Kaoru’s father died, so she views her mom’s relationship as a betrayal of him as well as of her.) He goes further, offering to be the support that keeps Kaoru going just as her mom finds support in her new love.
Now, it’s hard for me to take this line as anything other than an oblique form of a romantic confession. Kaoru seems to treat it that way, saying that she needs him by her side, and warming up to him much more after their exchange. But Jun’ichi doesn’t view it like that, still thinking that his intentions are purely those of a friend, and that his offer of support didn’t have any deeper meaning. It’s only later that he begins to wonder if his feelings might have a romantic meaning to them.
As I mentioned last time, this seems sort of bizarre to me. He crossed a major physical boundary line last episode, and this one he crossed a couple emotional ones. Friends don’t get worried about other friends for missing a day of school, at least not enough to ditch themselves in a frantic search. Friends don’t buy gifts of favored candy in advance, just in case a friend is distressed. Male friends may spend a fair amount of time indulging in fantasies about female friends (at least, horny teenager males spend fair amounts of time indulging in fantasies about pretty girls, friends or not), but the exclusivity of his fantasies of late, even beyond his kissing debut, shows a particular interest.
So why is he so reluctant to acknowledge it? Why doesn’t he want to acknowledge it? He’s known for a long time that Kaoru is attractive on a physical level, that they get along great, and that he cares for her deeply. Maybe he’s oblivious to the signals Kaoru is sending him in return, showing that she’s interested in him, and doesn’t want to ruin their friendship by making the first move himself. That would be reasonable, but we haven’t seen any evidence that’s what he thinks, and Kaoru’s signals are pretty open by now.
Of course, given the format of the show, both of them will come to acknowledge their feelings by Christmas Eve, which is to say the next episode. Maybe I’m too busy trying to figure out how things would work out “in real life” rather than how things will work out in the context of a four episode story. But Jun’ichi’s denial doesn’t come off as a natural hesitation, but as stalling on behalf of the writers. That’s not good story-telling.
I could be of a minority view on this; my co-blogger seems to find the false starts, sudden backtracking, and general awkwardness of it all to be a natural part to friends finding romantic feelings for each other, or to high school romances in general. Having not experienced either, I’m not in a place to correct him. However, there comes a point where plausible hesitation gives way to outright denial of the obvious, and I think we’ve hit that point.
Despite my concerns, I’m still enjoying Amagami. I’m having trouble buying Jun’ichi’s motivations this arc just like I had trouble with Morishima last arc, but while the show isn’t quite realistic, it’s far more grounded in reality than most dating sims or romance anime in general. The girls aren’t perfect, the guy isn’t perfect, but even in their imperfection they find ways to complement each other. That each arc is only four episodes long destroys the need (or even the option) for filler plots.
Thus, it’s not a perfect show either—but it is a different sort of show. Although each arc has generated at least one plot point that’s hard for me to swallow, it’s worlds away from the “everybody falls in love with the protagonist for no discernible reason” harem shows that typify the genre. It doesn’t have the cross-genre appeal to be worth recommending to people who don’t normally like romance (as, I think, Key’s best works do), but for those who do enjoy such stories, it presents something unlike 95% of all romance anime that have ever been produced. And that keeps me coming back.