Home > Amagami SS, Episode Reviews > Amagami SS Episode 8 – Variations on a Theme

Amagami SS Episode 8 – Variations on a Theme

The thematic point of the original Amagami SS game was to have Jun’ichi overcome his original setback in love, dealt to him on Christmas Eve on his senior year of junior high, and find romance with one of the six possible girls whose relationship tracks culminate at a Christmas Eve date. With Christmas fast approaching, and Kaoru’s family issues resolved, all the remains is for our protagonists to stop stalling and go for it.

Meddling friends are sometimes a hindrance more than a help when it comes to relationships, but here Keiko and Masayoshi prove effective, conspiring to bring the two hesitating lovebirds together. This is particularly welcome in Masayoshi’s case, as in most romance stories the role of the male lead’s best friend is to be the whipping boy and general loser (to make the male lead seem better by comparison). The two get Kaoru and Jun’ichi some alone time so they can work out their issues.

Of course, Masayoshi can't actually be cool, so he gets rejected after trying to make a move on Keiko

As it happens, Jun’ichi has gotten over his denial that he likes Kaoru, and decided to ask her out for Christmas Eve, only to find out that she was planning on taking him on a date herself because he was too slow in asking. As punishment, she takes him to the port tower mentioned at the beginning of the arc, even though she knows he is afraid of heights.

After some fun at his expense, the mood turns serious, and the two finally express their feelings for each other openly and explicitly. It’s a scene that (probably intentionally) mimics marriage vows, and ends with a declaration of love by both parties. While I can see some watchers thinking it too corny, I felt it followed naturally from their established relationship, and served as a nice capstone to it all.

It's not quite West Side Story, but for an exchange of self-created professions of love it hits the right notes

There’s some mild sketchiness afterward as Kaoru winds up spending the night at Jun’ichi’s place after missing her bus, but it remains comparatively chaste overall. Kaoru falls asleep while kissing Jun’ichi, which isn’t the most romantic thing in the world, but the epilogue implies that their relationship continues to mature over time. That’s actually much more satisfying than learning that ten years later Jun’ichi and Morishima are still in the puppy love stage of their relationship.

Overall, I felt this relationship was more “real” than the one that came before. This one doesn’t end on a flash forward to a decade later, because it doesn’t need to; unlike with Morishima, there’s not too much worry that this relationship will die out over the years. It’s not based on gimmicks or childish affection but on a deep understanding between the leads, one that knows the faults and strengths of the other, and accepts all of it. This episode might have felt more like a victory lap than a dramatic story, but it’s a victory lap that has been earned.

My guess is that every Christmas Eve episode will involve snow at some point

Kaoru is also far more sympathetic as a character. While Morishima had so internalized her princess role she didn’t even realize how selfish and flighty she was, Kaoru has just the right combination of introspection and charisma to carry her through. Her vulnerability (not flaws, but vulnerability) was also brought on display earlier, providing some element of conflict for Jun’ichi to help resolve.

I’ve complained about Amagami a lot recently, and one possible reason is that I have gone in with incorrect expectations. I thought going into Morishima’s arc that the story would be continuous from girl to girl and it wasn’t; I though going into Kaoru’s arc that it wouldn’t feature bizarre kissing fetishes and it did. I don’t think that the show would have been worse if my expectations were correct, but not knowing what I was getting into each time caused no small amount of confusion.

This looks like it might go somewhere sketchy, but then Kaoru falls asleep and nearly suffocates him. I admit I wasn't expecting that

Another problem, which I mentioned last time, is the show’s insistence of giving all of the romantic leads screen time, even when they have nothing to do with the plot. While some cameos (like Kaoru’s in the second episode, and Morishima’s in the seventh) help to advance the plot somewhat, those are rare. There wasn’t enough story in this episode fill out a full twenty minutes, so the pointless excursions to the other girls are in some sense necessary—but I think a better solution might be to trim back a bit and shoot for 24 episodes rather than 26. About a third of this episode involved secondary players, and when the actual plot is as subdued as it is, it feels much longer.

The major problem, however, is that I am running out of things to say. Maybe that will change with a new girl and a new arc, but there’s only so many ways you can describe a particular guy falling in love, even if it plays out differently every time. Jun’ichi isn’t quite a deep enough character for the different scenarios to change him in interesting ways; the most intriguing part of him is how he uses his planetarium-closet, but that got even less attention this arc than it did in the first. Jun’ichi remains a slightly moody, somewhat mischievous, but otherwise normal teenage boy. That makes him better than the obvious losers who frequently become the recipients of a harem, but still not that interesting to watch.

Kaoru finally sees Jun'ichi's closet, but nothing important happens as a result. So why include it in the first place?

Amagami still qualifies as a good show—if you like romances, at least—but I’m constantly worried that I’ll get to a new episode and have nothing to write about save, “This is just like last time, only he kisses her armpit.” The point of antiotaku isn’t to just summarize episodes but to provide some deeper thought or commentary about them. For all that I am liking Amagami, the only things I’ve had to comment on recently are the show’s flaws, and should even those become repetitive, it might be time to close up shop.

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