Home > Amagami SS, Episode Reviews > Amagami SS Episode 12 – Less than She Deserves

Amagami SS Episode 12 – Less than She Deserves

Well, at least that’s over with.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record and rehash all the complaints about this arc that I’ve made in the last three posts. And truthfully most of Jun’ichi’s most insipid traits aren’t on display in this outing. This episode does its best to provide a proper ending for Sae’s storyline, and avoids any more of the ridiculous training periods that have set my teeth on edge. It’s about as good as I could expect.

Yet this episode highlights Jun’ichi’s unworthiness in another way. There seems to be an inverse relation between Jun’ichi’s own maturity and strength of character, and that of his romantic partner. Here, more than in any time previous, it’s obvious he just doesn’t deserve her.

Not all of Sae's stratagems are helpful. She falls for a superstition that couples who share a particular dish will stay together, but the rumor probably started as from a PR campaign to sell expensive desserts

With Kaoru, Jun’ichi was the most equally matched. They had (and have, in all the other arcs thus far) a wonderfully supportive friendship, a mutual give and take which was comic and touching in equal measure. The hesitation that both of them had in approaching the romantic aspect of their growing relations was understandable, even if I felt Jun’ichi was a bit too thickheaded sometimes.

With Haruka Morishima, Jun’ichi was placed in a weaker and unenviable position of being the Ordinary Joe romancing the school princess. Adding in the emotional baggage from getting dumped two years ago only makes the determination with which he pushes forward all the more impressive—and necessary, if the courtship is to be at all believable. There, all the perverted stuff came at Haruka’s invitation, and her immaturity is slowly revealed to be insecurity, that Jun’ichi helps her through.

Haruka got first place in the contest, of course, after roping in Hibiki to play the guy. Sae and Jun'ichi get second, which makes them first among the real couples competing

With Sae, we again have something of a school princess role (she’s beautiful and apparently rich) who should be out of Jun’ichi’s league. And yet from almost the beginning, it’s Sae who takes an interest in him: returning his wallet, spending time with him, and following his every suggestion. Jun’ichi does more to jumpstart a relationship with Sae in Haruka’s arc (helping her get lunch) than he does in this one, yet it’s here that Sae responds.

In spite of all Jun’ichi’s perverted “training” sessions, it’s Sae who is always pushing the relationship forward. The last two episodes typically have her making one or two obvious steps to deepen her connection with Jun’ichi, even though all Jun’ichi typically does in return is find more effective ways to lust after her. For some reason this never seems to scare her off.

Sae made the clothes for the Best Couple contest by herself. Gee, what message could she be sending?

Keep in mind that Sae is typecast as the wilting violet type. Girls like her are always too introverted and fearful to try to pursue a romance; it’s up for the man to slowly notice her silent attraction and come to her—or, more likely, for nothing to happen while she tells herself that it’s ok for them to just be friends. (Meanwhile, the portion of the audience rooting for her write fanfics where their personalized stand-in for the protagonist does get the hint.)

Sae will have none of that. She doesn’t outright come and declare her love, it’s true. But she does make several strongly suggestive statements (that go over Jun’ichi’s head) and acts in a concentrated manner to, frankly, seduce him. She not just puts up with but actively participates in the more sexually suggestive aspects of his training; she dresses up in ways she knows appeal to his fetishes; she asks him out, rather than vice-versa, on what are clearly dates.

Here Sae wears an outfit not meant so much for a date as for shutting down a man's higher cognitive functions

In spite of all this, Jun’ichi remains oblivious to these advances for far longer than is plausible. There’s some last minute handwaving from the writers to the effect that Jun’ichi’s hesitation in romantic endeavors is because of Christmas Eve two years ago, but not only is it far too late to introduce that topic now, but there’s not a compelling connection between hesitation and cluelessness.

How the other arcs handle the Christmas Eve event is instructive. In the first arc, it makes Haruka’s initial rejection of Jun’ichi all the more potent and thus his dogged determination to pursue her again and again anyway far more impressive. In the second, showing that it’s Kaoru who immediately comforts and encourages him afterward—without even realizing what she’s doing—underlines their close relationship. Even when only used briefly, it feels purposeful.

Sorry, writers, you can't pull the closet out at the last minute and pretend it has any meaning

The role of Christmas eve in this arc is to explain his hesitation in telling a girl who clearly loves him that he loves her too, which he’s finally come to admit to himself. Maybe it’s just because of my own lack of social graces, but I’m hard pressed to figure out why telling that to a girl who is actively throwing herself at you is so hard, and why that should serve (as it does) as the dramatic climax for episode.

This lack of courage not only compares poorly to Jun’ichi’s performance in Haruka’s arc, but again calls into question what Sae sees in him. With Haruka, it’s obvious why no guy is dating her: she’s rejected them all. With Sae, what made it so that no guy before Jun’ichi tried to make a move? Or if they did, why should her crippling shyness halt those relationships, but not this one? Were the other guys not perverted enough?

Umehara also has a joke entry into the best couple contest that has people laughing more at him than with him. I suppose someone has to be a greater loser than Jun'ichi

I am pleased that Sae’s shyness isn’t treated in the same stereotypical fashion that most every other anime show does. In a medium filled with cowardly romantic protagonists forever afraid of rejection and upsetting the status quo, she—just as Jun’ichi did in the first arc—stands out as someone who knows what she wants and is willing to overcome her basic character flaws to achieve it. Even as Jun’ichi struggles to declare his love she understands and encourages him through it. But I still don’t have an answer to the question I asked after last episode: Why him?

Anyway, the arc is over now, and I should just let it go. I suppose I should be thankful it’s made me appreciate how good (by which I mean, “better than most of the romantic comedies out there”) the first two arcs were, to see an arc that exemplified all the problems that normally beset the genre. The next arc is, for reasons I’ll get into next review, the one I’m most interested in seeing play out, so with luck they’ll be back at full quality by then.

I have absolutely no idea what the last scene (Jun'ichi filming Sae in a penguin suit, with Miya butting her way in) has to do with anything, but it's hardly my greatest concern with the arc

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