Home > Amagami SS, Episode Reviews > Amagami SS Episode 13 – Just an Ordinary Girl

Amagami SS Episode 13 – Just an Ordinary Girl

I mentioned last time that the arc for Ai Nanasaki was the one that interested me the most. To explain why, I’m going to have to discuss character designs. Although it’s common sense that in an animated feature the characters look, not like their actors, but whatever the creators decide they should look like, this carries with it certain implications.

One is that you very rarely see costume changes in anime shows, as it’s too annoying to draw characters consistently while also determining how the different clothes should fit on them. (That means outfits are themselves often a part of character design.) Another is that, particularly given the fantasy nature of many shows, the vast majority of anime girls are drawn to be attractive—even when they’re not technically supposed to be.

Amagami is actually good as a general matter is distinguishing attractive from plain. Hibiki clearly is normal compared to Haruka, and Keiko isn't particularly special either

Thus, in Amagami, we know that Haruka is supposed to be stunning and elegant, while Sae is absurdly cute. But Kaoru’s raw beauty is never given direct mention, even though she is quite beautiful too (from a 2D perspective). In many cases, it’s hard to tell whom the animators meant to make a knock-out, and whom they did by accident. We can pose the same question with Tsukasa, and even with Rihoko.

Ai, however, is normal looking. Utterly average. Breathtakingly plain. Her character design manages to avoid nearly all the fetish appeals one would ordinarily expect. Even her breast size manages to be realistically small, but not so flat chested as to appeal to the particular crowd that goes for that. Her most distinguishing characteristic is her passing resemblance to Jun’ichi’s sister—which, given how Jun’ichi actually treats his sister, is not likely to be a plus for him.

Miya is sufficiently annoying that I don't blame Jun'ichi for ignoring her most of the time

So, without any specific physical attractors, what would bring her together with Jun’ichi? What would make the players of the game this series is based on try to romance her, and not one of the other girls? Knowing otaku, the most likely possibility is that she will fill out their fetish requirements in some other way. A fleeting possibility, however, is that she would be just as normal in behavior as she is in appearance, and be attractive just for the novelty of it. And so far, that seems to be the case.

Kaoru was pretty normal too, except for the complete lack of respect for Jun’ichi’s personal space, but there was the long-standing relationship between the two of them already in place. Ai is approaching Jun’ichi fresh, and although her initial interactions with him aren’t the most positive (she’s given good reasons, twice, to think he’s a bit sketchy), she eventually comes around to realizing that he is normal too.

Kaoru is just as free with Jun'ichi as she was in her own arc. Maybe Jun'ichi learned his pervertedness from her

The show is as much about different Jun’ichi’s as it is about different girls, and this time around his pervertedness seems quite within ordinary levels. He’s appropriately embarrassed in the aforementioned situations, and when she decides (perhaps as a test) to pretend to flash him, he’s properly mortified while still drawn to look in spite of himself. He’s not up to saintly levels of purity—what teenage male is?—but he’s hardly the lecherous instructor of the previous arc, either.

Just figuring out a guy is normal doesn’t typically lead to a relationship, so the show is careful to chart out what winds up being their first date by having it relate to their one mutual point of contact, Miya. While on it, it’s already evident that there’s some intangible chemistry going on, as Jun’ichi is increasingly admiring of Ai’s maturity and Ai of Jun’chi’s good heart. It’s not a fairy tale romance, exactly, but it is what I’d expect a normal date to look like.

This arc's Jun'ichi has no lack of shame, which is perhaps the best thing I've had to say about him

In this episode’s timeline, Jun’ichi passed cross with Ai just after being rejected on Christmas Eve, but we’ve yet to see if either of them remembers the incident. I’m not certain how it will affect the story line; all the encounter does is to contrast younger Ai’s joy with younger Jun’ichi’s misery. It might be that the memory of this incident is what sparked Ai’s initial interest … or it might be that that part of the storyline will get forgotten again. It’s too soon to tell.

It’s also, of course, too soon to tell if the normalcy we’re seeing now is just a facade (certainly there needs to be a few more plot points if this arc is going to last four episodes), or if the now trademarked ecchi scenes will make their appearance again. I’m guessing at least some of that will, but for the moment Amagami is actually modeling the serious romance show I initially expected it would be. So I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

For some reason, cats in anime are always held like this. I have yet to encounter a cat in real life who enjoys it

Although I still think Kaoru made the best match for Jun’ichi out of the girls we’ve seen so far, Ai’s down-to-earth manner and her own skill in teasing Jun’ichi make her a very close second. I suppose I’ll get to see if that impression continues over the next three or four episodes.

  1. Fidelis
    September 25, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    I thought you were anticipating the Ai arc because of the manga version, “Love Goes On!”, which predates the show (the class rep also has her own). I haven’t yet properly read or watched this story, but based on pre-show discussions, I got the impression it’s somewhat down-to-earth like Kaoru’s. I’m inclined to favor that sort of story. However, I’m also inclined to favor those girls who are of the same age/grade as our boy – in other words, equals – especially given how Japan takes “one’s proper place” seriously. This is my bias showing, and I don’t think others will be as fastidious. It’s just a year’s difference, but then it’s Japan we’re talking about. Anyway…

    Interesting points about character designs. But don’t the girls have pretty much the same faces? Not much else other than hair, eyes and bust sizes to distinguish their looks. See this image from http://www.atalude.net‘s review of episode 5 where all of them have Kaoru’s hair:

    Since they all look largely the same to me, I wouldn’t call Ai plain since then all of them would be plain. At the very least, they’re all cute, even Keiko (characterization is another matter). Ai may have the simplest hairstyle of the romantic choices, but her eyes are different.

    That image forces one to think about characterization rather than appearance. I know many were anticipating the Kaoru arc based on her hair alone – it gives her the “raw beauty” you speak of. But the true appeal of her story is friends being friends (“bros being bros”, even) while becoming something more – and the down-to-earthness and relatability of it, compared to the more obvious fantasy bent of the first and third. In this last respect, this story will probably be similar, but who knows?

    I’ve seen Ai compared to Rei, though I don’t know whether it’s just her hair or personality (and I haven’t watched any NGE either). If she has a similar personality also, that accounts for the otaku appeal. With this in mind, perhaps the impression of her normality here just means she just has a more subdued demeanor than Kaoru, the other most normal girl so far, who in turn is just more exuberant (yet in her pocket universe, as their relationship becomes more intimate, she mellows down while still teases him affectionately).

    • threeheadedmonkeys
      September 25, 2010 at 8:01 pm

      Interesting points about character designs. But don’t the girls have pretty much the same faces? Not much else other than hair, eyes and bust sizes to distinguish their looks.

      True, but that’s sort of like saying all [insert ethnic group here] look alike. There are differences, if you learn to spot them, and changes in hair and eyes can do a lot–even if they do have a similar skull structure.

      (Regarding the link, I’d also note that a) Kaoru’s hair, being the most unwieldy, is more likely to conceal any distinguishing features, and b) the distinctives in the anime character designs are slightly more pronounced than in that promo art. Is that what they look like in the game?)

      I’m also inclined to favor those girls who are of the same age/grade as our boy – in other words, equals

      Agree completely on the equals part, but age difference or not Jun’ichi and Ai are pretty equally matched. If anything, Ai was slightly in the lead this episode, having the misunderstandings work in her favor as he is put on the defensive, but both take turns showing their good side to the other. She might call him sempai, but it doesn’t have any of the worshipfulness that Sae brought to the phrase, or that Jun’ichi did in Haruka’s arc. For this we can all be grateful.

      I’ve seen Ai compared to Rei, though I don’t know whether it’s just her hair or personality.

      Well, it’s close in hair, but Rei would not be my first choice of a comparison in any respect. Certainly not personality.

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