Amagami has had a rough past couple of months, but one thing it has managed to do is keep itself from getting too repetitive. Each arc has had a very distinctive feel to it, with quasi-ironic romantic comedy cast employed during the Sae arc (complete with overbearing narrator) being the most unique. This didn’t make it the best arc, of course, but I do appreciate the show’s search for novelty.
Novelty seems like it would be very hard to come by in this arc, featuring Jun’ichi’s childhood friend Rihoko Sakurai. Not only have we already had a childhood friend arc (although Kaoru only knew Jun’ichi from middle school on), but Rihoko combines multiple overused anime girl tropes: she’s clumsy, absent-minded, and has had an unrequited love for Jun’ichi for years on end. Being your typical anime childhood friend, she’s far too shy to reveal it.
I suppose one obvious form of novelty is that Rihoko will actually succeed in making her love reciprocal by the time this arc is over; in the vast majority of romance shows, the childhood friend only wins if she’s been separated from the protagonist for a long time only to reunite with him at the start of the series. But Amagami does something else, which has me cautiously optimistic about the course of this arc as a whole: she, and not Jun’ichi, provides us with our main point of view.
There are three main protagonists in Shiki: Ozaki, Natsuno, and Muroi. Last episode confirmed that Natsuno was more or less doomed, but Ozaki and Muroi have remained surprisingly insulated, even as they fail to stop the horror unfolding around them. Perhaps due to Sunako’s interference, Muroi and his friend Ozaki have seen both their lives and their livelihoods untouched.
Until now. For whatever reason, the former sanctuaries of the clinic and the temple are now clearly hunting grounds. An assistant priest shows clear signs of being fed on, and Ozaki’s mother comes to her son with disturbing news: Ozaki’s wife Kyouko, who has shut herself in her room for the past few days, now seems to be in a terminal state. The last remaining sanctuaries of Sotoba are being infiltrated.
Okay, I admit it: I’ve finally snapped. I’m sick of shows aimed at otaku, and their predominately female cast full of frequently under-clothed, underage girls designed by committee to appeal to lovesick, effeminate shut-ins in order to sell them DVDs, figurines with removable skirts and full-size body pillows.
I’m also tired of all the passive, bland male leads who are completely unable to affect the course of the story, and exist solely to give a point of view character for the audience to inhabit when they’re masturbating to the girl of their choice. What happened to all the badass heroes from the anime of my youth? Where are the Vash the Stampedes, or Spike Spiegels of this generation?
So, in desperation, I turn instead to shows aimed at fujoshi, the female equivalent of the otaku who watch the fan service-laden horseshit I’ve put up with for six months now, in order to explain the depravity of the otaku.
An interesting challenge of most sports anime is conveying the intricacies of the activity without overdoing it. Too little information, and the watcher has no idea what is going on; too much, and the plot is overwhelmed.
Bakuman is not a sports anime, but much of the same logic applies. This is a show about a team working toward success in a particular field, with its own rules and requirements. For the characters to succeed, they will need to accomplish certain things along the way; for the viewer to care, the story needs to explain what these things are and why they matter.
This episode focuses primarily on explanation, so much so that it feels a bit plot-light. For those who have even the most basic interest in how manga is made, however, this offense is forgivable. The groundwork laid here is crucial for the overall success of the show.
There are quite a few shows this season about otaku, or dating games, or other various aspects of otaku culture. Most are unflinching apologia for the eccentricities or social perversions of the very culture they spawn from, a nice warm blanket for otaku to stay under rather than have to face the cold reality of their situation.
A few shows are honest enough to admit the peculiarities of otakus and the culture. Oreimo, which I covered earlier, is pretty good about admitting that otaku are into some stuff that most people might (justifiably) find a little sketchy, although it suffers from the problem of having to then defend it.
The World God Only Knows, from the outset, never tries to reach for such lofty goals. It’s a show about a boy, portrayed as some kind of whiz kid, whose claim to fame is his mastery of dating games. A demon girl mistakes that prowess with the ability to attract actual women, and forces him to woo real girls in order to capture the lost souls attracted to them. Or something.
I really wanted to like this arc. I held—and still hold—that Ai vies Kaoru for the best heroine for the series (“best” here meaning most admirable, not most likely to produce an interesting narrative, as we will see), and I liked the notion of a romance that wouldn’t be driven solely on physical allure. Frankly, there are enough shows out there where beautiful girls fall for ordinary guys without any good reason.
This arc, however, is also the least engaging. The one challenge of the arc was extremely abbreviated, and the flirtations, while evincing a very natural feel, weren’t nearly as interesting as those of the previous stories. The Jun’ichi pursuing Sae might have been morally suspect, but his misdeeds were never boring. This Jun’ichi, for a teenage male, is quite restrained and respectful. I like that on a meta-level, but that doesn’t make what he does a good watch.
Last episode ended with Moritaka, freed from any parental obstacle, rushing to his uncle’s old studio. Moritaka thinks he knows exactly what he’ll find there: a collection of manuscripts, drafts, and other material he and his partner Takagi can use for inspiration. But there are two surprises waiting for him that he isn’t quite prepared for.
Nobuhiro’s apartment, it’s fair to say, is an otoku’s treasure trove: filled with action figures, manga, and other memorabilia he utilized for reference. Nobuhiro knew that he had to stay informed of the state of the industry to be competitive, and the new partners exploring his material have equal reason to jump in wholeheartedly. They want to make a mark, and fast.