Amagami SS Episode 14 – Boyish Enthusiasm
An astute commenter noted last episode that Amagami is at its best when the relationship between Jun’ichi and the girl of the arc is one of equals. I agreed there, but didn’t think that Ai being a year younger than Junichi detracted from that, as Ai’s comparative maturity made up the difference. Had I the ability to write an episode to prove my thesis, I couldn’t have done better than this episode.
The defining traits of the leads established last episode is only become more clear this episode. Jun’ichi might be older, but as this episode is at pains to remind us, that’s hardly the same thing as wiser. The surprising thing is that might just be for the best.
Jun’ichi is given plenty of opportunities to show off his childish side this time around, both to Ai and to the audience. He goes, like a bunch of other boys (and Kaoru, who practically counts), to check out the reputedly ultra cute girl who started working in the library. He stays up too late reading silly manga, and then tries to convince his teacher what a wonderful work of literature it is when he’s late for class because of it. His friends make jokes about how odd it is that he is good at math, or any school subject whatsoever. He exudes something like a “lovable scamp” type of character.
A lovable scamp who’s hit puberty, at any rate. He also pauses to admire the figure of his not-yet-30-year-old teacher as she chews him out for being irresponsible (a fact she doesn’t notice, for which everyone can be grateful), enacting one of the usual boyhood fantasies. He pays a bit too much attention to Sae’s bust size, and then starts openly comparing it to Miya’s and Ai’s at his sister’s instigation. In this, as in several other areas, his mouth moves faster than his mind.
That also reflects his honesty, however, so when that same honesty leads him to make an absolute fool of himself in front of the swim team in an attempt to apologize to her, she is willing to forgive him. And for all his failings, he still manages to be helpful. He offers to tutor her at math, and proves a far better, if less scene-worthy, instructor there than he did with Sae. It’s as much of a surprise for Ai as it is for his friends, but Jun’ichi can be depended on for things.
It’s a very odd mix, the childishness and responsibility. It’s not the puppy love he had toward Haruka; Jun’ichi doesn’t smack of desperation. Rather, it’s earnest—an attempt to do right by Ai and be good to her, even though he doesn’t always know how or if his hormones occasionally get the better of him. And his being immature, or at least remembering his immaturity, is itself a boon, as that means he can counsel her on how to deal with her brother.
Ai catapulted herself into my “favorite heroine yet” category by refusing to take Jun’ichi’s overt sexualizing of her lying down; given that the other girls have been either willing (Kaoru) or eager (Sae) or outright asking (Haruka) to be sexualized, this is a major plus. This is the first time Jun’ichi truly apologized for something, and however awkwardly he phrased it, I’m delighted. Ai’s actions are not a horrible overreaction for accidental infringement, as is typical in such moments, but a fully justified reaction for deliberate infringement, making Ai one of the few anime heroines to achieve that balance.
Ai’s appropriately negative response on this score has me wondering exactly how the show will pull off its mandated fetish scene this arc, as I can’t see Ai, as depicted thus far, going along with anything. It’s too much to hope for that nothing will happen at all, but I hope what does happen will at least respect her character, as I still think Kaoru’s scene didn’t.)
Ai also seems the most reflective of the girls so far. Maybe it’s just because all of Sae’s private thoughts were delivered through the narrator (or not at all), it was a bit jarring to listen in to Ai’s bedtime musings on Jun’ichi, and how she’s noticed that she’s falling for him. But even compared to Kaoru’s belated realization of her own feelings, Ai’s considerations are surprisingly mature—perhaps too mature to be realistic, in fact. But if since we are going to have unrealistic things in anime, I’m happy they are positive traits in a female romantic lead. (By which I mean really positive, not “added for wish fulfillment purposes” positive.)
Of course, the major problem in the last two arcs has not been with the girl but with Jun’ichi, so I’m also worried he’ll go for a third straight win in the whole “being clueless about his own feelings” category. He does seem to admire her, or is perhaps a little awed by her, but that’s different from being in love. I suspect next episode will provide the push needed in that direction. By which I mean, I’ll be annoyed if it doesn’t.
At this point, however, I’m only stockpiling possible reasons to dislike what comes next, because I’m not used to success, and success is what I’ve been seeing so far. I might walk away from this with the lingering impression that Ai is a little too good for Jun’ichi, but unlike with Sae, it only is a little here. More importantly, I’m no longer having to ask the question that plague most all of anime romance plots: “What does she see in him?” And that’s a great thing.