Home > Amagami SS, Episode Reviews > Amagami SS Episode 16 – A Long Slog to Nowhere

Amagami SS Episode 16 – A Long Slog to Nowhere

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.

Succeeding at impression two girls from another club is treated as the major plot challenge of the first half. Why am I supposed to care?

Some of this might just be a problem of the writers, who can’t for the life of them generate engaging content for this arc. The first half of this episode, for example, centers around Jun’ichi and Ai running the soba stand for the women’s swim team at the school’s founder’s festival, apparently entirely by themselves. And then nothing happens.

Well, not nothing nothing. Two of Rihoko’s companions from the tea circle come and taste-test the stand’s offerings, in overly dramatic fashion. Jun’ichi’s homeroom teacher shows up drunk. We see, in a side tangent, the Miss Santa competition, which Sae tries and fails to enter. What unites all of these random events is that they neither advance the plot, deepen the relationship between Ai ad Jun’ichi, or otherwise keep the audience entertained.

It is interesting to note how the girls differ outside Jun'ichi's involvement. Here Sae is shown to remain a shrinking violet

I’ve noted before that Amagami has an insistence on giving every one of the heroines some form of cameo per episode, even when it’s not their arc and there’s no reason for them to be on screen. Most often, such scenes are nothing more than filler, presumably to give the fans of each particular girl a (misguided) reason to care about each episode. Now, imagine the 10+ minutes filled with nothing but such cameos, not just for the main girls but for just about every named character in the show. That’s what happens with the first half of this episode.

For those capable of slogging through that, the second part manages to put the spotlight back on Ai and Jun’ichi and their burgeoning relationship. She leads him to a secluded hot spring she occasionally uses for recuperation after swim practice—although the effort it takes to get there would seem to make that very impractical—and invites him in for a dip. Soon she bares her soul (and just about everything else) to him, expressing her love for him and having him affirm it in return.

This is the most openly aggressive any of the girls have gotten so far. Even including Kaoru's ear bite

I find it interesting that, in every arc but Kaoru’s, it’s been the girl who creates the conditions to drive the relationship to consummation. (Also with Kaoru, it’s obvious that the relationship does not, technically speaking, reach consummation; it’s subtly implied that it does with Sae and all but stated here and with Haruka.) This arc’s Jun’ichi is one of the more proactive ones comparatively, but the events of the final episode are entirely on Ai.

Maybe this is just a sign of that Jun’ichi is too much of a gentleman to pressure Ai before she’s ready, but I doubt that degree of hesitation would apply to the Jun’ichi of Sae’s arc. The last shot of this episode has Jun’ichi’s head in Ai’s lap, with her holding him in a motherly fashion. A part of me wonders if that shot is deliberate; each arc’s finale has differed radically from the others in terms of the final scene. Here, the clear sign is that Ai is figurative elder of the two, taken to a level that seems to negate much of the positive development of Jun’ichi we saw recently.

I might have been ok with this halfway through the arc. After Jun'ichi's pool dive, however, I'd have hoped for him to grow out of his "I'm just a little boy" shtick enough to own his relationship with Ai

I had a lot of goodwill stored up from the arc’s first two episodes, but in starting out a story the writers can afford to be a bit meandering. Sooner or later, a real plot of some form, with something resembling dramatic tension, has to emerge, and it never quite happened here. Instead, we had as much time devoted to filler (if not more) as was devoted to the actual story.

And, at the end of the day, despite having what seemed to be a reformed Jun’ichi and a no-nonsense heroine, we still had similar if not identical problems to those that plagued the earlier arcs. The characters still engage in a bout of bizarre, out-of-character fanservice that made no narrative sense and had no purpose save to be quickly forgotten by all but the audience. (At least when Sae debased herself, it was in character.) Likewise, the Christmas Eve rejection of two years ago has become more irrelevant to the narrative with every new girl. Wasn’t that event supposed to be somewhat important to Jun’ichi’s psychology?

I should note that irresponsibly drunk teachers (particularly hot female ones) are another anime staple. It's just completely irrelevant here

So, what’s left is an interesting girl without an interesting story, and without an escape, as I had hoped, from the pitfalls that this show continually insists on stumbling into like a drunken teacher. I’m beginning to wonder if I should still expect good things out of this series, or if it’s run out of new ideas.

Next time we start with childhood friend Rihoko, who distinguishes herself from childhood friend Kaoru by being the girly klutz rather than the tomboy tsundere. I’m worried it will just wind up being more of the same, but since Kaoru remains as my favorite storyline overall for the series, perhaps I should really be worried that it won’t.

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