Home > Amagami SS, Episode Reviews > Amagami SS Episode 17 – Finding a New Path

Amagami SS Episode 17 – Finding a New Path

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.

I expect Rihoko to strike this pose at least once per episode this arc

Of course, following Rihoko’s daily schedule merely emphasizes exactly how hopeless she is. She sleeps through alarms, is constantly late, trips over stuff regularly, and can’t control her eating habits at all. Her “charm” is supposed to stem from her more immature qualities, which is one of those areas where I’m simply not going to get what otaku are thinking or why they see a girl who regularly trips over herself as cute.

Jun’ichi, by contrast, has surprisingly limited screen time. Just about the only times we see him when Rihoko isn’t around is when he’s swapping porn with Umehara. Overall, though, I think this direction has certain advantages: We get a much clearer idea of Rihoko and her motivations and interests, and while Jun’ichi remains something more of a cipher as a consequence, his mental state has never been clearly on display since the first arc anyway, so it’s not much of a loss.

Although Jun'ichi is ultimately helpful, that doesn't keep him from having a little fun at Rihoko's expense when she gets caught trying to take her usual shortcut to school

Another thing this arc does nicely is better tie in Rihoko’s actions throughout the series. Unlike most of the other girls (Sae, Ai, and Morishima), Rihoko has a long history with Jun’ichi even before the start of the arc, and thus one can see hints of her attraction to Jun’ichi in previous arcs. Here it’s clear that much of what she does links back to her desire for Jun’ichi to think well of her, which is why she tries to go on a diet.

(Another interesting note is that, at least from Ai’s arc onwards, there have been some suggestive hints about class representative Tsukasa Ayatsuji. What her deal is hasn’t been revealed, but there were subtle hesitations or hints in her behavior of some deeper thinking behind her cheerful and polite exterior. We’ll likely have to wait for next arc for those to be explored in any depth.)

Is the darkness surrounding Tsukasa (if only for a moment) just in the heads of Jun'ichi and Umehara? Or is it reflective of something deeper?

“Tries” is the opposite word, of course, as most of the episode revolves on how hopeless Rihoko is at just about everything, dieting included. By the end of the episode, she’s managed to gain weight, yet she consoles herself that she must have done something right, as she can now fit her way through a hole in the fence that she uses as a shortcut whenever she’s late (which is all the time). She doesn’t realize that Jun’ichi widened the hole for her when he realized she’d likely get stuck again.

Jun’ichi has been friendly with Rihoko in all the arcs, and it’s not surprising that he’d help her out. But there are some other hints that, whatever the other changes are in this arc’s Jun’ichi, there’s a greater potential for him to fall for her here than anytime before. (In particular, his preferences in porn stars seems to lean more toward Rihoko’s figure.) Even so, Jun’ichi seems to view her more like a sister—albeit, a sister he likes much better than his real one—so Rihoko has her work cut out for her.

Here Jun'ichi recalls scaring Rihoko when they were children; Rihoko's memories of the incident are far more positive. Given the personalities of both of them, I'm more inclined to believe Jun'ichi's version

Unlike in all the other arcs, however, setting up the narrative from the girl’s point of view naturally shifts the burden of starting the relationship on her shoulders. More to the point, it makes Jun’ichi’s traditional passivity as a protagonist less annoying if he’s not the one in the spotlight all the time. Overall, it’s a clever idea, which both keeps the series fresh and which makes a particular amount of sense for Rihoko, given her pre-existing relationship.

Of course, Rihoko is also the most incompetent of the heroines, so she’s clearly going to need help, most likely in the form of her best friend Kanae Itou and her seniors in the tea circle. Already Kanae has set her up on a ice-skating date with Jun’ichi (not that either of them would recognize it as such), which I suspect will start off the next episode, and give Rihoko many more opportunities to practice the fine art of face-planting.

This is the second time Umehara has teamed up with a friend of a designated heroine (Keiko for Kaoru, Kanae for Rihoko) to play matchmaker for Jun'ichi. For being the designated loser of the show, Umehara has his good side

Amagami, for me, hit its high point at the end of Kaoru’s arc and, despite some nice isolated moments here and there, just hasn’t managed to finish its stories strong ever since. I don’t think this arc will hit the emotional rawness of Haruka’s story or the natural feeling of rightness that pervaded Kaoru’s, but maybe it will show that Amagami can still tell an interesting story from beginning to end.

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