Home > Amagami SS, Episode Reviews > Amagami SS Episode 18 – A Series of Fortunate Events

Amagami SS Episode 18 – A Series of Fortunate Events

At first it seemed like this arc would introduce novelty by telling the story from the girl’s point of view. This episode steps back from that innovation, splitting between Jun’ichi’s and Rihoko’s narratives about equally. We’re still getting much more of Rihoko’s perspective than any of the other girls, but it’s now a difference of degree more than kind.

That’s not to so this arc has lost any unique features; one bit of this narrative is quite unique. That is, this is the first girl who isn’t all that attractive or engaging. Ai and Kaoru had great personalities and were not without physical charms. Haruka and Sae were obvious knockouts, and while both had psychological issues, the ones they had were those which inspire feelings of attraction in men (stupid creatures that we are).

What Rihoko has is a standard collection of cliches which add up to her being clumsy, inept, and childish. All she has going for her is a reasonably attractive appearance, and the connivance of the plot. That’s enough for the writers because it’s all they have from the source material, so they have to make do. The question is whether it will be enough for the audience.

Besides falling into Jun'ichi's arms the wrong way, Rihoko also manages to accidentally flash him. Besides being an overused anime staple, this isn't exactly what I'd call relationship-defining

In any romance, someone has to make the first move to impel the relationship forward from friendship into love. With a few exceptions, Amagami has put the girls in the instigator’s role—which is odd given that dating sims typically have a key decision by the (male) player character determine the success of any given romance, but there you go.

In this arc, the advancement comes not as a result of Jun’ichi’s actions, or even Rihoko’s, but due to the meddling of their friends: Umehara, Kanae, and Rihoko’s seniors at the tea club whose names I can never remember. (Checking online, I see that they are Ruri and Manaka, but you don’t really need to know either.) Pushing the two of them on dates, trying to get Jun’ichi to join the tea club, trying to get Rihoko herself to ask Jun’ichi to join the tea club: They do all this to bring them together.

Actually, I suppose it's an open question whether Ruri and Manaka want Jun'ichi to date Rihoko for her sake, or to keep their club alive after they graduate. It's probably a mix of both

But from the principals themselves, there’s remarkably little forward motion. Jun’ichi is his usual clueless self, however much he might occasionally show an awareness of the world around him. Rihoko, however, is also hesitant and indirect, albeit not because she’s confused about her feelings but because she’s not confident enough to express them. While realistic, it doesn’t paint her as a very strong heroine.

In short, she’s like a female version of Jun’ichi—perhaps another reminder of how problematic a protagonist our male lead is. A major issue with all this is that it makes the secondary characters (the ones who are causing all the action to happen) to be much more important to the workings of the plot. Not only are most of the side characters far too flat to withstand serious scrutiny, but I prefer plots where the protagonists actually do things.

One shining exception to all my complaints: Rihoko makes a pair of gloves for Jun'ichi as a Christmas present when she notices he's lost his own. If only this were the rule and not the exception

Another problem is that it reduces any connection between the two to the lowest common denominator. That means the primary way the romance “progresses” is by letting Rihoko’s clumsiness generate moments of bonding-through-inadvertent-perversity. Breast-obsessed Jun’ichi might enjoy getting a chance to grope Rihoko, even as he’s embarrassed by the circumstances that bring it about. But when a mouthpiece for the writer tells us this was a great step in the right direction, a certain skepticism is called for.

Likewise, there’s another scene where Jun’ichi sees Rihoko in a kimono and is suddenly dumbstruck. I’ll take it as given that kimonos are a remarkably attractive style of dress (I personally don’t see the appeal, but most anime characters do) and that Rihoko somehow looks good in one in a way that her colleagues don’t. Even so, are we really supposed to believe that Jun’ichi has never seen Rihoko in traditional garb before? Why is this somehow a shock for him?

As the snowwoman demonstrates, even the prepubescent Jun'ichi had an obsession with breasts

Accepting for a moment that Jun’ichi finds Rihoko physically attractive, there’s still a “so what” factor; Jun’ichi is surrounded by attractive girls in school—and some of them, like Kaoru, are also quite friendly with him. For Rihoko to be the one who wins at the end, there will have to be something about her that makes her uniquely interesting. Unless having a remarkable ability to fall on your face counts, there’s not much I can see in her favor.

One other change of note with this arc relates to chronology. Ordinarily, although the story could start in a variety of times, it always ends with a Christmas Eve date, a Founder’s Festival event, or both. Here we’re two episodes in and the Founder’s Festival has come and gone. Based on foreshadowing, I’m guessing Rihoko will try to romance Jun’ichi indirectly by enlisting him into the tea club. If that’s the case, at least it will have the advantage of making Rihoko the main actor on her own destiny. On the negative side of the ledger, it makes the connection between Jun’ichi’s new romance and his failed one of two years prior even more tenuous.

Given that Rihoko is so inept that the process of her ordering supplies exhausts even the omni-competent Tsukasa, I'd say the tea club needs all the support it can get

I suppose, in real life, having a group of friends try to pair up what seems to be an obvious couple, or a girl with the object of her crush, is a fun and interesting activity. In the format of a show, however, you really want one or both of the protagonists to be a source of forward advancement. Otherwise, you’re not watching a story so much as a series of (in this case fortunate) events. I’m not a strong enough fan of post-modern narrative to appreciate the latter.

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