Amagami SS Episodes 19 and 20 – Much Ado About Nothing
I typically don’t do multi-episode reviews because I can find enough to comment about in each episode, and because I prefer to present a portrait of my thoughts on a series in an on-going fashion. Giving an opinion every episode keeps me from “cheating” by reading the impressions of a future episode backward.
With this arc of Amagami, however, I have little choice. Never has so little happened in such a large time frame. What’s more, it seems that disparity is deliberate. Both within the arc itself and within the story’s internal chronology, the presentation is meant to illustrate the waiting game Rihoko is playing with her affections toward Jun’ichi. And that makes for an easily forgettable arc.
There are some individual events of note, most prominently a New Year’s Eve/Day sleepover that pairs up the would-be love birds (and Miya) for the better part of episode 19. But, particularly as we break into the final episode, the timeline stretches into months. By the end of the arc, we’ve passed graduation into their senior year, as Jun’ichi has finally been coaxed into joining—and therefore saving—the tea club.
But that’s all that happens. Other arcs might have gone with an longer time frame; Ai’s started particularly early to give enough time to lead into Christmas. But all of them ended up with Jun’ichi getting the girl, or the girl getting him. Here, nothing of the sort happens. Rihoko remains timid; Jun’ichi remains clueless. The two remain close, but single.
And it seems Rihoko prefers it that way. For as long as she can remember, she’s harbored these feelings for Jun’ichi, who has failed to notice or reciprocate. But she actually turns down the offers of her friends to serve as match-maker, preferring to leave the relationship stuck in the status quo rather than actively pursue it further.
I suppose this deserves some credit for being realistic; I’m certain many one-sided crushes are kept secret, particular if they’ve already been secret for years. But it’s a remarkably unsatisfying ending to what bills itself as a romance series. I suppose I should give Amagami credit for being daring and avoiding a happily-ever-after moment, but I’m more annoyed with how it’s wasted my time.
With the catharsis of a successful confession done away with, any emotional closure must come from Jun’ichi agreeing to carry on the Tea Club during his senior year. Given Rihoko was already distressed with the thought of losing her seniors in the club once they graduate, saving the club itself and agreeing to stay by her is a great boon to her emotional state.
One problem: I don’t care. I don’t care about the Tea Club. I don’t care about Rihoko’s annoying, stereotypically odd couple seniors, who mostly alternate between pushy and conniving. I don’t care about Rihoko or Jun’ichi all that much either, given the former’s extreme passivity and the latter’s utter cluelessness. (This has actually been a problem for me regarding the Jun’ichi of two or three arcs.)
Nothing in this arc has generated the depth of interest that would lead me to care. That’s the result of four episodes where nothing happens, and where the nothing that happens is completely the fault of the leads. Realism or no, that makes for crappy drama. Given the choice and the knowledge I have now, I would not have bothered even watching this arc.
I could be mistaken, but I thought the advantage of an omnibus format for a harem romantic comedy was to not just give each girl her due, but to keep each individual love story from overstaying its welcome. But, like with Ai’s arc before this, there just isn’t enough content to fill even four episodes worth of material. Unlike Ai’s arc, this one fails to provide even the courtesy of capping the drawn out story with a proper conclusion.
We start Tsukasa’s arc next week, and I hope that this one will actually reach the levels of activity and interest that this series started with. There have been some subtle but strong hints that Tsukasa is not exactly what she seems, and I’m hoping her … unique personality and conflicts will revitalize the series. Another arc like this, and I’d be tempted to drop the show entirely just a few episodes before it ends for good.