(Note: All images (excluding the first) taken from IMDb.)
December of 2012: I am, at this point, fresh to the expanding medium of anime and retain that glimmer of innocence that follow those who aren’t completely familiar with the tropes and industry standards surrounding said medium. With 52 completed anime (for comparison, I now have 411), I was still willing to give dozens of different genres a shot at becoming my next completed anime, ignorant to the red flags that come from just looking at a trailer screenshot or a synopsis. Also noteworthy about this version of myself is that I was more close-minded than I am now, with a definitive interpretation of what things can and can’t be when fit into a certain category. Then comes Amagami SS.
Four episodes in, I was fairly pleased with the progression of the story, the realism of the characters, and the immersive interpretation of daily high school life concerning these horny, but good-moraled kids. It was shaping up to be a very good watch, something I had imagined would make it to be among my favorite romance anime by the end. By the end of episode four, however, something odd happened. They cut to the future, many years after when these kids should be in high school, and the male lead has gotten together with the girl he had been pursuing and were shown to have had a happy life of love and commitment. Confused, I proceeded to the next episode… it reverted back to the beginning of the anime, only now the male lead had set his sights on another girl to pursue. I was ignorant to the more nuanced stereotypes of the anime medium here, but I wasn’t stupid; I knew what was occurring.
I dropped the series, including a snippet within my MAL column that stated, “I came here to watch anime, and they give me a dating sim.”
May of 2018: As I assume my readers are capable of simple math, many years have passed since I came to the decision to drop this title. What I didn’t note, however, was that at some point between these two dates, I placed Amagami SS from my “Dropped” list to my “On-hold” list, intending to give it another shot. It sat there for some time, likely a few years, waiting for its chance to show its original luster to me once again. That time came late last week when I said “Fuck it” and brought it up the old-fashioned way: using illegal anime streaming sites. With the enticement of the past lingering in my mind, I felt a twinge of excitement bringing it back for the first time in almost six years.
Its first episode was as expected! Characters felt realistic, seemed likable, and had a sort of immersive quality that made me imagine myself within that scenario. Its artificial tendencies only seemed present in the little sister character, who clearly had a thing for her “Nii-nii.” While I don’t have anything really against the idea of incest, I don’t care for the way they parade it around as a fetish. Even the male lead was likable! An honest interest in the opposite sex while instilling the homegrown “choir boy” attitude that plagues anime’s male leads.
And then it turned bad.
In 2012, I didn’t know how something could feel artificial, particularly in anime. I hadn’t read many visual novels, didn’t have many anime as resources to compare to, and rarely indulged in the world of weeb culture to act as a backdrop. In 2018, I have plenty of ammo. The artificial mood of the sister spread to the other characters that, initially, felt more than just backdrops to the main story. With episode two and the first eight-ish minutes of episode three, that’s thrown out the window. The female being pursued has no real awareness, only a one-track mind that is suited for—ironic, I know—dating sims. The male lead soon carries forth with it, showing an obsession with a girl who is by little means interesting and all means beautiful. While the prospect of a boy going gaga over a beautiful girl isn’t anything new or, in some respect, inherently problematic, it’s nothing I really care to put forth my time into. Its straightforwardness becomes too predictable. Interactions between other characters become meaningless.
A question thus arises that has piqued my interest in the following days: If I didn’t care for one girl’s route, could I skip it entirely and switch to another girl’s route? Playing the anime like a dating sim, as silly as it sounds, could be an entirely tangible idea. While it wouldn’t technically be marked as “Completed,” I could have my say about the five or six stories contained within a 25-episode series. It would be something of a Traveling Thoughts topic! With the nature of the series resetting itself after every “conquest,” if you care for a KamiNomi reference, nothing is stopping a viewer from simply going to another girl’s arc without having to fill in the gaps that may have affected the overall narrative. An interesting perspective to have, but if the first route is anything to go off of, I doubt any others will suddenly make me feel this isn’t adapted from a mediocre visual novel.