Junichi is broken-hearted after a girl stood him up on Christmas Eve two years before but as another Christmas approaches, various chance encounters mean he ends up meeting and having a relationship with one of six beautiful girls; each story with each girl split into four episode segments from start to finish - covering each available route from the visual novel. Episodes 25 and 26 are bonus episodes covering Junichi's stalker and his little sister respectively (These episodes are even less serious than the show itself).
The first thing you will probably notice about this show (once you stop rolling your eyes at yet another visual novel adaptation) is that it is a visual novel adaptation where the characters have realistic hair and eye colours. As shocking as this is, leave it aside for now. Taking another look, delving a little deeper, the second thing you will probably notice is the rather unique and interesting style and composition of the show. The main body of the show being split into six individual segments consisting of four episodes a piece for each of the six girls rather than the normal 'harem' approach or just picking one girl and running with it for the whole run of the show. My initial thoughts were "Wow, that's different". The third thing that struck me and that you will most likely notice, though, is the most surprising. Despite its often-ignoble origins as a visual novel, this show is actually not too bad. Heck, it is almost good, actually, and that is certainly different.
To speak broadly about the show before I delve into any specifics found in the individual arcs, there is a general level of competence I found acceptable. The character designs are simple and nice and the use of realistic hair colours and styles means the designers actually put a bit of effort into making the characters' faces, at least somewhat, unique from each other unlike many other shows of this type. The music is pleasant in show and lends itself well to the warm atmosphere and artwork and the various ending themes (sung by each of the heroines for their respective arcs) are, at worst, fairly pleasant and occasionally quite good in their own rights. Some of them are slow, sweet loves songs and others are a little more energetic but they never diverge too much from general pleasant feel that the show generates quite admirably.
The atmosphere, except on odd (and I mean 'odd') occasions, is consistent throughout the show even with the general differences that exist between different arcs. While some arcs lean heavier on the comedy side than others, there is an effective warmth and sweetness that forms the backbone of the show's entertainment. The humour is not the big laughs kind, this show is not going to double you over or take you off your feet with uncontrolled hilarity, but is the kind of show that wants you to have a smile on your face throughout its runtime. Cute, awkward, silly moments (like Haruka and Junichi's role-play in the cafeteria or Sae's confidence coaching) are the show's style and strength rather than overt gags or over-the-top situations that are the standard in rom-com animé. The novelty is pleasant and the show really does them well with small details adding to the whole, the most noticeable being in the aforementioned role-play scene where the vague background models beyond the characters react to what the main characters are doing - the small things giving life to what might have been a stale scene otherwise.
Let us talk about characters. Junichi is what you expect; he is fairly timid when it comes to romantic things thanks to the heart break of the incident two years previous but overall he is not as spineless as a lot animé rom-com leads. He is a bit goofy but fills the general nice guy role fairly well and even shows a little bit of personality, which already marks him over most of the placeholder leads out there. In fact, something that I noticed quickly is he acts a little bit differently in each arc; his personality skewed a little to match him up better with each heroine. It makes sense considering he is the protagonist of a visual novel who has to fit around the choices of the user but it does work with the adaptation too. The side-characters are also quite enjoyable, if not particularly deep or compelling. Umehara is Junichi's stock best friend but amuses with all the fish jokes (his family run a sushi restaurant); Miya (Junichi's little sister) is fun with her "nishishishii" catchphrase and antics; Rihoko's tea club seniors are just crazy in the best possible way and Hibiki (Haruka's best friend/minder) plays the 'straight girl' role to Haruka's eccentric very well.
The most obvious problem is the lack of depth. I assume, due to the composition of the show and the time restraints it suffers from - having only four episodes per girl - that there simply was little time to build up and explore the characters of the side cast. The simple fact is that the arcs do not build on each other; they are completely separate entities that don't add up to anything more than the sum of its parts. This also leads to the problem of all segmented series: fluctuating quality. The quality and effect of one arc can be very different from another: the fun dynamics of the first arc with Haruka and Junichi, the amusing narrator in Sae's arc and so on are when the show is at its best but there are points where the show can just be plain boring (The Rihoko arc being an example). I would never say that the show becomes truly bad or obnoxious - the humour is never offensively bad or annoying and the romance is never turgid - but it is certainly a show of highs and lows, even if the lows are never that low nor the highs ever that high.
In truth, though, I liked the girls. They each have enough personality, enough built upon their basic concepts and enough chemistry with Junichi to keep the show afloat even at its worst. The girls are definitely the driving force of a show where the lead is (by necessity of the shows origin) the more passive partner in each relationship and, for the most part, they offer differing forms of appeal that works. The cuteness of Sae, the tomboyish style of Kaoru, Ai is cool and clever and the general appeals are there to address all but the most obscure desires. The girls are also developed fairly well over their four episodes; the six stories are all simple, appropriate and they work - even if to varying degrees.
In the end, Amagami SS could have been better. The construction of the series is a mixed blessing: with the benefit of developing and enjoying multiple relationships but hamstrung slightly by a variance in quality and a lack of emotional commitment often found in really good romance, due to time restraints. This aside, Amagami SS is a very competent and often very enjoyable series with the added bonus that you can skip the parts you don't like and not miss out on anything - watch just one arc if that is what you want, it really does not matter.
The series more or less fluctuates between two at its worst and four at its very best so three stars is, ultimately, where this series ends up. — Aiden Foote
Recommended Audience: The show is for teens and older thanks to some playful and silly sexual content and innuendo. It is very chaste for the most part but Junichi likes thighs... a lot... for one thing.
Version(s) Viewed: Pre-release Fansub
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Amagami SS © 2010 ENTERBRAIN INC./Amagami SS Production Committee
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