What They Say:
Alternate lifestyles are one thing when it comes to romance, but alternate universes? When his date stood him up on Christmas Eve two years ago, Junichi Tachibana felt a little piece inside him shrivel up and die. Now he distrusts the very idea of love, which is a shame because Karma is about to hit him back in a major way.
There are several girls who would all make wonderful partners for Junichi if he would only open his eyes. Are you ready for a half-dozen or more romances, all at the same time? Neither is Junichi, so through the miracle of animation, you’re about to see how each of those individual romances would have played out if someone had done just the right thing at the right time.
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release is done with just the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps. Amagami: SS is a very dialogue driven show but it has a little bit of fun to work with when it comes to the music as that adds to the experience and it has to be well done to make you feel the relationships and mood. The series does it well here and the audio encoding captures it pretty much spot on. It’s not a mix that stands up and does a dance around you, but the dialogue is well presented and the mood of it all comes through very clearly. There isn’t a lot of placement or depth because of the nature of the show but the dialogue comes through clean and clear with no problems such as dropouts or distortions during normal playback.
Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This set contains twelve episodes and breaks tradition by being spread across three discs, four episodes to a disc. This is done to keep the story arcs together rather than splitting over discs, not that it feels terribly necessary. The series has a very good look to it as it deals with familiar school environments with AIC giving it a bit of extra flair and vibrancy with the characters and colors. There are some moments where it has a bit of line noise and some of the blues in the backgrounds have more noise than they should, but in general it’s a good looking DVD release that has a lot of color and appeal that makes it very easy to settle into and enjoy.
The packaging for this release is pretty good considering what it has to accomplish in making fans of whichever of the girls that are in this release happy. The front cover goes for the three pictures across it where each of the girls that are featured in this set get their chance to shine. The character artwork is a bit darker than I’d care for in some cases but it’s good overall as each of them gets to shine with a look that definitely represents them well. The rest of the cover has only a little bit of space but it gives us some good colors with reds and blues to brighten it all up. The back cover works it in much the same way but with thinner strips going down it that has shots from that show, a pair of girls in between them and a breakdown of which stories are on which discs. The summary is pretty expansive considering what it has to do as well but it covers the basics just right and draws you into it. The remainder of the cover has the usual breakdown with a clean listing of the discs extras, production credits and the accurate technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release utilize the episode/story spread well by letting the romantic interest of that arc to become the focus. The character artwork is kept to the right and all three of them look good here with great colors and a wonderful brightness about it all. The left side has the navigation which is the episode numbers and titles while the background and other areas bring in various reads, whites and blues to make it a very lively feeling menu. The layout is done well and the whole thing is easy to navigate. Due to it being a monolingual release, there are no language submenus and defaults aren’t useful here.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the PlayStation 2 game of the same name that was released in 2009, Amagami: SS is a twenty-six episode series that has had several manga created as well that began release in 2009 through 2010. The anime series launched in the summer of 2009 and deals with the male lead by showing us multiple stories in which he gets to know various women during his high school life and becomes romantically involved with them to varying degrees. What separates it from other series that do the same thing is that each arc is like an alternate reality. Rather than having him go from girl to go, we get a series of what if’s in which we see how each of them play out.
The series revolves around Junichi, an appealing but somewhat average second year high school student. He’s a nice guy who does good in school, is social enough and has friends and family, though we mostly just see his younger sister Miya that’s a year behind him. Like a lot of leads of this nature, he’s kind of an everyman that most people can sympathize and get behind as they can see themselves in him. What Junichi has is a good range of women in his life that he’s interested in and that are interested in him. Like most high school boys, you can look at all those around you and do the whole what if game and certainly imagine where things could go. And in a way, you want to try and experience different kinds of loves with each of them to see what life holds.
The first story has Junichi going after an upperclassman named Haruka who doesn’t have much interest in high school boys at this point since she’s looking forward but also doesn’t think she should go for someone younger since it’d be hard to handle them babying her in a way. With so many guys asking her out over the years, she’s pretty immune to it but Junichi brings something different to the table with his mild persistence. There’s kind of an almost airy feeling about the way that they interact with each other as things start to pick up and realize that there is something there between them, but some of it comes down to them just going on in their own way, damn what anyone else thinks. When Junichi does baby her, it’s a great bit of roleplaying that goes on in the school cafeteria no less. It’s really an appealing relationship to watch grow and blossom.
The second story is the weaker of the three here as it introduces us more fully to Kaoru, a girl in his class and his age that he’s known for quite some time. This doesn’t exactly have the whole childhood friend thing going but rather just two people that are very comfortable with each other discovering that there is something more there. The change from friends to something much more intimate can be difficult and filled with a lot of tension but it also has the potential for an even greater payoff because of it. Kaoru’s a happy girl with no real problems in her life and the two definitely have a connection that can be built on, but it doesn’t feel as strong as what we had with Haruka. Part of that comes from the shift in stories (which when I watched I wasn’t aware it was doing alternate tellings) and I was disappointed that we didn’t get more Haruka.
Knowing what it was by the time the third arc hit made that one more enjoyable in a different way. While he got to know someone older and the same age in the first two arcs, the third one introduces us to Sae, a student a year younger than him that he ends up meeting who is actually good friends of his sisters since she came to the school. Unlike the other two girls, Sae’s more nervous and unsure of herself and she finds something in Junichi that helps her gain some confidence. This arc has a bit more fun to it because of how Sae is getting used to everything but also because she is friends with Miya and Junichi’s sister is card because she helps her at times pick out outfits for Sae to wear when going out with Junichi. She definitely knows him the best and has some very amusing picks, especially for the date to the movie theater.
The animation for this series from AIC is spot on and definitely what helps to elevate it up a bit more, though the story design does that plenty. The character designs have a great roundness to them, some softness that helps them to really look much more fleshed out and real in a way rather than the usual sticks that populate a lot of shows. The big thing is that the show feels very real, very accessible, and that helps it immensely. The sense of color designs is also pretty strong here as it sets the mood greatly while still making it believable, especially when dealing with the school setting itself. It can do things easily when it comes to outdoor areas, sunsets and the like, but when you have to deal with the school interiors it takes some good design to make it feel real but also look good and someplace almost nostalgic.
With the first half of this series, Amagami: SS really left me quite pleased once I got into the rhythm of it with it rebooting itself every four episodes to tell a new tale of young love finding its way. Junichi’s not exactly the most memorable of male leads, but he is the kind of solid everyman that you can emulate a lot from in order to interact with a lot of people in life and to find that there’s beauty and love around every corner. I went into the show with zero knowledge and came away really wanting the second set to be in my hands already because I thoroughly enjoyed the pacing, animation and designs of the show and how it works the romantic angle. Bringing things beyond the whole will they or won’t they aspect is something many shows never do, but this one does it and does it repeatedly with different characters. There’s a whole lot to like here if this kind of show is your taste and definitely worth the time and money. Very recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closings
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 20th, 2011
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.