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Amagami SS Season 1 Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

12 min read

Amagami SS Complete Blu-rayThe many paths of teenage love explored across many configurations is a thing of beauty.

What They Say:
Junichi Tachibana has never been lucky in love. Ever since his date stood him up on Christmas Eve two years ago, he’s pretty much given up on the whole idea; however, there are quite a few girls who would all make wonderful partners for Junichi if he would only open his eyes. Could he have struck up a meaningful relationship with any of them if he’d done the right things and said the right words?

Well, it’s time to find out as Fate steps in and decides to see what would happen if Junichi were to snap out of his funk and take a chance. It’s a whole new twist on the idea of love at sixth or seventh sight, and if one boy and a whole lot of different girlfriends-to-be sounds like a lot of wishful thinking… well, it is! But wishes have a habit of coming true and the statistical odds are definitely on Junichi’s side as the guy without a date’s luck with the ladies goes from bad to multi-verse!

Contains episodes 1-24 plus two specials.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is done with just the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. 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. In comparison to the DVD, there’s not a really noticeable difference when you get to the majority of the show since it’s all dialogue based, but it does have a bit more warmth and clarity. The opening and closing sequences make out the best, but it’s incremental as well. 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.

Video:
Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes and two OVAs are spread across three discs in a twelve/twelve/two format, which works as that’s how the various arcs are broken up within them as well. 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. The look of the show is definitely a nice increase over the standard definition release as the colors are more solid, the line noise we had before is minimized to non-existent and there’s a lot more pop to certain colors throughout. The show does hew to a certain color palette and a slight softness to romanticize things, but the upgrade here is definitely welcome with how it lets things stand out all the more.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is presented in a standard sized Blu-ray case that has a hinge inside to hold the two TV series discs while the OVA disc is held against the back interior wall. The cover artwork uses the same design as the DVD releases where the front cover shows off six of the girls that are involved in the story arcs, allowing them each to highlight their uniqueness, while the logo plays out along the bottom nicely and we get a good breakdown of discs and episodes along the top. The back cover plays similar as well with a detailed look at the premise along the top in a small font while below it we get the breakdown of the episodes by disc and several shots from the show as well. Add in a listing f which girls are covered in the TV series discs and it’s nicely done. The remainder has the usual listings such as the extras included and the production credits. The technical credits list everything clearly and accurately while there’s no reversible artwork or inserts included.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is quite appealing and mirrors some of what was done with the DVD releases as well. The two TV series discs break things down where we get the navigation along the left, where it’s blocked out by story arc, while the right side has the character artwork slices that represent the girls for the arcs on this disc. This has a lot of nice color and design to it even as they show different situations and colors, allowing it to blend better than one might think. The second disc does the same for that group of girls while the OVA breaks things down just for those two episodes without the grouping aspect. Submenus load quickly and easily and it works nicely during playback as a pop-up menu so you can see which part of each arc you’re in.

Extras:
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.

As we move into the second half of the series, it introduces us to Ai Nanasaki, a year younger than Junichi and a friend of his sisters. She’s a bit of a fun girl but has her insecurities as she’s working her way through the swim team training in order to try and make the team that goes to competitions. She’s a bit sensitive about her appearance but she’s generally a good girl and ends up growing close to Junichi through Miya at first and then because Junichi is open and easygoing around her. It takes a bit before they really start spending time together though and some of the fun comes from the way she’s very sensitive about her chest size, some of which comes from her chosen athletic passion and the swimsuit she has to wear for it. It’s a slow progress kind of relationship but there’s a great, warm and natural feeling between them as it comes together. Nanasaki isn’t a favorite, but it worked very well overall.

The next arc is a lot more appealing as it deals with Rihoko, a girl in his own class and one that’s actually a childhood friend of his. She’s a very fun girl that you don’t want to classify as ditzy, but she’s just a generally happy young woman with a few quirks. Her main problem as she sees it is that she wants to exercise and get thinner, not that she’s bad by any stretch of the imagination, but she’s comparing herself to the ones considering the best of the best in the school. But she loves to eat and to spend her time as the junior in the tea club room with the two upperclassmen that are graduating. She’s got a real interest in Junichi but they don’t play up the childhood aspect all that much, instead focusing on the here and now. She’s just such an appealing girl so watching this romance blossom is simply extra sweet. Junichi definitely gets into her, but it’s such a distant dance for much of it that when they do connect, it’s very, very cute with the way in which it all comes together, revolving around the tea ceremony club.

The final TV arc involves Tsukasa, the do it all member of the class as she’s the one that runs things like the Founder’s Festival planning and a great deal of other events. Tsukasa is the type that tends to take on most of the work herself and Junichi ends up getting involved to try and help her out some, but finds that she’s pretty capable all on her own. They end up spending a lot of time together, but it’s very, very hard to see them coming together as she almost seems like a split personality for a lot of it with how she interacts not only with him but also with others in the class. It’s not a tumultuous relationship, but when things do finally click with the way they’ve danced around things in a confusing way, it’s one of the better ones. Similar to an earlier one in the series overall, we get a look ahead ten years into the future as well which is really cute and definitely one of the things I wished more of the arcs did in full.

In addition to the series, we also ended up with a pair of OVAs after the fact that deal with two very different types of stories in short form, which is a nice bonus. The first one involves Risa, a girl that saw what was really happening to Junichi a few years ago and gives us closure on that date that never happened, and shows what she did to protect him since. It’s quite nice and again shows just how open and caring Junichi really is. The second one is given over to his sister Miya, and thankfully it avoids anything meaningful in terms of a “relationship” beyond examining the way she can’t understand why he doesn’t have a girlfriend yet has so many girl friends. It’s a cute episode that reinforces the family bond more than anything else, but it does steer lightly at the very end into pervy territory, which isn’t a shock. It could have gone a lot worse than it did.

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.

In Summary:
Amagami SS is a series that was a bit disconcerting the first time I watched it with the way it suddenly broke into arcs that reset things and showed us different paths. It’s playing to its videogame routes to be sure, but the end result is a strong one because we see so many paths served and served well. Giving the girls their own arc, with some light touches from other girls that are part of Junichi’s life, we see how the choices can lead to so many different configurations that do work. Some better than others. For me, the first arc is pretty much my favorite of them all, especially since it gave us a really fun future look as well, but each of the arcs offers something different and engaging to watch. Romance series like this are rare where characters actually admit feelings and work on them, so there’s a lot of appreciation for that. The stories are small but human and honest as we see the different formations of couples and the struggles they face in a really well done well. Thoroughly enjoyed and very recommended for fans wanting these kinds of stories.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 25th, 2014
MSRP: $89.98
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.

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