If you have ever wondered what it would be like to sit and watch someone else do a full clearance speed run of a dating simulation, well here is your chance to experience it with full animation. If that idea does not sound like something you would have even the slightest interest in, then you need read no further.
What They Say:
It’s rare to get a second chance at love, but Junichi Tachibana is about to get a half dozen of them! Junichi gave up hope of finding his special someone when a date stood him up on Christmas Eve, but fate is about to give him the romantic equivalent of a multiple choice quiz! It seems that there are a lot of girls Junichi knows who are “interested”, and if he picks the right one, and does the right things, he may just find his soul mate. And better yet, if he messes up on the first six or seven tries, he even gets do-overs! It’s the classic story of boy meets girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, and girl again as one guy’s luck with the ladies goes from bad to multi-verse in this complete collection: AMAGAMI SS and AMAGAMI SS+!
Audio: There is only a Stereo 48kHz 2.1-2.3 Mbps DTS-HD MA Japanese track, which does not have any noticeable problems. No distortions or dropouts occurred during playback. As this is an almost entirely dialogue-driven show, as usual the center speaker gets a workout while the rear speakers only come alive during musical events (the openings, endings, and an insert pieces) thanks to the receiver decoding the input. Otherwise, there isn’t any directionality to note and no need for it as there are no action scenes that would require it.
The first season aired in 2010; the second in 2011. The transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The discs for the first season have been reauthored: the original separate release had twelve episodes and two OVAs on three discs while the new set has four: the main 24 episodes are split evenly over three discs with the two OVAs still on a separate disc. The discs for the second season are no different in terms of disc content from the earlier separate release: the thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with eight on the first, broken down into four two-part episodes, and the remaining five on the second, with again two two-part arcs and a single standalone episode to end the show. If the first season’s episodes were split over more discs to improve the video quality (fewer episode often means less data compression), others will need to make that comparison as this is the first time I have seen this show in any format. The show is clean and clear in its presentation, without noticeable noise or distortion, but it did not seem outstanding in any way either. Colors are pure and vibrant without any noted off-tones. This is good quality high definition video, but it’s also not particularly demanding without any serious action scenes.
Packaging: The six discs are in a BD multiple disc case with two flippy hinge holders: one disc each is on the inside of the front and back with two discs each on the two flippy hinge holders. The discs themselves are all picture labeled, specifically with artwork of the girls whose story arcs are featured on each particular volume. The front cover (see picture above right) features the six main heroines along with the logo titles for both seasons. The back cover reproduces the promotional artwork image of the two “extra” heroines Risa and Miya that appears on the OVA disc to the right of the catalog copy. Below are a series of screencaps and then the production credits and technical information at the bottom. It’s pretty standard but also shelf-friendly for those who have large collections and increasingly little room for anything new to fit on those shelves.
The menus play the opening songs (differing by season) on a loop in the background and feature promotional artwork of the heroines featured on the particular disc to the right. On the left the episodes are listed by title, grouped by story arc, each of which focuses on a single heroine (in general) which is labeled above the group. Individual episodes can be accessed directly from the main menu. There are no audio options as there is only the single audio track and there is no Special Features option expect for the very last disc of each season(see next paragraph).
Only Disc 4 and Disc 6 have any extras: Disc 4 contains the Clean Openings (there are two) and Clean Endings (there are eight) only. Disc 6 has the Clean Opening and Clean Ending of SS+plus along with a selection of fairly recent Sentai trailers.
Based upon the dating sim Amagami originally released for the PS2 way back in 2009 by Enterbrain, in the years immediately following (2010, 2011) an anime adaptation and a follow-up season were produced by animation studio AIC under the direction of Yoshimasa Hiraike (who has also directed Kaleido Star season 2, Solty Rei, Sketchbook ~full color’S~, Working!!, AKB0048, Gugure! Kokkuri-san, Momokuri, and Nyanko Days). The show choose to do a very faithful, in its way, adaptation of the game by giving each main heroine a complete, self-contained set of episodes that deal only with her arc, with events and decisions that affect only that individual “play-through,” if we want to use that term. This is different from many other dating sim adaptations, which choose either to focus just on a single heroine while including major events from the other ones or to give partial explorations of the various individual heroine routes, only to drop all of them save one for the final closing arc of the adaptation.
I’m not going to provide a detailed plot summary: I suspect it would read far too much like a strategy guide for the Amagami dating sim. Instead, I will limit myself to several general observations about the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of adaptation and the specific highlights and problems of the Amagami franchise in animated form.
In terms of storytelling, for those who have played the original game (I have not), there is the obvious advantage of not feeling left out if the anime adaptation staff decided to go “a different route” (literally) in their adaptation choices. To just give one fairly well known example, this is not like Clannad where you only get the full story for Nagisa Furukawa (necessary to move things onto After Story, of course), If you’re a Kyou Fujibayashi or Tomoyo Sakagami devotee, you’re only going to get so much. And they are more fortunate than the other heroines, as at least they both get a single episode OVA that gives a further glimpse into their full game routes. Here, all six main heroines get equal time and precedence. Only 6 episodes each (four in the first season and two in the second), but that’s a least half a normal season for each heroine, which is not bad.
The disadvantage of this method is that it can feel a bit disconcerting to move from one heroine to another once their arc is over. We have a reset after every four episodes in season one and following every two in season 2. The tie that binds all of them is the bland protagonist Junichi Tachibana, who apparently got stood up for a date on Christmas Eve of his final year in junior high; two years later, approaching that same date but now a second-year high school student, he still hasn’t gotten over it. Suddenly, he is surrounded by attractive (in one way or another, though not necessarily all of them appealing to the same degree) women whom he meets and has the chance to romance, though fully separately in this telling of events. There are some incidents that overlap from one play-through (it would sound a bit pretentious to call them separate dimensions of a multiverse…and yet that would not be inapt either) to another and the production staff has been active in placing cameos of both the girl whose route was just highlighted and the girl whose route will come next within each arc, as well as occasional appearances of the other heroines, in the context of their other relationships within the high school they all attend.
Speaking of that protagonist, Junichi, he is by natural requirements Protean—shifting his interests depending on which heroine is being featured at the moment. This can be the most oddly jarring part of the decision to animate each route separately: that Junichi seems unmoored, without a real fixed personality other than being a bit on the perverted side (he and his good friend Masayoshi Umehara spend perhaps a bit too much time obsessing over adult erotic material (and for all that expressed interest in erotica, Junichi follows the usual limitations of male leads in anime works, being almost prudish in terms of reacting to nudity and utterly lacking any sex drive except in his daydreams). In other words, he’s a bland cipher whose only defining traits are that he’s a cowardly pervert and he unnaturally attracts the hottest girls in his entire high school. The perfect dating sim protagonist, I guess.
The girls vary wildly, as each one is meant to appeal to one or another particular fetish prized by various dating sim players, I assume. You have the beautiful, outgoing free spirit (Haruka Morshima); the somewhat violent, but hardworking childhood friend (Kaoru Tanamachi); the soft-spoken, shy possessor of an oversized bust (Sae Nakata); the slim swimmer who is very focused (Ai Nanasaki); the other childhood friend, a food girl who obsesses equally over eating and dieting (Rihoko Sakurai); and the class representative who seems the perfect model student on the surface, but hides something underneath (Tsukasa Ayatsuji). These character types, who largely fit within a single dimension without much need to impose upon a second, each have their good and bad points. Sadly, the stories created for bringing each one and Junichi together are for the most part shallow and in several cases boring. Of them all, I think I liked Sae Nakata’s arc the most for two major reasons: one, there was at least the hint of character development and forward progress beyond the romance for her. She had her own arc of self improvement, as she worked hard to overcome her almost crippling shyness, enough to be able to interact with people normally instead of immediately throwing her gaze downward and speaking little above a whisper. Junichi played some role in that and so it works as a hook for their developing romance to some extent. The other unique feature of their tale is that it has a Narrator, and a rather snarky one at that. Sometimes his barbed comments are so painful for Junichi that our protagonist breaks the Fourth Wall to call out the narration. Combined, this makes Sae’s arc much more interesting and compelling.
Overall, some of the highlights, including the few occasions when we get a look far into the future of these couples, can be quite romantic and heartwarming. There are some moments of comedy that work well. But the show is far too uneven to keep to a good standard over the entire run. In some parts it was deathly dull. In others, especially some of the noticeably forced-feeling dramatic situations rolled out in the second season, it was outright annoying. I’m sure some people will strongly disagree with my assessment; others will nod their heads sagely. Everything will hinge on whether you fall in love with these heroines yourself and want to cheer them on with the sad object chosen by the creators for their affection or whether you just don’t care.
Amagami SS and SS+plus provide a series of short romantic stories, the second season delving a bit more into what happens after the couple get together. But it very much reflects its origin as a dating sim: one route playing out at a time. Basically, this is the type of show that depends entirely upon whether you find any of the girls interesting or not. It even feels like a completely different show at times based on that one variable. If you like a particular girl, it might be romantic heaven. If you are not a fan of the girl whose route is currently “starring” in the show, then it’s likely to be either mildly diverting or possibly downright boring. Overall, I was only impressed in parts. I expect most peoples’ mileages may vary and vary quite wildly.
Features: Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closings.
Content Grade: B- (at the high end; some sections are more a C)
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 10th, 2017
Running Time: 925 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL-32S5100 32-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Sony Bravia DAV-HDX589W 5.1-Channel Theater System connected via digital optical cable.