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Amagami SS and Amagami SS+ plus (review)

Amagami SS

Impression – finely tuned and sagacious (9/10)

Summer 2011 to fall 2011 (25 episodes + 3 OVAs)

Usually I start my reviews with a plot summary of the first episode or two to give a general impression of the story, but I can’t do that for Amagami SS. This series is a real revolution for the standard formula for harem/romance/dating genre of anime. Instead of following the girls’ individual stories through the series organically (which usually just makes the protagonist look like a playboy) Amagami gives each girl four episodes to tell their story with the main character before wrapping things up and moving on to the next girl without a shred of continuity between the two.

It’s really refreshing to see an anime deviate from the default storytelling method for romance series and try something new.  And the best part is that it’s awesome.  It’s hard to believe that nobody thought of this idea sooner, but this formula is just enough time to get to know the characters, introduce a conflict and resolve said conflict in a very tight space of time that allows for absolutely no waste.

The cast is your usual harem mix—the hard-nosed class rep, the whimsical upperclassman, the tomboy, the airhead, the shy girl and the athlete—but they all have enough unique traits to keep them fresh and nonstereotypical.  If it seems like I’m having trouble giving this title an adequately in-depth review it’s because there’s so many unconnected plotlines in this series that I couldn’t hope to discuss them at length without just giving away the whole story because everything is so concise.

I can definitely say that this is a series for people who like romance anime and are looking for something different that sets itself apart from the masses and Amagami definitely fits that bill. But I also think this series could impress people who usually stay away from harem anime because the quality of the writing in Amagami really hits home with how effectual it is at getting the point across in so little time.

Amagami SS+ plus

Impression – an ideal, if somewhat inflexible sequel (7/10)

Winter 2012 (13 episodes)

Probably the biggest failing of Amagami Plus is that it will have absolutely no chance of pulling in new viewers for this franchise. Just like season 1, the writing is short and to the point without an inch of dead time—which of course means there can be no chance for a recap to get fresh eyes up to speed with the stories already in progress.  This basically dooms it to being a nice little bonus package for people who enjoyed the first season, though the necessity of some of this extra content is sometimes questionable.

With only 13 episodes this time around, each girl only gets 2 episodes to squeeze in a little epilogue (plus a bonus episode for Junichi’s sister, Miya).  They all have their own charm and fit nicely onto the end of their previous plotlines. While I was somewhat neutral on why we needed more screen time for Tsukasa, Haruka and Ai, I think Kaoru’s extra content actually stagnated her story from where it left off in the main anime. The two girls that I felt actually needed expanding on were Sanae and Rihoko and Amagami Plus did a great job continuing and finishing the romance that Junichi started in season 1.

Amagami is easily one of the sharpest anime I’ve had the pleasure of watching. The music is really good too, with the opening setting a wonderfully cheerful mood and the ending themes done by the voice actresses in the themes of their respective characters. Essentially free of any ecchi or fanservice to speak of, this is a strong, confident, romance franchise that knows how to handle itself.

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