OK, so we’re sticking with Seiren for one more week at least.
I was definitely on the bubble with Seiren after the Tsuneki Arc. I liked it about as much as a middling Amagami SS route, but the ending fell rather flat for me. And I’m not as good at covering anime I’m only modestly invested in as I used to be – motivation is harder to come by these days, and while I liked Amagami it’s not like I was nuts about it. So when it came to Seiren, it was never a slam-dunk that it was going to make the long-term rotation.
That’s still the case, but I’m feeling measurably more bullish on Seiren after this week’s episode. The second route is that of Miyamae Tooru (Shimoji Shino), and it’s off to a good start. To begin with Amagami SS has a very good history with the sempai route (need I say more). And Miyamae herself seems like the sort of romcom heroine I like – a straightforward, matter-of-fact girl who’s not prone to cliched anime behaviors. The first episode of the Miyamae Arc had a light, unpretentiously silly and mischievous tone that’s one of the more agreeable faces of this franchise when it asserts itself.
Since the subject of this arc (so far) is gaming, there are also opportunities here for some interesting social observation, though I don’t expect this franchise to go full-bore there. We knew that Shouichi-kun was a bit of a gamer, but it’s much more in focus here – one element that’s interesting about Amagami/Seiren as compared to other omnibus series is that the character of the protagonist himself changes from arc to arc. Here he hangs out with Ikuo and Araki-sempai every day playing “Love Deer“, which is apparently a game about… raising deer? I guess these are common in Japan, strange as the notion seems to me. One lunch break as the boys are squabbling over a rare item Shouichi has just won, Miyamae-sempai shows up and surprises the lot of them by revealing she’s into it herself.
Ah, a girl gamer… That’s something of a fantasy for gamer boys in middle or high-school, especially one as smart and comely as Tooru. She has a good chemistry with Shouichi immediately, offering to make a trade for his rare item, and it’s soon revealed that she’s actually a friend of his older sister. Sempai dating their kouhai does happen in Japan, but it’s always an interesting social experiment (that’s true even in less seniority-obsessed America). Shouichi is more forward and less socially awkward here than in the Tsuneki Arc, which befits the heroine – he’s still shy when she gets familiar (he’s a 16 year-old boy, not a robot) but much more initially willing to risk it for a biscuit.
There’s a lot of focus on gaming culture here – Tooru eventually ends up joining the boys in a new game being released (bunnies this time) as a party, and she and Shouichi end up taking on some grade-schools at “Gusgal” (Gundam) in the arcade. As we know the gamer culture has tended to be very macho-driven, and it’s much less socially acceptable for teen girls to be gamers than boys. We’ll see how much of a role that plays on this arc (as I said I don’t expect anything too heavy), but there are hints that Miyamae has experienced this double-standard herself. Mostly though, what stands out is how natural and unforced the interaction between she and Shouichi-kun is – there’s no tsundere nonsense or teasing tropes. I like this couple, and the route where friends evolve into lovers can be an excellent platform for anime romantic comedy.