It’s funny how much this felt like a series review post as I was getting ready to write it. But that’s the nature of Amagami/Seiren, I guess, and omnibus romances in general – every arc feels like a mini-series unto itself. And it had better – if you’re going to adopt this narrative style you damn well better give the audience a sense of closure with every heroine.
To start at the end, I did like this ending a lot (with one exception, but we’ll get to that) – certainly better than the end of the Hikari arc. But then I liked the Tooru arc better in every respect, though I have nothing against Hikari as a character. In fact I think she was used better in a non-romantic role in this arc than any Amagami heroine so far, which is saying something as there have been eight of them. But in terms of an engaging romance story, this arc was leagues ahead of the last one to my taste.
I’ve seen a lot of disagreement about the way we were supposed to take Miyamae-sempai’s character, and the travails her lifestyle caused her. Some have taken the view that Seiren is effectively taking the side of the Gamergate-style haters who gave Tooru a hard time, but I take a completely different view on it. I think the series was – admittedly in a very understated way – showing us how difficult adolescence can be for a girl who like to game and doesn’t defer to the boys. It wasn’t preachy and it wasn’t over the top, but I think it was an effective way to call attention to the issue and to give Miyamae real depth as a character.
In doing that, of course, Seiren also cast Shouichi in a good light and made him a more compelling protagonist. One of the quirks of this franchise is that the male lead’s personality changes from arc to arc – sometimes a lot. And while I liked Shoucihi well enough in the first arc, he was more assertive (that’s relative, of course) and colorful here. And his quiet decency in being the only guy (or girl, it seems) who wasn’t put off my Tooru’s intensity and lack of “feminine” deference clearly made a huge difference in her life. He’s just a nice guy, period – and one who’s free enough of his ego not to feel threatened by a strong and talented girl.
Ultimately it all comes down to the romantic chemistry, and while it doesn’t burn a hole in the screen (like Junichi and Haruka-sempai’s did in the original series), there’s a warmth and unpretentious respect between these two that I really like. Their adventures at Comiket (that strategically placed muff…) are a good example of this. There’s no comic slapping or feigned disinterest here, just awkward attraction of the sort common to first real relationships. Miyamae may have only sold three of her trap deer but on the whole, Comiket was a big success for their relationship (and clearly, this was not the last time Shouichi would locate the zipper).
As for the ending, well – I can see where some viewers might consider it too low-key. But low-key romance is what this franchise does most of the time, and I think quite well. A little Adam’s apple sucking, a smooch in the park, a hickey and a band-aid – it is, as Tooru says, PG stuff, but it feels right. And I thought the postscript was a nice one, with Shouichi and Tooru having a child together and her being a teacher. But seriously – a bus driver (Edit: OH! It’s a callback to that bus driver game…)? Poor Shouichi. No disrespect to bus drivers – they do a very important job (one that’s less unpleasant in Japan than it is in America), but I would have liked to have seen some acknowledgement that Shouichi chased an ambition connected to what he was passionate about (a game designer, maybe). That’s really my only niggle, though – on the whole, this was a very satisfying conclusion.