The “childhood friend arc” is an inevitable part of any romance anime that takes omnibus format (which almost always means a VN adaptation) it seems. Heck, the original Amagami SS had two of them as I reckon it, though some viewers think only one route technically qualified. The last route of what I presume is the first of a split-cour for Seiren (there are six girls in the OP, after all) goes to the osananajimi, and it has echoes of what’s come before – both in this series and the franchise as a whole.
One thing about this franchise, it’s definitely quirky – and while it can be easy to forget that for stretches, it always does something to remind us. The cold open for this route starts out with Shouichi running around in a mahou shoujo costume flashing Tomoe’s panties relentlessly (this is about ten years in the past, at least), in the company of a little girl who’s oddly fascinated by what’s under his skirt. For good measure there’s a cameo of who I’m pretty sure is Junichi, and he’s likewise interested in that topic (which is kinda creepy) and the voice of the toy wand Shouichi-chan is waving around is none other than a scenery-chewing Nakata Jouji (who also does the preview).
Turns out that little girl is Touno Kyouko, the aforementioned osananajimi. Having had a sempai route, we now get a kouhai route – Kyouko-chan is a first-year, and looks and acts a lot younger. She and Shou are big fans of a mahou shoujo manga which has morphed into something of an H-series as its audience has… matured. This is a pretty standard osananajimi relationship – the older Shouichi is quite protective of the younger Kyouko, and willing to discomfit and even humiliate himself to put a smile on Kyouko’s punum when she’s sad.
Seiren is funny in that so far at least, it features quite engaging mixed-gender friendships that don’t actually have a whole lot of romantic chemistry, and so far that’s a pretty fair moniker to slap on Shou and Kyouko. For me it works well as a slice of lifer, but there’s isn’t really that much there there when it comes to romance or sexual tension – the Tooru arc was the best so far in that respect, but didn’t exactly blow the pixels off the screen for chemistry. But the friendships themselves are generally rather nice, and I like this osananajimi pair because (as is often the case with the Amagami franchise) it doesn’t fall back on tropes too heavily.
This ep is full of allusions both to “canon” events in this cour (more so than I remember the original Amagami SS being) and to the first two series. The Home Ec Club is eerily reminiscent of the Tea Ceremony Club, right down to the two quirky underclassmen carrying the load. Probably the funniest moment of the episode for me was when Shouichi blanched and became rather suspicious when Moe-nee told him the club sells girls’ old clothes – and Moe-nee had no idea what he was hinting at.
As for Shouichi himself, this version of him is as usual distinct from the other arcs’ version. Kyouko refers to him as “king of the beta males” (though she allows that he’s somewhat grown out of it), and that seems like a pretty good fit. He’s a kind-hearted kid who’s a very good student and kind of an oddball, protective of Kyouko and probably a bit of an otaku. Kyouko herself hasn’t made too much of an impression yet beyond the standard childlike adolescent, but at the very least she seems like a genuinely sweet person who’s genuinely fond of Shou. But if there’s latent romantic interest there, for now it seems closer to the surface on his part than hers.