I’ll say this for Seiren: it’s certainly resolutely itself. I like it about as much as I did Amagami SS but it really is quite different, and I can see why not everyone who was a fan of the original is a fan of this show. There’s much less of an overtly romantic structure to Seiren, even if the literal structure (i.e. omnibus heroine format) is identical. It’s the stories within the stories that are different more than the way they’re put together. If romance was the main course in Amagami SS, it’s almost like the dessert here – it comes at the very end of the meal and it’s much smaller than the entree.
So what is the meat and potatoes this time around? It’s just… quirkiness. It’s the weird little obsessions and distractions of adolescence, the awkward by-products of the awkward stage between childhood and full-on romantic engagement, when the two sides are vying for supremacy inside the pubescent mind. In that sense I suppose Kyouko is the most natural heroine route for it, because her relationship with Shouichi is very much literally the collision of these two forces. The easy familiarity between the two of them makes them an appealing on-screen couple, but I don’t think it would be accurate to say they have a real romantic chemistry, per se.
A couple of other things stand out to me as rather distinct from earlier incarnations as well. First off, there’s the prominence of Tsuneki in the arc focused on other heroines. We’ve seen cameos by the female leads in each other’s routes, of course, but Tsuneki has played a fairly significant role in both Tooru and Kyouko’s arcs. And we’re not just talking about comic relief, though she’s provided it (the deer thing just won’t go away) – actual plot impact. Here’s she acts as a sort of sounding board for both Shouichi and Kyouko as they’re fumbling towards a possible date, but it’s also her lie that Shouichi asked her to go eat pancakes on Christmas Eve (though she didn’t mention him by name) that spurs much of the action in the B-part this week.
The other thing that stands out specifically with this arc is that it’s more heroine-focused than any that’s come before. Kyouko has had more screen-time than Shouichi – certainly this week – and her development is every bit as central to the arc as his. That makes sense I suppose, since these two know each other so intimately (and that’s not an exaggeration) and they each have to move a considerable distance to get from where they were to where they’d need to be to be actual partners. In fact they already have moved a fair bit – Shou actually asked Kyouko out in the second episode of the arc, which is much earlier than in either of the first two.
This is the nature of Seiren, really. It’s the story of a boy who’s happy enough to “pretend wrestle” with his best friend on Christmas Eve one moment, but after having been rejected is suddenly thinking about date options (including “adult” ones) the next. He may be Kyouko’s “girl next door”, but he’s clearly not satisfied to be that. But he’s not going to get to the romantic stage with Kyouko strictly by dint of his own growth – indeed, by asking her out he’s already shown he’s kind of ready, and for a change it’s the heroine whose development is going to be what drives the arc towards a romantic conclusion. These two are indeed reindeer, and in this case the onus is on the female to grow a pair before we get the ending we want.