I wouldn’t exactly call it a bang (now that would be news), but Seiren at least didn’t go out with a whimper.
So Seiren has come to an end (with no mention of a second cour, which is interesting), and what strikes me is just how different it ended up being from the original Amagami SS series. That was a stealthy revelation, because the similarities between them are plentiful and more obvious. There could be no missing the fact that Amagami and Seiren are siblings, but as with siblings who look a lot alike, in most cases the more you get to know them the more you come to realize just how different they are in personality.
Specifically, the Kyouko arc was more or less unique in this franchise canon (at least in terms of what made it to anime) in that it was the heroine that was basically the main character. Shouichi didn’t really change all that much over the course of this arc – he became more aware of his feelings for Kyouko and more dissatisfied with being seen as a “girl next door”, but he was pretty much already where he needed to be from the beginning. It was Kyouko who had a lot of ground to cover, because she started out very much a child. And it seems, one genuinely oblivious to the feelings that were beginning to change things between she and Shouichi. She was the one who had to grow and change, much more than he.
I think the heroines have generally had more of a character arc in Seiren than they did in Amagmi, though Kyouko’s was certainly the most prominent. Another big change, of course, is that romance is generally much less important in Seiren. Frankly, these arcs have been mostly about the relationship in broad terms rather than the romantic endgame. I kind of like that, actually – it worked best with Tooru’s arc, but in all three of these stories the idea of a boy having a relationship with a girl in high school was explored in some depth. It isn’t only about the sexual tension, but that tension has an impact on the rest of the relationship. It’s an interesting topic – arguably more so than the conventional romantic focus of Amagami.
Plot-wise, this finale was rather fluffy. The close of the school festival, Tooru and Tsuneki squaring off the in the “Miss Santa” contest, a meeting on the rooftop where Shouichi and Kyouko finally confront the new frontier head-on (though facing in opposite directions). The woollen pantsu made a reappearance (as you’d expect, Shouichi couldn’t bring himself to actually wear them) – serving first as a bench-warmer and then finally finding their way onto Kyouko (presumably over her existing ones). And then, finally, a kiss – a kiss and a ten-year flash forward that thankfully had Shouichi working at something a little cooler than driving a bus (he’s a manga editor).
Is there a part of me that thinks a story about the period after the kiss and before the timeskip would be more interesting than the one building up to the kiss? It’d certainly be more unusual in anime, that’s undeniable. But that’s not what Seiren is, and while it’s not any kind of masterpiece (neither was Amagami SS), Seiren is in my view a pretty good iteration of what it is. That is, a story about teenage relationships that’s not totally bogged down in either ecchi or emo, serious enough to explore the theme in some depth without taking itself too seriously in the process. I like the balance Seiren maintains, and I do wish there were more shows that followed its course.