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Tuesday, 31 January 2012 00:00
Amagami SSAnother day, another dating sim adaptation, and Junichi Tachibana's got himself a small harem's worth of girls to choose from. Except that this time around, the series is set up in such a way that he doesn't have to choose. Lucky guy.

Two years ago on Christmas Eve, Junichi Tachibana got stood up for the biggest date of his life. He's spent the two years since dwelling on why his date never showed up, but now he's finally working up the balls to get back on his metaphorical horse and get back into the dating scene. There are a few girls on his radar: Haruka Morishima, the playful and eccentric school idol in the year above him; Kaoru Tanamichi, classmate and something of a tease; painfully shy Sae Nakata, a classmate of his little sister Miya; swim-team member Ai Nanasaki; childhood friend and compulsive eater Rihoko Sakurai; and class president and girl with a serious case of split personality Tsukasa Ayatsuji.

Being based on a visual novel, each girl has their own story. In the VN, you'll play a route and see that girl's story to completing, before rewinding back and playing a different route; when VNs are adapted to anime, you'll usually get some sort of mashup that tries to cover as much as possible of each girl's route, but that ultimately involves the lead male either picking one, or wimping out and leaving the over romance unresolved. Amagami SS takes a slightly different approach, though: each girl is allocated a four-episode arc that tells the story of their route - and then the rest button in pressed, the whole thing rewinds back to the starting point, and a new arc begins, telling the story of the next girl's route. Each arc's covering the same period of time - the run-up to the school's Founders Festival and Christmas - so there's some repetition of what's going on in the background, but because Junichi is dealing with different girls, each with different personalities and interests, there's plenty that's different across the arcs as well. If you take a shine to a particular girl, then they tend to get plenty of cameo appearances in the other arcs as well, which is a nice tough.

There are downsides to this way of doing things, though. Being based on a dating sim, the personalities of the girls vary quite widely, and it's unlikely that you'll appreciate them all. Personally, I had a lot of fun with Haruka's and Tsukasa's arcs (Haruka is playful in the extreme, Tsukasa's split personality makes for some great moments when the switch between the two is flipped), but barring one or two particular scenes could have quite happily skipped Sae's arc, as her personality isn't quite as compelling; other people will see the girls in different ways. But because they each have arcs devoted to them, if you're a completist who wants to see the full series you'll be sitting through episodes where you're just waiting for the next arc to kick off.

The dating sim roots also show through in that Junichi is a personality-free zone, which does leave you wondering how in the hell he's suddenly so popular. He's just too damned nice, the sort of guy who in real life would never get the girl and yet this small harem of desirable girls - some of them with definite kinky streaks - are suddenly falling all over him. Nah, not buying that. And his constant presence - it's his series, after all - leaves a big personality black hole in the middle of every arc that noticeably detracts from the appeal.

Still, I can't deny that I had fun watching it - even the weaker arcs had enough in them that I didn't feel much of a need to skip to the next arc. It's not the sort of thing that will have universal appeal; there are far better adaptations of this sort of thing out there, and the lack of any real conflict or jeopardy in the series is another weakness, but it has fun with what it does have and entertains enough to be worth watching, especially if you have it as part of a streaming subscription.

Rating - ***