Amagami SS – Haruka Morishima Arc

“Well, when you think you love someone, you love them. That’s what love is — thoughts.” – Bill Adama

Whether it’s a book, TV show, or film, I typically like going into it relatively blind, knowing as little about it as possible. For instance, I didn’t know Amagami SS was based upon a “dating simulator” on PS2 called Amagami that explored various guy-girl combinations in a high school setting.

That said, the first episode of Amagami SS felt like a rather generic high school romantic drama featuring a dull guy and out-of-his-league girl that could potentially continue generically soldiering on for 12-13 episodes without anything ever coming to fruition. I was wrong.

This show actually has a rather novel layout: it’s six arcs of four episodes each all featuring the same guy, but each arc focusing on a relationship with a different girl. The first arc involves Haruka Morishima in episodes titled simply “Yearning”, “Getting Closer”, “Jealousy”, and “Love”.

I was actually quite refreshed to see the romance of the first arc make such rapid yet realistic progress, probably because anime romances (and romantic comedies in particular) all too often lead their audience along an endless ‘will-they-or-won’t-they’ conveyor belt that can be excruciating. I’m not at all saying it can’t work (as it does here and here), but it often doesn’t.

This anime avoids that, as well as an even bigger problem, the harem complex (too many girls like the same guy) by focusing on one girl at a time (at least, in this first arc). I was surprised how quickly the guy gained the confidence not only to confess to her, but confess a second time after being soundly rejected, and how they both turn out to be pretty weird people who complement each other perfectly. Even in four episodes, the story didn’t feel too rushed, at least for me. This is also the first instance in anime I’ve seen of a guy kissing the back of a girl’s knee. Kinky.

It struck me as just one of those times you meet someone in high school and you know you’re the only ones for each other, and you eventually marry. Yes, that happens, even in today’s modern, cynical society. No dark pasts, no villains, no rivals…just a short, sweet, efficient romantic story. One girl down, five to go…I liked this arc, and hope the others differentiate themselves. Rating: 3.5

Asobi ni Ikuyo! – First Impressions

I was reminded of Ookami Kakushi in that a seemingly peaceful and ordinary kid’s life is being orbited by several characters with hidden motives/allegiances; those they use in his vicinity, and their real ones. Although this may be because a large-breasted cat-girl-alien decided to move in with him.

Beyond the catgirl silliness, there could well be some interesting mysteries lurking in the shadows waiting to be unveiled in later episodes, and the character designs, while nothing exceptional, are clean and attractive. There are some elements I find irritating, but also enough intriguing bits I can stand a few more episodes to see how things unfold. Rating: 2.5

Occult Academy – First Impressions

This is only the fifteen millionth another show about a magic school, but it’s beautifully made and has a really nice, formal/elegant style to its setting. (It’s also the third in the anime-only “Anime no Chikara” series on TV Tokyo, preceded by Sora no Oto and Senko no Night Raid.) I was worried the heroine was going to be some stern tight-dressed stick-in-the-mud, but as the episode progressed she came off as very dynamic and likable. She also had to decapitate a baddie resembling her late father, the school’s founder, with an ax.

She also had to deal with some random naked dude coming out of the sky, almost Terminator-like. This was a robust first episode, and presented a lot of mysteries and situations I hope it will resolve in the following twelve episodes. Thus far it has definitely earned the right to be watched by me. Rating: 3

Nurarihyon no Mago – First Impressions

The kid this show follows around looks like a wimp, but I don’t think he is one. He is firm in his desire to simply go to school and live a normal life, rather than inherit his birthright, which is dominion over hundreds if not thousands of loyal youkai (demons, CajunJapanese-style) with all kinds of awesome powers. He too seems to be a youkai, who can transform into a badass when the conditions are right.

But frankly, I don’t think he has a choice; this show isn’t going to be very interesting if his demon underlings-to-be simply let him live that normal human life he wants. Obviously, the show will cause him to become irrevocably intertwined with the demon world, and hopefully, the two worlds will continue clash, with him having to be a man and fix things. While not groundbreaking, this is a competent start to something that may hold my interest as long as the kid doesn’t get too whiny. Rating: 3

High School of the Dead – First Impressions

Things turn bloody real fast in High School of the Dead. Which I appreciate; it gets right to the point: the characters are fighting for their lives from the get-go.  It’s pretty harsh, seeing all this carnage take place in such a gorgeous tranquil setting. I also appreciated the little details, like a girl’s ‘best friend’ suddenly changing her tune, or cherry blossom petals falling into pools of blood. Good stuff. Things could also get interesting considering the major shift in character relationships just in this first ep. The main thing holding this back was five or six or seven pantyshots too many, but I can forgive that since it also delivered taut, fast-paced action and a real bleak, nasty atmosphere. Rating: 3

Seitokai Yakuindomo – First Impressions

Seitokai can get a little blue at times, but the banter is quick and feisty enough to dig itself out of most potential holes. In Maid-sama we have a female prez in a mostly male school; at this school its seemingly 100 girls for every guy and with a premise like that there’s always the potential to quickly descend into mindless harem territory.

Thankfully this introductory episode takes a totally different (and better) direction: rather than everyone falling in love with the guy, their impressions of him are more varied. This show has lots of weird, possibly maladjusted characters bouncing off one normal one, and the results are more often funny than boring. Rating: 2.5

Working!! – Wrap-up

Inami from Working!! assaults any man within striking distance without hesitation. In real life, somebody as dangerous as Inami would likely be in an institution, to say nothing of working a normal waitress job. Yet there she is, somehow working a normal waitress job and actually being gradually trained in restraint by her male co-worker, with varying success. It’s not every season you see a slice-of-life romantic comedy featuring a heroine who has been unconsciously molded by her father into a powerful fighting machine against men.

That training stands in the way of her happiness, as she genuinely likes Takanashi (the male co-worker) but struggles mightily not to put him in the hospital. It’s this fun and quirky dilemma that forms the core of Working’s fun and quirky slice-of-life story about unusual people with unusual traits working in a normal family restaurant. I enjoyed it from start to finish, and wouldn’t mind a second season. Rating: 3.5