Last week’s episode prompted me to post and to wonder (or perhaps to predict) if this show was going to be, as they call it, a train wreck. To be fair to the show, it’s only 1/6 of the way through, but that does mean that the first story arc is complete, and I can at least say that this story arc was an unqualified train wreck. That being said, I can’t help but grin from ear to ear as I write this. I have to give it credit. Plenty of shows have sucked and been unwatchable, but it’s rare for one to still make you want to keep watching.
The phrase “so bad it’s good” comes to mind. This is a phrase used appropriately to describe movies moreso than TV shows. When you’re spending a 90 minute stretch to watch something, the phrase makes a lot of sense. But when you’re watching something week in and week out, if something is bad, it’s just bad. It’s a rare breed that can still entertain for such a long period of time, not despite, but because of how bad it is. Amagami SS is one of those special shows.
So why was it so bad? I could point to the extremely poor pacing, which saw almost nothing happen the 1st 2 episodes, followed by a bizarre 3rd and then a 4th that hit us with more shit than the 1st 3 combined. I’ve already written on the awfulness of the 3rd episode and its misogyny, on which the final episode of this arc happily builds. Then there is the 4th episode by itself, which was crammed so full of cliches – not the good kind – that I’m still in awe and wonderment at the enormity of the feat.
Really, if I were to write about every little thing, this post would go far too long. Suffice it to say, I got a good laugh out of the revelation that Junichi and Haruka had met before, at an important moment of both of their pasts, which was also intricately tied to Haruka’s actual dog. And the laughs just kept coming, from somehow sticking a swimsuit scene into a Christmas Eve setting to having Haruka surprise Junichi with the dream date, hotel room and all.
But the moment that sticks in my mind, that offended my sensibilities too much for its own good is just when Haruka came out of the bath, upset that Junichi didn’t try to peek at her. This is, to quote @8C from Twitter, “misogynistic idealism.” The same can be said about the 10-years-later gag that they pulled immediately after. We are never shown the actual difficulties of the romance – the parts that are interesting – and are told that, as soon as you get the girl – or rather, as soon as the girl gets you – everything will be hunky dory from then on. Your “work” is finished.
Anime in general and especially visual novels such as the one on which this show is based are known for their misogyny. Visual novels get away with this because most of them are wish fulfillment porn anyway. Anime shows get away with this because they tend to be pretty absurd comedies, where multi-dimensional characters and realistic relationships aren’t needed.
But those things are needed in a somewhat serious romance story like Amagami SS. It just doesn’t work when the climactic, super dramatic moment is dependent on the girl acting like what a “misogynistic idealist” believes she should act like. Or if the build up to that involves the girl fulfilling the guy’s weird fetish of being a dog. Let me quote chaostangent from an astute post he made after only the first 3 episodes had aired:
These are not even characters but amalgamations of the most tired, staid and all-round tedious aspects of archetypes that have mutated into a hideous, cringeworthy diorama of what sociopaths believe realistic or dramatically engaging human interaction is.
And yet, I must laud Amagami SS for being so bold in its adaptation of a visual novel. Most anime adaptations of visual novels tone down the obviously misogynist and wish fulfillment fantasy aspects in favor of creating a story better suited for the medium. Not Amagami SS. I have not played or read any of the source material, but I’m confident that this anime has embraced its heritage fully.
That’s why, despite the show’s insurmountable flaws, I enjoyed this first story arc of Amagami SS. Most anime shows tread that misogynistic line shyly, afraid to reference the fact that it’s an overarching theme in so many works in the medium – there’s an entire genre devoted to it – all the while partaking in it. Amagami SS outright celebrates it, and, most importantly, it does it without a hint of irony. In a way, it is a reflection of the expectations of the current otaku community at large.
This is a show that is fully aware of the path to failure that it’s marching down. And far from despairing it, it revels in it, inviting us, the viewers, to join in as well. I won’t be joining it, but I’ll happily look from afar at what other droplets of idealistic misogyny lies in its path.