Seiren – 09
「桃乃今日子 第1章 カテイブ」 (Touno Kyouko dai 1-shou – Kateibu)
“Touno Kyouko Chapter 1 – Home Ec Club”
There is no pivot. There will never be a pivot. This is what Seiren is.
Not gonna lie—this is the episode where my hope for Seiren dies. Not necessarily because it was that bad, but because it proves that there’s no pivot. There’s no change. Any relative strength in the Tooru arc as compared to the Hikari arc was the bigotry of low expectations, and the Kyouko arc isn’t looking like it can reach Amagami SS heights, or even that of an average replacement-level romcom. Seiren can’t get the little things right, much less the essential spirit. With that in mind, I think it’s time for an update on my Amagami SS rewatch.
Since I last mentioned the Amagami SS rewatch marathon I’m doing with my hopeless romantic of a roommate—who doesn’t generally watch anime, I might add, but is loving this one—we’ve watched the entirety of the Haruka, Kaoru, and Sae arcs, as well as half the Ai arc. While Kaoru remains best girl, here’s a controversial opinion: even the Sae-chan arc, historically my least favorite, is much better than anything Seiren has put forth. Her seiyuu’s voice might be annoying, and Junichi might be almost intolerably dense in that arc, but it still knows how to do romantic tension, and every episode was still funny and fun! It’s only in comparison to the better girls in better arcs that Sae looks bad. Compare her to the Seiren girls, though, and she’d stomp them, and I’m not just talking about with her oppai loli breasts. Also, I get sad every time Ikuo shows up in the Ai arc, because anyone related to Ai deserves so much better than Seiren.
As you might guess, romantic tension is the key, which is why I keep bringing it up. Seiren is not aiming for high drama any more than Amagami SS was—even the most dramatic arc, Kaoru’s, was quickly defused when she herself admitted she was overreacting (and she admitted it quickly). So romantic tension, the titillating fun of fumbling and flirting, is the name of the game, and Seiren is still shit at it. It had a few moments here—I liked the “Are the dumplings good?” “Yeah, very pretty.” moment, that was good—but not enough. And it’s hamstrung by all the other basic elements it keeps fucking up.
Hikari keeps showing up too often. All the Amagami SS heroines had their own supporting characters—Kaoru’s friend Keiko, Rihoko’s tea club sempais, Hibiki for Haruka (and a little for Ai), etc—who expanded the setting and made each arc different. They also—and this is crucial—kept Junichi from spending too much time with other heroines. This is blasted important! Aside from Kaoru and Rihoko, who are old friends and thus excused—their main hurdle is to change the nature of the relationship, not establish it—any interaction Junichi had with other heroines is a chance for him to go down that route instead of the route he’s on, so the less interaction he has with the other heroines, the better. I noticed this when Ai hardly showed up during the Sae arc, and Sae hardly showed up in the Ai arc. It keeps each story from muddying the waters when the other heroines show up infrequently, and don’t play large roles.
But Hikari keeps playing a role in every arc, which is a minor annoyance compared to what’s next: this takes place after the summer camp, and after Shoichi still actually traded that item with Tooru—which, what the hell? Why didn’t he decide to go to the summer camp? And especially, why didn’t he go after Tooru when he stood at the friggin’ precipice of her arc! This presents a marked departure from the Amagami SS formula, and not a good one, because instead of Junichi starting at nearly the same place for every girl and, through a combination of decisions and happenstance, choosing to go down a different arc, Shouichi made a completely different decision for no reason we know of (the summer camp) and actively refused to persue Tooru for no reason we know of. Where Junichi always started the same and then changed (or revealed himself to be different, depending on how you want to look at it) based on the arc, Shouichi is always different, and the storytellers are determined to keep starting the arcs at different times for no damn good reason, requiring awkward exposition as to explain why he knows Takeshi or what Hikari was doing over summer.
I’ll simplify. The assumption is that if A happens, then B will happen. If Shouichi isn’t on some other girl’s route when he trades the item with Tooru, then he will go down the Tooru arc. He should start from the same base, and then change from there. Otherwise, if he wouldn’t make the same decision given the same circumstances, then he’s not the same person! But he makes different decisions for reasons we’re not informed of, so Hikari|Shouichi is a different person from Tooru|Shouichi is different from Kyouko|Shouichi, and that ruins any sense of attachment we have with the whelp because there’s no common thread.
Those are probably the most fundamental mistakes of Seiren as a whole, and it’s become clear that they won’t fix ‘em. Those aren’t even the ones that tripped me up the most while watching this episode, though. No, that was when Kyouko’s new sempais showed up, and I thought they were a cameo of Rihoko’s sempai from Amagami SS. Because, you know, the new sempai look just like the old sempai, albeit with a visual downgrade. That was so confusing that it utterly derailed me for several minutes before I finally admitted that they weren’t lying, they weren’t playing a joke, and these actually were new characters. What the hell, get some new character designs, jeez!
Maybe Seiren can still pull it out. Maybe I’m judging too harshly based on the first episode of this arc, and the next three will be better. I doubt it, though. I’ll finish blogging this show because I finish what I start, but I would expect the last few posts to be pretty short. I don’t have time to get this worked up on a lost cause. Jeez!
- I have no problem with the kiddie crossdressing by the way, but stop treating it as deviant, Japan. (Also, everywhere else.) And stop acting like a penis can cause memory loss, because, christ, really? That’s just stupid.
- Is that supposed to be Junichi? DON’T BRING HIM INTO THIS SHITSTORM YOU FUCKS! (That’s my job.)
- Another small element they fucked up: Moe-nee’s panties. If you’re going to have a discussion about them, you need to either show them, or in some way hint to us what’s so crazy about them. If they’re leapord-print, show a leapord, things like that. The way they did it was jarring, because we didn’t have context.
- Moe-nee best girl.
My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for exclusive content. At stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: The Carcer Principle; Fire, further; Fire; and Starting a story with a bang—and when not to.
Full-length images: 34.
ED3: 「恋のセオリー」 (Koi no Theory) by Kimura Juri