「桜井梨穂子 後編 フウリン」 (Sakurai Rihoko Kouhen – Fuurin)
“Sakurai Rihoko, Second Chapter – Wind Chime”
Forget “check my soul”, someone needs to “check my pulse” to see if I’m still alive after this episode. With the way things were progressing, I had all but given up hope that the long-awaited moment would come and save Rihoko from her cruel fate in the first season. As the remaining minutes ticked away, that moment finally came — and in the very last minute no less. At that point, I was filled with both a sense of relief and disappointment, as I was happy to see that Junichi took the initiative and Rihoko reciprocated, but clamoring over how a kiss is all we got. When someone’s been as patient as Rihoko has, she deserves so more than that to make up for for lost time.
While I can completely appreciate the depiction of how being forward with one’s feelings is a lot more difficult when it comes to childhood friends, and the believability behind how Junichi didn’t see her as anything more until Makabe came along (and simply backed off like I anticipated), I still can’t overlook how agonizing it is from an outside perspective to see the likes of Miya just totally killing the mood. Yes, it’s just like high school all over again where there’s some mutual interest among friends and some people are trying to help while others are unknowingly getting in the way, but that doesn’t make it any less irksome to watch. It’s an all-too-real scenario that’s in desperate need of a character like Remon in Ano Natsu de Matteru who’s well beyond her years and knows how to force the “issue”, but Amagami SS chose not to go that route with Kanae, Ruriko, and Manaka taking a hands-off approach.
The end result is a conclusion to Rihoko’s follow-up arc that’s fairly sweet but lacking intensity. It only makes sense that Rihoko wouldn’t hit it off with Junichi as passionately as the other girls — or they’d be dating already — but it does leave me wondering why things didn’t develop to this point in the first season so that this second season could expand on it. If I were to compare Tsukasa’s plus arc to Rihoko’s (since that’s all I have to go on at the moment), it’s easy to see that the former had the luxury of reiterating the heroine’s appeal while the latter was only starting to show some of it. Rihoko really could’ve benefiting from being put into more scenarios that highlight her childhood friend charm, some of which we saw here when she was genuinely happy to hear Junichi praise/thank her for her cooking — helping paint a rosy picture of the ideal future wife — and showed just how close they already are by borrowing some of his clothes to sleep in. (The latter was very alluring in its own way, but it would’ve been even better if she borrowed a dress shirt.) As such, I’m just going to chalk this up to Amagami SS’ way of illustrating how the childhood friend doesn’t always have it easy in anime, and just be grateful that it didn’t make an example of Rihoko completely like the original season. (Thank goodness for that.)
Next up is my favorite heroine in the series, Nanasaki Ai, so you can be rest assured that I’m excited to see what other bold moves the cool swimmer pulls off. It’s not every day we get to hear the sultry Yukana in a high school romance role, so that’s another huge plus about Ai’s character.