OP: 「キミの花」 (Kimi no Hana) by Oku Hanako
“Tsuneki Hikari Chapter 1 – Decision”
Will lightning strike twice?
What interests me most about Seiren is that central question. Can the Amagami SS lightning be made to strike twice? Or maybe they’re not trying to, I hear you say, but let’s be serious—they totally are. The uniforms are the same. The genre is the same. The omnibus format is the same. There’s even character continuity via Nanasaki Ai’s younger brother, Nanasaki Ikuo (Asari Ryouta). Their desire is transparent, so. Can they pull it off?
This first episode points toward a series that may very well be a lot like Amagami SS in a whole ton of ways, but is lacking one central feature that threatens to steal that shine that made its spiritual predecessor so enjoyable. That feature is embodied in main character Kamita Shouichi (Tamaru Atsushi), our romantic lead for this excursion.
I’ve said this often, but the most important part of the harem anime is not the haremettes, nor the harem-dudes when there’s a female lead. It’s the harem lead. Obviously, right? They’re the main character. We have to spend all our time with them, and if they suck, the story is going to suck. That’s why it’s imperative to establish, as quickly as possible, why the hell we should care about this person falling in love. Or, stated in a way that’s applicable to main characters of all stripes, the story needs to establish who the main character is, and that’s best done by showing what they want. In other words, we need to know what animates them as a person.
What animates Kamita Shouichi? I don’t know. He’s aimless in this first episode, unsure of what he wants to do with his future, and look. I get it. I’ve been there myself. But this isn’t the time for that. We need to know who he is before a loss of purpose can matter to us, like it did with Chitose in Girlish Number. Here, all it brings to mind is one of Pixar’s rules of storytelling:
“#13: Give your character opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.”
That’s a problem, dear reader. This wasn’t an issue with Amagami SS, where we knew what animated Junichi from early on: fear. He got stood up on an important Christmas date, and is still damaged by it. That tells us a huge amount about his personality. With Shouichi, we don’t get that. We don’t know who he is, other than an aimless young man who seems nice enough. That’s poison to the audience.
For all that, everything else was pretty good. The haremettes have gotten, to absolutely no one’s surprise, the pre-show development that Shouichi probably never got. That’s typified by Tsuneki Hikari (Sakura Ayane), who’s flirty, pushy, cheerful, and may have more going on than initially meets the eye. Does she have me howling best girl yet? No, but there’s time, and at the very least there’s some interest there.
The rest is reliable enough. The animation is a touch lacking to my eyes, and the tertiary characters are hurled into the story without any framework for us to absorb their relationship with Shouichi—Tatsuya Araki-sempai (Eguchi Takuya) comes to mind for me, who I didn’t realize was Shouichi and Ikuo’s friend until they were suddenly hanging out with him at the arcade—but the omnibus format allows for three romances in a cour, and four episodes is hopefully still enough time for those romances to breathe.
The question remains. Can they make lightning strike twice? For that to happen, the planets must align and all sorts of minor details, the kinds that casual viewers don’t even realize are important until they’re missing, must all fall into their proper places again. So far, the answer is no. From character interactions that could use some work—Tsuneki and her friends edge on bullying a time or two, and was the tired old “are you gay because you have a good friend?” quip really necessary?—to a central flaw that needs to be patched over yesterday, the secret sauce isn’t quite there.
I’ll still be watching Seiren even if I don’t blog it—though I’m considering blogging it, since I feel like I’ll have plenty to say—but they’re going to have to do a lot of things really well, and fast, in order to recapture that old time magic. Mostly, give Shouichi some opinions. Once we know what he wants, the story can really soar. Until then, it will forever exist in its predecessor’s shadow.
- An onee-chan instead of an imouto this time? I’m fine with this.
- To clarify for people who enjoyed this episode and are preparing to flame me for “hating” on it, I enjoyed it too. All I’m doing is poking at the question that’s most interesting to me, and adjusting my expectations accordingly. When the best friend character (Ikuo) is more interesting (and better developed) than the main character, something’s off. That’s what I tried to put into words.
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: Why I never give characters temporary names, Conflicted feelings on the Electoral College, Voting Reform: Single Transferable Vote, and They didn’t feel heard. I don’t feel heard. This is a problem.
ED: 「瞬間Happening」 (Shunkan Happening) by Sakura Ayane