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Dated 6 November 2006: Soukou no Strain

Sara
Sara.

AYAKO DOCTRINE invoked.

Soukou no Strain came at me entirely under the radar. I had never even heard of it, but after discovering two episodes on the loose and finding that the series boasted an Ayako Kawasumi-voiced mecha pilot as its lead character, I was sold.

Young Sara
Young Sara.

Soukou no Strain opens with some backstory on its lead, Sara, and a little information about the persistent war at the heart of the series. From there it leaps forward and races relentlessly. The first episode is pitched with battle and action, and does not dwell long on the character elements. This pace works well and keeps the story engaging coming out of the gate, saving the character-driven moments for the second episode. (Also, damn, those bitches better back the Hell off of Sara.)

strain
A Strain.

Some have favorably compared the C.G. mecha battles to VanDread. I think this is fairly accurate. The style of fighting is very reminiscent of VanDread, indeed, with quick, darting attacks and lunges.

The fan service is nowhere near as high as in VanDread, though. However, we do discover that Sara's snug flight suit lacks sufficient space to permit a brassiere. (Well, there's also some creepy nudity in the OP.)

Older Sara
Not-quite-so-young Sara.

I don't care for the mecha cockpits. These entirely encase the pilots up to their necks, Captain Christoper Pike-style. This reduces most of the in-cockpit battle cuts to stills of motionless heads screaming senselessly. I must conclude that this is grossly inferior to the favored practice of allowing full freedom of movement so that a mecha pilot can shove a lever forward at full force while bellowing the colorful name of the intended attack.

Sara in the heat of battle.
Sara in the heat of battle.

In addition to doing a fair amount of hollering and screaming in Soukou no Strain, Ayako Kawasumi also does the next-episode previews and the sponsor messages. Oh, and Tanaka Rie and Yukana are both also in Soukou no Strain if you care about that sort of thing.

Allegedly, Soukou no Strain is loosely based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Wait, what?

Dated 25 November 2006: A Little Princess

I'm going to end up reading A Little Princess and it's going to be Soukou no Strain's fault.

Dated 10 February 2007: Soukou no Strain -- A Little Princess

I've been reading A Little Princess. Yes, I do blame Soukou no Strain. As you might expect, the original book is a little bit different from its anime adaptation.

Lottie
Lottie.

For one thing, there are relatively few spaceships in the book. Also, Lavinia is not a lovestruck lipstick lesbian.

To tell you the truth, the book actually does clear up some of the questions I had about Soukou no Strain. For one thing, Sara Crewe's stoical attitude towards her tormentors makes more sense to me now. I also appreciate her otherwise odd views towards Emily now that I'm familiar with the context from the novel.

Here's to a Little Women anime. A Little Women anime with GIANT ROBOTS.

Dated 25 July 2010: Pity Amagami SS isn't Roads of Destiny without the Bad Ends

Three leagues, then the road ran, and turned into a puzzle. It joined with another and a larger road at right angles.

So reads "Roads of Destiny" by William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry, the American author famous for the Christmas classic, "The Gift of the Magi." In "Roads of Destiny," a wretched shepherd is vexed by fate to reach the same ultimate destination regardless of the choices he makes. Conversely, the gimmick behind Amagami SS is that it is a harem comedy with four-episode arcs and (I assume) four separate destinations—one for each girl. There are six girls in the OP, so presumably Amagami SS will run for two cours, although currently only 13 episodes are confirmed. On the one hand, this addresses one of the primary complaints about harem comedies in general—that Male Protagonist typically picks the "wrong" girl. On the other hand, the climaxes to these four-episode arcs come really fast.

Junichi and Haruka
Renting swimsuits sounds kinda gross.

If you watched the first arc, wherein Potato-kun inexplicably lands an older school idol for no clearly discernible reason (or at least not a reasonably plausible one), you may also be confounded by the bald implausibility of this most unlikely coupling, even if Junichi is the rebound guy for Haruka's dog. Well, confounded by that and the couple's complete lack of chemistry together.

Junichi and Haruka
Really, I think it's being charitable.

Then again, maybe not. Reactions to Amagami SS have been much more positive than I ever would have anticipated, especially among viewers that typically lambaste harem comedies on general principle. That mildly amusing, inoffensive fluff shows with moments of genuine charm such as Tokimeki Memorial ~Only Love~ can't catch a break while the back-of-the-knee kissing scene in Amagami SS garners such praise is probably indicative of something about the nature of anime fans and their views regarding relationships, but not anything I care to contemplate. Then again, I've joked in the past about a theoretical back-of-the-knee fetish gripping the scene to succeed the already niche armpit fetish, but now I'm starting to wonder if maybe it's real. That's my best-case-scenario explanation for the popularity of Amagami SS episode three at least.

Haruka
You should see the uncensored version.

Despite personally lacking any predisposed compunctions toward viewing harem comedies negatively, I mostly disliked Amagami SS episode three in its entirety. I couldn't stand all the begging. Seriously, guy, even Urashima Keitaro wasn't so eager to sell out what dignity he had left. Then again, Urashima Keitaro didn't exactly get a lot of back-of-the-knee action either. I guess we'll never know if it's because he didn't beg enough or if it's because Narusegawa Naru wasn't the kind of girl who puts out on the first date. [Spoilers: Haruka puts out. And how.]

Junichi and Haruka
This worked a lot better than Yamada Eye.

So where are we now? From the looks of it, Potato-kun is going to take a different fork and parallel-universe his way into Sex Hair's (presumably) persistently unmade bed. Expect three more episodes of wining & dining (read: lots of begging) followed by episode-eight supining before Junichi moves on to trophy-fucklove the remaining four girls: the one with brown hair that doesn't think she's fat, the one with presumably crushingly strong swimmer thighs, the one that thinks she's fat, and the seemingly normal earnest one that's probably CRAZY-BROKEN inside. Maybe that hikikomori panic room planetarium of his is actually a portal to alternate dimensions. Potato-kun sure has his work cut out for him.

Haruka
Take a cell phone picture and set it as your wallpaper, Junichi. Do it.

So what does this have to do with "Roads of Destiny"? I predict my biggest complaint about Amagami SS, assuming I make it to the end of its 13 or 24 or whatever episodes—ahead of my complaint about Junichi being such a loser, ahead of my complaint about Junichi not having any chemistry with Haruka (and potentially none of the other girls either), and ahead of my complaint about the show's rushed four-episode pace—will be my complaint that we'll suffer through the First Girl He Sees Clause six freaking times. I appreciate that Amagami SS is a galge adaptation and thus compelled to retain the same lead male throughout—preventing any Hatsukoi Limited narrative weaving, but for crying out loud. What the show ought to do is have Junichi ultimately end up with the same girl every single time, regardless of the path he takes or who he dates on his way there. School Days aside, there must be some anime law compelling monogamy or something, even if it's The Disappearance of Nice Boat variety of monogamy.

Dated 15 June 2011: Ohana has a drinking problem in Hanasaku Iroha

Ohana
It's five o'clock somewhere, Ohana.

Out of scientific curiosity, I gave Ohana's Coke & tea combination a try. (I used orange pekoe.) It was not at all as bad as I was expecting, but it was by no means the anime equivalent of O. Henry's "The Lost Blend." Maybe I'll give it a few more tries at different temperatures and with different blends.

Satsuki
Satsuki probably drinks coke and snorts tea.

In other news, Ohana's mom isn't half the man Hiroko is.