Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.

6 February 2017: Seiren pulls out of its nosedive

A challenger appears.

The first arc of Seiren was a stunning disappointment. It was inept in almost wholly unoriginal ways, which made it doubly worse because this meant it should have been able to avoid all its missteps. The first episode of its second arc, however, gets the next route off to a good start by revisiting some of the elements that made Seiren's Amagami SS predecessor at least memorable, even if it was not exactly capital-G Good.

Not exactly Goldilocks.

Specifically, Seiren brought back the little tongue-in-cheek absurdities of its setting and characters. For example, we encounter this in the form of an inexplicably popular deer-based multiplayer RPG for handheld gaming consoles, and laughably villainous (but haplessly innocent) grammar-school-aged opponents getting fucked by a high school girl (in a video game, okay). Even the previous arc's heroine, Hikari, comes across better here in her cameo thanks to her unconvincing disguise and overblown hero worship of her school's reigning Miss Santa contest winner (to whom she was runner-up), which is somehow still a huge deal at that school. These are the sorts of diversions that make the hit-or-miss (mostly miss) romantic aspects palatable.

Ikuo, Shouichi, and Araki
Not exactly the three bears.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear as if Seiren is going to embrace the Hatsukoi Limited approach instead of the forked-route omnibus format. Had it done so, and matched up Ai's kid brother with Gamer-senpai, the show could have recovered some credibility which it otherwise lacks. Ikuo has more in common with Tooru than Shouichi does, and there's no good reason to make Potato-kun the focus of all three arcs other than to re-employ the Amagami SS gimmick—a gimmick which doesn't work as well here because there's no reason at all why any of these girls (let alone all three of them) should give a shit about Shouichi.

With glasses and no sidetail, Hikari is unrecognizable
by the student body and faculty alike.

Junichi was at least suffering from a traumatizing event (more overreacting than suffering, really), and the various Amagami SS arcs all related to that event in the sense that they displayed various ways in which he was able to recover from past disappointment. Junichi is a bit of a heel, but from a thematic standpoint, giving the different branches of the story a common starting point that ultimately lead to different but similar resolutions provided the gimmick a sense of purpose—something I don't expect to get from Seiren.

[Update: In re Why Seiren? It's because I dropped Photokano so early I never even realized it had an omnibus format. Anyway, I'm not nostalgic for Amagami SS; I'm nostalgic for Hatsukoi Limited.]

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