Seiren- Paradigm Shifts

Coming from someone who enjoyed Amagami very much, news of Seiren came to me and I instantly began to have some level of expectations for it. Given that there aren’t enough omnibus style romance shows with Amagami’s quality and level of tenderness, I was really looking forward to a heartwarming series to really tug at my heartstrings and make me feel all cozy and comfortable.

Although if any of you stuck around with me since the season’s start, you’d know that this show was the bumpiest road I’ve had in a while. So how can you mess up something so tried and true that even made Photokano at least worth watching again? Let’s get down to it.

The Setting

Seiren takes place in our oh-so familiar setting of Kibito high-school, only that it’s been 9 years after any of the events of Amagami took place. Shoichi Kamita is our protagonist fated to fall in love with a number of girls he meets along his highschool life and this journey also doubles as a way for him to find his future career. The girls that Shoichi could potentially end up with, so far of this writing, are Tsuneki Hikari the resident “popular girl”, Miyamae Tooru the gaming upperclassmen, and Tono Kyouko the childhood friend.

So far with this premise and with the promised omnibus style romance, I was fairly set on giving this show a lot of my attention. I’m not completely sure if Amagami did this style of character progression but the thing Seiren did was that it played off a time-line where some of events that take place in a given route carry on over to other routes, only without the relationship itself carrying over. An example of this being in Tsuneki’s route where Shoichi studies harder and gets his name on the school’s scoreboard but Tsuneki’s route only becomes locked in if Shoichi follows Ikuo to summer cram school. This concept isn’t all that new since it follows regular visual novel progression but it was something different I noticed because I didn’t see this in Amagami, or maybe it did happen there and I’m completely insane.

The Characters

I’ve mentioned this in the weekly posts but Shoichi feels a lot weaker than Junichi was in 2 out of the 3 routes we saw him in. In Tsuneki’s route he was most definitely the “weaker” personality compared to her but that was honestly the charm of trying to romance the type of girl Tsuneki is. Tooru’s route had Shoichi a lot more awkward back and forths with Tooru and his career choice as a bus driver after playing an arcade game, I can’t seem to get over that. Shoichi’s most favorable light comes with Kyouko’s route where his determination is steeled over near the end when he makes it absolutely clear that he needed to tell Kyouko his feelings.

Onto the main girls, I honestly don’t have too much problems with Tsuneki in her route aside from her decision to completely halt the relationship and continue it after 5 years of being apart. I don’t quite understand the logic behind why the producers thought this was a good idea. I personally expected a lot more from Tsuneki since her personality was something rarely tackled upon in the “series”. I honestly was enjoying it to an extent up to the kiss and that eventual proclamation where they didn’t involve themselves with each other until after she comes back after her 5 year trip from Spain. The worst thing is that she’s so actively involved in the other routes and has the most screentime next to Shoichi and she’s still a fun character but the reminder that her route itself is overall disagreeable sours the character.

Tooru’s route, like Kyouko’s, ended on a fine note with them ending up getting a child in their respective endings but Tooru’s arc had both Shoichi and Tooru feel a bit off. Most of it was socializing over the game and addressing her social awkwardness and I understand this is the feeling that the show was going for but Shoichi’s reciprocated awkwardness didn’t make some of the scenes that weren’t the handful of heartwarming love-love scenes boring to watch, which is a shame because I liked Tooru’s design the most out of the 3 girls covered and wanted a calm and collected upperclassman character since Amagami’s Hibiki.

Last comes Kyouko who I admittedly did not really care for at the start of the series since we already had not one but two underclassmen romance routes in Amagami but after the travesty of Tsuneki’s ending and Tooru’s general route awkwardness, I found myself enjoying the straightforward pacing and narrative of Kyouko trying to be more than just a childhood friend who needed to stand out more. Compared to Rihoko’s arc who had to wait until the SS+ continuation to reach its closure, Kyouko managed to get her own nice ending and was the cutest girl in general.

Similar to how Amagami had its own slew of side characters, Seiren had its own decently present cast of side characters. Aside from mentioning the ones who resemble previous characters from the “franchise” we’ve got Ikuo, who was the younger brother of Ai from Amagami all grown up. Ikuo is Shoichi’s best friend and is equally a nerd, but seems way more savvy about going about relationships and the likes. He has his own romantic escapade that doesn’t end well which provides Shoichi his own determination to see through his romantic life til the end. Araki acts as the other friend who is an upperclassmen, a fellow nerd, but also a confirmed furry who’s into animals. Shoichi’s sister Moe was also surprisingly entertaining and my favorite girl so far, same goes for her friend who’s important in two out of the three routes. The last point goes to the other 3 girls who show up in the story that are meant to be romanced by Shoichi later down the time-line. The first is Sanjo Ruise, a member of the disciplinary committee that is feared by other students as well as her own member, namely Kamizaki Makoto, the skittish and somewhat “off” girl who follows Ruise around. She also happens to be the sister to the stalker Risa from Amagami. Lastly is Hiyama Miu, the least seen future heroine who is a transfer student and in the swim team but she is first introduced in Tsuneki’s arc.

The Presentation

There’s not much to address in its visuals here, it’s a highschool romance series and the series still resembles its predecessor without too many issues. There’s honestly not much to go about other than the bump in quality in Kyouko’s face in her arc and the inevitable dip in quality near the end.

Neither the opening or endings for Seiren really matched how much I hummed Check My Soul, but given how I didn’t really stick to the character specific endings in Amagami myself, I don’t consider this as a completely negative aspect. Seeing as though this is still a romance series, some proper background music to accompany a heartwarming scene is still important but the thing is, there’s just more awkwardness than actual romance going on. I think that’s the biggest problem I have with Seiren. I might be viewing Amagami with some seriously tinted lens but I seriously remember more flirting and romantic moments. As much as I don’t want to sound biased, Amagami felt it had more progression with its relationships while Seiren fumbles around, going back and forth between exchanges and only seem to reach this romantic moments only at the end. Amagami has its romantic pay off at the end too but the romance and chemistry feels like its found its place in the 2nd or 3rd episode of a girl’s arc while in Seiren, it takes until the last episode of the arc.

I went off-track and addressed my main issue. It primarily problem falls under its pacing where I don’t think there’s enough romance in a romance based series. Aside from Kyouko’s arc as a whole, a quarter of Tooru’s arc, and the kiss scene with Tsuneki, I’m not afraid in admitting that Seiren was pretty much a disappointment in the “make me feel warm and snugly” feel. Tsuneki turned out to have the worst route of them all, Tooru was awkward but still sitting on average, and Kyouko who I had the least amount of expectations for had the best arc.

A problem also lies in Shoichi as a protagonist as he’s a bumbling around trying what to do with his life and find a future career path while also pursuing a romance while in Junichi’s case, he just wants to repair a broken heart. Shoichi is mostly passive in his relationships and doesn’t take any metaphorical steps forward while Junichi at least pushed for his relationships to work out. Also both had some fetish scenes that I wasn’t completely on board with but I guess that’s what fetishes were truly meant to be.

The Verdict

Seiren stands for honesty and in that line of though it pulled something unexpected in me by playing around with my predictions and expectations for the routes. Tsuneki of which I was hoping for some good closure turned out with the worst route. Tooru who I had high expectations for had a very awkward and slightly boring route. Kyouko who I had no little expectations for and looked forward to the least turned out to be the strongest and sweetest route with the least amount of problems, even if it did reuse a lot of elements from Amagami. Based on empirical evidence of having one bad route, one route that turned out disappointing, and one good route, I consider Seiren an unfortunate disappointment since I enjoyed Amagami so much and my expectations were apparently too high. Whereas I came for the series to provide some heartwarming romance, I mostly received awkwardness and very little romance. Shoichi was an adequate main character in only one route of three and apparently I’m not the only one who thinks of how disappointing this series was as sales apparently for the BD preorders took a near sheer drop after Tsuneki’s ending debuted. The strangest thing about this is that Seiren is actually an anime original deal, it isn’t an adaptation of a visual novel like Amagami, Kimikiss, or Photokano was. It’s unknown at this time of this writing if there intends to be an actual visual novel but it would be a dick move if they’re planning on holding the other three routes and some particularly better scenario endings hostage like that, which is a shame because I’m at least interested at how the romances would work out even if it turned out as awkward as Tooru’s. I guess anything that isn’t similar to Tsuneki’s route would be tolerable enough.

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