Nibbling at Amagami and KimiKiss

by eternal on August 28, 2010

Doesn’t that make you want to buy the OST?

Amagami has been on my radar for a while (since some people kept pointing out the amount of doujins the game was getting), but I’m a little underwhelmed by the first arc. By “underwhelmed” I mean that I didn’t melt into a puddle of kyaa~ and moe~.

So, it’s clear that I like the series – why wouldn’t I? I enjoy character games and dating sims and all of the other fluff, and it seems like Enterbrain is no stranger to simulated love (even if I gave True Love Story a 1/10 on MAL, I blame that on the adaptation). After going through the KimiKiss manga and doing a bit of background research, however, I realized that these adaptations are undertaking an extremely difficult task: turning a first-person dating sim into a coherent storyline to be experienced from the third person.

Let’s go back in time a year or two, or however long ago it was that the KimiKiss anime aired. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the love triangles, and even two of the male characters, were original to the anime. I loved the show when I watched it – I still do – but I remember it by its lighthearted, almost shoujo manga charm, and I enjoyed watching its bittersweet love triangles develop. The fact that it’s partially an original story makes all the more sense considering Kenichi Kasai was the director, the same man who brought us the adaptations of Honey and Clover and Aoi Hana. Anyway, KimiKiss was as sweet as the aforementioned JC Staff titles, and I enjoyed it more in that sense than like a straightforward, structured adaptation like the first season of Clannad.

Considering its artistic liberties, the KimiKiss anime is in fact the exception, not the rule. The manga is more of a straight adaptation; and it’s delicious, trust me. In place of the bittersweet shoujo manga charm is a series of pure, sweet, deliciously unrealistic first love stories. I even enjoyed it for reasons other than the fanservice! (And this thing is at Watashi ni xx Shinasai‘s level of pseudo fanservice). Despite the fact that it did its job, though, there was something missing. It didn’t make an emotional impact on me like the anime did. There was no magic, no blissful 2D world to escape into. I wasn’t captured under the game scenarist’s spell.

Not Porn.

Amagami is providing a similar challenge by directly adapting the game rather than by trying to create a mostly original story like KimiKiss. On one hand, it’s perfect: I’m not an onee-chan fan and I still loved Haruka’s arc. But did I “fall” for her? No, not really. Everything was too convenient; my disbelief knows how to keep itself suspended, but I simply couldn’t buy the fantasy that Haruka fell for our protagonist that easily. And it’s not Junichi’s fault; I rather like the guy, and I want to see him succeed. It’s just that the entire scenario is too implausible for me to go along with it.

This led me to a realization: fantasies looks kinda stupid from a third person perspective. Or rather, dating sims work their magic on you in the first person, so it’s easier to go with the flow and get swept up in the writer’s illusion of happiness. I’d know, it’s worked on me before; Hourglass of Summer was my first commercial visual novel and I still look back on it fondly for that very reason, even if it’s not a dating sim. However, when you see these same scenarios from a third person perspective, it’s easier to see the flaws and fallacies. Junichi feels like his own person when I see him on-screen, so it’s only a matter of time before my mind asks why Haruka is magically interested in him. The worst thing about it is that it isn’t the adaptation’s fault: it’s just hard to replicate the immersion that the dating sim medium is specifically designed to attain.

[Kimura Daisuke]

I said this in the beginning, but I don’t think Amagami is bad. I like being able to explore each of the girls’ arcs to the fullest, and a lot of these scenes are so much fun on screen that I wonder if the anime surpasses the game in some ways. It’s also worth noting that Kaoru’s arc is more believable than Haruka’s, and I’m finding it easier to get swept up in the story. It’s a tricky balance between trying to be too realistic and being just realistic enough to let you suspend your disbelief. Still, the problem remains: what should be a heart-pounding, engrossing, fantasy-fulfilling seinen love story is only feeling like a fluffy, entertaining seinen love story. I’m okay with that, but I know I would have completely fallen for the game if I could play it, and I doubt I’m the only one.

Of course, I can’t fault the anime staff for that: most Japanese viewers have already played the game, so the anime is a bonus treat for them to see the story in motion. It’s more frustrating than anything else because it seems like Enterbrain’s games are exactly the kind of things I’d play if I could understand them, and experiencing the adaptation before the game is like getting a glimpse at what I really want.

At any rate, Junichi’s nibble-filled adventures are some of the most exciting that I’ve seen in a while (in more ways than one). It’s easier to understand that the show is good when you realize that it’s fundamentally different from an original story like KimiKiss and that it’s being told in a fundamentally different medium than the game. With that out of the way, let me go pack to pondering which body part our protagonist will strike next.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

ExecutiveOtaku August 28, 2010 at 9:53 pm

There were two reasons why I was so quickly drawn to watching and committing to blogging Amagami well before the first episode aired: the innovative multiple arcs format and the connection to KimiKiss, an anime I greatly enjoyed. And I think without either (or possibly both factors) I probably would have passed it over back at season preview time. Being a stranger to the genre of games in general, I can still see your point about how difficult it can be to translate something that would draw in the game audience into something that will create that same experience from a third person viewpoint. And I think the fantasy element from the games is something that just doesn’t work with the anime format, or at least not as well. Without some feeling of input or control over the situation, how can a fantasy really be built? It seems like the whole point is that a fantasy is an at least somewhat willfully constructed experience.

To really make a successful adaptation of a dating sim/eroge/VN type of game, I think it’s necessary to take some different angle on it. Whether it’s the multiple male protagonists and love triangles in KimiKiss or the arc format of Amagami or the reimagined story in True Tears, it always seems to me that the best adaptations are the least literal ones.


ETERNAL September 1, 2010 at 11:01 am

The best adaptations are the least literal ones indeed, especially when the source material is more about romance and fantasies than a concrete, overarching plot.

On another note, True Tears was actually an original story rather than a loose adaptation, although I think it was originally supposed to be an adaptation. It seems odd because I’m not sure how/why they would use the True Tears name if the two stories are unrelated.


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