Romantic love as a deeper friendship
The second story arc of Amagami SS stars Kaoru Tanamachi, a tomboyish close friend of protagonist Junichi Tachibana since middle school. The story has Kaoru and Junichi coming to terms with their feelings for each other having grown beyond mere friendship, and ultimately falling into each otherís arms. Their story is all about being there for each other as friends and lovers. The story is less unconventional than the first, starring an eccentric senior whom Junichi pursues despite her playing hard-to-get. However, I find Kaoru's arc much more interesting and likable precisely because it's more normal. Down-to-earth details, like Kaoru having a single mother and working part-time, add to its appeal. (But Kaoru and Junichi do have their share of quirks: for teenage friends of the opposite sex, they're physically intimate to the point of doing stuff like ear-biting and tickling.) The gentler, lower-key storytelling approach also suits a romance between friends. The arc presents Junichi and Kaoru's romantic love as a friendship enriched by greater physical and emotional intimacy. The growth of their relationship is convincingly portrayed, thanks to all the scenes showing how close they are and have been through the years (just three, but it feels like ages). These range from just having fun together (like chatting, shopping, or playing pool) to going the extra mile for one another in times of crisis (like Kaoru cheering up Junichi on a past Christmas Eve after he gets stood up). As they feel each other out, we see awkward kissing, resistance, and lots of introspection. But mutual support and trust remains at the heart of their growing relationship. In a key scene, Junichi helps Kaoru reconcile the impending remarriage of her mother with her love for her departed father. More so than in any other scene so far, they admit they want and need each other by their side. More than anything, itís realizing just how deeply they care for each other that leads them to finally take the plunge (though their own astute friends prod them on). On Christmas Eve, they go on their first real date. They confess their love to each other and pledge to stay together forever. The way the show (not the game) ends the arc - a still frame and a voiceover - may seem lacking. Still, their story strikes a chord with me in a way other ones from the franchise don't.