Review/discussion about: Seiren
A woman in glasses really gets me going.
Part of it comes from the fact that I myself wear glasses; I can relate on some level with her bifocal style. Part of it comes from the subtext; an air of intelligence and maturity takes over. Part of it comes from instinct; I simply like the look itself.
I have other fetishes. Ones too private and too personal to share on a public forum. Seiren has its fair share of fetishes, too, but it hides nothing as it gives its audience an average romantic outing – in more ways than one.
Seiren adopts a structure known as the “omnibus.” In this case, for a romance anime, the description implies that the story will center not on a single relationship but rather many different relationships over the course of its run (hence the prefix “omni”). The main protagonist meets the girl of his dreams, the two eventually fall in love, and the whole thing resets back to the beginning for a new fate altogether. Think choosing a separate route in a visual novel, and it’s very similar in construction.
For Seiren, it sits at twelve episodes in length, giving four episodes per arc and thus four episodes for each of the potential girls: Hikari, Tooru, and Kyouko. Thanks to this structure, it makes it quite easy to analyze the show in individual sections and then overall as an entire package.
Hikari’s arc comes first. Shouichi goes to a study retreat in the mountains to focus on his future, and she finds herself there as well. Not of her own free will but due to a series of unfortunate events.
This secluded, close-proximity setting lends itself well to many a moment between the two lovebirds. She pulls him aside to have private conversations, she invites herself into his room, and she even goes into the men’s bath with him to show off her new bikini. The two constantly interact, building their relationship up from nothing and into something believable.
Simultaneously, the arc focuses on Hikari and her fun. For instance, Hikari’s always-wearing-Shouichi’s-sweats running gag creates a common stepping stone that the anime uses to its comedic and romantic advantage. She jokes to another female student about how her and Shouichi went at it as hard as the washing machine cleans the clothes, and her nonchalance with the situation gives Shouichi extra, lewder thoughts about her that he may otherwise not have been thinking about.
Almost everything goes right in this arc – save for the finale. Disregarding Hikari’s awkward acceptance of her friend screwing her over, the two share a kiss together beneath the gentle waves of the ocean. Only, following this beautiful, memorable moment, she tells Shouichi that she’ll be studying abroad to learn how to cook. In other words, no romantic payoff is had. It makes the whole arc feel pointless let alone defeats the purpose of rooting the show in romance to begin with.
Tooru’s arc comes second. She somewhat stumbles into Shouichi’s gamer group where he and his two friends play a popular deer-raising role-playing game. Tooru plays the game too, and, when the four of them start gaming together on a new video game, it becomes a fun time for everyone.
Once again, the setting gives Tooru and Shouichi their chances at love. They “mate” in-game during their trip to a café. He invites her to his secret gaming spot where old-school classics let them connect over simpler games by their lonesome. He accompanies her during the ComiMa expo. Like life, video games aren’t always about the single-player experience, so their partnership creates many a moment for them.
Yet the multiplayer approach is also this arc’s downfall, for one of the bigger issues is that it doesn’t always feel like Tooru’s arc. More specifically, Seiren involves Hikari from the first arc a bit too much. She plays the role of Tooru’s gaming rival and former friend. But, when she was literally the main love interest in the previous arc, seeing her here just makes her presence distracting to say the least.
Unlike said rival, though, Tooru finishes the arc strong. While she admits that she doesn’t wish to drastically alter what she shares with Shouichi right now, she commits herself to him and him to her beneath a striking full moon. Where the two were once just online partners, they end up as star-crossed lovers.
Kyouko’s arc comes third. She’s Shouichi’s childhood friend, and that relationship has stuck with them all the way into high school. He sees her as a “kid,” and she sees him as a “girl.” Which (expectedly) leads to many a roadblock.
In comparison to the first two arcs, this arc includes a poor premise. Kyouko turns down Shouichi rather early on, leading to a weird rift between the two. And, after she joins the home ec club, the two don’t get to spend too much time together. She’s doing club things, and he’s left figuring out if he should pursue his feelings for her. When they do go end up somewhere, it’s less a natural extension of the plot and more a coincidence of events.
The friendzone (or perhaps “girl-friend zone”) direction seems odd, but it makes sense in that they have been nothing more than besties. So, the events center on them overcoming that barrier. Amidst glowing moonlight, Kyouko’s festive look cannot help but put Shouichi in awe. Later, he gives her a hand-me-down coat when she goes over to his house. She even takes him underwear shopping with her, making them see the other in a different way entirely.
Kyouko’s finale also concludes on a heartwarming note. While perhaps a bit too cliched with the rooftop location and the background fireworks, their kiss signals the two have finally gone past their pasts and see each other as the one they love. Not as a “girl” or a “kid” but instead as a man and a woman.
As described above, each arc flubs a particular part. Hikari doesn’t have a strong finale, Tooru doesn’t have strong focus, and Kyouko doesn’t have a strong premise. In other words, each individual arc misses the mark slightly in their own fashion. However, on a larger scale, the anime remains more consistent in execution.
More specifically, Seiren showcases a handful of romantic relationships that come to fruition in a normal manner. No mega drama crops up during its run, and the narratives themselves don’t go for anything unique. It’s simply a believable set of relationships that the audience can perhaps relate to or at least understand if only because the anime remains so grounded.
Better yet, this structure inherently provides a lot of variety in these relationships. The kouhai, the fellow classmate, and the senpai. The sweet, homely girl. The teasing, outgoing girl. The quiet, passionate girl. A knitter, a cook, and a toymaker. Each girl has her own interests, her own problems, and her own traits that the audience get to watch unfold one after another.
The anime also loves its fetishes. Ranging from kinky to eyebrow-raising, Seiren seems to surely have something in store for everyone. Leftover butt imprints. Sweatpants markings. Furry cosplay. Hickeys. Undergarment decorations. Hair whorls. And those are only a small sample from the sizable list. Its fetishistic nature can oft be weird at times, but it no doubt adds to the anime’s overall charm.
If nothing else, Seiren earns props for delivering not one but three full romance stories with actual development and conclusions. In anime, it’s (perhaps unfortunately) noteworthy when the romance actually goes somewhere, so seeing it multiple times over, back to back to back, certainly defies the medium’s usual approach.
In fact, the anime even goes so far as to create small epilogues for each coupling, showing where they are several years later. Each one derives from smaller details in each arc. For Hikari, Shouichi becomes a dietary expert, and the two (presumably) rekindle their love at the restaurant where she secretly worked. For Tooru, she becomes a teacher, and Shouichi becomes a bus driver. For Kyouko, Shouichi became a manga editor while she looks a lot more like an adult.
The show does have references and small crossovers between the different plots, but they don’t heavily influence another plot’s progression. And, while the anime delivers solid romance here and there, a lack of thematic exploration may leave the audience wanting. Nevertheless (and for better or for worse), the anime ends up as a regular enough show.
Seiren’s visual direction leaves a lot to be desired.
“Plain” best describes the artistry. It’s yet another show in a long line of shows where a school dominates the setting. That’s not inherently a problem – until the anime doesn’t do much with it. It doesn’t go for anything too fancy, opting more for standard framing and orientation for its different shots. Lighting can play a bigger role for sunset scenes or arcade colors at night, but the artistry remains fairly uninspired throughout the season.
The show gets a bit more adventurous when it comes to those fetishes it likes so much. Shouichi envisions Hikari wetting herself while wearing a typical elementary-school outfit (yellow hat, blue shirt, and red-square backpack). Tooru sidles over Shouichi which incidentally puts her chest in full-frontal view for him and the audience to view the action. Kyouko undresses herself without care in the middle of Shouichi’s home’s hallway, leaving little left necessary for the imagination.
Going back the other way once more, the anime’s animated segments don’t have much going for them either. Not that there’s anything horrendous or blatantly egregious. The anime just doesn’t feel the need to provide movement of a higher quality.
It can surprise on occasion, though. For example, in episode seven, the bunny doll that Shouichi receives from Tooru changes its face to match that of Shouichi’s when Tooru arrives to ask him to help her out at the ComiMa event. An unnecessary detail that brings comedy and ups engagement nonetheless.
Seiren at least deserves praise when it comes to the designs of Hikari, Tooru, and Kyouko. Again, the show doesn’t do anything fancy, but the girls have an allure, an attractiveness that’s achieved through simple choices. Hikari’s side ponytail. Tooru’s brown eyes. Kyouko’s soft smile. Much like the story, these designs stick with a normalcy and a simplicity that don’t evoke wonder but do make it tough to look away.
(And as an extra side note, Kyouko’s stare lingers a bit too much at the start of her ED’s visuals. It comes off as less cute and more creepy than intended.)
Arguably speaking, Seiren’s greatest strength comes from the characters and the arcs they go through. The anime does not have too much time for each girl, but Hikari, Tooru, and Kyouko experience individual problems that they must overcome – as Shouichi lends a hand however he can.
Hikari’s arc focuses on her seriousness, and her entrance defines her character right away. Sitting atop Shouichi’s desk, she teases him (with tongue out) about how much fun she has messing with the helpless teen. And, as she talks with her friends and rumors swirl about her, it becomes clear that Hikari is both proactive and independent.
However, she still doesn’t seem to care too much about anything else besides having fun. Her parents find out about her part-time job, so they send her away to Shouichi’s retreat. But there’s no fun to be had. She finds studying boring, she can’t use her phone, and she tries to sneak away from the hotel to get to the mixer she covered up as a family trip. Without anything else to do, she teases Shouichi with every chance she can get to have her fun.
The more she interacts with him, the more sides of her come out. She gets flustered when Shouichi compliments her navel, and she gets rather angry when he tells her he saw her at her secret workplace. She also learns to do the laundry, studies more than she most likely ever has before, and even cooks food for others, letting Shouichi see her in “a new light.” All the while, the other students believe her to be a “slut” that she takes as a challenge – which involves more teasing and vending-machine misunderstandings for Shouichi.
After clearing up who ratted her out to her parents, she shares an intimate moment with Shouichi at the beach that solidifies the feelings they share for one another. After speaking with him more and reminiscing about the summer course, she realizes how much he has done to support her, to give her the confidence she needs to believe in herself moving forward. Thus, she makes a serious decision, opting to study abroad to sharpen her cooking skills that he praised her for weeks earlier.
Unfortunately, that leaves the two separated and without a satisfying romantic conclusion. While it’s certainly not the best ending imaginable, it’s still an interesting route to take. Letting Hikari – a character whose entire path centered on becoming more serious – continue following seriousness through a life-defining event makes for a realistic approach that provides a close to her fun-filled arc.
Tooru’s arc focuses on her loneliness. Although, it doesn’t seem to be that way initially, for she stumbles upon Shouichi’s gamer group and joins them in their online escapades. Tooru herself is somewhat quiet and slightly naïve despite her age. She also likes to sing anime songs and can even craft miniature toys. Combined with her gaming abilities, she seems to easily connect with most people around her.
Once she gets back into GusGal, a multiplayer shooting game, Shouichi becomes her partner in their dual matches. But she’s too good. Not only does her popularity as a strong player want others to fight alongside her, thereby kicking Shouichi out, but also her playstyle attracts criticism. She wants to win through utter domination and no matter the cost. It stops others from reaching her level and gets them upset when she doesn’t hold back.
Hikari expresses similar thoughts when she warns Shouichi of Tooru’s aggressive tendencies. They were once gaming buddies, but, due to Tooru’s drive, they (and other friends) eventually parted ways. Soon after, Tooru heavily invests herself in GusGal+, skipping class and once again making enemies (of the online variety).
Shouichi (with Hikari’s advice) doesn’t back away. He visits her at home, learns a bit more about her and her past, and the two play some classic arcade games together (minus the “instakills”) at his secret gaming spot. He even gives her a “ring” that obviously foreshadows their eventual coupling.
She understands that the games have started to take over her life to some degree, so she backs away from them for a while. In their stead, she creates a new stuffed toy that she wishes to sell at the ComiMa expo – so long as Shouichi is there to support her.
And support he does. He tries his best (well or otherwise) to sell her toys, he comes up with the idea of selling her Deermas as an accessory, he protects her from the paparazzi, and figures out her (lewd) outfit issue.
His support and words and feelings get through to Tooru. She realizes now that, after everything that has happened and everyone she has known, he’s the only one who has chased after her to be by her side no matter what. (A “playstyle” she’s very much familiar with.) They choose not to change their relationship drastically, but Tooru and Shouichi share an intimate moment as well, coalescing as offspring both in and out of the video game that brought them together in the first place.
Kyouko’s arc focuses on her growing up into a woman. Originally, she’s framed as a child. She’s Shouichi’s childhood friend, she’s a year younger, she likes manga from their childhood, she has a slender frame, and she brings up subjects like fan clubs that make her seem like a middle schooler still.
Surprisingly, Shouichi goes for it all rather early in the arc, but Kyouko shoots him down. She sees him more as a “girl next door” rather than as a man. Plus, she doesn’t want to ruin what they’ve always had (risqué hotel hopping notwithstanding).
Kyouko is also aware of her childish nature, so she does what she can to correct it. She gives up some of her manga, she joins the Home Ec club to gain lifestyle knowledge, and she acts bolder like taking Shouichi with her to get new panties for herself.
She wrestles with her feelings for Shouichi, for she cannot admit that she sees him differently. That is until he tells her the opposite from his perspective. That, after her dedication towards the club and her recent actions, he can no longer treat her like a middle-school kid.
Still, at the Founder’s Day festival, Kyouko hesitates in front of Shouichi’s persistence to speak with her in private. Yet she knows that there’s something that makes her happier now. Her friends give her a final push (and some oden), and, once on the rooftop, she shows how much she has grown up. She sits between his legs, “confesses” her feelings, and faces him in earnest. The two cap off her arc with a romantic kiss, fireworks exploding in the background.
Hikari takes life seriously, Tooru escapes loneliness, and Kyouko grows up. Each girl develops in some fashion, giving each arc a rounded experience for the characters. Given that they only receive four episodes each, their changes are even more meaningful overall.
Throughout every arc, one true constant remains: Shouichi. While he’s destined to be the too-plain protagonist given the omnibus format, Shouichi isn’t without quirks of his own. Namely (as Hikari would put it), his depravity. The boy is a horny, high-school teenager, so his mind wanders and his gaze leers as many a sexual situation appears before him.
More commonly, he treads the line between just wimpy enough to know his place and just brave enough to push his relationship with each girl to that next romantic step. For example, during Kyouko’s arc, he may take his loss after she turns him down for a date, but he’s not afraid to say, “I can’t tell without seeing you wear them,” during their underwear aside.
No matter what, though, Shouichi supports the girls however he can. He helps them fight what holds them back on both a mental and personal level, making his romantic relationships with them worthwhile. He sincerely cares about Hikari’s cooking and the misunderstandings targeted at her. He really wants to be with Tooru even though she runs away and he can’t match her skill. He looks out for Kyouko as much as he can.
And, like any good romantic relationship, they help him become a better person, too. Hikari inspires him to become more independent and care about his future. Tooru gives him the means to prove his worth. Kyouko forces Shouichi to man up.
His changes aren’t as noticeable as those of the girls since he resets with each arc and realistically isn’t the focus. However, he gains just as much from these relationships as they do – proving that romance no doubt affects both sides for the better.
Seiren creates three specific ending tracks – one for each girl. These tracks reflect the girls’ personalities and interests in some fashion, acting as an extension of the characters themselves in audio form.
Hikari’s track, “Shunkan Happening,” is upbeat and quick, incorporating a slick starting guitar solo and some piano work. It’s fun, what with its fast-lyrical delivery, but it doesn’t stick out as anything interesting on the ear.
Tooru’s track, “Muteki no Megami,” is arguably the best of the three if only because it goes for something different. The computerized effects fit with her gaming motif, and the instrumental work focuses on echoes and singular sounds. Such sounds invite a melancholic, somewhat haunting tone that goes along with her loneliness. The second half is more hopeful, though, aligning with her eventual change of situation.
Kyouko’s track, “Koi no Theory,” is the simplest of the three. Light, silly sounds get at a more “childish” composition, and a consistent beat keeps the song from going anywhere other than straight ahead. While filled with trumpets and the occasional flourish, its tame nature unfortunately makes it all too forgettable.
As for Seiren’s opening track, “Kimi no Hana,” it begins rather nicely as drum tapping supports the vocalist, and the lead up into the main portion of the piece signals something grand. But, once it actually does get going, the whole thing sounds a bit flat as the instruments overtake the unemotive singing. It’s a reserved OP that fits with the overall feeling of the show itself, so it at least has that going for it.
Listening to everything else, the voice acting performances aren’t anything noteworthy, but the original soundtrack does contain a few tracks that strengthen many of the anime’s scenes. A resonating piano piece channels tension. Harps, wind instruments, violins, and chimes fill the air during certain romantic segments. A provocative, ringing tune accompanies Shouichi’s perverted thoughts, and a slow, punctuated song brings a more comedic vibe when possible.
I must admit that, having not seen any part of the Amagami series, parts of the show are lost on me. From the tidbits I picked up elsewhere, certain characters are related or are direct references to the spiritual predecessor. And the constant inclusion of deer – Hikari runs away from deer, Tooru plays a video game inspired by the animals, Kyouko’s senior classmates sell venison – is presumably a funny callback. (I may be wrong about that.) Not that I needed to watch anything before this one, but it most likely would have helped.
Regardless, I liked Hikari, Tooru, and Kyouko (in that order), so I had a pretty all right time with the show.
A jokester myself, Hikari’s playful personality made her the most fun and the most attractive. Seeing her in the other arcs (intruding or otherwise) was nice, but it also made me sad because she was first-in-first-out queue style.
Tooru’s mature persona (and all that entails) likewise made her attractive. So did her video-game-playing background, for I am an avid gamer myself (who is currently Diamond rank in Gears of War 4). But it was her embarrassed nods that had me grinning the widest.
As for Kyouko, while she was a bit too docile for my tastes, her thoughtfulness was something I could definitely appreciate. It’s what made her bold sit-in-between-Shouchi’s-lap move get two-thumbs up from me.
Overall, the lack of higher drama and comedy didn’t make the anime very engaging for me. Although, I was a big fan of the romance itself. Which, at the end of the day, matters most in this case. The shy reactions. The heart-skipping build-up. The kissing culminations. Romance is the favorite of my favorites genre-wise, so I couldn’t complain much about the progression shown.
However. To me, it seemed as if each arc needed one more episode. An episode that would have the couple just after hooking up (or in Hikari’s case whatever long-distance relationship aside they could muster). The whole idea is to show their budding romance up to and including the confession, meaning it never wanted to provide anything extra to begin with. And, to be fair, they provided epilogue pieces to minutely satiate my desire here. But those small snippets only made me want to see them actually together even more.
Based off the opening track’s visuals, it seems as though the series has another three girls lined up for more omnibus action. If another cour is somewhere out there on the horizon, the show certainly has a lot to improve on.
Seiren is about as average an anime as it comes. A simplistic set of narratives, a plain artistic direction, a regular set of musical offerings, and a few entertaining sequences. The characters and their romance give more, but they aren’t enough to completely fix the apparent astigmatisms.
Story: Fine, Hikari, Tooru, and Kyouko may flub different parts of their arcs, but the omnibus format works well in establishing different setups and creating a set of grounded, charming romances for the audience to follow
Art/Animation: Fine, decidedly plain, the artistry doesn’t stick out much, but the provocative scenes and designs of the girls include much-needed intrigue
Characters: Good, with only four episodes apiece, Hikari takes life more seriously, Tooru escapes loneliness, and Kyouko grows up, all while Shouichi changes too, proving that romance betters those involved
Music/Sound: Fine, each girl’s ED acts as an extension of themselves, the OP comes off a bit flat, the OST contains several nice tracks, and the VA performances are nothing of note
Enjoyment: Fine, Hikari, Tooru, and Kyouko were some combination of fun, attractive, and cute, but the missed references and lack of post-hook-up episodes left a small void
Final Score: 5/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3