Saenai no Heroine wa Sodatekata, or Saekano for short, is probably the most polarizing anime for me this season, which was something I was not expecting.
To say I had low expectations going into this Winter season is a bit of understatement, I had almost no expectations for anything. However, out of all the upcoming shows that were being showcased, I was really excited for this one. Not for any particularly logical or sane reason mind you, but the Noitamina lable always gets me intrigued; and with the same guy who wrote White Album 2 writing the scripts, I was hopeful for high quality and truly impressive harem series… If only that were the case. Let me state this right out front, Saekano so far is painfully generic, and I mean cookie cutter generic. Despite the potentially interesting twist, this thing plays out so derivatively that I have begun to question why it was made. Which is sad, because so many things about this show are high quality!
I mean first things first, this show looks pretty dang good! A1 Pictures have had this thing in pre-production since the beginning of 2014, and it looks and feels like a lot of time and effort went into this thing presentation wise; creating one of their most visually cohesive shows to date. The color palette is bright, the character designs are attractive and easy on the eyes, and the use of lighting and color inversion adds some nice visual flavor to the series otherwise visually uninteresting set pieces. There are a couple moments throughout where the character models kind of look a little janky, but in the end that doesn’t make the art design inferior in any way.
Another thing I liked throughout, strangely enough, where the character interactions. Written by the light novel author (And previously mentioned White Album 2 script writer) Fumiaki Murato, the scripts are very good at capturing these characters personalities, even if they are pretty one dimensional. From the way Tomoya overacts and exaggerates every speech he makes, to the sly and cold sarcasm of Utaha, every cast member feels very distinct. Having the story’s creator write the scripts was clearly a great idea, since he definitely knows how to bring out of the best in the material within an episode’s limited time span, even though the show being a bit too dialogue heavy at points.
Everything else though is a mixed bag. The plot is wonderbread generic in many places, especially for a harem series. I mean we’re already three episodes into the show, and I could totally recite a mile long list of the tropes this show appropriates throughout its runtime. Tomoya Aki is are, quote on quote, normal otaku protagonist, who somehow has the hottest ladies in town swooning over him? Check. Is there a tsundere? Check. Is there a cold sarcastic type? Check. Is there a cousin? Check. Do they all come together in a club environment every so often? CHECK. And the list goes on…
Really the only major differences with this whole setup are two things: 1, Tomoya and his harem are making a visual novel, and 2, Megumi Kato is the complete antithesis of a normal main heroine. Now the former is pretty uninteresting, at the end of the day most harems have a different club/dorm environment to distinguish themselves from their counterparts, so the latter point is where things really get interesting. As I said before, Megumi Kato is the antithesis of the main heroine archetype, due to the fact that she has no extremely distinguishable traits. Her features are cute, but not very unique, and her personality has no noticeable quirks to separate her from the pack of other high school girls. However Tomoya has fallen in love with her nonetheless, and that’s really an aspect I’d love to see explored in more detail within the show. I mean I love the concept of Megumi, because despite how much the show and Tomoya complain about her lack of a character, there’s a lot to like about her. She’s reserved, caring, and has a dry humor of her own that’s more subtle and less abrasive than Eriri and Utaha’s stereotypical ramblings. Despite being the antithesis of the typical anime heroine, she’s still a unique girl in her own right; and Tomoya understandably fell in love with that.
Despite all of that interesting inner character stuff though, Saekano instead sets out to make Megumi a true heroine, with all the boring, played out tropes that come with that. Honestly this makes me angry, it’s like the show is walking up right in front of face, dangling an unfinished script in front of it and saying, “Do you want a show that explores these characters and makes them seem like actual human beings? Well to bad!” I then imagine that person throwing said script into an office shredder, while laughing maniacally and raking in those harem dollars. Okay so maybe that last part was an exaggeration, but can you really blame me? This show has these potentially interesting characters ripe for development, but does nothing with them except play out the same plot lines and twists we’ve seen in billions of other series. I mean I do actually like these characters, Utaha is a cold Senjougahara ripoff, but also clearly understands the craft of writing underneath all that artifice, and Eriri is a textbook tsundere, but her love of Tomoya could possibly have a really relatable backstory. If spruced up a little, Saekano could be a great subversion of this dead and overwrought genre, which let’s face it, doesn’t have much credibility these days.
Instead we get cockteases like Episode 0 – Fanservice of Love and Youth. In this OVA like episode, the show takes us forward into the future showing us what seemed to be a parody of the harem genre. The main cast of girls talk about how well animated, but empty fanservice shows are killing the industry, while the camera leers over their bodies, mirroring the subject their discussion. In general, this episode, while flawed and painfully unfunny and some parts, was interesting in that it at least suggested something greater within the actual main series’ run time. I mean the episode ended really well, with Megumi and Tomoya walking through a bamboo forest, before Megumi calmly remarks about the hopeful future of the game circle. It was well executed, and the chemistry was at its best, making me actually pretty hopeful that the upcoming episodes would exceed my expectations.
Saekano didn’t do that though. It instead did exactly the opposite, using the same schtick of hinting at a better show and criticizing its overused tropes, while not doing anything to rectify them. Let me be honest with you, Saekano is not a bad show by any means. Like I said before, there’s a lot to like about it. But all of that is buried under a mean, and frankly disrespectful belief that acknowledging your show’s inherently lazy plot and character development, will then cancel out the show’s inherently lazy plot and character development. Well I hate to break it to you Saekano, but that won’t work on me! I’ll still be covering this show, despite how angry I sound in this post; since that anger is really just me getting rid of the massive disappointment I’m feeling right now. After this I’ll know what to expect and write about in the next few posts: An average harem series with some above average parts. That’s all Saekano is, and unless it turns itself around in the next few episodes, that’s all it ever will be.
I bid you adieu, and I’ll see you in the next post.