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« Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭ – 10

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭ – 11 (END)

「再起と新規のゲームスタート」 (Saiki to Shinki no Geemu Staato)
“Resume and Start the Game”

And so ends Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata or, How to Train a Hopeless Boyfriend or, The Rehabilitation of Aki Tomoya. As we’ve noted time and again throughout this series, the ‘Boring Girlfriend’ is actually fine, and rather it’s her job to reform her male co-lead. And hence this finale and, for us, Katou Megumi’s final operation. Perhaps it’s to buck the usual dating sim formula, where the noble protagonist would assist a heroine in solving whatever deep personal problem she has and, through his selfless actions, win her heart. But it wouldn’t do to just have a simple role reversal, and just have the heroine be a crutch for the hero instead of the other way around. No, this isn’t just about Tomoya, and Megumi isn’t his fairy godmother. Megumi is heartbroken too, but she’s the stronger character and knows what she wants: she wants Cherry Blessing to live on, and needs to move Tomoya to keep it so.

Perhaps it would have been enough for Megumi to let Tomoya have his catharsis, and then take him into her arms and let him weep into her breast, as per another tried tradition. It would also have sealed her ‘victory’ quite handily as well. Evidently part of her wants to, but she doesn’t. It’s not her role. Megumi is not the fallback girl. And she’s not here to console Tomoya. She’s here to inspire him. She’s his muse. Tomoya may find another writer, or another illustrator, but Megumi is irreplaceable. And so, once more into the breach. But it’s different, this time, to the first time Tomoya noticed her on the hill. As Megumi notes, the hat may be mostly the same, but it’s not identical. To find his passion, Tomoya needs to fall in love. The first time, though, Tomoya fell in love with a fiction, with a chance encounter on a hill, falling in love with the idea of falling in love. Now, he needs to fall in love with a person. To make a better game, he needs to move outside of the game, to learn the joy of just spending time with someone normally, for romance to bloom not from some dramatic gesture, but from just connecting with a human being on a personal level. One day, Tomoya will understand how Megumi managed to worm her way into his heart, and then he will make a great game.

Saekano is pretty sure it wants to be a comedy first and foremost, though, so it doesn’t end with a grand confession or heartfelt cherry blossoms. So, one last round of hijinks, more fanservice, and a final kick to the fourth wall. I did want a more conclusive sort of ending to Saekano, and am slightly disappointed that we didn’t—it can’t be wrong to only want a story to close the curtain when there’s no more story left to tell, no? But I got my satisfaction still. Saekano may be very coy about it, dressing up Megumi and Tomoya’s romance in metaphor, but there’s no mistaking that they have the strongest relationship. They’re just brilliant together. And when I watch Megumi look on all her rivals, who have gained a powerful second wind, arrayed before her and still retain her easy confidence, I think that maybe this is right. This is her way. There’s a reason why Megumi is the one to bid us farewell at the end there. Let none mistake it: Saekano is her story through and through. Megumi’s got it under control. She’s the main heroine, after all.

 

ED2 Sequence

ED2: 「青春プロローグ」 (Seishun Prologue) by 妄想キャリブレーション (Moso Calibration)

 

Final Impresssions ~ We can, and did, do better

I’ve watched a lot of anime. That’s not a brag or anything, I’ve been at it for a long time and I blog the damn stuff, of course I’ve watched a lot of anime. It does mean, though, that I’ve watched my fair share of harem comedies, and by now it should be well within my rights to be complete sick of them. Many harem comedies—and indeed, many genres of anything, let’s not kid ourselves—follow very familiar formulae and if you’ve seen one you’ve seen a dozen. They’re not really the area where anime does much innovation, and that’s saying something in an industry where innovation is expensive and uncommon. So when Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata came along and managed to do something a bit different with the genre, and in the cheapest (and arguably most interesting) way—the writing—I fell in love on the spot.

While innovation is good and all, the side effect of growing old watching anime is that I also crave the familiar (as one does more as they get older, sadly). And thus Saekano was doubly interesting in that, for all it’s self-deprecation and poking at the fourth wall and general meta-humour, it’s still very much a harem comedy still. It’s end goal is not to deconstruct the genre, but to reconstruct it, and the latter is much more difficult than the former. Pure deconstruction, by its very nature, leaves nothing. It’s in the taking the pieces and putting them back together into something better that is the most rewarding, and takes most work because oftentimes it’s a matter of simply doing better. And that’s the goal of Saekano, as it explained itself—I assume Maruto-sensei surveyed the field of light novels, dating sims, and harem comedies and thought to himself that this can’t be the best we could do. Then he went out to try to prove it.

Hence the character of Megumi. Saekano is, at its core, a character study. In a medium that too often falls back on paint-by-numbers, template-based character design (the tsundere, the childhood friend, what have you), here we have a character presented to us with no preconceptions whatsoever. She’s not a grab-bag of features and personality stereotypes, sold to us as one might be sold a used car. She has no dramatic history, no secret powers, no special destiny. And she’s the female lead. Take that and run with it. And through the journey that follow we can see clearly that ‘character’ is not something for viewers to associate with patterns of behaviour; rather, it’s the other way around, and it’s patterns of behaviour that determine character. And that’s how it was with Megumi; everything we learn about her we do through her interactions with other characters and the actions she takes. We slowly build a picture of who she is, instead of deciding she’s such and such a person from the outset and attributing all her actions to that. It should never be, ‘She’s a tsundere, therefore she’s dishonest about her feelings.’. It should be, ‘Oh, she’s dishonest about her feelings. I wonder why?’.

How did the genre get into such a rut anyway? I think Saekano tries to address that through the other lead, Tomoya. He wanted to make this game that’s very character-driven, where one would fall in love with the heroine. But he had a very warped view about falling in love, and indeed about interacting with people in general. How can he make a good game about those things when he’s gotten everything so very wrong? The implication is that he’s an awkward otaku, who’s only learnt about writing dating sims from playing dating sims. But that begs the question: why does learning about love from fiction result in a warped view of love? And here’s where the meta of Saekano plays out: it seems that Maruto-sensei is saying that one can’t learn about good characterisation just from these harem comedies. And there’s something wrong with that. Stories are powerful tools for implicit teaching. The oral tradition gets passed down from parent to child for generations. Stories are supposed to enrich our knowledge of the world, to expand our understanding of the human condition. When it does the opposite, when they reduce our understanding, when they implant in us, as they did in Tomoya, a warped view of how people are and how relationships function, then something has gone very wrong. Maybe Saekano was simply an attempt, in a small way, to reverse course.

Or maybe I’m reading into it, but part of the fun of Saekano is reading into it. It delights in meta-humour, and dialogue is always rich with innuendo, so there’s always more to every scene than face value. I welcome any show that invites me to get more out of it. Then again, I blog Saekano on a weekly basis, and am forced to sit down and think about what each episode meant to me, and indeed have been forced to sit down and think about what this show meant to me in order to write these final impressions. A lot of viewers may not do the same level of inspection, and while a shame, is a valid and probably more common way of looking at the show. I hope, though, that even those of you who just watch Saekano in passing, can tell that there’s more to it than your average rom-com. Many praises to the entire production staff on managing to make such an interesting show in such an engaging way. No matter Maruto Fumiaki’s credentials as a writer, all anime are team efforts, and I’ve no doubt Saekano does the script justice. Now, where’s my Classroom Crisis sequel?

June 23, 2017 at 3:15 am
28 comments »
  • June 23, 2017 at 4:18 amledto

    Passerby you miss the bombshell dropped by Maruto. Eriri and Tomoya is in the same class while Megumi is in another class.

    As for whether this show is a harem series, please watch Season 1 episode 0 again until the part before the op starts.

    Overall second season is good but it can be better if it follows the LN more closely. The anime feels like a more light-hearted version with the changes. The cuts to the monologues and the creator talks is a minus especially when Maruto wants to share his own experience as a creator. Sad that Tomoya will have to remain as a dense protagonist for anime-only viewers.

    • June 23, 2017 at 6:21 pmPasserby

      I’m never exactly sure what to make of comments like these. Anime can’t just be transliterations of the novel, the different medium dictates they do their own thing. In any case, Maruto wrote the anime too, so I think this is as good as we could get.

  • June 23, 2017 at 4:45 amMockman

    Poor Eriri… she finally puts all her neuroses behind her and takes a great leap of faith to fulfill her wildest dream when suddenly….

    And good for Utaha for seizing her own moment.

    And Megumi is a fascinating woman.

    Thank you for writing about it. This final post is especially good. I enjoyed the show and enjoyed reading about it as well. I dunno if there will be a third season. While I don’t think it’s necessary, I’m sure that I would enjoy it.

    • June 23, 2017 at 6:19 pmPasserby

      Thanks for reading! If by some luck there’s a third season, and I’m still around to write about it, I’m hoping all you readers will be back for it.

  • June 23, 2017 at 4:55 amMaou

    • June 23, 2017 at 4:59 amAex

      Megumi best “waifu”, Utaha best “everything else”.

      That platform scene took my breath away! XD

  • June 23, 2017 at 4:56 amAex

    All I can say to this finale is “Yes”. Everything I wanted, even if everything after Izumi showed up was probably anime-original. I really hope none of the train platform was, though, cause that was all perfect and exactly what was needed.

    What’s annoyed me so much over the past 2 episodes is how none of the main cast seemed in control. Stuff was happening to them and they were just getting pushed along, especially Eriri and Utaha, who I felt were just better than that. They didn’t need the forced resolution to their feelings that Akane was pushing on them.

    Then comes Megumi the White Witch to cast her magic, make Tomoya let it all out so he can be a real boy again and do some swooping of his own. As I said, the train platform was perfect. It was what everyone needed, especially the girls. They didn’t fall in love with Tomoya the producer, they fell for Tomoya the crazy fan, and that’s who showed up after Megumi let him get over his frustration as a producer. It was a great feeling, and without it I honestly think the girls would’ve ended up making a game they couldn’t really be proud of. They do their best work when Tomoya is supporting them 100%, even if he’s not holding the reigns (or rather, is he ever really?).

    Like I said, it never really felt like the girls were ready to move on from Tomoya the person, they were just being forced to by their desire to create, but here a good line was drawn. Now that Megumi has helped him come to terms with his failure and he’s really accepted it, they don’t need to move on from him. The guilt that would’ve made them do so is gone, and the results were deliciously hilarious. I think I watched that kiss scene five times… And hell, they both basically still have an open invitation to his house, so it won’t surprise me at all if they randomly show up there whenever they need to recharge from Akane cracking the whip. So it’s more or less an upgrade of their relationship before they joined the circle, which I think is fine.

    I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore, but I loved this episode!!! This is what this show has always been about, and it was great to see it end on a high note.

    • June 23, 2017 at 6:18 pmPasserby

      When an anime inspires you to say something, just say it! I think it’s a great sign for a show, that it affected you enough to want to express something about it, no matter what that is. It’s why I blog, after all.

    • June 24, 2017 at 2:15 amMockman

      That’s ‘Megumi, the sneaky, formerly long-haired witch.’ There, fixed that for you.

  • June 23, 2017 at 5:34 amHibiki

    For those who’re wondering, season 2 ends with volume 7. With the LN set to end in volume 13, I wonder if A-1 will animate the rest of the remaining volumes.

    • June 23, 2017 at 6:00 amAex

      I doubt it with that ending, but I’m all for it if they do!

  • June 23, 2017 at 6:46 amJeffers

    i literally went wink wink after i saw the “THE END” in the last part of this episode…. i thought it will go for 12 episodes. but oh well. IF EVER a1 decided to take the final volumes. i will surely comeback and watch.

  • June 23, 2017 at 9:21 amSaburau

    I’m pretty sure Saekano will be back, again. Because this is actually the end of “Part 1″ of the source novel. There is still like 6 volumes of books waiting to get covered.
    One thing is certain. If we will never see the third season of this, we will never see what “truly true Megumi” is made of. That would be a real shame. But again, I believe it will be back sooner or later.

    • June 23, 2017 at 10:50 amBakapooru

      “truly true Megumi”

      By seeing this, it makes me want to try to use my crappy Japanese and translate it myself.

    • June 23, 2017 at 6:13 pmPasserby

      As we note further down in the comments, I would love more Saekano always, but it’s hard to get more anime these days unless there’s more books to sell. That, or the BDs sell really well. Fingers crossed.

  • June 23, 2017 at 9:52 amYanDaMan

    Team Utaha 4lyfe

    • June 23, 2017 at 11:26 amHalfDemonInuyasha

      Empress Utaha-senpai! lol

  • June 23, 2017 at 10:06 amraxar

    Great post Passerby, thanks for your work. Reading your post always gives me new way of seeing the episodes, and I absolutely feel that this show, especially the writing, is a cut above many animes that I’ve watched. I don’t know if there’re anime with the same core genre(Harem, Comedy, Romance, Ecchi) as SaeKano, that can wow me the way SaeKano did. Maybe I need to watch more anime, but it’s undeniable that this is a great series.

    And gosh that 2nd ED is so beautiful, the lyric fit the character’s story displayed imo. Btw it’s by Moso Calibration not Collaboration.

    • June 23, 2017 at 6:11 pmPasserby

      Whoops, dyslexia moment there. Fixed! Thanks for reading and catching mistakes!

  • June 23, 2017 at 10:30 amtrunkmonkey

    Blast.. i really wanted to see Eriri kiss him
    A1 is such a tease!!

  • June 23, 2017 at 10:37 amBakapooru

    Nice ending. It appears to me that Megumi is training Tomoya well. They started referring to each other using their given names without the honorifics too. I didn’t know that the anime only covered the first seven novels. At least it’s a decent place to end if there isn’t more sequels. Given that anime nowadays are meant to be expensive advertisement for the source material, I hope they continue with the anime to sell the manga. =P

    The translated manga has to come out faster!

    • June 23, 2017 at 6:09 pmPasserby

      I, too, would love a third season, but these days there are usually two opportunities for light novel adaptation: near the start of the run, and near the end, both, as you don’t need me to tell you, to sell books. Not sure if the manga would be enough to push another anime through marketing. But i hope it will be.

  • June 23, 2017 at 10:35 pmelmaton

    Tomoya better not let anybody take Megumi away. If a girl like that existed, I would never let her go. Girls like that a very rare to come by indeed. I really enjoyed this series as a whole especially the characters themselves. Of all the harem shows I watched, this was probably the best one because it breaks away from the formula and gave us something refreshing.

    As Megumi, it was very nice see her grow throughout the show. She went from a flat character with almost no personality or characteristics, to a complete blossom. It makes me wonder if it was Tomoya’s influenced that changed her or that she has always been this way but didn’t really knew her then. In any case, seeing her growth was special.

    On a side note Megumi with long hair, wow.

    • June 23, 2017 at 11:44 pmBakapooru

      In episode 8, I think Megumi lectured Tomoya that people change and learn from other people. She complained / asked why Tomoya hasn’t changed at all. In that sense, she admits to have changed. Especially, if you consider her being able to enjoy being with otaku. At first, she was a bit dismissive toward otaku, iirc.

  • June 23, 2017 at 10:39 pmConspiracy theorist

    I’m usually sick of harems and fan service, but this series does quite well and has an interesting perspective. I agree with the character development of megumi, though she’s the only character close to a real person. Shame more series can’t have a whole cast of megumis without the typics archatype.

  • June 24, 2017 at 4:38 amaprub

  • June 25, 2017 at 3:31 amIncognito

    http://randomc.net/image/Saenai%20Heroine%20no%20Sodatekata/Saenai%20Heroine%20no%20Sodatekata%20Flat%20-%2011%20-%20Large%2029.jpg
    That stolen kiss… (“You thought Eriri would kiss you, but it was I, UTAHA!”)

    http://randomc.net/image/Saenai%20Heroine%20no%20Sodatekata/Saenai%20Heroine%20no%20Sodatekata%20Flat%20-%2011%20-%20Large%2033.jpg
    Alpha and Beta striking one last time… (?)

    http://randomc.net/image/Saenai%20Heroine%20no%20Sodatekata/Saenai%20Heroine%20no%20Sodatekata%20Flat%20-%2011%20-%20Large%2008.jpg
    And Megumi finally showing she has already won all along.

    While I’m partly bitter that (again) the anime adaptation’s ending isn’t faithful to the light novel’s actual ending (and an anime adaptation of the remaining chapters may be a pipe dream), I’m relieved that this season finale still ended at a pretty decent spot. So much so that I’m not even sure if the anime adaptation of light novel chapters 8 to 13 (should A1 decide to do so) will have the same emotional impact as this season. (A “Tough Act To Follow,” so to speak.)

    Damnit, for a show that I considered an “obligation watch” after seeing season 1, I’m honestly gonna miss Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata‘s clever writing and colorful cast.

  • July 3, 2017 at 10:49 amtheirs

    I really enjoyed this, even though I’ve only seen a wee bit of season one. I noticed Megumi’s evolution as a character compared to what little I saw of season one and episode 00 of ♭. It was amusing comparing it to Tomoya. Makes me wonder who the title was actually referring to.

    Actually watched this on a whim and probably over exposure to Misaki Kurehito’s artwork. Surprisingly there were only minor differences between my impression of things compared to Passerby’s (and everyone else that watched the events of the first season I assume). The only time I think I really missed something was on this last episode. I don’t really get that scene of Megumi on the top of the road, but I know it’s supposed to be significant. It also makes me wonder if I should try watching the first season. There seem to be little progress of the main heroine (the title was the main reason I didn’t watch season one), but it really seem like fun. Seriously, if they manage to make a scene like this:
    http://randomc.net/image/Saenai%20Heroine%20no%20Sodatekata/Saenai%20Heroine%20no%20Sodatekata%20Flat%20-%2011%20-%2029.jpg
    Laughed hard at that one, even though a part of me suspected it was going to happen. Isn’t that a good sign?

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