OP: 「君色シグナル」 (Kimiiro Signal) by 春奈るな (Haruna Luna)
「愛と青春のサービス回」 (Ai to Seishun no Sābisu Kai)
“Fan-Service of Love and Youth”
From the get go, Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Saekano) seeks to define itself. It starts with a critique of shallow harem anime that are rife with fan-service to bait viewers. Delivered by Saekano‘s own haremettes. While they’re lounging naked in a bathing scene.
Yeah, I see what they did there.
It’s refreshing to see an anime be so entirely blasé about what it is doing and how it is doing it. Saekano even takes a jab at its own exposition, which is quite the relevant topic considering how many light novels and anime are in such a hurry to develop its world with huge infodumps. To Saekano‘s credit, once it stopped prodding at the fourth wall it managed to deliver its exposition rather organically. Starting from the middle as episode 00 was definitely the way to go, as Saekano has decided that its characters are the most important component and have decided to establish them first, without needing to worry about settings and conceits for now. Thus the plot temporarily jumps to a point where all of that are out of the way and the characters are free to just interact with each other, and by that interaction show off their quirks. Sawamura Eriri Spencer (Oonishi Saori) values style. Kasumigaoka Utaha (Kayano Ai) is her foil and values substance. Hyoudou Michiru (Yahagi Sayuri) doesn’t care. And Aki Tomoya (Matsuoka Yotshitsugu) is the kind of nerd that can’t stand people being wrong about anime
on the internet in the onsen. Together, they fight crime! Or make games. Same thing.
The last character is actually supposed to be the titular heroine, Katou Megumi (Yasuno Kasuno), but it’s easy to miss her. Unlike the rest of the female cast who are generally being hyperactive while gunning for Tomoya’s pants, Megumi is an entirely passive player. She only comments, never acts. She only responds, never initiates. By most measures she’s a completely extraneous character in most scenes. Yet, because the rest of the haremettes are so, er, aggressive, Megumi’s passiveness stands out against them. That’s the other clever thing about starting in the middle; by having the entire cast already here and bouncing off each other, we get to see immediately the big picture of the show instead of having to wait for it come together piece by piece. And, curiously enough, even though Megumi makes no effort to pursue the harem lead, she still manages to produce some quiet chemistry with Tomoya in the final scene. Maybe Saekano is trying to say something about itself? I believe that Saekano is always trying to say something about itself, but we’ll have to wait to see exactly what.
Looking ahead… to episode 01
While not exactly the most brilliant episode 00 I’ve ever seen (Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu is hard to dethrone), Saekano still sported one of the smarter anime introductions in recent memory. In an industry that tends to operate on very tried and safe formulae, it’s amusing to see an anime point them out and just sort of giggle at them. I don’t think Saekano is going to be fully deconstructive; one of the side effects of over-deconstruction, and postmodernism in general, is that it naturally precludes a meaningful narrative. I think Saekano still wants one of those, even if there weren’t many signs of it this episode. I’m actually mostly fine with a fan-service romp for the introductory episode, if only because they were so conscious about how they were using it. Since they were mainly just establishing exposition, it worked fine to simply distract viewers and hold their attention. I discussed the same technique in Tsukimonogatari, and it is one of the more overt tools for keeping viewers in their seats long enough for you to feed them bits of information in the background.
It’s interesting that Saekano chose to start with a 00 fan-service special, and an onsen episode at that. For most anime series, the onsen episode is the crowning jewel of fan-service, the Everest peak of bared flesh and teased titillation. Saekano chooses to play that trump first, which makes me think that fan-service isn’t the most powerful card it has in its hand. I suspect that Eriri Spencer has already reached through the fourth wall and revealed the progression of Saekano in the opening scene—it will an unassuming harem comedy that eventually builds into something meaningful. Not that Saekano has quite the looks of the beautiful, god-tier anime she describes—you’ll notice all the CGI, for example—but I think that Saekano is far too self-aware to let comments like that casually slip by. There’s certainly a level of wit here that I expect to be played with more. I’ll intro some other shows before I decide whether I want to cover Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata full time, but it’s certainly captured my interest and is at the moment a strong contender.
ED: 「カラフル。」 (Colourful.) by 沢井美空 (Sawai Miku)