「フラグの立たない彼女」 (Furagu no tatanai kanojo)
“A Girlfriend Without a Raised Flag”
It’s entirely fitting that Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata starts by summarily dispatching the fourth wall. It just goes to show how much respect Saekano is going to have for that thing, even outside of Episode 00. I’m sure Saekano isn’t going to have many qualms about reaching through and waving at the audience whenever it feels like it.
Despite the opener, though, the rest of the episode is mostly played straight, perhaps because we’re still in the introductory phase. In particular, our titular heroine is in the spotlight (though still fading into the background and getting overshadowed) and receiving some development. Perhaps more importantly, she also gets some time to build chemistry with the male lead, which cements her role as Tomoya’s foil. This is probably for the purpose of flushing out all of Tomoya’s character flaws while we’re still at the second episode, and he sure does have a lot of those. The contrast between Megumi and Tomoya is palpable. Megumi speaks in tropes, but has a very grounded view of the world, while Tomoya does not want to describe the real world in tropes, but has a very unrealistic view of it. It’s why Tomoya still defines himself by his unappealing otaku archetype even with two very eligible females fighting over him, while Megumi maintains a more objective outlook.
Megumi’s role viz a viz the rest of the cast is why I would never actually call her ‘boring’, because within the context of the story she actually has many subtleties that make her interesting. For example, she actually resents being called things like ‘boring’ or ‘bland’, and really, what is wrong with being bland? The only reason Tomoya cares is because he still feels the urge to stereotype her. It’s so much easier to just exaggerate attributes instead of looking for a compelling personality. Megumi is, in a way, a writer’s challenge. She is of no overt archetype, nor does she suffer from any dramatic circumstances; she just is. While Tomoya may be trying hard to write Megumi into a role, but it is much harder, and perhaps more rewarding, to simply write a person.
Games as art
First, I think trying to make Megumi finish all of CLANNAD in one sitting is entirely unreasonable. It’s irresponsible. People will die. Second, nothing deflates a gaming experience like having a backseat driver. Tomoya’s like that one guy who just wouldn’t stop talking to the screen when you go to the movies. Getting someone to play that game you love is already a victory. The important followup is to then shut up.
You can’t just tell people what they’re suppose to feel; you have to let them walk into that experience themselves. More often, trying to force an emotion onto another, telling them that they’re suppose to be happy or supposed to be sad, just makes them contrary. In that way, storytelling is like setting a trap. The storyteller uses writing techniques to lay a series of bait that the audience follows towards an ultimate payoff, but must never let them see the breadcrumbs that lure them. Nobody wants to see the gears at work behind the curtains, just the effect.
And so our first important lesson for Tomoya is: actually work out what you’re going to be presenting to your players, not just get distracted by how cool your hypothetical product is going to be. He’s learning! Yay, character development! He’ll need to do a lot of that before the end. For now, I guess next week he needs to decide on a hook, and finally get his game project into gear. Stuff! They get done! Maybe. Well, Saekano is as much a slice-of-life as anything. Maybe nothing will happen and the plot remains flat. And that would probably be the point.
Full-length images: 23.