「八年ぶりの個別ルート」 (Hachi-nen-buri no Kobetsu Rūto)
“One-on-one Route After 8 Years”

(Sir Terry Pratchett finally shook hands with Death at the age of 66. He was the author of the Discworld series (inter alia), and it contains some of my favourite fiction of all time. As a person who writes, and who aspires to writing more in the future, Sir Terry was one of my inspirations. It’s terrible to think that we’ll get no more novels out of him, but after a prolific career and a long struggle with Alzheimers, I guess he deserves a break.

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata is, to a large extent, an anime about writing. I thought it only proper that I say a few words here for such an influential literary figure of our time.)


After a week of enforced hiatus, Utaha returns with a vengeance (and her own personal displays of fanservice, so Eriri doesn’t have to go at it alone). Being a writer (and perhaps the writer, depending on how much of Maruto’s mouthpiece you consider her to be), she’s here to explain the formula for romantic comedies, even before Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata goes full romantic comedy itself. Eriri is, as we ourselves noted last week, a sentimentalist, the kind of person who is easily swayed if you pull at the right emotional strings. So the plan is to play the rom-com to the hilt: make a grand dramatic gesture, apologise, make up, and live happily ever after.

Soap comedy

In keeping with Saekano‘s tendency to deconstruct itself, things do not turn out to be that simple. One consistent trait of Tomoya we’ve seen is that he’s stubborn. It’s hard to make a virtue of stubbornness, but one can’t say that Tomoya doesn’t try. The usual protocol is for him to swallow his pride and make a heartfelt apology, but Tomoya doesn’t feel like he should apologise. In fairness, Tomoya hasn’t really done anything wrong—insensitive, perhaps, but not really wrong. Of course, tsundere Eriri is very stubborn too, so sticking to his guns doesn’t really get Tomoya anywhere. With an impasse like that, the whole thing naturally devolves into a shouting match. We’ve crossed firmly over into soap opera territory. Turns out, Eriri and Tomoya’s shared history is a bit messier than it first appears, and there are grievances that need to be aired.

Unless Spencer is her middle name, in which case—whatever, I don’t care anymore

There are two lines at work here which, in the heat of the argument, got conflated, though not necessarily improperly so; like in Utaha’s arc, one is a metaphor for another. On one hand, there’s Eriri’s friendship with Tomoya, past and present, and on the other is Tomoya’s regard for her work, or lack thereof. Back in the crayon-background days, Eriri used to be Tomoya’s closest (only?) friend and also his source of inspiration. I guess when you’re a kid anyone who can draw anything at all is a bloody legend. And then they, er, tearfully broke up, I guess. Bullies ruin everything. The point is, Eriri was Tomoya’s ‘#1’ as children, but she has lost her place. Tomoya has other friends now and respects, but no longer idolises, her art.

It’s interesting that Eriri still, on some level, thinks of herself as that little girl of yesteryear. She wishes to go back to the time when the childhood friend was #1, even though she broke off that relationship herself. Neither Eriri nor Tomoya are really at fault here. Tomoya stuck by his principles, and suffered for it. Eriri felt forced to lead a double life, and suffered for it. They were just kids. These things are complicated. There are only victims here. That’s why this will take more than an emotional ‘make up‘ scene. Eriri still wants to regain her place, but it’s precisely because Tomoya has sacrificed so much on the altar of his principles for so long that he can’t accept Eriri as his #1 just because she used to be. They can still be close, yes. But never as close. The ‘friend zone’ can be a very complex thing.

The one consistent advantage Eriri has had though, are very supportive parents. I do worry for her father, though. Isn’t some white guy standing around selling his daughter’s ‘male-oriented work’ a bit conspicuous? Is he sure he should be doing this? I hope it doesn’t get him deported.

Looking past

So ends the Eriri arc, and if I really had to compare them, I’d still say that Utaha’s arc was the better of the two. It was a bit more subtle, and the romantic angle was stronger (perhaps because I enjoy that bittersweet stuff more). I ultimately see the two arcs as companion pieces to each other, though. They are both stories of unanswered love told through the lens of a creator’s relationship with their work, and the work’s relationship with its consumers. Utaha’s story is one where the creator/fan relationship created a distance she could not bridge, whereas in Eriri’s story that same relationship was one she sundered, but could not repair. And they’re both, in the scheme of things, pretty good stories, offering much needed development to these two characters without drawing away from their established archetypes, such as they are. It’s about layering on growth, not torching your existing material to fuel some big plot twist.

Eriri’s arc though it was, in the end Megumi is still, unshakably, our main heroine. In one fell swoop, she wins again. Megumi Software, banzai!


Full-length images: 01, 12, 17, 18.


  1. Eriri’s arc was interesting as a deconstruction of the childhood friend trope. Real-life childhood friendship (especially with those of the other gender) can break over the smallest reason, usually that reason being all the other kids making stupid lovey jokes. Or just growing apart, but that would be no fun to watch.
    This one was one of the most realistic childhood friendships I remember seeing in anime.

    Couldn’t Eriri’s surname be a simple double-barrelled name? That’s what I’ve always thought it to be.

    Also, are we sure Eriri and Utaha didn’t get switched as kids?

    1. I believe under nationality laws of Japan and Great Britain Eriri should have a double citizenship. Under Japanese law she must choose one when she gets 21 years old, but for now she could retain both.
      So if that’s the case her name as a British citizen could very well be, as you supposed, Eriri Spencer-Sawamura or Eriri Sawamura-Spencer.
      In Japan there is no double-barreled name stuff, and no middle name stuff either. A Japanese person just has one family name and one personal name. Probably her parents had no choice but to put both Spencer and Eriri into the personal one.

    2. Indeed, Eriri’s arc can easily be seen as an extension of the entire childhood friends archetype, while Utaha’s is one of the aloof senpai archetype. They are still archetypes, but with more human complexity added. In a way, Saekano is redeeming these cliches by added just a measure of emotional detail.

      1. Both Utaha and Eriri are their respective tropes played straight, and at same time deconstructed – you can see what pain can be Utaha’s selfishness and snarkiness, and you can see how childhood friendship can fall apart on Eriri.

  2. I dunno… the whole, “You betrayed me!” thing Tomoya threw at Eriri felt *really* tacked on, as if the author just pulled the whole past scenario out of his butt around volume 3 or 4 in order to “solve” the Eriri problem.

    Only it’s not a solution, and it’s not even a good read of how real people would react. Would any of you ever even *speak* to a person who treated you like that ever again? Let alone would you ask them to help you with anything as important as your debut game? Seriously? Fool me once, shame on you, right?

    I like the series as a whole, but I didn’t like the way this arc was handled. It comes across as really awkward and not well-thought-out in terms of how humans behave when they’re treated poorly.

    If this past event was as traumatic as it seems to be for Tomoya, then why did he EVER approach Eriri again in the first place? Why did they both act as if nothing ever happened? Most people would never speak to the other party again. So yeah, I don’t see it.

    1. The fact that Eriri and Tomoya had a history that wasn’t entirely smooth was hinted at in episode 01, the previous episode, and the start of this one, so I didn’t feel caught out by the reveal. And, from initial dialogue episode 01, it’s evident that they eventually developed at least a terse working relationship. There’s probably room for more backstory about what happened after the initial fallout, but we can see some general shapes, at least.

      And on the whole, the entire affair was a big deal, but not that big a deal—Eriri was quite dismissive of it, if you recall. The important thing was that it was very personal for Tomoya. And specifically, in refusing to forsake his otaku-dom Tomoya chose ostracism, while Eriri chose her double life. It was a betrayal, but it was an understandable betrayal where everyone hurts on some level. On Eriri’s part, she did try to repair their relationship in her own awkward way, by trying to be a really good hobby artist, and capture Tomoya’s attention again. Indeed, Tomoya approached her because she was an acquaintance who was also a famed artist in their social circle. He just had to have her.

      On a personal note, when I was a wee lad (in the days of yore), when I got into a fight with my toddler friends, we were very good at pretending things never happened. Kids are simpler that way. None of us, deep down, really wanted to hate each other. We’ll go home and each nurse our personal indignities, and then when we saw each other at school the next morning we found that we had silently agreed not to speak of the matter ever again.

      1. I see your point, but I’m still going to have to disagree with you. 😀

        If it really went down the way it did in their past, I would have expected to see all of this play out in book 1, rather than in book 4 or whatever, and have them work it out before she happily agrees to start working with him.

        So either Rinri-kun is a sociopath who wants to make games so badly that he’ll team up with anyone, even someone who treated him like garbage and set him back years socially, or the author is bad at creating backstory, and thinks he’s more clever than he is.

        I’m leaning more towards the latter than the former. (I mean, don’t we all fall victim to that every now and then?)

        The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that it feels way too forced and tacked on. It doesn’t ruin it for me or anything, but it makes the whole relationship they have feel completely phony, if you’ll pardon my Holden Caulfield-esque complaint.

        Think about it this way: the Ex you hate so much, you’d rather drink poison than talk to, asks you to help with a business venture. Sure, it’s easy to say “Well, it couldn’t hurt to listen,” but remember, you hate that person. S/he stabbed you in the back. Now, are you sure you’d just go along and work with them?

        The level of squabbling we saw early on just felt like the average sort of squabbling you see with kids. Not the sort of unexploded bomb they have lying in their past.

        Anyway, I just felt like it was bad writing on the LN author’s part, and that kind of bad writing gets on my nerves. Hence the over-reaction. 😀

      2. @s_w
        To be clear: I have not read the novels, and I only evaluate the anime based on the anime (once again: adaptations should stand on their own). I feel that in the context of the anime Eriri and Tomoya’s relationship is understandable.

        As mentioned below, your mileage may vary depending on your personal experience with these things. By which I mean your experience as children; by the time you reach the age for an ‘ex’, fights come with a lot more spite. I also don’t see Eriri and Tomoya’s breakup as an explosive event. At some point Eriri simply started to shun him at school. In episode 01, we already know that Tomoya is not supposed to speak to her at school, and that Tomoya is aware of the kind of persona she is trying to portray publicly. Eriri is still an otaku in private (and, one can say, doubled down on her otaku efforts to compensate). They still had some sort of interaction there, which is possibly why Eriri underestimated the seriousness of it all. You see it through the lens of hatred, but I don’t feel ‘hate’ there. It’s simply a personal grievance that Tomoya had nursed in some corner of his heart for a long time. Every relationship has some of those if they go on enough, and then when you get into a shouting match it all comes spilling out.

    2. I dunno, but finding some middle ground where they can put their differences aside and focus on more important objectives for now seems realistic to me. How they feel about it though is YMMV and had to be set aside, which is quite a bit of a bummer.

    3. at least its different than standard “characters have a long talk and finally make up after explaining their points of view”… and I think it is more realistic, to be honest…

    4. Note: somewhere in one of the previous episodes, it was mentioned in one of the Tomoya-Eri conversations that they hadn’t actually talked to each other in years. In that case, what led to the interactions you see now? The fact that she was the best artist he could conveniently be able to convince on short notice.

      So yes. It is implied that, to Tomoya, his passion is important enough to him to approach someone he’s got extremely mixed feelings for – which is a more accurate description of his relationship with Eri, because on some level he still admires her skill and success, and if all he felt for their old relationship was resentment it would probably have poisoned him against the game and genre she introduced to him anyway.

  3. Utaha raging about hidden saviour heroines with insane likeability stats…
    or complaining about lack of screentime last episode…
    this series is so breaking 4th wall – nah dmolishing it with a wrecking ball!

    1. Only if the fourth wall existed in this show in the first place. OK, so it’s probably not as “no fourth wall” as Hayate no Gotoku, but enjoyable nonetheless.

      Anyway…I guess I can understand that after a “betrayal” like that, it’s only human nature to have some sort of grudge form between Eriri and Tomoya. After all, rebuilding broken trust is a Sisyphean task. The fact that it took until their high school year just to talk to each other again normally is a testament to that.

      But the hardest (arguably sad) part about it all is that both Eriri and Tomoya had this perception of being betrayed and both couldn’t confirm from each other (until this episode) whether they had reasons (good or bad) to act the way they did.

  4. Tomoya has become one of the best male MCs by breaking the typical male MC mold in this situation. In such a situation, you’d usually have the male MC end up stuttering and looking like the only one at fault (even if it’s obviously not to the readers/viewers), but Tomoya turns it all around on Eriri by expressing his own pent up feelings, which make perfect sense, and robs Eriri of playing the (“I’m the only…”) victim card.

    It’s ironic in that, despite Eriri having done what she could to distance herself from Tomoya and their friendship, she still tries to use that very thrown-away friendship as an excuse to blame him for her being hurt; that just because they used to be such close friends, then Tomoya had an obligation to praise her work over Izumi’s. Tomoya even says it himself in that, at least when it comes to being an otaku, he won’t lie about his feelings, so unless Eriri’s work was truly as good as, much less better than Izumi’s (based on his own likes and opinions anyway. “I like what I like!”), he wouldn’t praise her the same way (even if they were still close friends most likely). He won’t compromise his feelings and beliefs on the subject just to please someone else out of some feeling of obligation.

  5. I don’t have an issue with the way their relationship was depicted. I can understand the stubborn attitude that Tomoya had regarding the situation that went down, having been in similar situations when I was young. At that age, there were times when we would come to a mutual agreement (but never formally) that we would pretend it never happened. In the back of my mind, however, I would not forget about it, especially if it was a matter of my (admittedly childish) pride. Maybe it wasn’t exactly pride for Tomoya, but he definitely drew a lot of his identity from his otaku interests, and he certainly took Eriri’s public rejection of those interests as a rejection of him and their relationship. It would be in-character for him to let something like that fester inside while remaining outwardly cordial. His resentment probably influenced the way he saw her works too, since there’s a part of him saying “yeah, but…” rather than just appreciating the works as they were.

    On a separate note, Utaha was great and so was Blessing Megumi Software.

  6. Kato, you are amazing, but Utaha-senpai will always be my favorite girl with her teasing and sudden deviations from her archetype. :p

    I’d agree with Utaha’s arc being the better of the two. That’s not to say I didn’t like the episode though. How they resolved it was silly and unconventional, but appropriate considering how strange their relationship is at this point after all the childhood drama. Eriri was not without her appeal, but the arc lacked some kind of dramatic impact that the previous one had. Still enjoyed it though when Tomoya broke out of the mold and just let it out. Not the best way to thresh things out, but sometimes a good shouting match or two to let the other party hear how you truly feel is a good (if not strange) way to reconcile.

  7. While Utaha and Kato are still my favorite, I still find Eriri likeable, at least after this episode. Honestly, the girls in Saekano are so awesome that if any one of the three were to be the main heroine in another anime, they would probably excel in their roles :O


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