「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.
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.
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!