OP: 「WASTELANDERS」 by 佐咲紗花 (Sasaki Sayaka)
「夢を追う少女」 (Yume wo Ou Shōjo)
“Girls Who Chase After Their Dreams”
Is it alright for an anime nominally adapted from a visual novel, about making a visual novel, to be so hyped about visual novels? Yeah, sure, they cameo some of my favourite titles, so I’m not going to disagree when they speak of quality tiers for bishoujo games—but then again, doesn’t that go for everything? I mean, Sturgeon’s Law? Even the Madoka example (which they notably couldn’t get license to use imagery from, by the way) actually runs counter to the point; Urobuchi Gen was evidently able to move to greener pastures than bishoujo games. Still, there is obviously some respect for the rarified circle of accomplished visual novel writers at work here, which is a fine thing in itself until one remembers that original author Tanaka Romeo is arguably one of them. Is Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu just one big circle jerk?
By the way, on the topic of adaptations: ‘A script is made interesting by the scenario writer’s talent.’
…Guys, stop it.
To be fair, it’s likely that at a good portion of this self-gratification is intended humourously, channeled through the comedically serious personality of Kuroda Sayuki (Chisuga Haruka), the female lead apparent. This kind of context is important, assuming that we treat her as her own character and not just an authorial mouthpiece. To Shokomeza‘s credit, it does a fairly good job establishing some of its main players in this pilot, which was its main focus. So we can guess already that Sayuki is a fairly impassioned otaku. We know that the male lead, Houjou Buntarou (Yamashita Seiichirou) is a surprisingly good kid who’s skilled at bringing people together. And childhood-friend-type/ham actress Kobayakawa Yuuka (Hanazawa Kana) has an overbundance of energy, and is also going to get diabetes.
The great thing about this pilot is that it does all of these character introductions—exposition—more or less entirely without narration. As a proponent of the basic rule of ‘show, don’t tell’ I enjoy this naturalistic style more than something relatively heavy-handed. Take our protagonist Buntarou, for example. We learn about his diligent work ethic, his easy sociability, and his affinity with children (basically all shorthands for ‘he’s a good guy’) just by watching him live his life. And we know of his uncertainty about his future before Sayuki broaches the question because, hey, lookee. We could have easily just been given a voiceover along the lines of, ‘My name is Houjou Buntarou, I don’t really have any plans for my future but I’m pretty good with people,’ but that wouldn’t really be the same, would it? Sure, it’d be a lot faster that way and maybe the entire could have been established by now by that method, but it’d also lose a lot in elegance. I can definitely appreciate a show confident enough to take its time.
The downside to this slower pacing is that we don’t really have a clear idea what kind of show this is going to be. Yes, we know that Kuroda Sayuki wants to make a galge, but that’s merely the premise; I could have told you as much in the preview. The greater thrust of the narrative still eludes us—unless they’re really just going to spend the rest of the season on nothing but the technical details of making a game, but I find that unlikely. At any rate, I don’t think Shokomeza is, superficial similarities aside, going to be the same kind of show as Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata. Yes, Shokomeza is not above breaking out some straight gags, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll be a deconstructive comedy akin to Saekano (though I can imagine it doing some hard character studies, too). What exactly it will be is still, again, up in the air—there’s some talk of innate talent, of ambition, and of the wilderness waiting outside the warm cocoon of youth. However, I’m fine for now with the solid execution of this pilot (some animation foibles aside); just a pleasant charm and simple fun is enough to entertain, and also to whet the appetite. I have no problems with giving Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu another episode or two to showcase itself. It’s likely you’ll hear from me again on it next week.
ED: 「世界は今日もあたらしい」 (Sekai wa Kyō mo Atarashii) by 千菅春香, 花澤香菜, 明坂聡美, 佐藤聡美 (Chigusa Haruka, Hanazawa Kana, Akesaka Satomi, Sato Satomi)