「締め切りが先か、覚醒が先か」 (Shimekiri ga Saki ka, Kakusei ga Saki ka)
“Deadline or Awakening”
I’m so glad we got this second season of Saekano. Sure, the first season ended at a good spot, every character got their time in the sun, and it was all-in-all a satisfying experience, but in hindsight it’s Saekano Flat that makes everything feel… complete. Just as the last story arc goes back to the relationship between Utaha, her writing and Tomoya and gives it all a sense of finality, so does this arc, I presume, intend to settle things with Eriri. After all, Eriri and Tomoya’s relationship still carries a lot of baggage, and while they managed to shout their grievances out of their system the last time they tangoed, they never actually resolved anything. If anything, all the pain of their past was just bottled up again, and now it’s time to uncork it and have a party.
What I love about Saekano Flat and these coda arcs we’re getting it that they make use of everything we learnt about these character in the first season and build upon them, and it feels very rewarding. We actually, almost unconsciously, know a lot about these people (and I don’t hesitate to call them actual, full-fledged ‘people’), and now it’s time for our investment into caring about them pay off. We know that Eriri is fundamentally a sentimentalist, the kind for strong emotional attachment, very prone to be coloured by nostalgia. And she’s a neat contrast to Utaha; while Utaha is forwards looking, wanting Tomoya to choose her and having that be the choice about her future, Eriri looks backwards. She’s the childhood friend, or rather was the childhood friend, and there’s an old glory there she wishes to recapture. The open question this episode is what is driving Eriri to devote so much of herself to Tomoya’s pet project, and when we factor in everything we know about Eriri, the answer is plain. It’s the same thing that drove her as a doujin artists: she used to be Tomoya’s ‘#1’, and wants him to acknowledge her as such again. The moment this game project became a competition, Eriri could not allow herself to lose. And she would have Tomoya demand from her nothing but the best.
Perhaps it’s not an entirely healthy obsession. Still, it’s in keeping with her character, and it makes sense. What makes less sense is Tomoya’s reaction. And here’s where Saekano not only builds on Eriri’s arc in the first season, but also all the development of the preceding arc (build higher!). Tomoya’s finally acknowledged his role as the director. He was able to tell Utaha that her script wasn’t good enough. He demanded better, and worked to get it. But why has he not been able to muster his perfectionism for Eriri? Why, for Eriri, does he only expect completion, not perfection? On one hand, it seems that Tomoya is perched on the horns of a dilemma, and needs to make a compromise between quality and deadlines. But on the other hand, as a fellow creator, as a leader, and as a friend, it seems he’s expected to push Eriri further, but he’s very hesitant to do so. Clearly, he’s been hurt before, sure—which is not a surprise, because Eriri and Tomoya’s relationship is one where they hurt each other constantly. But what exacly holds him back from extending his full faith to Eriri? Is it simply craven, or a protective mechanism?
I’m looking forward to see how the rest of the Eriri’s arc goes. The drama hooked me, and I was captured by Eriri’s self-destructive passion. But she’s apparently finished (in more ways than one?!) so where to from here? I’m on tenterhooks. Something to keep in the back of one’s mind, though, even as Eriri’s story continues. We know why Utaha write for Tomoya. We know why Eriri draws for Tomoya. Why does Megumi stick with him? As far as we know, she has no tumultuous past with Tomoya, and is entirely free of drama. What drives her to devote so much to the project? I get the feeling that may be one of the central questions we’re building up to yet.
Full-length images: 06.