「卒業式と超展開」 (Sotsugyou Shiki to Chou Tenkai)
“Graduation With a Twist”
When I was putting together my notes for the previous episode, there was one thing that I couldn’t quite get my head around immediately. Why where there these fanservice shots? Like, Megumi would just have her front open all of a sudden. Before anyone jumps on me, I wasn’t particularly offended or anything, just puzzled, because Saekano didn’t usually use fanservice quite like this. Usually it’s to distract us while a dialogue-heavy scene plays, and usually one of the other girls act as service provider. Why in that quiet scene between Megumi and Tomoya? Right when I was finishing the post, it clicked for me. The second half of the episode was entirely fanservice. Megumi breaking character, the hints of romantic tension, all the feel-good moments—it was a reward for getting through the heavy drama before, and a respite before it’s laid on even thicker later. As Megumi noted herself in the episode, this was a one time thing. It will not happen again.
And sure enough, this week the drama strike back with a vengeance, and Megumi is nowhere in sight. We telegraphed Eriri as the metaphorical final boss long ago, and boy has she caught the narrative in a complex web of personal issues. Being Tomoya’s childhood friend, she too is a bag of flaws and weaknesses but, curiously enough, she doesn’t actually feature very strongly in this episode. Rather, Utaha steals the show (as she always does, but still). Now, I like Utaha a lot, and judging by the comments I’m not the only one, but I’d never actually root for her to ‘win’ or anything like that. She’s simply cast herself too well as the tragic heroine. I hate to typecast a lady like that but 1) she does it herself and 2) she’s awfully good at just being sad. I think she would lose some of her appeal if she wasn’t constantly getting shafted with such poise and maturity. Nobody else in Saekano does it quite so well.
But Utaha wouldn’t be much of a tragic princess without playing off rival characters, and thus Kosaka Akane. If she’s not exactly the Big Bad then she’s at least the archetype from which Iori derives his theatrical villainy. She certainly has the hamfisted evil in the bag, and perhaps that’s the point—that all producers have to be, on some level, terrible people. Saekano seems to say that all artists are driven by self-loathing, and it’s a producer’s job to feed that. Perhaps that’s true—I wouldn’t write for RandomC if I didn’t hate myself, after all (just kidding, it’s because I love you guys)—but I don’t really want it to be true. It’s the kind of unhealthy reality that makes are greatest artists overdose on opiates and kill themselves.
Yeah, I’m not sure how I feel about all this, and about how I want this all to end. On one hand, the reboot of a venerable RPG franchise is a major career opportunity, and it’s no exaggeration to say that if Eriri and Utaha succeed there they’re pretty much set. Forget how awesome the proposal is supposed to be; the professional boost alone (when still teenagers, no less) will be hard to pass up. If someone came to me for advice (which you should never do) I can’t in good conscience tell them to turn a dream job down. On the other hand, Tomoya will be heartbroken, and his youthful idealism will be snuffed. Is this his final test, to be able let go of his two talents for their own good? Or is he supposed to shape up here, and fight tooth and nail to prove that he deserves their loyalty? I really don’t know.
First things first, though: let’s ask Megumi about it. That’s how we’re supposed to do things, right?