The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata: Review and Reflection After Three

“The best way to get a project done faster is to start sooner.” —Jim Highsmith

Three episodes in (proper), Saekano is proving to be a parody of visual novels as originally predicted. It turns out that Tomoya encountered considerable difficulty in pitching his project to Eriri and Utaha, as it was based off a flimsy, incomplete bit of inspiration Tomoya had upon seeing Megumi in a sun-dress on a spring day. Despite the limited basis for his visual novel, which Tomoya aims to sculpt into a highly emotional journey, he lacks any of the specifics around how this visual novel is to be implemented. Over the course of spring break, his lack of commitment to the project further leads Eriri and Utaha to wonder whether or not this project will reach fruition, but the two appear to be interested in the project itself. Tomoya himself is, curiously enough, similar to myself in physical likeness to a limited extent, although his seemingly weak will-power and lack of direction in his pursuits, coupled with his devout interest in anime and games, means that we’re quite disparate in personality. Consequently, I have not found Tomoya a very respectable character insofar, and one of the themes in Saekano might be to illustrate that passion for something pales compared to having made (possibly successfully) an attempt to create something meaningful. Moreover, Tomoya could experience a degree of maturation in personality, being more composed in mannerisms, and perhaps even develop an appreciation for the people around him, rather than the two-dimensional art assets in his games.

Saekano offers me an opportunity to look back on the game development process, something I’ve had a bit of experience in from related course-work and the Giant Walkthrough Brain project over the summer. As we are presently at the point where Tomoya is still developing the concept for his visual novel, I will consider the sort of things that go on behind-the-scenes before any art assets, scripts and code is implemented. From experience, implementation depends upon having a solid concept to go on, and Tomoya’s inability to conceptualise the game he envisions is what troubles Utaha and Eriri. A concept does not necessarily need to be as involved as a full narrative for the game; it merely needs to outline what kind of game is being constructed, and perhaps some backstory elements to improve on the immersion. Similarly, Tomoya needs to figure out what exactly is so inspiring about Megumi’s appearance on a Spring day, and use this to drive the game’s overarching theme. Once a theme (or idea) is decided upon, the narrative can be built around this, and the game mechanics are developed to bring out this story as well as possible. On my end, Jay Ingram outlined the requirements for the Giant Walkthrough Brain. Once he had had seen what the Unity Engine was capable of after I delivered the first prototype, new features were requested rapidly; most of my previous summer had been spent implementing these features and fine-tuning the software to work seamlessly with the live performance. This development process underlines the importance of having a well-designed, solid concept to work on: once Tomoya succeeds in fleshing this out, implementation will take off, assuming he does not succumb to procrastination as we’ve been seeing insofar.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • We’re onto a talk about Saekano proper, and while I’m three episodes behind for the present, I doubt anyone’s actually keeping score. The season’s first proper episode shows a project with haphazard origins, beginning on Tomoya’s whim. Unlike Tomoya Okazaki of CLANNAD, Tomoya Aki lacks the same tenacity and kindness that led me to favour CLANNAD. A self-proclaimed otaku, Tomoya Aki’s interests are virtually identical to mine, except I also read evolutionary biology and Cold War history in my spare time.

  • I’ve already introduced the female characters in the previous post, so there’s little need to reintroduce everyone again. However, what the first episode does establish is how the game came about, and how Tomoya manages to net an artist, writer and model for this game’s heroine.

  • Contrasting Tomoya, whose lack of imagination leads his ideas to be rejected in the space of a picosecond, if I ever decide to make my own game, it’d probably be an action-adventure game, maybe a third-person shooter, set during the later stages of the Second World War, as a special forces team takes on the Kwantung army in order to open the region for liberation.

  • I’m not actually sure if there are any games set in this time period in this setting, but I imagine that, while the game could be crafted have a gripping narrative and top-of-the-line graphics, there would be some who would object to its sales owing to the historical implications. This is just something that’s sitting in the back of my mind, so for the present, we return to Saekano, where Utaha similarly rejects Tomoya’s meager project proposal.

  • By this point in time, I’ve written enough project and grant proposals to know how to present work to different audiences. Tomoya’s first shortcoming is his lack of content: while his project may be well-motivated in his eyes, he is not able to satisfactorily convey this to Eriri and Utaha. His proposal would need to provide a concept worth depicting the story of for writers such as Utaha, and provide artists like Eriri with something that motivates them to provide beautiful artwork.

  • There’s a major rift between Utaha and Eriri right from the start; Utaha seems subtly interested in Tomoya’s project, and remarks that she’s okay with going forwards if Tomoya can solidify his concepts, while Eriri seems more hesitant to proceed. Their attitudes towards Tomoya’s project may hint at how they each feel about Tomoya as a person.

  • After coming to the realisation that Megumi is the girl who invoked those emotions in him that fateful spring day, he is most surprised to learn that she’s actually in his class, and decides to pitch his project to her at a family restaurant. In the background, a frazzled-looking waitress is serving a seemingly disinterested customer, and I’ve got no idea what it’s a reference to.

  • Tomoya does tend to get a little excited whenever he gets into whatever branch of thought he’s discussing, regardless of location, causing everyone in the vicinity to stare at him. Eriri and Utaha show up later, remarking

  • It seems quite early on that Eriri expresses dissatisfaction whenever anyone appears to be getting too close to Tomoya, and of all the characters, she undergoes the most dramatic of transformations in an artistic sense whenever this happens.

  • Elsewhere on the internets, I’ve seen discussions pertaining to whether or not Megumi is suitable for Tomoya from a dating perspective. Of all the other girls, she seems to be the most tolerant nay accepting of Tomoya’s personality elements, and she does not vehemently object when he invites her over to experience visual novels.

  • No game has ever made me feel this way, but that’s probably because most of the titles I play usually feature a heroic character whose role is to pull off impossible goals against unrelenting odds. I’ve never played a dating sim before, and I won’t intend to simply because that time would be theoretically better spent doing things for real.

  • Tomoya’s room is said to be remarkably clean for that of an otaku, being as organised as my own room. His collection of manga, anime posters and figurines include characters from other works produced by A-1 Pictures, including Sword Art Online. The only merchandise I have out in the open are Gundam models and mangas: the rest of my room is a desk, and a bookshelf with a curious combination of computer programming and biology textbooks.

  • When it comes to projects, I find that once I go on a roll, I make slick progress, and thus, as Tomoya discovers here, the trick is to start. Usually, I tell myself that I’ve got a certain quota or goal I will meet before taking a break, and will put on some good music to motivate myself. Tomoya seems to lack the same diligence, and wastes several days of his break. Even Eriri and Utaha’s arrival later on do little to push him along.

  • For absolutely no reason at all, here’s yet another imagine of an anime character with the pouting face. I might just make it a point to include them in talks every so often as a sort of easter egg for readers. Apparently, Eriri is supposed to satisfy the criteria for a tsundere character.

  • Saekano seems to continue piling on the character archetypes: Utaha is a kuudere and feels a little similar to Oregairu‘s Yukino Yukinoshita in personality. This setup is probably deliberate, and Saekano may be setting up a story to illustrate that the aforementioned archetypes may limited to anime in terms of desirability.

  • My blogging backlog is nearly eliminated after nearly two months into the new year: I’ll look to roll out a talk on Kiniro Mosaic and Expelled from Paradise quite soon. March will probably be quite quiet throughout until near the end, when the finales begin coming out. In the meantime, I get to go back and play catch-up with Shirobako.

  • Megumi is criticised in-show for being too dull, flat, and lacking a presence. This is reminiscent of YuruYuri‘s Akari Akaza, whose lack of presence was a frequent running joke in the series. However, the consequence is that Megumi winds up being a realistic character who is able to hold conversation with him without anything unusual happening. One might argue that it is this flatness, that makes Megumi someone special in Saekano.

  • As the third episode draws to a conclusion, Megumi appears and knocks Tomoya’s socks off with a pre-defined performance that is supposed to evoke Tomoya’s sense of what the “ideal” visual novel heroine is like and help him along in his writing. Her dialogue, curiously enough, evokes my memories of CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa. At this point in time, I have yet to push through to the fourth episode, so I have no idea whether or not this is sufficient to motivate Tomoya.

  • It turns out that Megumi had desired to help Tomoya out to a greater extent, and asked both Utaha and Eriri for some help. With this being said, it should be clear that Tomoya manages to get something going, otherwise, the events of episode zero probably wouldn’t have transpired. On an unrelated note, mentioning Tomoya seems to have led the “Similar posts” mechanic to associate Saekano with CLANNAD, and I personally find that Megumi’s normal personality is still reminiscent of Nagisa’s.

  • I would wager a gift copy of Grand Theft Auto V on Steam that Tomoya winds up realising that 3D may not be so bad after all: in my speculation, he begins to fall for Megumi as someone who accepts him for who he is and will be there for him, without constantly messing with him to the same extent as Utaha and Eriri. However, as Saekano is based off a light novel that I haven’t read, there’s a chance that I could be wrong and therefore find myself out of 70 CAD real fast.

Admittedly, I am a little behind in Saekano so far, having just finished the third episode. However, this is a series that’s piqued my interest, and contrasting the other talks out there, which talk about the anime industry and the “pandering” that is prevalent in it (or supposedly so), I am to focus purely on the software side of things. However, this “pandering” is something worth addressing, being responsible for purportedly creating “generic” and “bland” anime, but from an economics perspective, I contend that the reason why moé is still such a force on the market is because it sells, but if it does saturate the market to the point where viewers yearn for other things, they will eventually purchase the other things, and the anime producers will aim to satisfy that market in order to drive a profit. Thusly, “pandering” is a misguided concept, since it claims that a small portion of the consumer base can strongly influence the market, while the reality is that the market is affected by large-scale factors, rendering the “pandering” argument irrelevant. Those are my views on the matter, and consequently, I don’t have much to say about “pandering” in the context of an anime (although I would like to hear other perspectives on the matter: is pandering as great of a problem for the anime industry as some make it out to be?). This motivates my choice to focus on the game development process in Saekano, and once this series ends, I’ll be likely to discuss how well Saekano captures the atmospherics associated with building an entire game.

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