Eriri and Megumi book accommodations at a hotel with Utaha’s help in order to help design artwork for their game further, but their efforts decay as Izumi and Michiru show up. After being subjected to various incidents up on the pool deck, Tomoya tries to take off by evening, but Utaha manages to haul him off with the intent of spending the evening alone with him. These plans are foiled, and Michiru shows off the music she’s composed for their game so far. Later, Megumi and Tomoya share a moment together, promising to continue working on their game in order to make it a success. This pre-season episode marks the beginning to Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭ (read “Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata Flat“, Saekano ♭ for brevity), a series that follows aspiring doujin game developer-to be Tomoya Aki and his raggedy-ass team as they aim to release a full-fledged visual novel in time for the upcoming Comiket event. While excelling at nothing in particular, Saekano’s first season remains memorable for its self-referential humour and array of unfortunate events that befall Tomoya as Utaha, Eriri and Michiru vie for his heart even as they strive to put their best into the development work and complete their game ahead of their deadline.
As its predecessor had before it, Saekano ♭ opens the season with a prelude set midway into the season and development cycle, presenting an episode that establishes the dynamics amongst the individuals of Blessing Software. As unrealistic as these interactions are, watching Tomoya try to worm his way out of difficult situations with the more assertive ladies in his group is remarkably entertaining. With this in mind, this is probably the strongest point about Saekano; the previous season depicted a team coming together against their own initial assumptions, working towards a shared goal. However, Saekano as a whole chose to abstract out the game development component: Blessing Software only has two dedicated developers, with Tomoya himself running the Visual Novel Engine and Megumi learning the software to be of assistance. Utaha, Eriri and Michiru are involved in the other aspects of the game. I was initially curious to see how software development would figure in Saekano, hence my picking it up but the first season made it clear that this aspect would be secondary to the elements over top, namely, the narrative, artwork and audio aspects. It’s an interesting (and not misplaced) perspective on games, suggesting that cutting edge engines, the latest rendering techniques and proper software practises alone do not make a game (as both DICE and Activision are discovering as of late). Ultimately, I chose to continue watching Saekano because the events the characters finding themselves in proved to be quite entertaining, offering a different (although not revolutionary) take to a genre that has been saturated with clichés.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I open the figure captions with a lame joke: Battlefield 1‘s Sinai Desert should be called the Saenai Desert (explanation: さえない directly translates to “dull” or “unremarkable”). Lame Battlefield 1 jokes aside, it feels fantastic to be working on a post with twenty screenshots rather than thirty: twenty has been the standard here for quite some time, and represents a fine balance between having enough screenshots to make the post a bit more substantial, without taking too much time to complete. Here, Eriri, Megumi, Michiru and Utaha take things easy while Tomoya is hanging out in the background, trying to come up with means of capturing a particular mood in his game without distractions.
- The last time I wrote about Saekano was back in 2015; the first episode released during January, right after I returned home from my vacation in Taiwan. I managed to get the first episode’s talk out nearly a month later, and at the time, was experimenting with a new posting format that has since been applied to all the posts I do. The reason why there’s a Saekano post at all for the zeroth episode is for two reasons: the first is that I forgot Saekano has a bit of an unusual release pattern, and the second is my site metrics showing a large number of searches for fanservice and Saekano.
- Hence, I decided to push this post out so that individuals doing searches for Saekano‘s latest material would not be disappointed: this post has one of the highest ratio of fanservice-to-standard images. There is a bit of an irony in the choice of page quote: it’s taken from George Lam’s “A Man Should Strengthen Himself”, a famous song based off the Chinese folk song On the General’s Orders (將軍令) that became associated with martial artist Wong Fei-Hung owing to their usage in movies featuring him. It’s completely irrelevant to the comings and goings in this episode, but the song’s been stuck in my head for the entire day, ever since I finished implementation of a feature at work and the song came up on my playlist.
- At Tomoya’s house, Megumi and Eriri discuss a swimsuit scene in their game as requiring some proper inspiration, hence their decision to visit a pool. Eriri insists that it’s to properly capture the effects required to make the scene stand out, and it appears that of everyone, Eriri seems to get along best with Megumi. In the background, a poster for Ao no Kanata Four Rhythm, which ran last year during the winter 2016 anime season, is visible.
- The entire first half of this episode is fanservice, and were I to feature all of the screenshots acquired during this episode’s run, there’d be a total of seventy-two, which would require upwards of six hours to properly caption: while it may be entertaining for the readers, I remark that finding something informative, witty or useful to say while the entire screenshot is a closeup of anatomy is not something I’m particularly skillful at. Then again, I could always fall back on talking about things that are completely unrelated, such as when it is appropriate to use inheritance against composition in software, and why inheritance is not always the best way to ensure re-usability of code.
- I imagine that Tomoya most certainly is not enjoying this, to be physically dominated by his cousin at almost every turn they meet. There is a bit of irony in how easily he’s wiped out, standing in stark contrast with the lyrics of George Lam’s song, which states that to be a man is to continue training to become stronger and become as hot as the sun itself. It’s definitely vivid imagery, and from the looks of things, Tomoya does not lift weights or partake in much exercise to speak of. Given the choice of camera angles, it’s quite plain that Michiru enjoys every second of doing this to Tomoya.
- Izumi, a middle school student, is also invited, appearing unexpectedly much to Eriri’s displeasure, and on the low-coefficient-of-friction floors of the pool, she knocks him flat in a hug, also knocking him out in the process. Earlier, Eriri describes the image she’s trying to capture of the female form, and the visuals depict Izumi, who’s less flat than Eriri in a literal sense. Ever since the events of Saekano‘s first season, there’s been something of a rivalry between Eriri and Izumi to see who’s the superior artist.
- From a personal standpoint, I’m a Megumi fan through and through: despite being the most unremarkable of the girls amongst Tomoya’s development team, her quiet personality and straightforward remarks also means she’s the best complement for the loud, energetic Tomoya. Further, to trounce remarks that Megumi’s figure is merely “average”, I present this image and the image below as counterarguments.
- Here, Izumi and Eriri react as Utaha moves in to give Tomoya “CPR” following his being rendered unconscious. Of the girls, Utaha is the most brazen in her advances, leading to much disgust from Eriri. Eriri herself tries to get close to Tomoya by reminding him of the old memories they share together, and Michiru justifies their own closeness with the fact they’re cousins. These three get quite jealous where Tomoya is concerned. Conversely, Megumi only seems mildly interested in all of this.
- After Tomoya comes to, the team assembles in a lounge to decide the evening’s plans. Tomoya attempts to peace out, with Michiru and Eriri mentioning to Izumi that his presence could make things more interesting. He takes off, but a phone call from Utaha sends him back. Saekano is now very much a B- in my books (7.0 of ten points: my old “recommendation” becomes a “weak recommendation” with the passage of time), primarily because things meandered at times even with the central motivation of making a game. However, one of the reasons why I stuck around was because I see shadows of myself in Tomoya.
- In appearances, one might say that Tomoya is a splitting image of myself (albeit a less fit version), but in spirit, Tomoya shares my sense of determination and work ethic, being someone who gives everything they’ve got to whatever task they undertake and making to look after those around them. With this in mind, folks like myself are reasonably common in personality, so it’s not too much of a stretch that there there could be a highly fictionalised version of myself in an anime. Unlike Tomoya, I tend to stay on mission when I’m working on something, preferring to take breaks and indulge in distractions at pre-set times.
- The visuals in Saekano are above average: not anywhere as detailed as some of the most stunning anime out there, the environments and settings are nonetheless crafted with a reasonable level of quality. Here, Eriri and Megumi stop to admire the cityscape by nightfall: this opening pre-season episode features several stills of the hotel and its surroundings, beautifully illuminated by colourful night lighting.
- I’ll leave readers a pleasant look uprange of Michiru while I look through my site’s archives. Saekano‘s first season drew to a close back in March, and I followed up a few days later with a look at the whole season early April. During this time, I was very much up to my eyeballs in building a multi-agent rescue robot simulation, and was contemplating the transition of my thesis project from Unity to Unreal. Looking back, it’s a little surprising as to how much time has passed by: Saekano ♭ was announced back in May 2015, and was originally slated for Fall 2016.
- However, Saekano♭ultimately would release two seasons after the original slated time: the shot of the girls in their hotel room here brings to mind my travels a year ago to Laval and later, Cancún, for a pair of conferences. In the time between Saekano and Saekano♭, I’ve transitioned from university to society, published three more papers and continue to wonder how much faster time will get. With this being said, the entire season of Saekano♭ is ahead of us. Looking into the future, I plan on following the same format as I did for the first season, with a post after three episodes and one more when the season’s concluded.
- The urgent business that Utaha calls Tomoya back for is a quiet, one-to-one meeting that ultimately allows her some alone time with him. In the previous season, she went as far as to stage a photograph of the two in a manner as to imply the two had a memorable evening together, mostly frustrating Eriri. I remark that, while Saekano does not appear to have aged gracefully, I will nonetheless be entering Saekano♭ with an open mind – software conventions will not be considered as a component to be assessed for this season now that I know what to reasonably expect.
- While Utaha insists they are toasting with ginger ale, Tomoya remains suspicious owing to her previous track record of messing with him. Although family, friends and co-workers understand my status as a teetotaler on account of my genetic dispositions, my friends and co-workers will occasionally wonder what would happen if I imbibed alcohol. The answer is that I will talk more more vividly, then develop a headache and fall asleep. There isn’t anything beyond this, so as to what kind of drunk I am, the answer is “none”.
- Despite presenting a cool, detached demenour about her as befitting of her exceptional academic skills on top of her abilities as a writer, there are moments when Utaha loses her composure. Of the characters, she’s second in my books as far as “most interesting character” goes owing to just how direct she is with Tomoya: here, she’s trying to wrest Tomoya’s phone from him, plainly indignant that her plans of keeping Tomoya to herself have been thwarted.
- The source of the interruption is a valid one: Michiru reveals that she’s composed ten of the background songs for the game, creating something well-written that evokes similar imagery in Eriri, Utaha and Tomoya. A good song can bring to mind very vivid images, and a song that lead several individuals to think of the same thing is one that has been honed well. I am a very big fan of soundtracks for the emotional tenour they convey, and as such, greatly enjoy listening to film and video game music.
- While Megumi notes that she does not see Tomoya in that light here, the light novels eventually follow the same path that I speculated would follow logically given the events of Saekano: Tomoya gradually develops feelings for her, seeing her as someone who’s been with him through many dangers. Similarly, in spite of his eccentricities, Tomoya is genuinely kind and considerate of those around him – it is this side of him that Megumi finds herself drawn to.
- Similar to the pre-season fanservice episode of Saekano, I’ve chosen to conclude this talk on Saekano♭‘s pre-season opener with Megumi smiling and promising to help Tomoya out, even though the episode ends with Eriri and Izumi openly making their rivalries known to one another in a hilarious fashion. As this post comes out of the blue, we will return to the scheduled programming: the upcoming post will deal with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered now that I’ve finished the second act, and I still need to wrap up the talk on Gabriel Dropout.
Hence, looking forwards into what Saekano♭ will offer, I imagine that the continuation will be more of the same as the first season, although there will be an opportunity to craft new situations as Tomoya finds the deadline nearing. With this in mind, the rewards of game development are plainly secondary in Saekano: the main draw of this anime stems from Tomoya and his unique group of developers that have become closer as friends, even if they do bounce off one another more often than not. This invariably leads to the question of whether or not Tomoya will end up in a relationship with any one of the female leads; typically, writers tend to avoid this in order to avoid drawing negative reactions. However, protracting this causes the story to drag out, and further results in interactions that come across as static, unnatural. Hence, it will be interesting to see whether or not Saekano♭ will take things in a new direction within the span of this season and have him enter a relationship with Megumi (minimally, becoming closer to her than the others), or if the status quo will be preserved. I look forwards to seeing what happens in Saekano♭ as things progress: even if nothing substantial comes out of it, minimally, there will likely be opportunities to see Utaha and Michiru mess with Tomoya in ways that could never occur in reality.