The Infinite Zenith

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

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭: Review and Reflection After Three

“Interesting fun fact: Moynihan and Piece of Toast hate each other. Apparently they’ve got some real creative differences.” —Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

Following their sojourn to the hotel, Tomoya and the others resume their development cycle, to typical results: Utaha and Eriri find themselves at odds again. It is revealed that their enmity with one another stems from a combination of their feelings for Tomoya, as well as their own creative differences and raison d’être for creating. In spite of these differences, both begrudgingly hold respect for one another, and back in the present day, both reluctantly agree to sign autographs for both Tomoya and Megumi. Later, Utaha asks Tomoya to spend a day with her, before presenting an alternative ending to their game. Deeply moved by the alternative ending, Tomoya finds himself at an impasse. He later meets up with Iori and Izumi; Izumi reveals that she’s throwing her weight behind Rouge en rogue with the aim of competing mano-a-mano with Eriri. Later, Tomoya tackles the problem of choosing an ending for the game, enlisting Michiru’s band-mates to help out with the grunt work of developing the software. When he looks through the finished result, he realises that the endings will not work for the game and requests a re-write, conveniently avoiding to implicitly choose between Megumi or Utaha. This is what Saekano ♭ has presented thus far after three episodes, being a combination of both amusing to watch for the back-and-forth between the characters, especially Megumi, who’s a bit more colourful than might initially be apparent. With this in mind, however, Saekano ♭ also conveys the sense that the narrative is going to take itself more seriously than in the first season: the biggest draw about Saekano was that it remained light hearted, with Tomoya’s over-the-top antics driving the humour in some areas to remind audiences that their journey is intended to be a fun one.

With the increasing threat presented by Rougu en rogue and Tomoya’s determination to make his game successful ostensibly driving him to decide on an alternative ending, the attendant conflict that may likely arise will put Blessing Software through one of its more difficult challenges yet: on top of denying Utaha a straight answer, it also means additional work that Utaha and Eriri must go through. When everything is said and done, it is quite surprising that Tomoya has maintained an attrition rate of zero with his development team. Having said this, shifting requirements and schedules are par the course in reality, and it is up to the individual to deal with these challenges as they are encountered. That Utaha, Eriri, Michiru and Megumi have stuck it out for this long despite their own differences suggests that everyone has a stake in this project, and their dedication to both their own values, plus a respect (or even unspoken feelings) for Tomoya contribute to their staying. Moving forward, the question that remains is how the internal dynamics in Blessing Software will continue to impact their development cycle and Tomoya’s goals. In addition, the biggest questions on most viewers’ minds is who Tomoya ends up with and what happens to the others with this choice: the light novels are on-going, and it will be interesting to see just how far Saekano ♭ goes. All of these points in consideration, it would be preferable if Saekano ♭ were to stick to a lighter route — striking a balance between comedy and drama would be a superior fit for Saekano ♭ compared to drama alone.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • What better way to kick off Saekano ♭ than to have Utaha and Eriri tearing at each other’s throats while Tomoya and Megumi look on? That was a rhetorical question, by the way: jokes notwithstanding, we’re now formally past the three episode mark of Saekano ♭, and in this post, I will have the twenty usual screenshots detailing elements that would not otherwise fit with the discussions above. Having said this, I do not agree that there is a deeper philosophy to the characters that is worthy of an exercise: the dynamics between Utaha and Eriri form the basis for the first episode, and despite the appearance of complexity, is ultimately a simple result of yin and yang.

  • Utaha and Eiri’s first meeting is dramatised, taking place in a stairwell by the evening’s light. Surprised that Utaha is Metronome of Love‘s author, Eriri initially cannot believe it that such a loathsome individual could generate something so moving. Later, Utaha decides to drop by Eriri’s personal studio and learns of the latter’s talents in producing artwork. The two definitely respect one another’s skills in an unspoken manner, and it is the fact that both have feelings for Tomoya that lead to their conflict.

  • This conflict manifests in the form of each trying to dismiss the others’ skill as being motivated by the wrong reasons (Utaha feels that Eriri’s artwork is an act of revenge against the world for having separated her and Tomoya’s path, while Eriri finds that Utaha’s writing is purposefully manipulating the audiences and aimed at pleasing Tomoya). These differences form the motivation for the page quote, again, sourced from Rick and Morty. This particular quote comes from the first season, where Rick explains to Morty that in the alternate dimension where their television signal is coming from, the two mentioned figures have a significant creative differences but presumably work together to create the fictionalised work featured in Rick and Morty.

  • The balance between their animosity and respect is what prevents Blessing Software from outright disintegrating; the first episode draws to an end with Tomoya and Megumi requesting autographed works from both Utaha and Eriri. Despite her quiet nature, Megumi has a very sharp tongue and will not hesitate to speak her mind when required, adding an edge to her character that is quite far removed from how she was presented during Saekano‘s first several episodes – one of the elements that is making Saekano ♭ worthwhile is to see different aspects of Megumi’s character.

  • With the game’s full script finished, Utaha asks to spend time with Tomoya in what is a date in all but name. They spend some time at a bookstore on their first stop; I am quite fond of bookstores, doubly so now that the public libraries in my area appear to have diminished with respect to the number of interesting books they have that are worth checking out. On several weekends, I’ve found myself visiting the local bookstores, which have a solid selection of books that I can lose myself in. I’ve long enjoyed reading, and this is only matched by my enjoyment of writing, although unlike Utaha, I’m better suited to writing discussions rather than fiction.

  • Eriri, ever-jealous that Tomoya is spending so much time with Utaha, decides to tail them and pulls Megumi into things. Here, they unwind at a café following a movie that was so moving, it led Eriri to tears. It takes considerable effort to make mine eyes water: Ah! My Goddess The Movie, Chobits and Inside Out are the only titles to have done so. When Marnie Was There did the same, but it counts not because I was on a flight to Cancún last year; apparently, the lessening of psychological stressors, coupled with the realisation that this was my first ever time travelling completely alone, and the stimulus in the form of a movie culminated in my shedding a single tear, followed by several more individual tears, during my flight.

  • Utaha reveals that she’s to attend post-secondary quite far from here, which would invariably lead to the end of Blessing Software as they now lack a writer. Her choice of words and delivery serve to probe Tomoya to see where is genuine feelings lie, being very direct, stand in sharp contrast with how someone disinterested might respond and, were it not apparent previously, makes it clear that she’s interested in Tomoya.

  • If one ever were to require counter-surveillance measures to throw off a persistent tail, they need not fancy field-craft or evasion techniques. All one really needs is Megumi Katō, who’s well aware of Eriri’s intentions and cleverly becomes distracted along the way, throwing them further and further off mission. Here, Megumi manages to convince Eriri to try out clothing at a retailer, and even openly remarks that their actions might be considered those of a stalker if they were to continue. Of the girls in the group, Megumi seems the best suited for dealing with Eriri, and the two have become friends over the course of the first season.

  • Understanding that Tomoya is indecisive and lacks the will to do what is necessary where romance is concerned, as were his counterparts in almost all other anime of Saekano‘s category, Utaha decides to make Tomoya’s decision on his behalf by means of a subtle choice: he can either pick the new ending and implicitly show his desire to be with her, leading her to choose a nearby university for her studies, or he can choose the original ending, showing that he prefers Megumi. In order to make a fresh start, Utaha would then attend a faraway university. The moment is quite clear about how Utaha feels, but Tomoya seems quite unaware of the decision’s implications.

  • No game has ever made me cry before. While seemingly a mark of my own imperturbability, the truth is that my game library largely consists of first person shooters, puzzle games and simulators. It is perhaps the constant exposure to death in fiction that I never felt much in the way of strong emotion when Harry Potter‘s Sirius Black or Dumbledore died, nor did I react substantially to the death of various characters in anime. My tears usually arise as a result of watching characters reach profound understanding as a result of their experiences, so deaths in fiction alone do not elicit much from me.

  • After they enter his house, Megumi and Eriri find Tomoya blubbering in front of his computer. She’s beating him with her twin-tails here out of frustration – it’s an aspect of her personality that can be seen in Saekano‘s first season, and she’s often rendered with some amusing facial expressions whenever flustered.

  • A highly dramatic meeting with Rouge en Rogue’s staff, the siblings Iori and Izumi, leads Tomoya to wonder what kind of competition that Blessing is going up against in the Winter Comiket. From the words exchanged, it seems that Rouge en Rogue is further ahead in development than Tomoya’s crew, and it is here that Izumi’s rivalry with Eriri comes out in full force after the more lighthearted presentation during the season opener. Things blow over in a one-on-one fight that sees Eriri exchange blows with Izumi.

  • Utaha and Megumi share a conversation here, with Utaha all but declaring that Megumi should stand down. Her minimal but reliable presence in Saekano means that Megumi would fulfil the role of a support character who assists and enables the main characters on their activities, but Saekano ♭ presents her as being much more multi-faceted than viewers are initially allowed to see. This chance meeting unearths yet another side to her character.

  • That Megumi is so intently pursuing the script suggests that she’s picked up on Utaha’s feelings for him, as well as her own doubts in what would happen if Utaha actually reached home base. Unsure of whether or not this would be good, Megumi seizes the initiative and suggests to Tomoya that he ought to implement both endings to see which one would move him the most, sufficiently to make it into their final product as an ending. Despite her quiet demenour, Megumi has always shown very subtle signs of accepting Tomoya for who he is beyond his hobbies and interests, valuing the determination and spirit underneath; while she’s stated that she’s not interested in a relationship with him, the things that she likes about him also happen to be the foundations that a meaningful relationship is built upon.

  • I’ve heard that Tomoya simply shifts his mind elsewhere whenever Michiru kicks his ass in suggestive ways, as opposed to being completely ignorant or unaware of the implications. One of the disadvantages for readers who are interested in seeing my views on Saekano ♭ will be that, in each post, there should be at least one image of Michiru doing funny things to Tomoya simply because 1) these moments can be fun to write for and 2) at least some readers are probably wondering what I think of said moments.

  • Tomoya asks Michiru for a favour, bringing her band mates to assist with hastily implementing the new route in the game. Apparently, everyone has some background in computers, although from the subtitled descriptions, no one has (or can be reasonably expected to have) familiarity with scripting languages or the fundamentals of programming. With their reluctant help, the project is under way, with the girls running into difficulties in both the scripting logic and common computer errors such as a non-responsive program. On my end, I’ve been remarkably busy with work, doing as much as I can before I leave for a two-week vacation: this is the big event I’ve alluded to vaguely in earlier posts: I am going to Japan in early May and visiting Hong Kong after. Consequently, I’ve been going pedal to the metal with my iOS development work.

  • Even hardcore programming merits a break of sorts: the break took the form of poutine, motivated by the fact that tomorrow marks the end of Poutine Week. Excitement had built around the office for a second poutine day since Sunday, so we had planned to visit another nearby restaurant participating in Poutine Week. The Kensington Pub was our destination, offering a creation dubbed “KP Yolo Fries”. This poutine featured their house fries are covered with a uniquely-flavoured cheese-gravy of double smoked cheddar and Whistler Black Tusk Ale, with succulent chunks of ham hock on top and a side of horseradish aioli. A hearty lunch, this poutine reminds me distinctly of well-made macaroni and cheese. I enjoyed it thoroughly for the rich flavours and the tang the aioli offers — it was most welcoming to know that the proceeds will be going towards the Mealshare organisation, and with this, my Poutine Week participation doubles from last year. 

  • The coding party also shows that Megumi, for all of her other positive attributes, has a sharp eye and at this point, a reasonable knowledge of the scripting language, enough to debug something that Tomoya’s missed. This is, incidentally, a common way that bugs are detected: a peer or coworker might be able to find the logic errors that we miss. Back in Saekano ♭, it is always pleasant to see Megumi supporting Tomoya in whatever ways possible – she’s a true jack-of-all-trades, being able to help technically, support the others and handle the other characters whenever they fly off the handle.

  • I’ll conclude the coding party with a rather pleasant image of Michiru dozing off. After a full weekend’s efforts, Tomoya and the others succeed in implementing a full version of the ending. He reaches the conclusion that neither ending are appropriate for release, suggesting that by the events of Saekano♭, he’s slowly beginning to understand the perspective of a creator rather than that of a consumer. This shift is a profound one and is something that software developers face: designing, implementing, testing and deploying software is significantly more involved than merely being an end-user who might have suggestions for improving the app.

  • The third episode leaves Utaha’s reaction unknown, meaning it will be in the upcoming week that audiences learn of what will happen as a consequence of Tomoya’s decision. With this final figure caption finished, I also wrap up the Saekano♭ after-three talk. Rounding out April will be a talk on Titanfall 2, and as we enter May, things will probably slow down a little until my vacation is over, and I get back into the flow of things.

The intensity of Saekano ♭ has certainly picked up, and with three episodes in the books, Saekano ♭ has certainly drawn my attention and leads me to wonder where things will go. I’ve received suggestions to check out the light novels for myself, but there is a caveat: when translated into English, the flow of the narrative in the light novels seem choppy, disorganised compared to novels written natively in English. Consequently, I find it much more difficult to read light novels than standard novels, and the Saekano novels look to be a bit of a challenge. This is not to say that light novels are poor, but rather, that their style makes them a little less immersive for me. Hence, when I am watching the anime adaptation of Saekano, I am coming in with limited previous background and knowledge. With this in mind, my expectations are that Saekano ♭ follows through with the situations that Tomoya finds himself facing: either he finds a plausible way to address his problems, or else he must fail in a manner befitting of his experience and personality. It will be interesting to see where exactly Saekano ♭ goes in this season, and if things proceed in a credible fashion, Saekano ♭ could prove to be quite amusing to watch. As a closing remark, I will not be looking through the more technical aspects of making a game, besides noting that visual novels, being text-based branching game with scripted sequences, are nowhere near as complex as even a basic app that uses REST API calls in its implementation. If I can use ResearchKit to build full-functioned, complex branching questionnaires and store that data within a few hours, Tomoya should have been able to finish his assignment independently without any assistance over a weekend.

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