The Infinite Zenith

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

Saenai Kanojo no Sodatekata Fine: An Anime Movie Review and Reflection

“You understand that I will go all out?”
“咁係即係逼我 KILL YOU 啫!”
“Come on, then.”
“咁我都唔留手!”

– Collin Frater and Master Law, Ip Man 4

With the deadline for his latest title fast impending, Tomoya finds himself experiencing writer’s block. He meets up with Akane Kōsaka, who suggests to him that he make the romance in his work more visceral, and later, runs the idea by Megumi, who is reluctant to accept it. When Megumi’s birthday arrives, Tomoya promises to spend the day with her, both to gain inspiration for the game they’re working on and to be with her. However, when Akane succumbs to a stroke and is hospitalised, those plans are cancelled. Tomoya celebrates Megumi’s belated birthday with Michiru and Izumi. Akane’s hospitalisation leaves Utaha and Eriri in a bind, as the new project manager is intent on moving the testing and release of a triple-A title forwards: the pair had been working on the game’s story and artwork, but this change threatens to delay its launch. When Tomoya learns of their plight, he takes two weeks off classes to help them, which was the best he could do (Utaha and Eriri had requested a month). An irate Megumi decides to continue on their work in his absence. One evening, when conversation between Michiru and Izumi turn towards Tomoya, Megumi’s reaction to things speaks volumes that she has come to care deeply for Tomoya, to the point where she feels jealousy at the suggestion that others might be interested in him. When the two weeks elapses, Tomoya manages to help Utaha and Eriri stay on course to meet their deadline. Tomoya’s departure confirms to Utaha and Eriri where his heart truly lies. Upon returning home, he runs into Megumi and learns about how she feels. Realising the depth of everything she’s done for him, no matter how difficult things became, Tomoya confesses his feelings to Megumi, and she accepts, stating that she’d long been in love with him. The pair kiss, and promise to see their latest game through properly. Utaha and Eriri arrive: their project finished, they now have spare time to lend a hand. The sum of everyone’s efforts allows Blessing Software to make their deadline. Some years later, Blessing Software has become an established company – after reading a manuscript for a movie Utaha is working on, Tomoya rushes off to meet Megumi and head home together. As it turns out, Tomoya was able to hire both Eriri and Utaha. After her initial shock wears off, Megumi joins the others to celebrate first full reunion of Blessing Software’s original team. This is Saenai Kanojo no Sodatekata Fine (Saekano the Movie: Finale, or Saekano Fine in this post for brevity), a theatrical film that acts as a conclusion to the journey that began with a fateful encounter.

Having demonstrated that Tomoya’s motley team of creators had what it takes to put together a moving work throughout the course of Saekano, Saekano Fine strove to wrap up the lingering question of how Tomoya would end up getting together with Megumi. Saekano had always made it abundantly clear that Megumi would earn this coveted spot, poking fun at traditional conventions along the way. However, even with the second season’s ending and the film’s opening, how this journey came to be was not so readily apparent. Tomoya and Megumi appear quite incompatible on first glance: he’s an enthusiastic otaku whose passion for his interests can be a bit off-putting, and she’s a down to earth, ordinary girl. As Saekano Fine continued, it became clear that Tomoya’s fallen in love with Megumi for her steady, dependable presence, and she’s grown fond of him for his commitment to his passions, most evident in his willingness to go to extreme lengths to get things done. However, communication gives Tomoya and Megumi trouble: Tomoya is the sort of person to jump headfirst into things in order to help those important to him, creating strain with Megumi, while Megumi tends to bottle up her feelings and not give voice to them. In Saekano Fine, circumstances push Tomoya and Megumi to communicate more, and it is with this communication that the two are able to embrace their partner for their strengths, acknowledge their flaws and work together to understand one another. In this way, Saekano Fine indicates that relationships between the most unlikely of people are not only possible, but can flourish provided that both are willing to communicate with one another. It is a surprisingly worthwhile message for a series that has covered quite a bit of ground regarding relationships and their tropes during its run, and while the series title left no doubt in the viewers’ minds that Megumi was going to end up with Tomoya, the film’s conclusive finish allows Saekano to end on a strong note, decisively showing how everyone’s found their place in the sun even if their own desires never come to pass.

Continuing off in its predecessor’s footsteps, Saekano Fine also excels in its portrayal of Megumi’s growth throughout the series. Tomoya had initially casted her to act as the model for a mundane, ordinary protagonist in his story, and true to her archetype, Megumi seemed quite unremarkable, speaking little and going along with Tomoya’s request. However, advancing into Saekano♭, as Megumi and Tomoya spend more time together as they worked on their project, Megumi’s true self was depicted more frequently. From genuine happiness for Tomoya’s successes, to anger that he’d tried to take on too much and put himself at risk of burning out, Megumi became a more multi-dimensional character with more complexity and depth than Tomoya (and by extension, the viewers) were aware of. By the events in Saekano Fine, Megumi’s emotional range has broadened fully to encompass everything that makes us human. She is visibly annoyed when Tomoya takes off to help Utaha and Eriri again, and later, tearfully declares that Tomoya is hers alone when Michiru and Izumi wonder why she’s been particularly sensitive on the topic of Tomoya. Jealousy, anger, doubt and sadness are as much a part of relationships as joy, serendipity and fulfilment: by illustrating all aspects of Megumi, she ultimately becomes the most lifelike of anyone in Saekano. Though Megumi, then, Saekano strives to, and succeeds in, suggesting that as people get to know one another, subtle nuances can be discerned. Further to this, picking up on these seemingly-minor, easy-to-overlook details is what allows people to better understand one another, driving forward more meaningful relationships in both a professional and personal capacity. The sum of these learnings in Saekano are reassuring for the viewer; as Tomoya moves forwards with Blessing Software, Megumi, Utaha, Eriri, Michiru and Izumi, one can reasonably surmise that the company’s members are all equipped to deal with whatever challenges they may face in their future together.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Saekano had been one of those series that I always found to be something best approached from the big picture perspective: at a more fine granularity (pun intended!), the little details seem disconnected and unrelated, but at the course level, it becomes clear as to why things are happening. In this post for Saekano Fine, I’ve opted to go with the larger format because there is quite a bit to talk about in this film. It is no joke when I say that I’ve got the only proper review (and accompanying screenshots) for Saekano Fine: despite the film’s generally positive reception in Japan, the gap between the theatrical screening and home release has meant that since the latter, discussion has been very limited on Saekano Fine.

  • This post aims to change that: I would hope that the discussion here would serve as a launch pad of sorts for the movie, which begins at a yakiniku restaurant that sees the entire crew back together for a boisterous gathering. In the aftermath, Tomoya returns home to his writer’s block: having finally advanced to working on the main heroine’s route, he’s struggling to decide how to make an impactful story. Previously, Utaha had handled the story, and Tomoya would simply vet it, but since the events of Saekano♭, Utaha and Eriri accepted offers to work on a triple-A title. Izumi has since picked up the slack as the illustrator, but Tomoya lacks Utaha’s skill for writing.

  • A chance meeting with Akane sees Tomoya pitching his idea to her, only for her to vehemently reject it for not hitting hard enough. Akane is a member of a well-known creative circle, Rouge en rouge, and became a professional. Akane manages Utaha and Eriri, and during the get-together earlier, she shows up to provide her feedback. Brash and forward, Akane has no qualms telling people off, although at heart, her main intent is to ensure those working under her produce the best possible works.

  • Throughout the course of Saekano Fine, Tomoya continues to bounce ideas off Megumi for the main route. Megumi often finds it difficult to follow Tomoya’s train of thought: once he gets rolling, it’s tricky for him to stop, and Megumi has previously hung up in frustration. As she gets to know Tomoya better, however, she will resume a call after hanging up, merely to let him know of her dissatisfaction, and ultimately, the two continue on their conversation quite normally. One of the aspects of Saekano I’ve always respected is the fact that while the series is centred around game development, not a line of code is seen: this allows the viewers to focus purely on the project management and character pieces, rather than attempting to debug Tomoya’s work line-by-line (or unnecessarily critiquing it for not conforming to industry practises).

  • In order to help Tomoya properly get a sense of how to write the heroine, Megumi goes to great lengths, even holding hands with him to give him the inspiration. Over time, the exercises, intended to help Tomoya understand what his characters are feeling, result in his falling in love with Megumi. The act of holding hands seem an integral part of a relationship, and the couples’ version involves interlocked fingers. I imagine that this is a gesture of trust, since our knuckle joints are susceptible to pressure; one of the countermeasures I’ve learnt in martial arts is to interlock an opponent’s fingers and squeeze. This is a highly impractical arm lock, but we are taught it to illustrate the pressure points on the body.

  • Tomoya promises to meet up with Megumi, both to celebrate her birthday and do more scouting for the storyline. However, things quickly go south when Akane suffers from a stroke, causing her to be hospitalised. Tomoya visits her and runs into both Utaha and Eriri here. This unexpected turn of events puts Tomoya in a tough spot: Akane had been vouching for Utaha and Eriri, and with her temporarily out of the picture, the higher-ups put the hammer down on the two. One of the longstanding conflicts in Saekano deals with Tomoya being made to choose between Utaha and Eriri, or Megumi, and until now, Megumi had been largely passive, allowing Tomoya to make his own decisions.

  • Saekano Fine, on the other hand, begins delving into hitherto unseen territory. The movie becomes a critical part of the experience, and its title, Fine, is probably a contraction of Finale, indicating that with this film, the series draws to a close. Saekano Fine had originally premièred in Japan on October 26, 2019. I believe this is the second longest wait I’ve seen between an anime film’s theatrical screening and home release; the BDs only became available on September 23, 2020. The total wait for overseas fans, then, was a total of ten months and twenty-eight days, being eclipsed only by Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name by a single day: the latter had a ten month and twenty-nine day gap between theatrical screening and home release. The lingering question then, is whether or not Saekano Fine was worth this wait.

  • When I first began watching anime, the wait between theatrical screenings and the home release averaged around seven to eight months (K-On! The Movie, for instance, had a much more reasonable seven-and-a-half month wait, while I only needed to wait seven months and nine days for Strike Witches: The Movie). The trend with anime movies is that the wait times are increasing: in the case of Saekano Fine, the reason was ostensibly that the home release was supposed to coincide with Megumi’s birthday, which happens to be September 23. I have brought this topic up in forums previously with the aim of trying to gain a better idea of what motivates this decision, but have been unsuccessful in learning why insofar. I speculate that it may a miscalculated attempt at combating overseas piracy, but this is stepping outside the scope of discussion.

  • Saekano Fine is produced by CloverWorks (their portfolio includes Slow Start, and Aobuta): the animation and artwork, while nowhere near the visual fidelity of something like Kyoto Animation or Makoto Shinkai’s works, are nonetheless of a solid quality. Use of colour and lighting is very much a part of the story – as Tomoya sets off to help Utaha and Eriri out, leaving Megumi behind, the weather is moody and overcast, creating a sullen feeling that mirrors Megumi’s reluctance to see him go. Tomoya feels duty-bound to help the two who had helped him to come as far as he did, even if it means putting his own project on the line, infuriating Megumi.

  • Tomoya’s arrival at Utaha and Eriri’s lodgings is met with roughly the same reception that the a Marine commander gave in response to the suggestion that the navy would only supply three days’ worth of shelling at Iwo Jima, much fewer than the originally-requested ten – Utaha and Eriri had requested that he stay for a full month, but Tomoya is only able to stick around for two weeks. Unlike Iwo Jima, however, where the intricate tunnels the Japanese forces had created made them near-impossible to dislodge with a bombardment, the state of the game Utaha and Eriri are working on is in a better spot, and together with their synergy with Tomoya, things proceed more smoothly.

  • In Tomoya’s absence, Izumi and Michiru hold down the fort; as Izumi continues with her artwork, and Michiru tunes up the music, they continue the project as an irate Megumi pouts in the corner. This initially feels uncharacteristic – up until now, Megumi had unconditionally supported Tomoya, helping him out even when no one could, but on closer inspection, it is not unsurprising that Megumi is unhappy with Tomoya. To Megumi, Tomoya has actively chosen to abandon her and their project in favour of Utaha and Eriri. I suspect that in the first season of Saekano, Megumi would’ve idly watched, as she’d never really found Tomoya too remarkable.

  • Consequently, her strong, adverse reaction to Tomoya suddenly ditching her is to indicate that she’s come to care about Tomoya and the project. Having put in such a titanic amount of time and effort, their game is as much a result of her efforts as it is for Tomoya, Izumi and Michiru; it is natural that Megumi feels shafted. For Izumi and Michiru, it is likely the case that, since both of them have known Tomoya for longer, they understand his approaches towards doing things and therefore can be more confident that he will return in time to keep the project’s momentum going without missing critical deadlines.

  • I suppose now is a good of a time as any to explain the page quote, which on first glance, is completely unrelated to anything that occurs within Saekano Fine – it is sourced from Ip Man 4, when Master Law squares off against the karate expert Collin Frater, who is an instructor for the armed forces. When I started Saekano Fine, the first half hour of the film threw me off, being a rollercoaster of emotion and storytelling. Try as I may, I couldn’t get a handle of what Saekano Fine‘s goals were. It wasn’t until Tomoya says to Megumi that he’s resolute on helping Utaha and Eriri, and Megumi’s subsequent displeasure, that pieces began coming together. Like Ip Man’s final fight with Barton Gaddess, I got my second wind: Saekano Fine actually pushed me a little harder than most of the films had, and I welcome the challenge.

  • Megumi winds up deciding to take over as the interim project manager in Tomoya’s absence; angry that Tomoya had left her behind, she believes that Tomoya or no, the project can proceed. Michiru, however, believes that Megumi is jealous. Megumi is backed into a corner as Michiru and Izumi pushes the conversation forwards: it turns out that for the game, Izumi needs to capture a range of emotions from the ordinarily stoic and expressionless Megumi, and so, with her brother on the line, she and Michiru push all of the right buttons that have a considerable effect on Megumi.

  • It is during moments of duress when people are most truthful with how they feel, especially where romance is concerned. Megumi’s anger at Tomoya gives way to sorrow that he’d left so suddenly, seemingly without a thought towards her. Despite her best efforts to hold back, the truth soon comes out: Megumi admits that her thoughts about Tomoya are conflicted. She begins tearing up and finally says that to her, Tomoya is special, one of a kind – even if it means incurring everyone else’s wrath, she wants to keep Tomoya for herself.

  • Tomoya is moved by the results of their effort while going through a pre-release version of the triple-A title that Utaha and Eriri were a part of. In all of the games I’ve experienced, I believe only two games have ever moved me to tears: Valkyria Chronicles and Valkyria Chronicles 4. In general, I am a fan of FPS, games that typically emphasise steady aim, swift reflexes and mechanical knowledge over narrative, and as such, do not have as substantial of an emotional piece compared to story-driven games. This isn’t always the case, however: I have felt melancholy at the end of games like Wolfenstein: The New Order and Deus Ex: Human Revolutions – when their end credits roll, I was left wondering what I had accomplished, and how much more remained to be explored.

  • Watching Utaha and Eriri here indicates to me that, when the prospect of having to fight for Tomoya isn’t on the table, the pair actually get along quite well in a professional capacity. It is an interesting insight to their character that their creative differences throughout Saekano were also in part, motivated by a desire to impress Tomoya, as much as it was the different styles that Utaha and Eriri have. With the project in a better position now, Tomoya prepares to head back home.

  • Having long been aware that Megumi and Tomoya love one another, it came as little surprise to Utaha and Eriri that his decision to help them means that a rift of sorts had appeared between him and Megumi. With the game done, Utaha and Eriri feel that the time has come to see what they can do about helping the two reconcile: as Michiru and Izumi noted earlier, that the two are fighting as couples are wont to show they care about one another even more deeply than they realise.

  • Utaha had come to terms with the fact that Tomoya had eyes for none but Megumi in Saekano♭: after spending an evening at his place, she offers him a pair of scripts to test his beliefs, and Tomoya declines both, indicating to her that he does not intend on pursuing a relationship with her. By this point in Saekano Fine, the only remaining character is Eriri: like Utaha, she’s head-over-heels for Tomoya and having known him since childhood, finds it difficult to stand down. The haste of Tomoya’s departure speaks volumes to both about where his heart lies, and Eriri, understanding this, dissolves into tears. While the story had made it clear this was the outcome, Eriri’s pain is no less visceral as a result of Saori Ōnishi’s solid voice-work: Ōnishi has also played Amanchu‘s Ai Nonomiya and YU-NO‘s Mitsuki Ichijō.

  • Tomoya runs into Megumi outside his place, and a stony silence ensues. While Megumi is still furious with Tomoya, the fact is that she’s here waiting for him. Following an awkward conversation, the two reconcile and finally come forwards with how they really feel about the other under a swift sunset. From a literary perspective, the evening represents an ending of sorts, and it makes sense to set a kokuhaku here on the grounds that it marks the end of one journey, and the beginning of a new one. This is why many anime seem to rig their kokuhaku either during the twilight or evening: examples that come to mind include Angel Beats!CLANNAD and Oregairu. Maybe to bolster my odds, I’ll do the same in the future.

  • While both Megumi and Tomoya likely had feelings for one another after what they’ve experienced together, neither have properly expressed this, and instead, have used their project as a front for doing couple-like things: to Megumi and Tomoya, they’re just doing things to have a better understanding of romance, and ensure the story is more relatable. To viewers and the other character in the show, it is evident that the two are technically no longer merely just friends working on a project together: as the last rays of light give way to shadow, viewers are treated to a kiss that is as moving and impactful as Yukino’s kokuhaku in Oregairu Kan‘s finale.

  • While a theatrical experience would’ve hit particularly hard, I admit that one of the perks about watching the home release is that I’ve got a pause button. This is Sakenao Fine‘s climax, the culmination of both Saekano‘s seasons and the five year journey it took to reach this point. The payoff is enormous, but watching this was also emotionally draining. I needed a break, and fortuitously, the weather had been excellent. I took to the open roads and endless blue skies under the prairies, visiting a small ecological preserve situated in a river valley in the badlands. The skies have always been overcast for me when I head into the prairies (a few weeks ago, I drove to an abandoned grain elevator in the badlands under moody, grey skies), and so, having sunny weather for such a drive was immensely cathartic, enough for me to steel my nerves and finish off the film.

  • The main conflict in Saekano Fine had been Tomoya and Megumi being honest about their feelings for one another; with their passionate kiss, this has been resolved, and so, the film turns to its dénouement, which sees Tomoya visit Akane. While her original prognosis had been grim (doctors suggested that she might lose the use of her right hand entirely), she’s slowly improving and looks forwards to making a full recovery. Ever restless, she wonders why she cannot be discharged sooner; the return of Akane’s fiery spirits indicates that she’s on the mend.

  • There’s also the matter of the game that Tomoya, Megumi and the others are working on. No longer troubled by a distance between their hearts, Tomoya manages to wrap up the story for the game’s main heroine, and the pair put their best efforts into finishing before their deadline, accompanied by Michiru and Izumi. In Saekano Fine, game development, artwork, musical composition and even writing end up being secondary aspects to the love story: Saekano had never been about game design or software development, and the choice to have Tomoya build a visual novel was on the basis that one needn’t have an extensive knowledge of object-oriented programming or Autodesk Maya to get started.

  • As such, without the need to pick up OO concepts and 3D modelling skills, Tomoya and the others never need to acquire skills that take some time to pick up, allowing the story to remain focused. One of the things I’ve found unpleasant about anime fans is when they choose to nitpick small details of no relevance to the storyline. For instance, in New Game! and Stella no Mahou, some viewers claimed that certain aspects of these shows were “unrealistic”, citing their experience with Windows XP compatibility and Objective-C as contradicting what is shown on screen. Fortunately, Saekano completely omits these details: even at maximum resolution, the text editor on Tomoya’s laptop is obscured, so fans are unable to determine whether or not Tomoya is using Python correctly, and this in turn allows the audience to focus purely on character dynamics, rather than irrelevant details.

  • Even at full throttle, Tomoya’s team stands to miss their deadline, but at the last second, Eriri and Utaha show up to help Tomoya out. Eriri immediately pushes her way to Izumi to lend an assist for artwork, leading the two to fight for possession of Tomoya’s chair. Classic rivalries return in force during this reunion to drive a bit of comedy: while Saekano Fine is a bit more serious than its predecessors, the series returns to its original form towards the ending. While Eriri and Izumi spar over artwork, Utaha decides to check out Michiru’s music.

  • Utaha finds that while Michiru’s songwriting is of an excellent calibre, the grammar and syntax within her songs leave much to be desired; she offers to correct it, to Michiru’s disgust, and this results in a funny face moment. In fact, Michiru’s reaction to Utaha’s meddling is worthy of Yuru Camp△‘s Shimarin, who initially responds similarly to any suggestion that she camp with Nadeshiko and the others. With the second season of Yuru Camp△ set for January 2021, I’m rather excited to see what unfolds in the second season. Back in Saekano Fine, I imagine that Utaha and Michiru manage to cease hostilities and cooperate the same way Izumi and Eriri do, since by the time evening sets in, things seem to be well in hand.

  • One aspect about Saekano I’ve always been fond of is how the series is able to feature posters from the more recent anime: among the posters in Tomoya’s room, Magia Record (January-March 2020) and Okaa-san Online (July to September 2019) can be seen. Thanks to Eriri and Utaha, the project reaches a completed state, debugged and proof-read to a satisfactory extent such that it can be sold at the winter Komiket. The evening begins to wind down for Tomoya and his team, and with it, Saekano Fine enters the falling action phase. Eriri is noticeably absent, and Tomoya finds her outside.

  • Eriri decides to confess her feelings for Tomoya; she is fully aware that nothing will change from this, but decides to get it off her chest. Later, Eriri decides to share a bath with Megumi, and voice her honest feelings with her to get it off her chest. Unlike its predecessors, fanservice is practically nonexistent in Saekano Fine: the anime series had dedicated fanservice episodes to kick off each season, and occasionally, would make use of curious camera angles, as well. Saekano Fine‘s decision to reduce this is to remind viewers that the die is cast, and there is little point in putting Tomoya in compromising situations with the other characters.

  • Overwhelmed by emotion and the fact that there won’t be any prospect of her being together with Tomoya, Eriri cries in Utaha’s arms as the two head back to their residence in preparation for whatever lies ahead on their horizon. Saekano presents one possible outcome of a given romance, showing what happens when the protagonist makes a final decision: it appears that this is the topic of no small discussion amongst those who watch romance series. With this being said, I find that those who argue semantics about fictional romance are likely those who are least suited to experience it for themselves; for the most part, romance and relationships unfold naturally, rather than according to some algorithm, and as such, as long as the progression is plausible, a romance can yield a solid payoff for those who watch it.

  • With the nearly eleven month long gap between the theatrical screening and home release, I find myself on the back-foot once again: Anime News Network, in demonstrating their exemplary financial prudence, sent one of their Japan correspondents to check the film out within a few weeks of its release, and their resulting review is expectedly lacking. Opening with a complaint that the film deviates from the light novels in the order of events, the review argues that the movie’s main flaw lies in making too many omissions to Tomoya’s character and implies that short of reading the light novels, viewers will get an incomplete experience.

  • This particular Japan correspondent has a record of watching films as soon as they are released and deliberately finding flaws in to bolster their credibility. In reality, Tomoya’s dialogue and conflict within the film is clear enough to indicate his weaknesses in communication without requiring that one pick up the light novels (incidentally, the light novels are not available in my local bookstores in English). Further to this, even if the film did skip over some of the light novel volumes, it is still a self-contained experience that presents enough of an exposition so viewers already familiar with Saekano‘s anime are not left with any questions entering, during or leaving the movie.

  • As such, I can say with confidence that Saekano Fine is a highly coherent experience: even though I’ve not read the light novels in any capacity, I walked away with a comprehensive understanding of both Tomoya’s experiences and what the film had intended to convey during its 115 minute long runtime. This is why I continue to reiterate the idea that one should not place too much faith in Anime News Network’s reviews: fair and insightful opinion pieces from Anime News Network are a rarity, and their Oregairu talk is one of the only pieces I found useful. Back in Saekano Fine, the Winter Komiket appears to be a success, and the film transitions over to a time some six years later, after the end credits finish rolling.

  • The post-credits scene takes viewers for a ride: Tomoya was unable to fulfil his dream and splits up with Megumi in a nightmare-like sequence. However, he runs into Utaha, and at this point, it becomes clear that everything was just a part of a proposed script for a film Utaha is writing. Eriri rejects it openly, and audiences breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that Saekano Fine did not just discard its entire theme and the series’ premise in an effort to be shocking. The proposed ending hits a little too close to home for Tomoya, and when he meets up with Megumi, he asks her about whether or not he’d done anything to screw up. To his great relief, Megumi reassures him that nothing of the sort has happened.

  • With this post, we’ve now entered the last day of September: tomorrow will be the first day of October, coinciding with the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day in China. The Mid-Autumn Festival is traditionally a time of celebration, characterised by the enjoying of mooncakes and moon-gazing. At this time of year, the full moon is particularly beautiful and bright. In Japan, I believe the Mid-Autumn Festival is called Tsukimi, and dango are served in place of mooncakes. This year, owing to the fact that the Mid-Autumn Festival lies on a weekday, we decided to celebrate early, and last Saturday, I sat down to a fantastic dinner of braised beef brisket, gai lan with beef, stir-fried seafood, chicken, lotus root and snow peas, and sweet and sour pork as a light rain rolled into the region.

  • The next day, the skies had cleared, and so, I decided to hit the open roads for that prairie drive mentioned earlier. The mountains of Alberta are beautiful, but owing to current circumstance, I felt less inclined to share the mountains with crowds. By comparison, the wide open plains and badlands are on roads less travelled, and I practically had the entire highway and badlands to myself. I ended up stopping to check out a small ecological preserve, which featured a small suspension footbridge and deserted town tucked away in the river valley. The weather couldn’t have been better, and the drive was superb: unlike the divided highways, secondary highways have very light traffic, offering one the freedom to really just relax and take things in.

  • Returning to Saekano to both watch and write about it for the first time in three years was a bit of an interesting experience: in both cases, I struggled to get started, but once things began picking up in momentum, the pieces began falling in place. I actually hadn’t expected to finish this post today: there had been quite a bit I was looking to cover in this Saekano Fine post, which features forty figure captions. The movie is an intense experience, with quite a bit going on, and even though this post is larger than usual, there may be elements that I’ve not covered in full.

  • It was remarkably satisfying to see a happy ending in Saekano Fine: the epilogue shows that Tomoya has turned Blessing Software into a thriving company with an all-star team. Saekano Fine also shows, amongst a list of meaningful messages, that hard work pays off in the end, and it is clear that both Megumi and Tomoya have understood the importance of clear and open communication. Their learnings have allowed them to push forwards with their dreams, and the future of Blessing Software looks to be a bright one.

  • As Blessing Software’s full team sits down to nabeSaekano Fine draws to a close. In response to the question I posed earlier in this post, Saekano Fine is almost worth the wait. Overall, I found the movie an immensely, and unexpectedly satisfying experience: it earns an A grade (4.0 of 4.0, or 9.0 of 10) for delivering a surprisingly valuable theme and holding my attention throughout the movie. The first few scenes were choppy and disjointed, but once the movie hits its stride, it is consistent and captivating. Further to this, it brings Saekano to a decisive conclusion, leaving nothing ambiguous; this is a solid end to a series that I’ve been following since its first season in 2015, and with Saekano Fine finally in the books, I enter the fall season with a clean slate, ready to write about Strike Witches: Road To Berlin and GochiUsa: BLOOM.

Admittedly, I was not expecting to delve into relationships, both professional and interpersonal, to this capacity when I had picked up Saekano five years earlier. The series had, after all, appeared to be geared for fans of a specific demographic. However, as it progressed, Saekano proved to be continually unexpected: Tomoya’s drive to create a moving game sends him down an unexpected trajectory. As he learns about the fundamentals of programming, writing, artwork and project management, Tomoya comes to really appreciate the significance of teamwork. However, because the journey isn’t a fluffy journey of sunshines and rainbows, Tomoya must also pick up conflict management and problem solving. The creative differences between Utaha and Eriri left Tomoya with no shortage of headaches, but as Tomoya becomes immersed with the project, he also begins to learn that a part of being in a team is communications. Having come to take Megumi for granted, Tomoya ultimately learns how to be open and honest about his intentions. Similarly, Megumi begins speaking her own mind more often. Altogether, framed by the journey of game development, the lessons and discoveries that each of Tomoya, Megumi, Utaha and Eriri have working with one another are pivotal, and by Saekano Fine‘s end, Tomoya and Megumi are able to become a solid couple precisely because Tomoya managed to step away from the realm of 2D into reality through his project. This is what makes Saekano so captivating, and in conjunction with the series’ propensity to criticise common tropes to the genre and occasional bit of fanservice, Saekano keeps things fresh and amusing. This is why, despite the characters’ tendency to over-act and some moments creating extraneous drama, Saekano continues to engage viewers. The negatives are outweighed by the positives, and more impressively is the fact that, behind all of the seemingly superficial and derivative mechanics, Saekano has a pleasant and meaningful surprise for audiences. Saekano Fine acts as a decisive and rewarding conclusion to Saekano, being well worth it for fans of the series, although for folks who’ve not seen Saekano‘s first and second seasons, the Saekano Fine will be difficult to follow. It goes without saying that the anime is worth checking out, and with a conclusion of this scale, one’s journey for following Saekano through to the end is met with a rewarding emotional pay-off.

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