The Infinite Zenith

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Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“The courtesy of your hall is somewhat lessened of late, Théoden King.” —Gandalf, Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers

After three episodes, I noted that it would be interesting to see where Saekano ♭ was headed, and what outcomes awaited Blessing Software. Pushing towards their deadline, Utaha and Eriri are pushed to their limits as they work in a new character route, as well as the attendant artwork. The endeavour leaves Utaha exhausted and pushes Eriri to illness, although the culmination of their efforts is a warm reception at the Winter Comiket. Despite being unable to properly package their game for distribution, folks who buy the game finds much of it a pleasant surprise. Prompted by Iori to continue, Tomoya plans to develop another title, but finds Megumi growing more distant from him, learning that she’s feeling shafted by the attention Tomoya and Eriri have received from him during their development cycle despite all they’ve been through. Even as he attempts to make amends, Utaha and Eriri receive offers from Akane Kousaka, a manga artist working for a major game developer. Torn between Tomoya and their own futures, Eriri and Utaha choose their careers, leading them to work on a triple-A title away from Tomoya. Meanwhile, Tomoya goes on a date with Megumi and later sees Utaha and Eriri off to wish them the best in their pursuits. When their third year starts, Tomoya is shocked to see Izumi as a student at Toyogasaki Academy. This brings Saekano ♭ to an end, and admittedly, it was quite surprising to see things wrap up so quickly. One of this season’s more interesting anime, Saekano ♭ has been met with positive reception overall for its wit and propensity towards a more natural direction, as well as for its self-referential humour in continuing from Saekano.

Saekano ♭ is consistently inconsistent, turbulent and even self-contradictory at times. The characters’ conversations suggest an understanding of the value of artwork and what drives fiction, and yet, the characters themselves occasionally succumb to the same clichés they disparage, acting in ways that would seem irrational considering their self-awareness. These elements, long considered to be detractors in an anime, serve a critical role in Saekano ♭: they are present not because of any inadequacies from author Fumiaki Maruto, but rather, to paint Saekano as a satire of the harem genre and its associated tropes. Irony and exaggerations of the situations Tomoya finds himself in, accompanying his seeming disinterest in a real-world relationship, serve to illustrate the ridiculousness of the genre’s features as a whole. Whether it be the lengths that Utaha goes to in an effort to seduce Tomoya, or her sparring with Eriri on what constitutes art, it is clear that Saekano is well aware of tired conventions in this genre, shaking them up and simultaneously critiquing them in an anime where romance is secondary to poking fun at the sort of antics that typically are found in other anime of this class. By all counts, Saekano and its successor, Saekano ♭ succeeds as a satire to the entire genre, framing it around Tomoya’s desire to create a love story despite having only rudimentary understanding of how love works from a fictional perspective: anime that take the genre seriously often come across as falling short or derivative, and as such, Saekano ♭ offers an uncommon and refreshing take on things to show what might happen if such stories integrated real-world variables into their progression.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This Saekano ♭ post comes out of left field, and I was originally intending on writing something a little later. However, the series ends at the eleventh episode, and while one could make the case that the second season’s zeroth episode drives the total episode count up to twelve, the anime proper only has eleven episodes. Par the course for a talk about the whole season, I will use thirty images to look back through the turf that Saekano ♭ has covered during its run.

  • It turns out that Tomoya’s actions, in choosing both scripts, is to subtly reject Utaha’s advances and make it clear that, while he respects here greatly as an author, he does not see her in a romantic light. Utaha spends the remainder of her arc in Saekano ♭ working with Tomoya to wrap up their story component, doing her most to both help their game reach its conclusion and also to maximise the most of their remaining time together as classmates before she leaves for post secondary education.

  • Except maybe Michiru, Utaha is the most forwards of everyone to Tomoya. Not quite as aggressive, Utaha is nonetheless quite physical, pressing herself against him in a bid to get closer. While she only succeeds in making Tomoya uncomfortable, it’s a very sure indicator that she’s rather fond of him in spite of their verbal sparring matches. The page quote, sourced from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, was chosen as a bit of a critique on how poorly folks think of Tomoya based on an incomplete anime: mid-season, it felt as through there were nothing but complaints leveled at his actions.

  • Elsewhere on the net, some discussions surrounding Saekano ♭ have reached unprecedented intensity: with due respect, I think that it is a little surprising that people have taken Saekano ♭ as seriously as they did, trying to apply their impressions of real-world project management techniques into predicting the outcome of Tomoya’s project or else acting as armchair relationship counsellors. In my Saekano ♭ talks, I will do neither because the light novel and anime are about none of these things.

  • It is here that Utaha and Eriri come to the realisation that Tomoya is unlikely to return their feelings. I make this claim based on the cinematics, lighting and pacing of the scene. Continuing from my earlier assertions, Saekano ♭ is also not a deconstruction by either the literary definition or the definition reached by mangled reasoning at Tango-Victor-Tango. I consider Saekano ♭ a satire of the romance-comedy genre featuring several female leads – the characters seem well aware of clichés and tropes of this genre, succumbing to them or breaking away from them where appropriate.

  • The satirical nature (unintentional or not) of Saekano ♭ is why I do not consider it a meaningful pursuit to attempt any sort of formal, serious analysis or discussion on things in comparison with other works of its class. Here, Tomoya’s heart very nearly stops when an unnamed male student declares his love to Megumi only for her to decline: she later notes that she’s turned the guy down because to accept would be to otherwise divert time from helping Tomoya with their release.

  • The implications of Megumi wanting to help Tomoya of her own volition suggest that she’s developing feelings for him, although she probably does not fully understand why she’s so drawn to the project. Her feeling dejected later down the line as a result of Tomoya shouldering responsibility himself and not consulting her shows that she’s expecting a little more trust from him, at least to the same extent that he’s appearing to give Utaha and Eriri. Someone completely disinterested in Tomoya would not sign onto the project or have stuck out for this long, so Megumi’s reactions are completely natural.

  • After understanding that Tomoya is not likely to see her as more than a capable artist and a longtime-friend, Eriri’s ability to produce artwork takes a hit, and she isolates herself with the goal of finishing on time. She’s inspired by the feelings she experiences while reminiscing and fantasising, coming to terms with what’s happened, and manages to make the artwork, but this comes at a cost to her health. Working oneself to illness is a very serious problem, which is why I and those around me are told to work hard only to the extent where working harder is not detrimental.

  • Knowing that Tomoya’s views of her are what they are, she longs to spend some time with him for old times’ sake. Later, at the Comiket, she buries the hatchet with Izumi, and her role in Saekano ♭ is reduced subsequently along with Utaha’s even as Tomoya tries to bring the team back for one more project. However, one of the things that is clear from Tomoya’s project is that he’s definitely not cut out to drive video game production because he cares for his teammates to a fault.

  • Being rushed out to production does not hinder their game’s reception: they sell out and receive strong reviews all around, minus the lukewarm response to Tomoya’s content. It’s not bad for a first-time entry, and that the challenges Blessing Software faced in its staff rather than any shortage of manpower were plausibly depicted. The following remark comes from a software developer by trade – working with a simple scripting language was the least of his concerns.

  • Given everything that has happened up until this point, in conjunction with Megumi’s reactions to Tomoya shafting her, pointed strongly in a direction that suggested that, if she were neglected in both the narrative and from Tomoya’s dealings with her, there would be a bit more time left in Saekano ♭ to will deal with her. This turned out to be the case, and as such, I consider it an incomplete element when folks claim that Megumi seems to “outshine” everyone else by virtue of the author’s will alone. I certainly don’t see it that way: the anime has presented her as being someone who manages to stand out in Tomoya’s eyes because she is unextraordinary.

  • This is why I don’t like making sweeping assertions before a series has concluded: folks who have been expressing distaste in Tomoya and wishing him ill now return to remark that Saekano ♭ was a modestly enjoyable anime in spite of the character development, citing Eriri and Utaha as driving the show’s strongest elements. While I enjoyed their vitriol-filled dynamics with one another, it became quite clear that as professionals, Utaha and Eriri can get along with one another. One of the themes in  Saekano ♭ that I had not mentioned is that romantic rivalry, while impeding how cordial interactions are between two people, need not also overcome their own goals.

  • Megumi’s look of horror when Tomoya locks the two of them in the recording room. Saekano ♭ tends to play with framing and execution to give the sense of something risqué happening, only to cut away and show the greater context; this was utilised to great effect during Saekano, but by this point in Saekano ♭, the surprise and humour is gone. Audiences merely wait for things to conclude so that things may progress.

  • It took my complete mastery of the Dark Side of the Force to keep from missing this frame, which would make next to no sense without some context. I could easily pass this off as an application of Force abilities, but what’s actually happening is the aftermath of Tomoya’s apologies to Megumi. Subsequently, he presses his advantage and attempts to rope her into his next project. Tomoya’s blind devotion to his hobbies and inability to comprehend the world around him, to mind his surroundings, is his greatest weakness as a character – while I embody the side of Tomoya who cares for those around him and works with a resolute goal in mind, I am not as lacking in other areas.

  • Thus, when Megumi openly expresses her displeasure as to how Tomoya’s soloed responsibility of the project and that it suggests his lack of trust, Tomoya is taken aback. Saekano ♭ shows a more detailed aspect of Megumi that Saekano alone did not owing to time constraints, and it is seeing the more human aspects of her character beyond being a mere basis for a fictional character that makes her shine. It is this, coupled with Tomoya’s rant about making a game with more natural characters rather than archetypes, that reminds audiences of Megumi’s presence in Saekano.

  • If I were to present this screenshot to anyone without familiarity with Saekano, I am almost certain that they would count Tomoya and Megumi as a couple. This is the pairing that works the most consistently with the satire in Saekano: stand-out characters, whether it be the kūdere in Utaha or tsundere childhood friend in Eriri, or the cousin in Michiru, may overshadow Megumi in terms of presence in Saekano ♭, but it is ultimately the most ordinary character who truly becomes closer to the male lead. One of the issues with anime of the harem genre is that male leads are often stricken with indecision or a willful refusal to pick anyone for fear of hurting the others’ feelings, resulting in storylines that meander.

  • Similar in some respects we may be, I am certain that Tomoya’s perspectives on games are completely misaligned with mine. He values characters whose interactions players can relate to above all else, while I assess a game based on its immersion and gameplay. A good game must handle smoothly and have a well-defined goal set in an environment that makes the player feel as though they are there for themselves. As such, I’ve greatly enjoyed games with minimally-defined protagonists (such as Doomguy and Chell) in addition to titles with well-characterised individuals (Adam Jensen, Welkin Gunther). Visual novels have never held much appeal for me, as I very much prefer the rush of finishing a goal or watching impressive set-pieces unfold.

  • While Megumi lectures Tomoya and explains outright why she’s indignant, an Aokana poster can be seen in the background. Aokana came out a year after Saekano‘s first season: Tomoya is plainly keeping up with the times, and one of the fun factors about Saekano is the presence of various anime memorabilia in Tomoya’s room that I can recognise.

  • I’ve been quite liberal in presenting eye-pleasing moments from Utaha and Michiru throughout my earlier posts, but there have been very few of Megumi. The time has come to rectify this, starting with a screenshot of Megumi while she’s taking a bath. Longtime readers will know that I’m on #TeamShower, since showers conserve more water and more hygienic. Of note in this particular scene is the fact that Megumi has her smart phone right beside the tub, which is a bad idea, and the fact that Saekano actually renders clear water and steam particle density in the bath is not excessive.

  • While a little dark (especially on the built-in displays of a MacBook Pro or iPad), here’s another moment of Megumi that fans will certainly have appreciated. She’s giving Tomoya “obligation” chocolates for Valentine’s Day here, suggesting that she does not see Tomoya in the same light that Eriri or Utaha see him. One of the longstanding questions I’ve got about Megumi is what compels her to stick it out with Tomoya’s visions even when there is little apparent benefit for her; her actions seem to indicate that she views him as a friend, but to be with Tomoya through many dangers is to show a lot of loyalty for a mere friend.

  • Sakura blossoms are in full bloom during Utaha’s graduation. Finished with her secondary education, she takes the time to explain to Tomoya her and Eriri’s situation; Tomoya lacks the mental stamina to be a proper director that drives his creator’s willingness to flourish. Despite their interest in working with him for their own reasons, Utaha reveals that she and Eriri have been offered positions to work on a triple-A title.

  • Tomoya is blown away that a major games developer has recruited both of Eriri and Utaha: since Eriri left to work on their game’s artwork in isolation, manga artist and professional Akane Kousaka had followed her, developing an interest in the pair after being impressed with their game. Although they both are filled with regret at having to leave Tomoya’s side, their judgement prevails. Tomoya is not particularly disappointed by the news and is genuinely happy for them: simply put, there is not any betrayal that some folks are claiming there to be. Tomoya’s project was a personal one, and despite his passion for it, he’s shown signs of not committing to it as fully as it seems: Iori is constantly trying to persuade him to continue.

  • Good leadership forces folks to push their limits, and while Maruto might limit this assertion to the world of creativity and fiction, the truth holds true universally. A certain amount of pressure drives progress: during their meeting, Akane lets loose on the criticisms and re-lights Eriri’s drive to draw. It is also revealed that Akane is more interested in Eriri’s art skill than Utaha’s ability as a writer, seeding doubt in Utaha that also compels her to better her writing.

  • Because of my beliefs on improvement and drive, Akane cannot be considered an antagonist in Saekano ♭: she evidently has experience in the industry and knows how people respond to pressure, as well as what slumps can be overcome with. Without Tomoya between them, it turns out that Eriri and Utaha can get along just fine, at both a professional and personal level. Through this, Maruto hints that feelings for others are detrimental if they cause individuals to remain attached to their emotions rather than letting go to pursue a better future; having Utaha and Eriri do just this is to show an exceptional degree of self-awareness, and it’s not often that characters in a harem anime actually can set things aside in such a manner.

  • Thus, Utaha and Eriri’s development wind up being the most enjoyable part of Saekano ♭; seeing two characters learn that they aren’t so different and setting aside their animosity because of competing feelings for Tomoya proved to be a remarkable change of pace from other anime of this sort. In its satire, Saekano ♭ brings in authentic forces from the real world that force characters to make a decision, ridiculing the idea that an impasse can be maintained indefinitely. This is Maruto’s approach, to show that “if things in a show started out as  they do in a typical harem romance-comedy, then this is the outcome that can be expected”.

  • While Utaha and Eriri make to pursue their futures, Tomoya remains in his own world, persisting on his own path. However, even his own world begins to change: Megumi takes the initiative to ask Tomoya on a date in order to raise his spirits. They return to the mall visited during Saekano‘s first season, and Megumi later remarks that she aims to show him that as long as he is willing to direct a project, there will be a project. It’s a far cry from the industry, where output and results come first.

  • That Saekano ♭ ends in eleven episodes was quite unexpected, and I had not intended on writing a discussion for this until July, after all of the dust had settled. However, ending earlier than anticipated, and the fact that metrics are showing readers interested in Saekano ♭, I figured that I should deliver. I make extensive use of my site’s analytics to determine what readers are looking for, and will try to prioritise content that aligns with these interests. Consequently, I will be moving my discussions of Hinako Note to early July, and also dropping my plans to write about Frame Arms Girl: the latter was surprisingly fun but not conducive towards a full-fledged blog post.

  • With Saekano ♭ now over, my final conclusions on the second season are that it’s definitely stronger than the first if considered separately, but taken together, the first season drives the events of the second. Although Saekano as a whole featured Tomoya’s project, this is merely the stimulus that brought the cast together, and after establishing the setup typical to most harem anime, the second season introduces elements that drive the harem apart to show that setups featuring an indecisive protagonist are implausible and unsustainable for a good story.

  • Aside from its aims, Saekano ♭ manages to maintain humour much as the first season had: Utaha’s kiss (presumably, Tomoya’s first) comes out of the blue, and the facial expressions of all present parties are simply hilarious. Tomoya sees Eriri and Utaha off here before they take off for Osaka, but they inadvertently miss their train owing to a protracted farewell. Besides its narrative and character growth, which stand at Saekano‘s forefront, Saekano also has generally high production values: artwork remains of a consistently good quality, as is the voice acting. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is unremarkable.

  • A seemingly-decisive conclusion awaits viewers at Saekano ♭‘s ending with the presentation of a “The End” card: folks familiar with the light novels will note that the anime closes off at volume seven, and that there are a total of thirteen volumes in the entire series. If there is a third season, it will feel quite different than Saekano had thus far: Izumi joins Tomoya’s team, while Utaha and Eriri begin their work. I’m not too sure what’s in store for Saekano from the anime perspective, but a movie or OVA series might seem more plausible than a third season. However, one thing is certain: I will be checking a continuation out if it should exist.

Ultimately, Saekano ♭ earns a recommendation – entertaining to watch for its colourful cast of characters and their eccentricities,  the narrative feels as though it was carefully scripted to accommodate drama and satire to maximise its impact. Although the monologues and rants detract from the story and flow, they are fortunately rarer in Saekano ♭ – the author’s channeling of their own experiences and beliefs about art represents only a singular view on creativity, and one that might not be necessarily correct. Creativity can take many different forms and approaches, with no single algorithm or outline for defining what makes something great. As such, when Tomoya remarks that natural characters and their growth alone make a game worth playing, I look to that as being only one approach: in my books, the best games provide an experience that leads the players to pose questions about what they know or uncommonly good immersion. For instance, Deus Ex: Human Revolution challenges players to consider the role of technology in society, while Alien Isolation forces players to experience the same fear that Ripley does aboard Sevastopol Station. Certainly, my views and Tomoya’s (by extension, Maruto’s) differ quite substantially. Overall, with its satirical elements directed against genre-wide clichés and its clever inclusion of fanservice, Saekano ♭ proved to be an entertaining watch that consistently defies convention and provides the viewers with genre-defying twists to remind them that events of classical harem anime will be confined strictly to the realm of fiction.

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.

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭: Fan Service of Love and Pure Heart Review and Reflection

林子祥, 男兒當自強

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.