The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Tomoya Aki

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.”

– 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 while attempting to visit Utaha, 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 project manager above Akane is intent on moving ahead with testing and release of Fields Chronicle, a triple-A title, to meet the release deadline: the pair had been working on the game’s story and artwork, but this change threatens to strike their contributions from the final product. When Tomoya learns of their plight, he takes two weeks off classes to help them and successfully negotiates for a compromise: two more weeks to add the core of Utaha and Eriri’s content while removing the rest of the material. Feeling abandoned, 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. At the end of these two weeks, 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: with their involvement in Fields Chronicle finished, the pair now have spare time to lend a hand and have been dropping by daily, much to Izumi and Michiru’s irritation. However, 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 horrifying manuscript that Utaha is working on, Tomoya rushes off to meet Megumi and be reassured that she’s not leaving him. They head home together, and 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 managing Utaha and Eriri’s projects, and with her temporarily out of the picture, the higher-ups put the hammer down on the two’s work. 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 buy a full month for them, but Tomoya is only able to obtain two weeks’ worth of time. 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. Law promptly gets wiped, and I was reminded of what can happen if one rushes into something unprepared. 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, and as Ip Man is wont to do, I found my second wind, enough to appreciate and enjoy what the film was doing.

  • 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.

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.

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata: Whole-series review and reflection

“I invite everyone to chose forgiveness rather than division, teamwork over personal ambition.” —Jean-Francois Cope

We’ve discussed an anime about anime production, and it might seem logical to turn our sights towards Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata. Last time, the discussion went in a direction that was less about Saekano; this is an anime talk, rather than my complete disagreement with the choice of terminology that most psuedo-academic reviwers employ in their writings to intimidate. Returning to Saekano, the journey has dealt primarily with the assembly and progress of a raggedy-ass game development team as they learn to cooperate with one another, as well as dealing with their own feelings for Tomoya Aki. Thus, while Saekano might capitalise on Tomoya’s game project, the main story concerns how Blessing Software came to be; beyond just learning the scripting language needed to build a visual novel, viewers see how Utaha and Eriri begin lessening constant rivalry with one another to contribute to this endeaovur, Megumi’s increasing role in the project (beyond that of simply a model for the game’s heroine) anda even Michiru’s acceptance of otaku culture, once she learns that otaku are really just ordinary people with an uncommon passion for anime. Once the season closes off, Tomoya and the others are working towards completing their game; they’ve still got a ways to go, but with Blessing Software now a functional team with members who can work with one another, the conclusion is satisfactory, leaving audiences with the sense that this is a group who will make their objective.

From a larger perspective, Saekano acts as a parody of the entire harem genre: by deliberately introducing a male character whose sights are set on a well-defined objective, Tomoya acts as a juxtaposition for the character he’s writing into his game as the protagonist. Thus, while Tomoya is vaguely aware of how to make his character’s dialogue fit well with that of the game, especially pertaining to love, he is also (most likely deliberately) unaware of Utaha and Eriri’s feelings for him. This dramatic irony, and the fact that Tomoya provides a bit of meta-humour in his interaction with each of Utaha, Eriri, Michiru and Megumi, lends itself to set Saekano apart from the typical harem anime. In this fashion, Saekano can be seen as an animated mockumentary of the otaku community, and of the very archetypes in visual novels, that are immediately recognisable to the audience. This is much welcomed, providing solid humour with respect to the ridiculous situations Tomoya finds himself in, and the fact that he seems to understand their implications better from a fictional context, rather than his own context.

  • Over time, Megumi picks up more manga and visual novels from Tomoya, and finds herself becoming more familiar with his interests. Described as featureless, Megumi’s constantly overshadowed by the other characters in terms of presence, but her down-to-earth, ordinary personality makes her the most friendly of the girls.

  • Four episodes in, and the development process still hasn’t really kicked off: Eriri is having trouble using Megumi as a model owing to the latter’s lack of expressiveness, and Utaha isn’t able to craft a moving narrative. The mood changes dramatically after Tomoya mentions a date of some sort, exemplifying that even early on, Utaha and Eriri at least know of Tomoya and hold some degree of feelings for him.

  • Originally, Megumi was supposed to go to a new shopping mall’s opening with her cousin for some sales, but Tomoya decides to accompany her instead. Here, Tomoya illustrates that his otaku background has allowed him to efficiently manage large crowds and utilise a form of the travelling salesman algorithm to help her out (though it’s never explicitly mentioned, this is what’s being used). She buys him a new pair of glasses as a gesture of appreciation.

  • Utaha’s manager had deliberately arranged for Tomoya to stay with her, and they spend much of the evening working on their game’s narrative. A story gradually takes shape, and Utaha’s typical cold demeanor gives way to a warmer side: she represents the kuudere and in fact, resembles OreGairu‘s Yukino to a great extent, minus her propensity to press herself up against Tomoya, much to the latter’s discomfort.

  • Saekano makes frequent use of camera angles to imply that something indecent is occurring on screen, only to reveal that nothing really happened. Here, Utaha’s snapped an image that suggests she and Tomoya had a close evening together; Tomoya’s scream of despair can be heard a ways away. Utaha’s capacity to troll can be considerable, and she wields a sharp tongue to endlessly irritate Eriri to no end.

  • Megumi pouts after Eriri mentions that Tomoya had terminated their “date” to meet with Utaha, and with her ensuing expression, Eriri is able to capture a “frustrated” image for their game. Compared to a full-on game, a visual novel is much easier to build, given that most of the elements are static: in a standard game, animating 3D meshes for facial expressions is sufficiently complex that making faces and expressions requires dedicated staff.

  • Izumi Hashima is another otaku two years younger than Tomoya; the latter introduced her to anime and games, and deeply grateful to Tomoya for this. Saekano wastes no time in presenting her as someone who’s close to Tomoya, and unsurprisingly, Eriri and Utaha become deeply jealous again. This aspect is played largely for comedy, and while practicality suggests that the one thing to do would be to simply ask Tomoya out, harem anime (and even their parodies) generally maintain the status quo.

  • Iori Hashima is a member of Rouge en rogue, a well-known doujin group, and tries to recruit Eriri by challenging Tomoya to produce a more successful product, with the winner being more qualified to have Eriri as their group’s illustrator. This moment drove up the suspense in Saekano, since it served to raise the stakes, but Eriri subsequently decides that she will continue working with Tomoya.

  • Thanks to Tomoya’s efforts in marketting, Izumi’s doujinshi sells out, and while Tomoya greatly enjoys what Izumi has made, his praise for it also bruises Eriri’s ego, for she feels that he loves her not. It takes another whole episode for the situation to be resolved.

  • Tomoya’s original plan to win back Eriri backfires, and the two directly confront one another as several years’ worth of grudges come to the surface. The childhood friend archetype usually does not go in this direction, and the reason for Eriri distancing herself from Tomoya is credible: she felt that his presence was harming her capacity to befriend anyone else. It is quite interesting to note that, although Eriri is aware of the childhood friend archetype’s limitations, she nonetheless clings to them with the hope of winning Tomoya’s heart.

  • Eriri ultimately resolves to do whatever it takes to earn his approval, in a manner reminiscent of what Utaha had done earlier. With their differences presently settled, Eriri consents to return to Blessing Software as the lead artist, and she requests that Tomoya carries her home, bringing this arc to a close.

  • Upon learning that Michiru is Tomoya’s cousin and has known him for even longer than she had, Eriri is unable to bear Michiru’s presence and is taken aback by how casually Michiru interacts with Tomoya, leaving Eriri green with envy.

  • Megumi has picked up some of the introductory guides to scripting and began contributing to building the game’s underlying mechanics with Eriri of her own volition, surprising Tomoya. The scripting language used to build their game is probably Ren’Py: despite lacking any of the complexity in a full-on game engine, learning even scripting without any programming experience is no walk in the park. As such, Megumi’s decision to take up parts of the game’s programming represents her willingness to commit to Tomoya’s project, extending well beyond her original role of being just a model for the heroine in the game.

  • As it stands, because Megumi’s key defining feature is the lack of any features, she stands out the most of everyone in Saekano as a character for being able to convey her feelings quite directly, with confidence, and even manages to give Tomoya a reminder about the implications of his interactions with Michiru. She gets Tomoya in a way that the others do not, and in a manner of speaking, is probably the person that Tomoya would get along best with out of everyone were they to start dating.

  • Previously, I mentioned that Saekano was not a deconstruction of the harem anime genre owing to its setup, and after this series comes to an end, it’s clear that my assessment, that Saekano is a parody of the aforementioned genre, is correct. Anime bloggers typically are not fully aware of what a deconstruction constitutes and are prone to misusing it: deconstruction asserts that intrinsically, something has no meaning until given context by a reader’s background and experiences based on the individual meanings of the different pieces constituting that particular work.

  • The set of all possible reactions to being tricked has to be more extensive than how Michiru expresses her frustrations regarding the nature of her upcoming performance: by riding the living daylights out of Tomoya. It turns out that her band’s been playing anime songs the entire time, and it surprises her that she’s enjoyed performing anime music to the extent that she did, and it takes a bit of convincing for Michiru to realise that the music can still draw crowds.

  • If TV Tropes is the only knowledge one has on deconstruction, one would define it incorrectly to be “how a particular work of fiction would proceed given the constraints reality might impose on it”, which is completely nonsense (and that’s already with me giving the TV Tropes definition a more focused wording). Deconstruction itself does not exclusively deal with realism, so TV Tropes’ definition should not be regarded as being applicable for anything meaningful. Proper use of deconstruction can result in some interesting discussion, but it also has the potential to exclude the author’s intentions, so participants should take care to incorporate the author’s intent for creating a particular work.

  • A musical performance seems like a suitable way of closing off a series that, and with Michiru realising that otaku might not be so bad, she agrees to help provide the music for his game. With Michiru’s joining Blessing Software, the entire team (lead developer, developer, storywriter, art director and music specialist) is now assembled and ready to really roll into producing a title worthy of the Winter Comiket.

  • By the end of the first season, the game appears to have made some progress; the journey to Winter Comiket for Tomoya and Blessing Software with a functional team could very well be something for a second season, and would be quite worthwhile to watch. For now, though, this wraps up the talk on Saekano, and coming up next will be talks on The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan and my closing thoughts on Aldnoah.Zero‘s second season.

Saekano may not be about game development to the same extent that Shirobako is about anime production, but through the series’ run, it becomes apparent that the core to the anime is how Tomoya managed to motivate each of the group into lending their talents towards his project. This journey was not easy, and hostilities flare even late into the series, making it all the more rewarding to see everyone getting along sufficiently well to have made some progress in their game. Watching the characters’ development and their dynamics in parodying the harem anime genre means that, even if the game development process itself is secondary and challenges associated with the game appear to solve themselves, Saekano becomes a relatively easy recommendation once everything is said and done.