Dating sim games are all the rage in Japan. The alluring attraction of multiple routes and outcomes, the personalities of the characters and the feels that all come attached with them make for an interesting gaming experience. Sometimes fans will create their own fan faction known as doujinshi and make their own routes for their favorite characters. Other times, they’ll just make their own game. Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend) focuses on that last option there and does so in a comedic way!
The show centers around Tomoya Aki, an otaku with a deep passion for creating the ultimate dating sim based on a chance occurrence with a girl he ran into. One day, a girl’s hat is taken by the wind and down a hilly street. Tomoya races after it with his bicycle, retrieves it, and looks up at the hill and sees the partial silhouette of the perfect girl who standing atop the hill. That one chance encounter leads him to the decision to make his own dating sim game and he enlists the help of some of his childhood friends who happen to be a porn manga author, a published author, and a plain girl with no outstanding skill set.
That’s pretty much the whole show. There is a harem feel to it but unlike most harems, Tomoya is not oblivious to the fact that all the girls like him in some shape or form. Instead, he chooses to just ignore that because nothing should stand between him and the creation of his game. The fact that he’s always putting the game before anything else, earns him the nickname “Rinri-kun” aka “Mr. Ethical.” The comedic situations that each of them find themselves in each week is what really keeps the show interesting. The show isn’t afraid to add new characters, either, even if it’s the final three shows of the season!
All in all, the story is pretty basic. It is essentially the journey they take as a group to complete their game. What makes the show appealing are the situations they get themselves into each week. Outside of that, there really isn’t much to this anime and it’s up to you if you find the content entertaining. I laughed and had a good time with it. Unlike most run of the mill comedies that Japan puts out this one had: a nice pace, some well-written humor, a couple of fourth wall jokes, and some cringe-worthy situations where even you felt embarrassed for the characters.
Speaking of them, let’s see how many they crammed into twelve episodes of Saenai Heroine No Sodatekata.
The lead character and only male character in their group, or “circle” as they like to call themselves over in Japan. His dream is to make the ultimate dating sim, based off of a chance occurrence he had with a beautiful girl. He is the center of attention in what could be considered a harem, but earns the title “Mr. Ethical” due to the fact that he’s always putting the game first above everything else, including love, relationships, friendships, people’s feelings, and the like. Sometimes he comes off as kind of a dick, but he’s also kind of oblivious to things at times which causes him to seem that way. He’s so focused on making his game, sometimes he doesn’t realize the things he says.
Wow.. try saying her name five times fast. Utaha is the serious character of the group and is the one responsible for giving Tomoya his “Rinri-kun” nickname. She’s a published writer and a childhood friend of Tomoya, but through her cold, disciplined exterior, she too, has a weakness for Tomoya and leverages her writing abilities in order to join his circle and become the story-writer for the game. She broke the fourth wall a couple of times throughout the series, including towards the end where she wakes up in Tomoya’s bed and startles him. He wants to know what she’s doing there and she replies with “because I had zero screen time in the last episode” to which Tomoya questions just what in the hell she’s talking about. She also has a bit of a love/hate rivalry with our next character.
Eriri Spencer Sawamura
If there ever was a loli tsundere, you’re looking at it. Eriri is a porn manga author and creates several erotic doujinshi to sell at comic book conventions. She is also a childhood friend of Tomoya’s. She thinks that lending her talent to a “retarded project” is a waste of her time, yet, she does it anyway and becomes the character artist for the game. She gets the most character development out of the entire group as there is an entire episode which teases a relationship between Eriri and Tomoya, but nothing ever really comes about it because Tomoya just ends up being a dick… again. There’s also the side story of another former friend of Tomoya trying to steal Eriri away from their circle in order to join theirs because they’ve been scouting her talents. By far, Eriri was given the most attention in the show, even more so than the main character at times. It felt as if the studio was forcing this character down our throats as if to say “She is the one you buy all the merchandise for” Although she is a typically tsundere, I kind of found her a bit annoying due to the way she was developed.
Meet the most plain and ordinary girl in the world. She’s so plain and ordinary that Tomoya doesn’t even realize that she’s classmates with him. In fact, Tomoya didn’t even realize she was the girl who he say standing on the top of the hill and the one he fell in love with. They say she has the powers of stealth because she seemingly can appear out of thin air, but the reality is, she’s been there the entire time and no one notices her just because she’s so plain. She’s also very timid and shy, but yet, Tomoya has her join the circle and forces her to play dating sim games so she can learn how to be the heroine. Megumi will be playing the part of the hero in the game despite the fact the she has no clue what to do. Most of the time, she just becomes oblivious to everything and simply just smiles while bring them drinks and snacks while they work, but she eventually starts playing more and more dating sims and starts putting effort into becoming a hero. Tomoya gives her the harshest treatment as he’s constantly scolding her about how she’s not acting like the heroine and what she’s doing wrong. You’d think by reading that statement that Tomoya is doing this during development meetings… no.. he’s doing it out in public because he thinks she should be acting the part 24/7. The sad thing is that Megumi doesn’t even get offended by any of it. She simply either says she doesn’t understand what Tomoya is trying to say or she just blows it off completely because she can’t see herself doing something like that.
I really hated her character. I know there are passive characters out there, but she is passiveness incarnate. You could probably tell her she’s the worst human being alive and that her existence is nothing more than a giant hindrance on the world as a whole and that she should just disappear for the betterment of mankind and she would just tilt her head to the side and be like “I don’t understand what you mean. I just want to drink tea” or something stupid like that. I don’t know if she’s oblivious or if she doesn’t have a backbone, but there’s being passive, and then there’s being Megumi. Didn’t like this character one bit.
Remember I said it’s never too late to add a character to the show? Meet Michiru… Tomoya’s cousin who angered her parents and ran away to live in Tomoya’s home without permission all because she wants to be in a band. She’s also a huge pervert and tease as she attempts to have incestual encounters with Tomoya. Despite this and wanting her to leave, Tomoya convinces her to write the music for their game in exchange for being their band’s manager. Michiru doesn’t even like anime, but the thing is.. her band is an anime cover band. She also never knew that it was despite being a part of them for quite some time. Her band even covers the theme song from Guerren Lagann… a nice touch in the show if I do say so myself. She eventually opens up and embraces her newfound otaku-dom and agrees to be the game’s musician.
A friend of Tomoya’s and a rival to Eriri. She’s also a manga artist, but she seems like a prop character that only exists to drive a wedge between Eriri and Tomoya. In fact, she’s the entire reason the Eriri/Tomoya relationship got two whole episodes of development. Tomoya went to Comiket and helped Izumi sell out all the copies of her manga. When Eriri found out, she was pissed because she felt like her feelings were crushed. Tomoya then put the knife into it because blatantly stating that Izumi’s work was better than Eriri’s. Yeah… that’s just something you don’t do, but again, Tomoya can be kind of a dick. Outside of this whole fiasco, Izumi doesn’t really have a purpose for existing. Prop characters will be prop characters.
And then there’s throwaway characters like this one. Izumi’s brother and a member of one of the bigger and well-known otaku circles, he tries to steal Eriri away from Tomoya’s circle so they can have her talents. Then he gets rejected… and then he disappears until Tomoya asks for his help to try and reconcile with Eriri after the aforementioned fiasco. Outside of those things.. he has no purpose in the show whatsoever than to create a little drama for about one and a half episodes.
That about rounds out the cast. I felt that they could have done so much more with the cast that they had, but the problem is that animes are falling into the 12 episode syndrome. A lot of companies don’t want to invest time into 24+ episode shows anymore and a lot of adaptations suffer from it. This could have easily been a 24 episode series if they took the time to expand on everyone’s backstories, their relationships with Tomoya, and even add in some side drama. Hell, it worked beautifully with Bakuman. But oh well. What’s there is there and while some characters were fleshed out more than others, they each still had their own personalities and stories. Most I liked.. and then there was Megumi..
Art, Animation, and Sound
For a standard comedy, the background in Saenai Heroine No Sodatekata were very well done. Most of which, you could tell was CG, but still, they looked pretty stunning. The most notable artistic style of this show has to not be the eyes, but the eye lashes. Depending on the mood or situation, each character’s eye lashes are a different color. Red, blue, green, purple.. etc. They can even change colors in the same scene. I actually didn’t really sit down and pay attention to see what each of the colors represented, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen an anime use eye lashes to that effect and I thought it was a pretty cool and unique touch. I’ve seen animes use different colored eye lashes before, but never in a representative way like Saekano has done.
Another thing I liked was the expressions the characters gave. The facial expressions used in here stood out and really conveyed each situation appropriately. The animation itself was also pretty good quality.. especially in the first episode out in the woods where Eriri fell down a hill and faceplanted into a tree branch. Everything on the animation side seemed pretty fluid. A-1 Pictures is usually pretty decent with their works. I know some people feel they are either hit or miss… especially with some of the episodes of Fairy Tail, but they did a pretty good job here.
As far as the soundtrack is concerned… uhm… what soundtrack? I know that there’s music in the series, but it’s not the kind of series that’s going to jump out at you and make you want to instantly download the soundtrack. Every track is forgettable as I cannot even remember anything from the series off the top of my head and I just finished watching the entire thing. I guess good background music is what I would describe the OST as.. so if you, yourself, are plugging along at something and just want to kill the silence, I guess give this OST a listen to, otherwise, you could probably skip it completely.
Saenai Heroine No Sodatekata wasn’t an anime that really blew my socks off, but it wasn’t bad either. It’s a nice show to pass the time and I can guarantee you that you’ll laugh at a lot of the comedy this show has to offer. I wish they did more with the characters in the way of development, but with the tongue-in-cheek humorous ending they gave the show, chances are a second season is on the way so maybe I’m jumping the gun here a little bit. I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that end.
The characters are either a love ‘em or hate ‘em scenario as you could tell from my character rundowns, but again, it’s probably due to the show’s pacing and number of episodes allotted. I will say though there was an Episode 0 OVA that came out a week before the series premiered so be sure to check that out before watching the series. It opens up with some fourth wall comedy about how anime shows typically introduce their characters and then they go ahead and do the very same thing they just criticized. It’ll give you a nice taste as to what you are in store for when watching this series.
If you want to comment on this review or suggest something for me to review that I already haven’t, feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com. Also, if you feel inclined to do so, follow me on Twitter @TheAnimePulse
Until next time,
I really just want to punch Megumi in the face.
A nice comedy about otakus making a dating sim game that doesn’t even take itself too seriously.
- An Ethical Review