Review/discussion about: Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata
Creating content is an interesting notion. Someone sets aside time to mold, craft, or piece together objects in an attempt to have their cohesion bring about a finalized product. And these objects take on a variety of forms. For instance, this very review is content, where the objects are words and the product is a review. Architects work with wood, chefs work with ingredients, and painters work with paints. Visual novels, too, are a type of content. They require a plot, artwork, music, and coding, all working in unison, to make a game that is worthy of being played. But as Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata shows, sometimes it isn’t the objects that are difficult to work with but the people behind them that are.
Saekano (as it will be known from here on out) stars Tomoya Aki, a completely average high school guy. While at the bottom of a steep hill, he sees atop it the figure of a girl. Just then, his imagination sparks and the idea for creating the greatest visual novel of all-time has begun.
One absolutely cannot talk about Saekano without first discussing its meta level. It sounds ridiculous, but the phrase “that’s so meta” doesn’t do this anime justice. The show revels in this fact, and refuses to leave any form of meta-ness untouched. Besides just being self-referential, the show: has dialogue that “unintentionally” matches the current shot, contains fourth-wall breaking moments, and cliche events that all standard romances follow. But Saekano doesn’t stop there, either. For it also parodies the tropes that these romances (and harems) capitalize on. For example, the leader of the harem has every girl clamoring for him yet he shows literally zero interest towards them; each of the girls is stereotypical yet simultaneously not (Utaha is a “kuudere” but secretly a “yandere,” Eriri is a “tsundere” but a childhood friend, etc.); and the problems that surface are not just one-way streets — they personally involve both Tomoya and the girl of choice. In this way, the show is capable of poking fun or heading in a multitude of directions that at first glance seem quite tired but later turn out to be surprisingly refreshing.
But where Saekano begins to dip somewhat is precisely with those aforementioned problems. The show is essentially split into the “girl of the week” arc format; in other words, the anime revolves around getting each of the girls to join Tomoya’s circle in order to create his soon-to-be masterpiece. But as has already been talked about, Saekano is a master of the meta. That is its element. So when it goes outside of its comfort zone, when it diverges away from what it does so well, it starts to falter. The emotions that ensue with any of the girls — be it Utaha, Eriri, or Hyoudou — can’t match up with its foundation. Utaha’s ethical dilemma, Eriri’s impassioned guilt, and Hyoudou’s personal acceptance are supposed to feel dramatic or endearing, but their existence only aids in making the experience more “well-rounded.” And the meta aspect of the show isn’t the only obstacle that prevents these more serious events from being meaningful. The show is rampant in sexualization of the girls and various types of humor. The meta-ness supports these facets, so when the show moves away from its meta roots, the sex and comedy is lost, too.
Jumping off of this idea, the thematic presence of Saekano is often lacking as well. What the show attempts to get across is the notion of “facing reality.” In essence, there are certain facts that people need to come to terms with before they can truly begin to move forward in their lives. For Tomoya and Kato, this kind of thinking isn’t present: they know what kind of person they are and aren’t afraid to act in such a way. The haremettes, however, see such messages. Utaha learns not to be held down by her past, Eriri understands that she isn’t the best, and Hyoudou realizes her true self. But again, such themes are clouded by everything else the show tries to be, namely a meta, sexy, and funny harem. Furthermore, each of these resolutions comes about rather quickly — especially in the form of tiny flashbacks — so their overall meaning is generally lost. Especially so when the show reverts back into its original mode.
The art for the anime is generally quite pleasing to see. It mostly sticks to Tomoya’s room, certain classrooms, or regularly-used locations, but it isn’t afraid to branch out from time to time. Anime conventions are visited, as are parks, clubs, and malls, each of which contains a relative amount of detail. Like most shows, though, the art isn’t wholly captivating or special, but serves its purpose. Also of note are the semi-rare occurrences of multi-colored shots for stylistic effect, and the often employed camera work. This usually involved panning motions — to “check out” the girls in different positions — or close-ups of the chest, face, and butt — to “accentuate” a girl’s features — both of which were used to nice effect.
The character designs are good as well. Utaha’s red, captivating eyes, Eriri’s yellow twin-tails in the morning but tomboy look at night, and Hyoudou’s all purple, all sexy design came off as rather pleasing to see. And given that the girls are usually the focus, this was definitely a plus in its favor.
Finally, actual animation hovered somewhere above average. Besides bouncy bosoms and benign bucking, the show would incorporate minute facial twinges, hair flow, and other normal movements. At times, the characters would remain static, but this was mostly during prolonged talking segments. The previously mentioned camera work would help to alleviate these moments, and thus the animation always seemed to be “going.”
When it comes to harems, there is always quite the cast to talk about. Here, attention is given to the most relevant three: Eriri, Utaha, and Kato.
Eriri, anonymously famous for her work as an “h-doujinshi” artist, is classified as a “tsundere:” she’s harsh but her inner kindness comes through at certain points. She’s prideful, jealous, and quite emotional; in short, she’s entirely childish and acts accordingly. This makes sense, too, given her childhood friend status. And as Tomoya lays out clearly for her, she isn’t as good as she thinks she is, both as an artist and as a friend. Her constant clashing and arrogant attitude made her into a girl who was entirely intolerable. But following her prince and princess moonlit escape, she softens slightly, becoming more respectful towards her longstanding rival and friendlier towards her newfound coworker. While she still doesn’t like to be one-upped by those around her, she no longer takes it out on others but instead uses it on herself to drive her to be that much greater of a person.
Similarly famous but a lot sleepier, Utaha embraces two separate archetypes: the “kuudere” and the “yandere,” that which is cool and that which is insane, respectively. She’s generally composed, yet isn’t afraid to be flirtatious or crass. Known to call the boy of her affection “Mr. Ethical,” why the nickname exists comes to fruition: his rejecting of her literary “advances.” It’s this sentiment that she latches on to. She went from zero to hero in the writing world thanks to Tomoya, and thus her life since has nearly always been about him. From her works to her feelings, she had him on her mind. And therefore it is only appropriate that through him she comes to balance the life she’s led. She learns to acknowledge the past, not let it control you; enjoy the present and what it offers; and move onward to a future that makes not only makes yourself but also everyone around you happy. Again, like Eriri, her development doesn’t fully quash her former behavior; Utaha still pines after her crush and flips between her personalities. But now, she isn’t so distant. Rather, she begins to include others, from Eriri to Kato to Hyoudou and to even herself, in the activities that surround her.
Perhaps the most important cast member is actually the one “seen” the least. And that is Kato, the average, normal, everyday girl that coincidentally stumbles onto the scene. When thinking about her character, there isn’t anything else to her than what has already been said; she’s nice and quiet. That’s it. But that’s the point. She isn’t meant to be some grandiose figure whose personality overshadows everyone else. She isn’t designated to have some tragic backstory or hidden feature. This is to fall in line with the meta that the anime boasts. In other words, in an anime like Saekano, the main love interest is as dull and as real a person can be. Utaha, Eriri, and Hyoudou are (obviously) the complete opposite. They’re vibrant, both in personality and demeanor. They’re talented in the ways of writing, art, and music, respectively (Kato has nothing, and even more than that she’s learning to program, a relatively boring job). And they’re each actively vying for Tomoya’s gaze. Kato has none of these aspects to her, contrasting heavily with the rest of the harem goers. But it’s precisely for this reason that she has the most in common with Tomoya, an equally passive, nonchalant, and regular guy.
Even so, she does do something worthwhile. And that is act in that outsider role, the supporter, for everyone else. While she may seem to be in hiding, her influence is apparent everywhere. With Utaha, she ends her date with Tomoya; with Eriri, she gives Tomoya the idea of using visual novel “flags;” and with Hyoudou she unearths for Tomoya his cousin’s unknown indoctrination. Meaning, when taking a step back and looking at the entire picture, the entire circle, nobody has had a greater effect on it, from initial conception to final formation, than the unremarkable Kato.
The OP is alright. The beat can be somewhat generic and the singer at times can be rather grating on the ears. However, following the middle of the piece, the one-two-three lyrics help to make it a bit catchier, and the background singers also support the main vocalist well enough.
The ED, on the other hand, is quite good. The “popping,” the all-over-the-place pacing in the singing, and super catchy lyrics make it quite pleasant to listen to, both in and out of the show. The random assortment of sound effects throughout also make it that much more fun.
The rest of the soundtrack is, more or less, fine, teetering on bad. The tracks themselves fit the anime, but aren’t particularly impressive in terms of sound or composition. Some are jokey, with their dainty instruments and tone — used during those similarly comedic times. Others try to be more emotional, with heavier emphasis on piano. All seem to lack a certain level of attention.
Getting back on track, though, the voice-acting is way above average for many of the cast. Special shout-outs are in order for: Ai Kayano as Utaha for her collected way of speaking, Saori Oonishi as Eriri for her pronunciation of Utaha’s name, and Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Tomoya for his usual screaming.
Out of everything airing this season, this one was able to make me laugh the most. The nicely timed jokes, the fun characters, and the girls’ “romance” — the blushing, the yearning, and the quips between each other — always had me chuckling during an episode.
And when I wasn’t smiling, I was treated to some rather well-done fan-service. Many of the girls are given stunning physiques, and the anime lets you see as many sides to them as possible. Nakedness, sexual innuendos, and lewdness are the norm, and I enjoyed watching it all.
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata may be mired in meta, but it’s a tad bit more than that. With nice animation, a good cast of characters, and enough sexiness to satiate any palate, this harem offers more than just a well-done visual novel.
Story: Fine, master of meta, lame issues, clouds its own theme
Animation: Good, nice art style, good character designs, above-average actual animation
Characters: Good, Utaha and Eriri are good, Kato is great, and the rest are okay
Sound: Fine, okay OP, good ED, okay soundtrack, great VA work
Enjoyment: Good, lots of laughs, fun “romance,” and sexy fan-service
Final Score: 6/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3