Review/discussion about: Eromanga-sensei
Names are a vital part to our day-to-day lives.
Mostly because they allow us to identify others. Take myself on the Internet. I go by the name “Banjo” and have done so since I first started taking part in the community. But it’s not just for people. We name pets. We name foods in the wild. We name tracks on a music album.
Without names, we’d be left with describing something without really pinpointing the thing in question. “The dog the Johnsons’ got.” “That one red, rounded fruit.” “That goofball anime writer that always starts his reviews with a prologue and an anecdote.” Clearly possible to do so, but names make it easy to quickly and accurately specify what we encounter.
Same goes for Eromanga-sensei. Its name (formally a title) instantly selects which anime a person is talking about in a conversation. Coincidentally, the name also makes it a simple method of determining which show to chuck farther away than a poison apple.
In Eromanga-sensei, a middle-school boy named Masamune lives with his younger sister Sagiri. Having lost their parents, he works as a light-novel author to support the two of them, and she locks herself in her room almost without a peep. However, Masamune soon learns something surprising: that Sagiri is the famous, perverted online artist named Eromanga-sensei. The same person who draws the illustrations for his own very own works.
This revelation begins the anime on the right foot, thawing the awkwardness of their relationship. Unfortunately, the follow-up melts onto the floor as a bunch of unwelcome puddles that the show gladly stumbles into with each subsequent step.
It muddies its feet first by stepping in blandness. Uneventful competitions and the light-novel approach in general decline the plot’s desire to give the audience appreciable content. For example, the show doesn’t share the details of the stories the characters compose despite how important they are to those reading and writing them. While the process behind their creation (sitting down at a table and clacking on a keyboard) may not have excitement, the story’s decision to ignore the embodiment of the characters’ thoughts and feelings only serves to raise an eyebrow.
Not to mention the constant, weak dialogue about creating something “super-interesting.” They have means. They have skill. They have reasons. So, trading in their penchant for prose and replacing it with the most vague, non-descriptive way to explain the passion behind their projects only further dirties the anime.
Failed drama also swamps the ground, causing Eromanga-sensei to slip and fall some more. Take episode three. Masamune talks with Elf on her mansion’s balcony about why he became a fan of hers to begin with. How her novels let him laugh, staving off melancholy that took over his mind after his parents’ (his dad and step-mom’s) deaths and Sagiri’s reclusion.
A potentially touching scene – but it lacks weight. The anime does not emphasize his loss as a conflict or even something important to the plot. Indeed, it’s rarely brought up at all (especially in the mid-to-later portion of the season), seeming more like an excuse to have Masamune and Sagiri alone together in the same house than a source of drama.
Or take episode four. On that same balcony, Masamune jumps from it to Sagiri’s own balcony in a demonstration of happiness. Again, such a scene should make for a dramatic or at least standalone moment. But instead, the outcome is the “classic” guy-falls-on-top-of-girl scenario, killing any momentum such a moment may have carried in his action.
Now, roughly ten paragraphs in, people may be saying to themselves, “That’s not the point of the show. The writing premise doesn’t matter, and the drama isn’t the focus. Who cares about these details in this rom-com, anyway?” If that’s the case, then the “point” must be somewhere else. Namely in either part of that hyphenated word: romance or comedy.
With Eromanga-sensei’s romance, the puddles only grow larger. Quite quickly, the anime makes it apparent that it will tackle a taboo topic: incest. That’s not anywhere near an issue; stories exist to explore any and all subject manners. No, what is an issue is the fact that the anime remains ambiguous in its delivery. And it happens a bunch throughout the show.
They’re actually step-siblings – but they call each other “little sister” and “Big Brother” to reinforce their relationship.
Masamune will say, in episode two, “Stop with the impossible misunderstanding. Just because we live together doesn’t mean brother and sister have a romantic relationship.” But then, in the same episode, he is stunned to learn that Sagiri will not let him wash her underwear anymore.
Sagiri deserves blame as well. In episode eight, she first says, “I’ll pretend to be your little sister for a bit,” but then later says (to herself), “I’ve gotten much further away.”
The harem aspect also doesn’t work. Every girl either implies or straight up tells Masamune that they will for sure be married one day despite his and the show’s clear intentions.
To the anime, either say it is or it isn’t, for there cannot be any in-between here. Even disregarding the wishy-washiness, a topic this controversial, portrayed with such realism, requires a certain level of tact. But the anime does not provide that. Instead, it showcases indecent scenes with Sagiri (and the other characters) that have no purpose or place in a narrative attempting for believable romance and grounded drama.
“Hold on, bub. The ‘romance’ is all memes. It’s whatever, too.” All right, fine. Excusing the drama and the romance, that still leaves the comedy.
Surprisingly, the comedy does manage to shake off some of the residue from all the puddles it has waded through thus far. A scene like Sagiri frantically slamming her foot on the ground to signal her hunger to an under-time-duress, can’t-hear-her Masamune incorporates the premise in a funny way. The male side character author, who joins their party before the festival, brings a couple laughs when he gives the audience a somewhat outside perspective of the crazy people that they have grown accustomed to and he has now befriended.
It dries off with more funnies, too. Its ecchi jokes about penises. The running gag with Sagiri’s door always swinging open and smashing Masamune’s face. The show “rewinding the tape” as Elf double checks that he is really her next-door neighbor. None of these scenes are downright hilarious or extremely clever, but, all told, Eromanga-sensei finally has a net positive on its hands with the comedy it touts.
Yet when so much of the show (the drama and the romance) must be excused to make way for one passable part (the comedy), it’s tough to justify its merit when it would otherwise be hard to find at the bottom of those puddles. And so, ultimately, it stays soaked from head to toe.
ART & ANIMATION
In general, Eromanga-sensei does not skimp out on movement, giving Masamune and the other characters the reactions and charges they require.
For example, in episode eight, Elf flicks Masamune’s head with her finger to knock some sense into him, and his momentum pushes him backwards while his hands swiftly cover his face. In episode five, Elf rolls around in a sporadic manner to highlight her expressiveness. And Sagiri’s temper tantrum in the second episode is another quick example of the show’s strong animation.
On occasion, though, the anime elevates the fluidity even more. These short segments stand out as both a big positive and a big negative. On the positive side, the noticeable increase in animation gives the show a sharper, skillful look, like when Sagiri stands on her tippy toes while wearing her slippers at the beginning of episode eleven.
On the negative side, these scenes often exploit the situation to an unnerving degree. In episode six, the camera hangs low, aiming at Megumi for a peek at her crotch as she lifts herself up from her bed. Or how, in episode four, Sagiri tries on risqué pink lingerie to model a new pose for her art. In short, these scenes are uncomfortable and unnecessary no matter how much the strict animation flows.
Outside of movement, the anime includes other moments or techniques that improve the artistry. Cute dances from Sagiri in the opening track and the ending track give those songs a fun backdrop. Certain camera cuts capture the comedy, such as when, in episode eight, Masamune’s editor is one extra shot over, forcing the field of view to swing across one more time. The background changing from Sagiri’s room to the hallway without a transition in episode three as Sagiri kicks Masamune out also improves the direction of that scene.
Speaking of backgrounds, Eromanga-sensei doesn’t change its location often, so it doesn’t have very many (if any) chances to showcase its setting and the art itself. While that may explain the extra attention given to the animation, the show still has to appeal elsewhere. Particularly in the characters’ designs.
Said designs are not too shabby. Masamune’s dark-green, spiky hair and plain style are boring, but Muramasa’s yukatas and bandaged fingers give her a mature and skillful vibe (respectively) that fits her character. Sagiri’s colors (teal, silver, pink) meld nicely together, and Elf’s golden locks, frilly dress, and actual (never noticed) elf ears give her the most interesting design of the group.
Altogether, the art and the animation are usually above average in their execution, but those overly exploitive scenes really take away from what the visuals present.
In some regards, the best part in all of Eromanga-sensei is Sagiri’s arc and her gradual change to a (slightly) sociable person.
When the season begins, the show characterizes Sagiri as a talented artist with a knack for lewd drawings. A characteristic that often spills over into her actual life where she cannot repress her need for artistic inspiration from other girls. However, the most important detail about her is the reclusion she sticks to.
The loss of her mother and step-father pushes her into a dark hole. Therein, the only solace she finds is in connecting with people across the world through the Internet under the guise of her famous online persona: Eromanga-sensei. But she cannot even talk to Masamune face-to-face let alone leave her room. In essence, she needs help.
Once Masamune learns of her secret identity, he provides just that, doing what he can to slowly ease her out of her reclusion. He invites over Megumi and Elf who share common interests with the girl and who help her out in their own, supportive ways. He teams up with Sagiri again on a brand new light novel so that they can collaborate together. And, in general, his kind words and sincerity in wanting her to face her fears gently lead her out of her room.
This approach works, but, again, it’s all very slow. She starts to open her door more regularly, and she even starts talking to more people besides just her fans and Masamune (albeit with her signature mask still on). It culminates into an important scene for her character in episode seven. Muramasa wants to defeat Masamune in their writing competition, but Sagiri, having none of that, not only walks down the steps of her own free will but also yells at Muramasa for trying to wreck the dream they pursue.
Eromanga-sensei tries to make such dreams an important part of each character, but they don’t contain much in the way of a thematic presence. They relate to the characters, and they voice them at one point or another, but they are not a source of exploration or top-tier focus within the show.
Still, they are at least consistent. Masamune wishes to watch an anime adaptation of his collaboration with Sagiri. Elf strives to create the most interesting novel in the entire world. Muramasa desires to read Masamune’s genre-specific works.
With dreams in mind, Sagiri works hard to make Masamune’s a reality as he does the same while away at the retreat. She doesn’t follow through on greeting him home at the entrance to their house when he returns, but the two reminisce about their early days while “walking” through the city. How they (unknowingly) spurred each other on to become the artist and writer that they are today after so many years (with another trip down the stairs too).
By the end of the season, Sagiri willingly “invites” Elf and Muramasa to “play” in her room. Without a mask on at that. She even opens her window to say “See you!” to her newfound friends as they say goodbye as well. A metaphor of sorts for her finally opening up and overcoming the troubles that have clouded her mind.
To reiterate, talking to people, walking down some steps, and opening a window may not seem like much. People do all that and more within a few minutes in a single day on a regular basis. But, for someone like Sagiri, who has battled with trauma for a while now, these incremental changes make for a noticeable, healthy improvement to her character and a welcome sight to see.
Unfortunately, beyond Sagiri’s character, the rest of the cast falters. Masamune may be there to encourage his sister, but he doesn’t receive as much individual progress, existing more so to let the other characters play off him instead. Elf is loud and somewhat arrogant, but the anime’s attempts to expound further on her person amount to spilling her thoughts in a confession at a firefly-lit pond. Muramasa does the same during her second or so encounter with Masamune, giving the audience backstory, motive, and a resolution in one fell swoop to make room for her secondary seat on the train to nowhere.
Eromanga-sensei also juggles with too many extraneous characters: Masamune’s editor Ayame, Elf’s older brother Chris, the other male light-novel author Kunimitsu, the bookstore girl Tomoe.
These characters are technically relevant in their tangential relation to either the main cast or the fields in which they work, but they do not do enough to warrant their place within the anime. They slightly vary up the situations presented, but their inclusion rarely (if ever) impacts much of what happens in the show, taking valuable time away from Sagiri and especially the lackluster remainder of the cast.
Thus, Sagiri is the only character in the story who ends up at least worthwhile. And amidst how much the anime gets wrong otherwise, her arc demonstrates that the show can do something right without needing justifications.
MUSIC & SOUND
A lot of the sound work within Eromanga-sensei reaches an average middle ground.
The original soundtrack demonstrates this argument easily enough. In most cases, it has a hard time supporting its various scenes – particularly its comedic ones. When events become slightly more hectic or otherwise sillier than normal, circus-esque tunes kick in, overbearing the interactions with their loudness and their unfitting nature. Yet the OST can prove its worth. A lighter piano-and-flute melody appears every so often, accentuating the sincerity of the show’s scenes whenever it plays.
Similar words apply to the voice acting. Akane Fujita as Sagiri hasn’t had very many main roles as of yet, but her cute responses and soft-spoken manner let her thrive as the little sister. Minami Takahashi as Elf also does well with sarcastic phrasing and a holier-than-thou attitude.
In contrast, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, a veteran among veterans, lends his talent to the anime, but the slight higher-pitched tone for the male teen annoys rather than works. And, for everyone in the VA process, some of the screams out of joy and anger miss the mark.
That initial argument also applies to the opening track and the ending track. Titled “Hitorigoto,” the OP blares its trumpets before mixing in dainty instrumentals, a catchier beat, and harmonized singing. This combination creates a simple first half and an involved second half that results in a passable piece.
The ED, “adrenaline!!”, includes trumpets too, but they take on more of a supportive role than stealing center stage. Plus, the rising and falling in the sounds, the bass and guitar playing, the enthusiastic “Yeah!” shouts, the fun atmosphere of the song itself. Again, nothing special, but it remains much more consistent in its appeal.
So, the OST, the VA performances, the OP, and the ED have parts worth praising, parts that pass, and parts worth criticizing. A combo that places the whole music-and-sound package squarely along that middle ground.
In past reviews of mine, I have brought up my indifference to the loli archetype and how I tune out or laugh off the absurdity of the perversion this medium sometimes tags along with it in the shows I happen to pick up. I tried to do the same here. While I partially succeeded, the problem is its prevalence. It’s around all the time rather than as a one-time thing. The suggestive poses, the deliberate camera angles, the constant reminders of how young they are. Each time it’s ignored, the elephant in the room only grows larger.
That elephant gets in the way of everything else, and that “else” could actually be entertaining.
I like Elf. Her boisterous personality and her teasing behavior made her a nice addition to the cast. I like Muramasa. Her shy, ecstatic reaction when Masamune called her on the phone got the romantic in me cheering. And I like Sagiri. Her “Euaghh!” at the mention of Megumi’s impending arrival and her “I don’t know anybody by that name!” deflection whenever her penname surfaced brought a smile out of me.
Truth be told, if the anime ditched the underage perversion, it would not automatically fix the lack of basic execution in its different areas. Even so, it would have at least given the comedic moments and the characters a chance to shine. To revel in their fun and their cuteness. Instead, that elephant overshadows their chances.
I have one last nitpick, and it really is a nitpick. In episode ten, the characters play a card game, but the illogical rule to always let Sagiri be the leader makes no sense. If Sagiri cannot physically select a card, just give her the last one available. Done. Because otherwise (and as what happens), the scene feels forced and eliminates different opportunities for shenanigans between the characters.
Such an inconsequential detail shouldn’t have bothered me so much, but all the ignoring I was doing made me extra attentive elsewhere in the anime. And what I found was, as the show might put it, “super-uninteresting.”
Eromanga-sensei doesn’t have much going for it, and even what is there doesn’t hold up. The weak structure to its story. The mixed artistry. The lackluster cast. The ill-fitting music. The lost chances. No name drops here. Just chucking it, name and all, very far away.
Story: Terrible, passable comedy cannot justify the bland events, the failed drama, the wishy-washy romance, the lack of tact, and other negative details
Art & Animation: Fine, fluid animation, noticeable techniques in the artistry, and a couple of nice character designs hide the boring backgrounds, but the overly exploitive shots do not sit well
Characters: Bad, Sagiri’s battle against reclusion sees incremental, welcome changes to her person, but the faulty rest of the cast, from lackluster mains to extraneous sides, either do not receive the same dividends or contribute very little
Music & Sound: Fine, with strengths and weaknesses aplenty, the OP, the ED, the OST, and the VA performances find middle ground
Enjoyment: Bad, could be funny and could be cute, but the elephant in the room overshadows
Final Score: 3/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3