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REVIEW: Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend


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John Thacker
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 9:38 am Reply with quote
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More frustrating are the constant haphazard dutch angles, which serve no purpose but making the show more difficult to watch


I don't think that this is completely true. When it comes to the depiction of Megumi Kato, there's a number of Dutch angles, odd framing (and out of frame), out-of-focus, and other strange camera tricks designed to try to play up her refusal to be the heroine character Aki wants her to be. Particularly in conversations where she's supposed to be the focus, the camera will constantly have her off-center or off screen. (Some of the fanservice falls into this category.) On at least one occasion this leads to sort of absurd fourth wall breakage where she leaves the family restaurant and no one notices at first because she wasn't on camera (even though she obviously would have been visible in the other characters' vision.)

Reasonable to disagree about the worth of that purpose, but it did seem to me to be the undoubted stylistic intent behind some of the objectively bad camera angles.
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Animegomaniac



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 10:29 am Reply with quote
John Thacker wrote:
On at least one occasion this leads to sort of absurd fourth wall breakage where she leaves the family restaurant and no one notices at first because she wasn't on camera (even though she obviously would have been visible in the other characters' vision.)


Are you sure it was that reason and not just because she was boring?

I gave up on this show after watching two episodes because I just didn't find it funny... or I didn't think it was as funny as the show thought itself was. No, I didn't think it was funny at all so maybe it was more a difference of opinion of what humor is? The "We're going to work up to this stalemate situation so you better be looking forward to this!" opening episode set up didn't help matters.

The saddest part is that I can see all those otaku designed girls as "real" people while the "real" girl was the fake one. How else do you explain both being supposedly normal but also silently snarky? Obnoxious and snarky or quiet and demure, I can accept those but you really have to be tempered/made to reach that level of societal attachment and dismissal.

"What are you rebelling against?"
"Whatever they tell me."

To be blunt, what would Hachiman think of this girl? She stands so far on the inside, she's an automatic outsider... because reasons... otherwise she wouldn't be mixing with a Japanese geek crowd this concentrated?
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killjoy_the



Joined: 30 May 2015
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 10:33 am Reply with quote
Animegomaniac wrote:
The saddest part is that I can see all those otaku designed girls as "real" people while the "real" girl was the fake one.


Yeah, this is a thing I ended up thinking about Kato as well afterwards. Eriri and Utaha are pretty much embracing their "generic harem girl" personalities and running with it, but Kato kind of stands on the edge of "normal" but also seems like she was written specifically to pander to the self-aware otaku that would most like the self-referential humor of the show.
I can't say it didn't work, though. Kato was the only thing I actually liked on the show, but wasn't enough to get me to finish it.
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WingKing



Joined: 27 Apr 2015
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 10:44 am Reply with quote
That's how I saw those Kato scenes as well, John.

And as far as the fanservice goes, a significant portion of that was, as I saw it, intended to emphasize Tomoya's discomfort with girls in general, and certain types of girls in particular. This is a guy who, by his own admission, is much more at ease dealing with 2D girls than 3D anyway, and its always in the scenes where he's alone in close quarters with these girls, and feeling uncomfortable or off-balance, that the fanservice levels suddenly skyrocket and the camera can't stop peeking at their bodies. This is especially true of the scenes with Utaha and Michiru, who are more physical types, much more open about expressing their sexuality and teasing and flirting with him. In those scenes, like the hotel room in episode 6 and Michiru in his room in episode 10, the way the fanservice is framed is a window into Aki's mental state, as if he's desperately looking for a safe place to keep his eyes but can't resist sneaking peeks at the same time; these girls are fascinating temptations that he can't help noticing even as he's desperately trying not to. From what I remember, there's a lot less of that in the scenes where he's alone with Eriri and Kato, both of whom are more "cute" than "sexy," have more reserved personalities, and tend to challenge him verbally more than physically, so he's slightly more at ease being around them.

This was a B+ show for me. I don't normally like harem comedies, but this one really struck a chord with me for whatever reason. I did need time to warm up to it, though. Kato was the only thing that kept me in it through the first few episodes until it started getting good on its own. After the series was over I went back and watched episode 0 again, which I didn't much care for the first time around, but watching it again having gotten to know the characters and by then understanding more of the show's visual language and how it employed those odd cuts and angles and chose its fanservice moments, episode 0 suddenly turned into a totally different episode the second time around, and a much better one.
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Key
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 11:16 am Reply with quote
Animegomaniac wrote:
I gave up on this show after watching two episodes because I just didn't find it funny... or I didn't think it was as funny as the show thought itself was. No, I didn't think it was funny at all so maybe it was more a difference of opinion of what humor is?

Saekano isn't a laugh-a-minute show, so if you were wanting anything close to that then you were correct to drop it when you did. It definitely has its laugh-out-loud moments (or at least I thought it did), but I never felt it actually focused enough on being humorous to properly call it a comedy.

Anyway, I'm glad that Nic volunteered for this one, as of all of the series that I have done episode reviews for so far, this was one of the two or three that I most wanted to see a second opinion on. I definitely agree that this is a "love it or hate it" kind of series, as even though I generally gave it higher marks, I could always easily see how people could dislike it, too.
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Sahmbahdeh



Joined: 05 May 2015
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 11:47 am Reply with quote
Wow, talk about differing opinions. I enjoyed this show a lot more than I thought I would given the premise. The meta-humor and self-awareness were very well-implemented, and the artistic direction was actually one of my favorite things about the show; the color changes and camera angles were very visually appealing and not at all hard to watch. Also, I think the show offers a very realistic look at and understanding of the frustrations of trying to work on a creative project, especially when working with others.
Overall, I'd give the show a B.
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Via_01



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 11:56 am Reply with quote
I understand Nick's complains, but for me, Saekano was a fun experience. None of what he mentioned bothered me too much. It's a "love or hate" show that I loved, and marked it as one of my favorite shows of that season.

I can agree that the direction wasn't good though. That's mostly what made me not enjoy it as much as I should.
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Bobduh



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:07 pm Reply with quote
WingKing wrote:
And as far as the fanservice goes, a significant portion of that was, as I saw it, intended to emphasize Tomoya's discomfort with girls in general, and certain types of girls in particular. This is a guy who, by his own admission, is much more at ease dealing with 2D girls than 3D anyway, and its always in the scenes where he's alone in close quarters with these girls, and feeling uncomfortable or off-balance, that the fanservice levels suddenly skyrocket and the camera can't stop peeking at their bodies. This is especially true of the scenes with Utaha and Michiru, who are more physical types, much more open about expressing their sexuality and teasing and flirting with him. In those scenes, like the hotel room in episode 6 and Michiru in his room in episode 10, the way the fanservice is framed is a window into Aki's mental state, as if he's desperately looking for a safe place to keep his eyes but can't resist sneaking peeks at the same time; these girls are fascinating temptations that he can't help noticing even as he's desperately trying not to.


I was actually thinking about this as I was watching, since this is a trick Monogatari pulls all the time, but ultimately I felt the use of the framing just didn't strongly support the argument. It felt more voyeuristic than purposeful, and not really reflective of where Aki's head or eyes might theoretically be at. And the fanservice was consistent in a lot of scenes where Aki's perspective couldn't be relevant (like checking in on Utaha during an e-conference, for example), so the point would have been muddled either way.
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Lemonchest



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:16 pm Reply with quote
I found Saekano to be 12 episode of watching a writer indulge in smug, self-satisfaction & a director with no thoughts beyond "what would Shinbou do?" An endless stream of "look at this cliche harem moment. Isn't it funny how cliche it is?" meta-jokes that might have been funny 10 years ago when Genshiken made them better & didn't feel the need to repeat the same ones every damn episode.

Kato was a novel character of sorts, but by the end of the series the show seemed to have forgotten about her to the point that she was actively trying to find things to do in the group, despite supposedly not being interested in any of it. Yes you can say that transition was part of her character arc, but my point is that it only seems to happen because otaku MC has forgotten about her (& his game) in favour of chasing his little sister character around Comicon & shouting at the tsundere for not being a good enough artist, or whatever. But I suppose watching super otaku MC get his head caught in cleavage (or stockings as seemed to be this shows particular fetish) & shouting at girls for not understanding just how serious being an otaku is pandered better to the intended audience.

Fudge this show & every other smug meta-comedy that openly revels in how unoriginal it is because "it's ironic, innit?"


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Niyari



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:18 pm Reply with quote
one of my personal favorites. although i'm not familiar with the doujin scene, i am a huge fan of visual novels so it was easy to resonate with that aspect of the series. i wish dialogue driven shows with smart writing like this and oregairu were more common
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Jackanapes



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:39 pm Reply with quote
This is a style I really don't like as I too find it distracts from just being able to tell a story and makes shows come across as self-absorbed and more concerned with celebrating it's own tropeness than entertaining me and getting me to care about it. It almost makes them feel cynically written in a way and like the writer feels more clever than he actually is which is a shame because I liked his other work White Album 2 a lot and this has none of what made that so great, quite the opposite really with strong characters that don't particularly fit into any specific mold and where it's carried by the storytelling and drama, not any sort of meta-level self awareness. Like Nick it's that I know that he's better than this style of writing and meta focus that frustrates me as much as anything.

In the long run it's just like what's the point really. You're not successfully riffing, surpassing or standing above those tropes if you're employing them yourself and it doesn't change the fact that they are there either if anything it just becomes simple lampshading. The people you are aiming at are probably already aware of those tropes as well because they are so overused so why are you not using that valuable time to develop a better character or take things in another direction if you are aware of the tropes out there. I remember hearing that a producer once commented to the writer that nothing else matters with the show as long as they have cute girls so maybe that is in fact the sole point of it all at the end of the day.

Like Lemonchest the experience pretty much also inspired the thought of "these guys are just trying to copy Shinbou and Monogatari here" and if not quite as self-indulgent as I found that franchise it's probably a close second in recent times and definitely part of that whole wave of light novels. I'll be actively avoiding these kinds of shows in the future and figure there will probably be more because for whatever reason cynical self-absorption seems really in with anime these days. You can look at this season and probably find at least 3-5 shows that fit the bill at that and feel like they were taken from the pages of "what would Shinbo do?".


Last edited by Jackanapes on Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:53 pm; edited 1 time in total
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WingKing



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:48 pm Reply with quote
Bobduh wrote:
I was actually thinking about this as I was watching, since this is a trick Monogatari pulls all the time, but ultimately I felt the use of the framing just didn't strongly support the argument. It felt more voyeuristic than purposeful, and not really reflective of where Aki's head or eyes might theoretically be at. And the fanservice was consistent in a lot of scenes where Aki's perspective couldn't be relevant (like checking in on Utaha during an e-conference, for example), so the point would have been muddled either way.


That's true, and that was the show being guilty of wanting to have its cake and eat it too (I haven't seen Monogatari so I won't even try to address that), one of the reasons I can't give it higher than a B+. There's definitely a constant level of low-to-moderate fanservice throughout that goes well beyond just the limits of Aki's perspective (like the mostly unnecessary scene with Eriri changing in ep 9, for instance). BUT, every single time Aki was trapped in close quarters with Utaha or Michiru or feeling overwhelmed by them, the fanservice suddenly jumped by about three orders of magnitude. If that happened once it might be coincidental, but when it's every single time, it's obviously being done deliberately. And to me the dominant feeling I got watching those scenes was discomfort and awkwardness, more than prurience. Which, if they're trying to put the viewer inside Aki's state of mind as a totally inexperienced teenage boy, is exactly what the viewer should be feeling.
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Yttrbio
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:58 pm Reply with quote
Jackanapes wrote:
In the long run it's just like what's the point. You're not successfully riffing, surpassing or standing above those tropes if you're employing them yourself and it doesn't change the fact that they are there either. The people you are aiming at are probably already aware of those tropes as well because they are so overused so why are you not using that valuable time to develop a better character or take things in another direction if you are aware of the tropes out there.
"riffing, surpassing, or standing above" are not the only ways you can openly use tropes, though. This show occasionally riffed on the tropes, but I felt it was aiming for good execution within the tropes more than anything else. I think we're trained to assume that, when we see a trope openly called out, the show is trying to criticize it, but once I shut off that automatic reaction, I found the show incredibly smart and compelling.

While it's not White Album 2 level stuff, I thought the show spent plenty of time developing good characters, particularly in Utaha and Eriri. I think it was more focused on the idea of creativity and how it relates to creators and consumers, though, and that's where its most compelling stuff can be found.

I certainly didn't find the trope indulgence to be anywhere near as thematically all-consuming as the reviewer did. That was the language it used to communicate, not the content of the message. It reminded me a lot of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, which had the trappings of a romantic comedy, but had a lot of interesting things to say about ambition, frustration, and envy in the creative process.
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dtm42



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 1:15 pm Reply with quote
I dropped this after five episodes. I'd actually forgotten about this show, and for a moment I thought it was the other recent self-aware otaku show, When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace. Since I can't remember much I'll just copypaste what I wrote originally.

----------

It's smarter than the average otaku-targeted harem show, I'll give it that. But the two leads are the show's two biggest weaknesses. Megumi, the female lead (yes, I do consider her as such, and not just because she's the titular character), is bizarrely passive and creepily calm, to the point where she's not a character but more like a plot device. But while Megumi is weird, I could tolerate her. The bigger problem is Tomoya, the male lead, who pisses me off with his obnoxious over-the-top rants. One wonders how closely connected to reality; not very, I'd say. Yoshitsugu Matsuoka has unfortunately made a career out of playing badly-realised male leads in badly-written series, although he's certainly done well out of it. Anyway, whether it was his fault or the director's, his performance as Tomoya just destroys the character. It's pretty damning that - after four regular-season episodes - I have zero investment in Tomoya's goals or his character in general. And before you think that I don't like him because he's an otaku, think again. Keima from The World God Only Knows is very similar to Tomoya in terms of being a hardcore otaku who regularly rants about how things 'ought' to be, but Keima is interesting and sympathetic and funny, whereas I just want to punch Tomoya to shut him up.

If Tomoya had been a much better character - and if Megumi had shown some personality - I would have enjoyed this series. It had potential, it did a lot right, it was just let down. That's a shame.

----------

Man, looking back on what I wrote earlier, it really does seem like I had this weird fixation with Tomoya. Of course it wasn't just him that annoyed me - the show had other issues as well such as its directional choices, and I thank Nick for highlighting most of them - but he is the main character after all. So I think it is reasonable to focus on the MC because if I can't stand him (and I couldn't) then my enjoyment of the show as a whole is going to suffer (which it totally did).
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Lemonchest



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 1:19 pm Reply with quote
One thing it did have in common with Inoubattle: they both had what I guess is a new feature in meta-joke light novel where one of the female characters has a big "why can't you be normal/notice me?" meltdown rants before she meekly steps back into place.
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