Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend
by Theron Martin,
Whether a guy or a gal, simultaneously maintaining the romantic interest of multiple members of the opposite sex should be a delicate balancing act; favor one even a little (even if unintentionally) and you risk either angering or driving off others. In recent years harem series have taken a dodge to this by having love interests that were fully content to either be a second woman or be part of an actual harem. For a while now Saekano has been taking a somewhat different approach to making it easy on Aki: Utaha and Eriri have tolerated Megumi because they understand and accept, however reluctantly, that she is essential for what Aki is trying to accomplish. The introduction of Izumi, though, has upset that delicate balance. We saw it some last episode when Megumi actually finally got perturbed about something because of her, and in this episode Aki gets blindsided when his enthusiasm for helping to promote Izumi's doujinshi at Comiket is taken as a slight by Eriri.
Actually, that is more the last straw than a singular point of aggravation for Eriri. The first blow came earlier in the episode when Megumi, who decided to study an old dating sim familiar to both Aki and Eriri while they were working on finishing her doujinshi for Comiket, opted for what had long been Eriri's favorite path. Given some flashbacks at the beginning of the episode and Eriri's reaction to Megumi's choice, she clearly regarded it as an interference with what had once, for her, been an exclusive connection she had with Aki. Thus when she later saw Aki putting in extra effort to promote Izumi's doujinshi at Comiket (which turned out to be surprisingly good), something that he had never done before for her, she felt it as a slap in the face – and the fact that Aki clearly did not comprehend that he was causing her any grief by doing so did not assuage her one bit, especially when he, of the strong, forthright opinion, was left practically speechless for how to talk his way out of the situation. That he failed to interpret Eriri's rejection of the offer Iori made last episode as a statement of where her loyalties and feelings lay (even after he had admitted himself that the offer was good for her if she wanted to make a career of manga work) certainly didn't help, either. When pragmatism and idealism collide, nothing muddies the waters worse than adding love into the mix. A nice touch is the way a stoplight changing colors is used as both a backdrop and symbolic representation for the state of Aki and Eriri's relationship during their climactic confrontation.
With Utaha entirely absent, most of the rest of the focus falls on Izumi (who gets some mild fan service treatment) and Megumi, who once again gets some great lines as matter-of-factly replying to Izumi's references to her as Aki's girlfriend. (“Since I'm being mistaken for his girlfriend and all, get your mitts off my Tomoya, you homewrecker.”) That she gets the tone completely wrong, even with a color shift to highlight the scene, just makes it funnier. Aki's passion for his hobbies also shines brightly here, and while the behind-the-scenes details about Comiket are hardly fresh, they are nonetheless interesting, too.
Overall, a combination of clever wording and precisely-used displays of passion help make this episode one of the best yet. The one concern is that the pacing of the show seems much too gradual for it to be a single-season series. If is meant to go to 24-26 episodes, though, then it should be just fine.
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