Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend
by Theron Martin,
To date Saekano has not been big on dramatic tonal shifts within an episode, though one definitely hit at the end of episode 8. We see more of that in episode 9 as the fall-out from Eriri blowing her top last episode continues. Just when you think it is going down a predictable path, though, it takes a surprising turn. Eriri is not pulling any punches as she lays her grievances (fairly or not) on Aki, but Aki astonishes by breaking out of his Male Harem Lead mold and actually swinging back.
And this isn't the lame complaining about her not being fair argument, either, or him merely defending what he's interested in. No, he lays into Eriri heavy and hard, the way only two people who have known each other for a long time could do, and thus throws back in her face his own passel of long-standing grievances. The title of the episode, “One-on-one Route After 8 Years,” speaks to the substance of his counter-complaints: Aki feels that Eriri abandoned him back in elementary school when staying in the good graces of other girls necessitated (she felt) that she publicly distance herself from Aki and their budding otaku interests. That she agonized over having to do that does not change the fact that Aki took years to get over that rejection and was, by any reasonable interpretation of the scenario, the wronged party. That muddies any ground she had to stand on about being peckish about Aki supporting Izumi's work more enthusiastically than hers, but Aki does not even let her off that easily; he goes for the second salvo by pointing out that he was more enthusiastic about Izumi's work because it was just plain better than her most recent production, and that for all of Eriri's talent and work ethic, she's simply not great yet. And that stings even worse since Eriri has apparently always regarded her work as at least partly a rebuttal to those she felt forced her into the situation where she rejected Aki.
So yeah, it's a pretty big emotional dump on both sides, and in some respects it is reminiscent of Hatoko's famous rant in episode 7 of When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace. But it is also the kind of thing that needed to happen both to air out the tension between the two and to help keep the series from sliding in a more traditional harem direction. Not just passively accepting the fickleness of the tsundere character is actually a pretty big step forward as harem series go.
On the lighter side – and there definitely is one to the episode – Utaha actually makes an appearance in this episode, complete with comments about how she had to make the most of things since she did not appear in last episode. Megumi once again gets some of the sharpest lines as she and Utaha try to help Aki cope with Eriri's behavior, and aside from Utaha's direct fourth-wall-breaking comments, the metafiction shows up in her comments about how Aki's wishy-washy behavior is so typical of a male harem lead. Why Eriri's parents would tolerate selling her doujinshi at Comiket is also made clearer. (Her mother seems to appreciate being the presence of so many men.) We also even get some mild fan service as Eriri is conspicuously shown in her lingerie, though the way that scene is framed it could be interpreted as symbolic of her being emotionally undressed instead of just a play for sex appeal.
The pacing through this episode also makes it even clearer that Saekano is not designed with being a single-season series in mind, as I can see no conceivable way at this point that it could satisfactorily wrap in only two more episodes. It will either have a second season (not yet announced) or end very awkwardly.
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