Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend
Episodes 11 & 12
by Theron Martin,
In an extremely unusual turn of events, the final two episodes of this season of Saekano – episodes 11 and 12 by official numbering and 12 and 13 overall – were both aired on the same night to wrap up the season. Such things sometimes happen at the beginning of a season (Yuki Yuna Is a Hero did it during the Fall 2014 season, for instance), but normally at the end, any episode which does not fit into the TV schedule gets shuffled off into an OVA. But Saekano, by starting with what would normally be its OVA bonus episode, has proved since the beginning to be anything but entirely conventional.
“Entirely” is the key word there, too, because the series still plays with conventionality. That can be seen here in the predictably sour reactions of Utaha and Eriri to being introduced to MICHIRU; while Utaha gets abrasively testy, Eriri faints and fusses into depression about her perceived role in Aki's life being usurped. The more level-headed Megumi, contrarily, is more accepting of the situation, perhaps because she understands better than the other girls both what relationship dynamics are really going on here and what Aki is truly like: he would never invite MICHIRU to join them with romantic or lecherous intent in mind. Hence she is also the one to set Aki straight when he starts to have doubts after getting somewhat of a scolding from MICHIRU about how he's just dragging the others along for the ride. Woe be the person who underestimates Megumi and her ability to take canny potshots back at those she feels have been unfair to her, however! Unfortunately for Aki, he finds that out the hard way.
Despite Megumi (and later Utaha as well) getting some great lines, the real focus of these two episodes is still on MICHIRU. She is reluctant to get involved in helping to produce Otaku fare, and her father will only sanction her being in her band, Icy Tail, if they have a manager. Naturally she wants Aki to do it, and the hope that it will force him out of his Otaku mindset is a clear secondary motive. The series has repeatedly shown, though, that Aki should also never be underestimated when he sets his mind to a task or makes things happen, such as by ferreting out the truth behind Icy Tail's real character (which MICHIRU didn't even know about!) and using it to reinforce his own special form of persuasion. This is a lot less seedy in execution than it sounds, as he is still giving MICHIRU exactly what she wants and exactly what will fulfill her, just not in the way that she expected. It's a lot stronger justification to build attraction on than what we normally get in harem series.
These two episodes have all sorts of other nice touches, too. Though Eriri is mostly pathetic, she has a couple of good scenes with Megumi where the nature of their relationship with each other progresses a bit. The way the other Icy Tail members are first introduced and then re-introduced when their secret comes out is also handled slickly and amusingly, and the metafictional aspect continues to show in the way the girls define situations in terms of the game that they are creating. Perhaps the ultimate tribute moment in these episodes – and a choice that perfectly-fits what the series conveys about the spirit of Otaku – is when Icy Tail's lead performance number proves to be a cover of “Sorairo Days,” the opening theme for Gurren Lagann. While the scene is far from being on the same level as Haruhi's performance with ENOZ in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (especially on the animation front), it nonetheless serves its purpose well in illustrating how performing on stage brings MICHIRU to life. The series also continues to be playful in how it frames its fan service, whether it be Utaha's penchant for striking poses, the wandering gaze of the camera, or a couple of sexier bits that even other characters comment on looking a certain way despite not being done with that intent.
What these episodes don't do is give the series a sense of finality, either in a thematic or a storytelling sense. Episode 12 does conclude with the circle behind Blessing Software now complete (and thus Aki's harem also now being fully intact) and with one path in the game now complete, so it does at least end at a reasonable stopping point, but the Winter Comiket debut of the game is still two months off and the relationships between both Aki and the girls and amongst the girls do not seem fully settled. By some accounts only about half of the existing light novel content has been animated, so a continuation is certainly possible at this point, and would be necessary to fully round the story out. No such announcement has been made as of this writing, however.
Even so, in the final analysis Saekano has turned out to be a far sharper series than it initially appeared that it would be. It finds ways to be analytical without sacrificing entertainment value and step beyond the basic harem structure while still retaining it, and in the process produce some fun and witty characters and dialogue, too. In a season which has no shortage of strong entries, it is still one of the stronger ones.
Episodes Rating: A-
Overall Series Rating: B+
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