Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 04

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We open in Utaha’s room, where she’s on the phone with her editor Machida, who tells her something so surprising, Utaha moves too quickly and smacks her foot against her desk, hard. This is a mishap that befalls me all too often, and that visceral bang really brings both Utaha and the scene to life. It’s also nice to see that like “Mr. Ethical”—and myself!—she spends much of her creating time…staring at a blank screen.

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Following the credits is a live taste of her work, in which Sayuka chooses her dreams over tearfully clinging to Naoto, even though she truly love him and always will. It’s a nice segue to Tomoya on the train with Kato, who has just blasted through Utaha’s five-volume Metronome in Love series and is impressed with it.

Tomoya couldn’t be happier, as he utterly worships Utako Kasumi, and isn’t afraid to profess it emphatically on the train (Tomoya does a lot of emphatic professing in this episode, all of it good). Notably, he seems capable of separating Utako from Utaha, with whom he shares a past we only see in brief flashes; a past that may have inspired Utako’s work, as well as the Mr. Ethical moniker.

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Utaha’s foot-stubbing shock was a reaction to the news the inteview she didn’t want to do will be performed by none other than Aki Tomoya (I love how diverse his part-time jobs are). Initially, Utaha comes in and puts up a Beast Mode-esque wall, but Tomoya is able to get her to cooperate (sorta) by telling her he took the job so he’d get a chance to learn more about her next book before anyone else.

The interview takes many twists and turns, including Utaha’s assertion that it wasn’t her that made her books take off, it was him. Machida qualifies that by saying Tomoya’s review caused a spike in interest and increased sales at a crucial time for the novel, but I heard Utaha loud and clear: she wasn’t just talking about the publicity or buzz Tomoya provided. I like to think the novels are based, at least in part, on her experiences with “Mr. Ethical”.

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It’s for that same reason that Utaha agrees to show up for their first official circle meeting to talk about the details and responsibilities. Eriri repeats a misstep by going all tsundere at Tomoya before seeing who’s actually in the room with him: Utaha, as well as Kato. Though Kato is mostly out of the frame, I’ve trained myself to keep my eyes peeled for her.

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That’s the last we see of Kato for 90% of this scene. The rest is dominated by Utaha and Eriri alternating between teasing or torturing Tomoya and fighting each other tooth and nail. They turn Tomoya’s lovely whiteboard diagram of the project schedule into a piece of modern art, while Utaha offers to provide funding in exchange for “favors” from Tomoya, which earns Tomoya some twin-tail slaps from an irate Eriri.

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Eventually, they literally toss Tomoya aside and simply start bickering nonstop, with neither girl prepared to give an inch, although Utaha’s calmer demeanor means she’ll have more stamina. Tomoya breaks them up and gets them to work by again appealing to their vanity. Utaha will write up the plot, while Eriri will get some character designs going.

Tomoya asks them if they’re capable of that, and both girls put down their dagger for each other and grab a laptop and a sketchbook. The success of Tomoya’s dating sim depends on how well he can manage/juggle these two undeniably talented but just as undeniably prickly and emotionally needy artists.

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Of course, it also depends, at least form Tomoya’s perspective, on his ability to transform Kato into the ultimate dating sim heroine. Of course, considering she was in the a/v club room that long without any of the other three noticing her, as well as the substantial talent of said artists, I’d argue Kato isn’t really needed for the circle to belt out a decent dating sim. The one who needs Kato, rather, is Tomoya.

At the end of the day, this dating sim is a way for him to make the world care about and worry about and love Kato Megumi just as much as he does. He’s not going to come out and say it, but his actions and demeanor speak louder than words.

The way she affected him when he first “met” her on that hill (and their other encounter, for that matter); the fun they had simply hanging out in his room all night; the way they talk on the phone; and the jealousy he feels when she walks into the restaurant he’s working at with a tall, handsome young man; it’s all there, plain to see.

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I must admit my heart sank a little when I saw Kato with that guy, but it turns out to be her cousin, and they were simply going out to eat because their parents were at the theater. Being an otaku and thus a consumer of media in which blood is not always an obstacle to romance (his voice actor Matsuoka Yoshitsugu also played Kirito in SAO, whose sister liked him), Tomoya is still worried, but Kato makes it clear in her passive way that this is his problem, not hers.

That means, if he feels threatened by the fact she hangs out with her tall, attractive cousin, it’s up to him to step in and take the cousin’s place. So he does: he asks her he can accompany her shopping instead of her cousin, and she accepts instantly.

At that point Tomoya seems worried that it could be construed as a date. As ever, he’s in surface denial about what he has with Kato, even as he embarks on an incredibly tough road to create a dating sim from scratch in time for Winter Comiket that will essentially validate his feelings for Kato to the rest of the world.

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Stray Observations:

  • “What’s with that reaction, like you’re reliving past trauma?” Kato, hitting the nail on the head
  • I was immensely pleased by the fact that Utaha and Eriri drew on each other off-camera.
  • I also enjoyed how they scared Tomoya by telling him just how much they make off their work, with the actual yen figures censored by tweeting birds and gunshots.
  • “I’m gonna take that utterly moe-less heroine and raise her into the ultimate main heroine that everyone will worry about!” Tomoya, not realizing that if Kato wasn’t moe-less, he wouldn’t care about her so much.
  • “Kato, do you understand your position here?”
    “I’m a second-year high school girl with absolutely no agency who was brought into a game circle by the biggest otaku in school?”
    “That’s your pre-transformation, assumed identity! The real Megumi Kato is a pure beautiful dating sim heroine who makes everyone’s hearts beat faster!”

    All of this.
  • Tomoya’s classmates occasionally stopped talking and looked over in his direction, possibly worried that he was raving at himself, due to Kato’s inconspicuousness. Remember Tomoya himself didn’t know she was in his class for a year!
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Author: sesameacrylic

Zane Kalish is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

5 thoughts on “Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 04”

  1. It’s worth noting that the voice actors for Sayuka and Naoto also played Setsuna and Haruhi in White Album 2, Saekano author Maruto’s most noted work. That whole scene played out with a very strong WA2 vibe.

    In a way, Sayuka is a self-insert of Utaha, who is in turn the self-insert of Maruto himself.

  2. Tomoya’s character really annoys me at the moment: there’s just something about his desire to turn Kato into an object of pandering nonsense that gets to me. I get that it’s his sort of weird way to express the impact she made on him when they crossed paths but seeing him try to get her to pander to his tastes is just…it’s just a bit cloying and in some ways it’s like the show is saying that this is what the anime industry is becoming: shallow pandering to otaku’s; which to be honest is kind of cool that the show is doing that but it takes away cool points as well because the show itself doesnt really deviate from what it’s pointing out on or say anything meaningful with the shots it makes; there’s no real commentary and that’s a shame because otherwise this show could be much more intelligent than it tries to be. Anyway kato is truly the heart of this series and the one thing in my opinion that allows this show to be a decent romp. She is so legit and poignant with her quips and it just makes her a breath of fresh air. My only nitpick would be her voice; i know she’s supposed to have a soft and quiet voice but it sounds like the voice director is having the seiyuu lay it on a little thick. Either way, so far this series has got something going for it; i just need to see more brillance for it to truly click with me. Right now, kato is carrying the show for me

  3. *chuckle*

    This episode had 70% Utaha, 20% Utaha/Eriri and 10% Kato. And you pull most of your comments from these 10%? ;)

    Finally the Utaha backstory starts, and it is fantastic – but extremely toned down in the anime (otherwise it would steal too much limelight from Kato/Eriri. Read the manga for the real deal). This is going to be hard, because her story is told “in reverse”. Many details are given and told, but you only understand their significance much later. Especially the connection between Koisuru Metronome and Tomoya is important – and how Utaha addresses him. You did notice how Tomoya painfully flinched and thought of Utaha when Megumi coincidentally used “rinri” (ethics). I only wonder how many people are willing to rewatch and then _really_ understand Utaha’s path. You cannot ‘get it’ on the first pass.

    Anyway, the story is doing fine. Following it with alot of enjoyment!

    1. Oh, don’t get me wrong: Utaha had some great things to say too, but Kato really makes most of her little sliver. Part of why her dialogue with Tomoya has a greater impact on me may have to do with the fact she’s never flustered about him the way the other two girls are, and/or because she doesn’t have any distinct past dealings with him (beyond being in his class and ignored for a year-plus).

      I don’t read light novels or manga, I only watch anime, so I’m never going to go into a show like this with extensive foreknowledge. Therefore, I have to take what the show gives me when it gives it to me.

      Watching Utaha’s backstory slowly trickle out (as you said, backwards, as we see flashes of some kind of dramatic exchange, in addition to the excerpt from Utaha’s LN), I can tell you that from my perspective of a newcomer to the story, I’m not feeling the least bit confused or left out. On the contrary, I think it’s given me a lot. Saekano has already set the rom-com benchmark for the rest of 2015.

      I understand many people, Tomoya included, derive their joy of anime from the fact that in most cases it has been adapted from another form of media they’ve already consumed, but I’m not a big reader or gamer and only really have the free time for the anime. I know I may be against the grain in this regard, but it is the path I’ve chosen.

      Therefore, I don’t consider the joy of someone watching anime having consumed the source material greater—or lesser—than someone who hasn’t. They’re simply different, and equally valid, experiences.

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