Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 08

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Eriri is gorgeous and talented, but she’s also a very sensitive soul. Way back in episode 0, we see that she’s a “sad drunk”, too bashful to participate in torturing Tomoya, and going on about how “mean” he is. At the time, she’s echoing her fellow female doujin circle members’ grievances about him working them too hard without any praise, but this week, we get a clearer picture of just the kind of “meanness” she’s on about.

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But it doesn’t start off that way…or does it? Tomoya is helping Eriri finish up her work; it’s a “nice guy” thing to do, but when Kato comes over and for once, becomes the center of his attention, it’s Eriri in her training suit who fades into the background. Worse still, Tomoya and Kato get all comfy playing a game Eriri let Tomoya borrow eight years ago and never gave back. Kato even uses Eriri’s favored knight archetype: the childhood friend, natch.

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In the flashback to the exchange of that game, Tomoya and Eriri only have eyes for and interest in each other. Tomoya is excited by her drawings, and Eriri enjoys the attention and praise drawing gives her. You see, even back then, in Muppet Babies land, a very similar dynamic to the one we have in the present; the major difference being Eriri is no longer his one and only. She’s only one of many within twin circles of creativity and romance. Tomoya’s attention is divided.

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Still, when she comes to a good stopping place, Eriri can’t wait to play the game, while Kato is away. Notably, we don’t see her leave, but she’s downstairs making dinner, and for a few glorious minutes it’s just Eriri and Tomoya playing video games, the way it used to be. Remembering those good times, their history, and the fact Tomoya is helping her out, she assures him she won’t be poached away by Iori. She’s his; for the duration of the game project, and beyond, as long as he likes.

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In this assurance, Eriri is actually responding to an issue Tomoya brought up but she put off so she could play the video game. Bolstered by nostalgia and with a little time to think while playing, she gives him her decision. But the fact he sounded like he wouldn’t stop her if she did decide to sign with Iori to send her career into the stratosphere was a troubling sign that Tomoya just isn’t properly attuned to his childhood friend who wouldn’t mind being more.

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When Tomoya takes Kato to the first day of the Summer Comiket, well, it’s another case in point of the increasing division of Tomoya’s attention. Even Kato is somewhat edged out when they bump into Izumi.

Kato demonstrates great patience throughout the episode, and also fires off some truly awesome comebacks to Tomoya’s comments about their surroundings. But between Izumi and the spectacle of Comiket itself Tomoya pretty much ignores her, which is kind of shitty.

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Kato plays things far cooler than Eriri, but you can tell she’s pissed, and that there’s even some sincerity in the words above, despite the fact they were delivered intentionally devoid of emotion. That deadpan is more than just a charming virtue of Kato’s. It’s also a shield, though as we see, even though they’ve just met, Izumi can kind of tell she’s mad Tomoya is going so far out for another girl.

The reason for him going so far for Izumi is that she’s actually pretty damn good for someone who’s only been in this game for a year. Tomoya is drawn to one page that was clearly hastily drawn, but also well-drawn; the result of the story changing at the last minute, forcing Izumi to discard the finished art and draw new art.

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Her devotion, dedication, energy, and integrity put a spark in Tomoya, who proceeds to orchestrate a simple but effective marketing program that gets all 100 of Izumi’s books sold, a genuinely amazing feat, as artists on as low a rung as Izumi rarely sell more than 10% of their stock.

One of her customers was Eriri in disguise, pulling off a fairly good facsimilie of Kato’s Stealth Mode. But she clearly wasn’t just there to shop; she watched Tomoya go nuts for Izumi’s sake, then read Izumi’s book and saw it the same way he did—as pretty decent stuff. And that’s the problem. First Kato played her and Tomoya’s game, Izumi is moving in on her and Tomoya’s other special connection: his passion for her artwork.

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While her perspective is obviously skewed, we and Eriri both saw Tomoya exhibit a ridiculous amount of joy and passion, and the fact that she’s not the source of it cuts her to the quick. Tomoya really digs his hole deep by refusing to give Eriri a direct answer to the question “Is my stuff better than hers or not?” It’s an unfair question, but one could argue that it’s being asked to an unfair person by a girl in an unfair position.

Also, Tomoya has known Eriri for years now. Even if they’ve only just reconnected as friends in earnest, he should know of her sensitivity, and her need to be validated. Dodging her questions in her vulnerable state, so soon after she witnessed him fawning over Izumi, veers toward the cruel. But I’m not saying humoring her would have turned out any better, as the damage had been done throughout the episode.

And now, even after halfway through Eriri’s place in Tomoya’s circle seemed secure, the possibility of being poached is back on the table. I leave this episode liking Eriri more and Tomoya less. Here’s hoping he makes things right.

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Author: sesameacrylic

Zane Kalish is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

3 thoughts on “Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 08”

  1. I’ve decided that Aki’s a jerk. I don’t think it’s deliberate, though; I think his social skills are just utterly atrocious and he gets so fixated on his own feelings that there’s no room left in his head to think about other people or their feelings. And therein lies the problem for both Utaha and Eriri. They both appreciated how he recognized – and validated – the quality of their work, but his passion was always directed first and foremost at their work, not at them; he placed more value on them as creators than as people. When you’re an adolescent in love, though, it’s not hard to conflate the two and turn “he likes my work!” into “he likes me!”

    Another thing about Eriri – remember they had that exchange early in the episode where Aki notes the consistency of her artwork in each panel, and she says producing rushed, sloppy art just to meet her deadline would insult her buyers. Aki doesn’t directly reply to that, he just bridges from it to discussing her pro prospects. Fast forward to Izumi’s doujin where she finished her book with rushed, sloppy art just to meet her deadline – exactly what Eriri said she won’t do – and yet Eriri sees Aki up there stumping like crazy for it. So when she’s complaining that he’s never given so much effort to promote her work and asking him point blank if her stuff is better than Izumi’s, it’s not just about comparing them as doujin authors, it’s also about whether he actually prefers Izumi’s sloppy/inconsistent art paneling over her carefully polished stuff. His refusal to answer makes it seem like he isn’t just rejecting her, but her entire creative philosophy – which is frankly not a smart thing to do to your circle’s hand-picked art designer.

    1. Well put; he IS a jerk, but it’s…complicated, as you say. Eriri and Utaha are definitely mistaking his enthusiasm and attention for something else.

      I’m glad you compared how he reacted to Eriri’s consistency to Izumi’s more rushed work. Whether or not he actually prefers Izumi’s to Eriri’s, the fact of the matter is he holds them to different standards.

      At this point in Izumi’s “career” as a doujin author, it’s more important to be bold and stand out, which is exactly what the art he blows up to make a placard is. If Izumi had Eriri’s amount of experience, I’m sure he’d judge her work in a different way.

      The thing is, Tomoya is trying to split hairs and make distinctions between two different authors with very different circumstances. But he’s not being sensitive to Eriri’s feelings, and isn’t perceptive or socially savvy enough to know how to be diplomatic. The fact he essentially ignores Eriri’s wounded state of mind in that moment lends credence to Eriri’s claim “doesn’t feel anything.”

      After Eriri’s outburst, I’m hoping Tomoya WILL eventually realize what he’s doing without having it spelled out as we have.

    2. Tomoya’s situation with Kato is a little different. While Eriri and Utaha conflate his love for their work with love for them, Kato seems to be more aware that Tomoya isn’t paying attention to her out of specific romantic interest, but because like Utaha’s writing or Eriri’s art, he’s drawn to her offbeat personality.

      There’s a distinction between “girlfriend” and “main heroine” that Kato gets. That doesn’t mean she likes it, but she’s not confusing Tomoya’s attention for something else, and I think she’s exercising patience for now.

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