Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 11

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It sounds like Hannah was pretty disappointed about her show squandering its promise…though that’s partly on her for even remotely thinking that show was going anywhere daring or compelling.

Not to be smug, but didn’t have that problem with this latest Saekano. Last week focused heavily on the wild card Machiru, setting her up as someone who could genuinely challenge Tomoya, who was in need of some challenging in the midst of all his ladykillin’.

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What last week failed to do was show us what would happen when his harem came into direct contact with his purple-haired, skantily-clad cousin. The results were momentous; everything I hoped for and more. Utaha hawkishly defends otaku culture, while an initially flabberghasted Eriri even finds some common ground when Machiru mentions that, on some rare occasion, Tomoya can be cool and come through for you.

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We also find that exposing oneself to Michiru isn’t enough to convince her to compose your dating sim’s soundtrack; far from it. In fact, part of what gets Utaha so steamed is Michiru’s outsider-looking-in perspective of Tomoya, and his obsession with otaku culture, is something to mature out of rather than cultivate. When Michiru disses Tomo, she disses everyone in that room. Except for Kato…who is definitely in that room…watching and waiting.

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Michiru’s reasons for not jumping into Tomoya’s project go beyond her semi-maternal dubiousness with his present course in life. She’s got her own dream of being in a band, after all. When she says she needs a manager to appease her dad, Tomoya is eager to step in, but when she tells him it won’t be a part-time job, it becomes her dream versus his. That’s right: Michiru isn’t perfect; she’s selfish too.

What’s so awesome is how much sense her selfishness makes. She’s known Tomoya all their lives; and she has an idea what he could and should be that just doesn’t jibe with what he is and wants to be. But it’s her affection and concern for him, not merely her own self-interest, that comes through when she says this manager job could be just the excuse he needs to drop this whole gamemaker charade.

And she calls it a charade because she had a good look at his fellow circle members. While she’s well aware that they all have their reasons for being in that circle (calling Tomoya a sly dog in the process), she doubts their commitment to making the game is anywhere near Tomoya’s level.

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Of course, we know better, and so should Tomoya, but Michiru’s words create genuine conflict in his heart. Suddenly he’s not just the fumbling leader of a haremy doujin circle, but a guy trying to find out whether his dream is really as quixotic as she says. But Kato is up all night at Eriri’s working on the game, knowing Tomoya is a week behind; and Utaha is up too. They’re all working their pants off while he worries.

He then makes the best decision of this episode and calls Kato early in the morning, and they have this lovely, natural boyfriend-girlfriend phone conversation, in which he voices his anxieties.

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Yet again, Tomoya luxuriates in the very thing he has no idea he has with Kato, yet simultaneously must know on some level he has. Kato gets him out of his house, where he’d been worrying all night rather than working, and gets some breakfast into him, ever the practical mind. But in an ingenious gambit, she talks through the game prototype to comfort and reassure him.

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And in an even more ingenious and somewhat diabolical scheme, she keeps her hand firmly planted on Tomoya’s and the mouse as the dialogue starts going to places Tomoya rather wouldn’t; things about having feelings for attractive cousins, something to which she can relate.

While Kato claims the dialogue was simply random, let’s get real: there’s no way it was random. This was calculated payback for Tomoya “steppin’ out” on Kato, and it was absolutely glorious. For the first time in a while, she’s able to make Tomoya squirm as much as Michiru.

At the same time, she proves how good she is for him by picking up his slack without even being asked to, and not feeling forced or obligated to. It’s a brilliant dynamic.

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His confidence in the project thus restored, and his apology delivered, he shares an earbud with Kato so she can hear Michiru’s music, and she agrees that she’d be perfect for the soundtrack. And it could be that Kato’s little piece of mischievousness also inspired Tomoya to come up with a plan to snag his cousin.

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As he is a man of wide-ranging otaku means and connections, he’s able to get Michiru’s band a slot at a live performance, a gesture he uses to prove to her he can be an effective manager. In turn, Michiru lets him see her get teary-eyed for the first time since he carried her on his back when she twisted her ankle years and years ago. She also apologizes, admitting she was being selfish.

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Thus, Tomoya has his cousin right where he wants her: in his debt. Tomoya looks awfully proud of himself as the episode cuts to black, but I’m certain more compromises are in store for him, and managing both Michiru’s band and a circle full of girls competing against each other won’t be a cakewalk either.

Still, I’m willing to come out and say these past two episodes cemented Michiru’s place as my second-favorite girl after Kato. As she demonstrated quite emphatically, there’s simply no beating Kato!

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P.S. I’ll be watching Saekano’s final (for now) episode later tonight and hopefully have a review of it up not long thereafter.

Author: sesameacrylic

Zane Kalish is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

6 thoughts on “Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 11”

  1. was it ever implied that Kato had some sort of attraction to her cousin? i thought she was aware of his potential but still friend-zoned the shit out of him

    1. Kato attracted to her cousin? Nah. Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that. However, Kato is aware that Tomoya doesn’t like her cousin being anywhere near her, and Kato also knows how Tomoya’s imagination works, so she was just using all that to have a bit of fun with him!

      1. yea that’s exactly what i got out of that scene; hahaha sorry i was just making sure we were on the same page

  2. Another thing I liked: how often have we seen the trope play out in romantic/harem comedies where the girl does something unexpected (like leaving right after class without telling the guy), and the guy immediately jumps to the worst possible conclusion and turns something that wasn’t an issue into a big blowup? Not here. Tomoya and Kato not only trust each other, they’re actually capable of communicating with each other, which is very refreshing. And the way Kato makes her point with him through the medium of the game, in a way that speaks to him on his level and makes it impossible for him to miss the point, was really clever.

    I went back and watched episode 0 after the series ended, and it was a very different experience the second time, now that I know all these characters. The only point that initially seemed inconsistent with how the story developed was when Tomoya called Kato “too reactive” during their walk together. Initially that was true, but not in these last few episodes. But then I realized Kato was still being stealthy even about her proactiveness. Most of her actions were either pretty subtle or done without Tomoya’s knowledge – organizing the all-nighter with Eriri, nudging Tomoya to the realization that Michiru was playing anime music, dragging Eriri off to the concert, etc. Tomoya’s the leader of the circle, but she’s been quietly backing him to the hilt, helping him keep things on track and looking after the happiness of the other girls (especially Eriri) in ways that he doesn’t even realize.

    1. Some really nice thoughts up there. I agree with pretty much everything!

      I have to confess that the quality of Saekano’s characters and the intricacy of their motivations and actions makes me a bit weary of the rom-com harems coming up this Spring, from the sequels to Oregairu and Nisekoi to newcomers like Denpa Kyoushi.

      After watching Saekano parody, subvert, or break so many conventions of the genre, while simultaneously executing those very same conventions at a very high level, I forsee my patience for ‘returning to the rut’, for lack of a better term, will be duly tested next month.

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