Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend – or more properly ‘How to Train an Ordinary Girl to be a Heroine’ – is about an extreme otaku named Tomoya Aki. He runs a popular anime/manga review blog, he’s awkward around women, and he dreams of one day creating the ultimate dating sim. This is where Saekano picks up.
He’s just been struck with his inspiration, his muse if you will, when he notices Megumi Kato standing atop a hill and now he just has to gather together his perfect team (artist, writer, musician, etc.) to create his dream game. And it just so happens that he’s known people perfect for each of these roles for years…
As with so many of the shows this season, this is, in fact, a harem anime. Every one of those ‘people he’s known for years’ is female, they all have some attraction towards him, and he’s completely oblivious to it. Megumi has clearly had some measure of attraction towards Tomoya, given some of her lines throughout the season. Eriri Spencer Sawamura (his closest childhood friend and the artist of the group) and Utaha Kasumigaoka (the writer of the group) both clearly have more-than-platonic interests in him. And yet, despite their interests, he has to convince them to work with him as they are both wildly successful creators in their own right and he has little more than a dream. There are two more girls who get added, to some degree, into the mix but the others are spoilers so I won’t go into too much detail about them.
And it is this concept that sets the stage so well for the anime to be an intelligent and thoughtful entry point to anime, manga, and visual novel tropes and concepts. By having characters who are experts in their respective fields and represent – to some extent – the various archetypes that exist within the medium, the show is able to explore these concepts in a way that is both intelligent and surprisingly accessible. It even manages to explore them without ever feeling preachy. The sense of humour used in presenting these concepts is simply fantastic. The prologue episode is the perfect example of this. The show starts off with this long monologue from the protagonist introducing the characters as he writes the prologue for the game they’re creating. His monologues – both the show’s monologue, and the one he is writing for the game – are cut short as Utaha berates him for his use of monologues to accomplish that.
As to the characters themselves… they’re all fantastic. This is what tropes and clichés are meant for – they give a relatable foundation to build something great off of without too much introduction. Each of the characters show some pretty interesting development, exploring their various histories, personalities, and their reasons for their feelings for the protagonist. With the exception of Megumi, these characters don’t change over the course of the show but you get to explore the various facets of them.
Megumi, on the other hand, grows a great deal over the course of the show – although she maintains the same charm that makes it impossible to not adore her throughout. She has a habit of being unassuming, of blending into the background… and frequently there are scenes where she’ll be present but nobody will notice her. Well, until she suddenly makes some critical comment out of nowhere and shocks everyone. It’s a running joke, but it never really gets old.
Now, we’ve said a lot about the characters and the subject matter, but there are other impressive aspects about this show. The animation is clean and fluid. The level of detail isn’t taken to an extreme like Your Lie in April, but it is very well done nonetheless. The show also features a very interesting use of colour, with certain scenes seeming as though they’re almost meant to be taken as scenes from the game they’re making, taking a pastel hue briefly. It’s very pretty, and something I’ve never seen done before.
The show’s soundtrack is fairly good. Most of the music is decent, with a few incredible standout moments. There is one scene near the end where the group attends an anime cover band concert that has probably the best music in the series. But overall, the soundtrack is relatively good, and the opening and ending themes are catchy.
While I wouldn’t recommend this as the first anime someone watch due to the extremely nerdy subject matter and the harem element, this anime is great for anyone who has watched a few and is looking to get deeper into the fandoms. It explores the culture surrounding doujinshi, visual novels, and otaku in an interesting way. I wasn’t expecting much out of this based off of its English title, but it couldn’t be more misleading… quite simply this is one of the more intelligent shows I’ve seen in a while and if you dismiss it simply because it has a harem in it you’re missing out. It’s not perfect, but it is a great show and one I hope continues.