When a new anime season is starting how do you chose to watch? Adaptations of series you like? It’s by a studio, writer, director, etc you like? It was suggested by friends? You read a write-up? You read the title? That’s exactly how I ended up with Saekano. Did I feel this worked out? Would I suggest it? Would I do it again? (Already did with Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?) Let’s get into the meat of the review to answer these questions!
Saekano follows a huge otaku, Tomoya Aki as he sees the most beautiful girl ever and decides to make a dating sim with her as the main heroine. Tomoya’s room is something I feel they nailed firstly, just look at the above picture of it, he has posters, Nendroids, manga, dating sims, statues and I even recognized some meaning they were mostly real (I everything you could clearly see except the dating sims is real but I’m not sure). The few anime I have seen with a lead otaku seem to use fake anime series or parody but you can clearly see Sword Art Online characters and even Menma from Anohana which is why I love his room so much. Moving on he’s obviously unable to everything in the dating sim (in fact, as we see I’m not sure he actually does anything aside from marketing, minor scripting and the original concept that ending up being changed quite a bit) so he decides to find a writer, artist (and eventually musician and kind of coder). For artist he goes after his childhood friend Eriri Spencer Sawamura, on the surface a typical tsundere personality on the super popular girl but in private, an artist for an 18+ hentai manga. For writer he goes with a girl that writes a romance series Tomoya likes (and became friends with her) Utaha Kasumigaoka. These two hate each other and are both super popular girls in the school causing an interesting dynamic. The 4th member to join starts as just modeling but ends up learning coding just to help Tomoya, Megumi Kato, the boring girlfriend. The final member to join is Tomoya’s cousin (and leader singer/guitarist of Icy Tail) Michiru Hyodo for the music. She only showed up for the last three episodes (and episode 0) but was by far my favourite, just how she acts.
The story, while good spawns one of my biggest issues with the show, far too many conflicts introduced then seemingly dropped. While I really like the fact it works out like Clannad or Grisaia no Kajitsu’s adaptations (following a route order while implying romance would have happened if you played the VN) but I feel that led to problems. For one during what would be Eriri’s route we get introduced to the Hashima siblings which seem to exist purely as a way to get Eriri mad at Tomoya. While the sister Izumi does help the story go along in her own way the brother Iori only derails it. He talks about wanting to ruin Tomoya and take Eriri to join him but doesn’t do anything about it. In fact, the last time he even shows up he’s still mad about whatever and that was only an episode after he was introduced making it feel pointless. We also jump straight from “route” to “route” giving no in between time. I love Little Busters! and Clannad for taking the time when a route ends to do more common route or something else before plunging into the next as it feels like we have a climax, 1 episode break climax again which is a little jarring. From the start it seemed to parody tropes of bad eroge adaptations (even some general anime ones) but the terrible route design is one I wish they didn’t go with.
Now that I have all those negatives out of the way, let’s go onto some good stuff! The comedy is great. As I touched on it is essentially a parody on some of the bad eroge and dating sim adaptations (especially episode 0) and when it tries, the humor is really great. I also like the characters who again, are stereotyped dating sim personalities (tsundere, shy/quiet, loud/annoying but nice, senpai, you could even argue Izumi is the lolli) but they are somehow different and still interesting. I also found Megumi and Tomoya’s relationship kind of interesting. There’s something about the “acting like they’re dating while not dating” I really liked. Also as much as I gave the route style flack earlier, I do like how each of the main characters got significant development and screen time.
This last paragraph is going to cover the last two episodes. While I won’t spoil anything major if you’d like to stay 100% spoiler free just skip to the score widget for my closing thoughts. Anyway the last two episodes (I’ll count it as an hour finale as they both aired the same day and go together) are a mixed bag for me. For one I really like the closing it was trying to do but at the same time they seemed rushed as they were still doing Michiru’s route. I liked the scene with Megumi and Tomoya in the cafe as well as Megumi and Eriri’s moment but it seemed really rushed. There also isn’t proper closure as I mentioned so many loose ends have been left and they didn’t even finish the game. If there’s a second season that fixes all this I’ll gladly retract my complaints but as it stands, with only the possibility but not even a hint, I’m going to have to leave it with a complaint of not wrapping up the story properly.