From the past few episodes I knew this series would be around the 70’s rating range for me. I’m not such a huge fan of harem series however Saenai hits a lot of the right notes in being unconventional. Based on a light novel series hat leads to collection of successful witty narratives between different female tropes about doujin creation. If only the creators took the time in developing some kind of tie-in to how a dating sim game is created. Perhaps they should have taken note from Bakuman was with the manga industry and how it had gradually shifted nicely between making serialization deadlines to timeframe of artwork and writing chapters. I hope that the second season rectifies this glaring issue for me. Aside from that the pacing in this is gradual, something that director Kanta Kamei knows really well on how to achieve after seeing his work on Usagi Drop.
The music score by Hajime Hyakkoku is toned down in the impact and yet a lot of the pieces throughout Saenai‘s episodes end up being up-lifting. Tons of keyboard compositions. Similar to his other works on K-On! and Gugure! Kokkuri-san.
This is much better than his directorial disaster on Nanana— I believe that show had a poor scenario writer and planner. Saenai for most of its run was very funny– introduced its trope characters of Utaha and Eriri with just enough background that is familiar in this genre and still remains a refreshing contrast to Tomoya’s drive for anything that defines him as an otaku. His room illustrates this point greatly.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: [73/100]
This is rare. The final episodes of Saenai are broadcast back-to-back. The Episode 0 and now having a 12-episode run on Noitamina? What is going on here? In the past couple of years I’d say around 2010 the programming block received an additional timeslot– this can either hurt and help them in the long run. We’ve had a couple of poorly produced series since this block got two shows per season however we’ve also had tons of amazing series in this too! Sanaei is very unconventional in delivering a harem series and now I can clearly see its this case with the production of it too– using an OVA fan service episode from the get-go is definitely a different style to introduce its cast.
Since we’ve had the Eriri and Utaha’s arcs fully completed its time for Michiru to shine and these two episode added a nice spotlight to otaku outside of the realm of manga with attention focused on music. Megumi also receives the attention she deserves as she’s learned a lot in tsundere personality type Eriri and yundere Utaha in that she’s level-headed. She’s a mix of a lot of characteristics that most japanese works featuring girls fall into but comes out alive from it.
The sourness from Eriri and Utaha finding out about Michiru being a closer childhood friend to Tomoya separates exactly what he wants out of Megumi as the main heroine without shoving information in our faces here. Great to see! Probably the best part of this is how the creator’s built-up Michiru’s band — their problematic and Michiru worries that they would shun her for being involved in an otaku endeavor.
The entire scene from this episode where Tomoya reveals that her band is originally involved with anime is priceless! Quite the unexpected route. It illustrates how playful this show is– camera angles of Michiru straddling Tomoya [aboslutely loved Eriri and Utaha’s reactions to this!], the generic and unfortunate to Michiru backstory around the Icy Tail, every bit of this came together so smoothly! The icing on the cake though is their performance of Sorairo Days which happens to be another the song from the anime Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann! I like how this performance of theirs gives life to Michiru and the passion she needs to have in helping with Tomoya’s dream of creating the best dating sim game ever. The animation isn’t as good as performances in Haruhi Suzumiya or Space Dandy but does in fact get the point across that Michiru is destined to be a part of Blessing Software. As well as give us a good look into what Michiru is actually like outside of her sociopathic behavior.
While these two episodes didn’t provide any conclusion whatsoever it did give just enough push to make this series further up on my list of good anime series. Can’t wait to see more of these girls’ interactions in the second season and how they come up with the development of the game! Much better than last year’s Spring moe-mystery series Nanana.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10
This is probably the weakest of Saenai yet and it’s a shame because we’re finally introduced to Hyoudou Michiru the musician of Blessing Software. This is miles below the greatness of the previous episodes even in terms of animation! What happened here?
What the creators failed to achieve here is bring in the cousin trope [which is overused by the way] so late in the show– they should have advertised this series to have a second season off the bat because I can see how they turned a lot of people off with this episode. She’s a sociopath– throwing out Tomoya’s sacred anime treasures really strikes that he’s got a lot of work to do in recruiting her within a 25 minute one time.
However, this episode doesn’t even resolve much of that as we get an overstuffed display of sexual devices– the shower segment, suggestive camera angles of Michiru and of course the funny yet unsatisfying conclusion where a naked Tomoya asks his cousin to make the ultimate dating sim game.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 4/10
The anime industry in the past year is finally churning out works that realistically fall into the category of informative series. Shirobako and Saenai take the approach of how the world of Japanese entertainment works without sidelining important details. While Shirobako [which I should write about eventually if I ever get time to] is about the hardships and the creative minds behind making an anime; Saenai uses a creative style of wit and female character models within the harem genre to deliver a spot-on narrative about students wanting to make a doujin game.
Both Tomoya and Eriri have a stubbornness about them that’s very refreshing when it has to be and results in how they had grown up. Eriri used to be Tomoya’s only view of inspiration as we see in the numerous flashback sequences throughout this episode– those crayon-esque backgrounds [is that the same background artist for Rolling Girls?] look amazing. The background designs for the rest of the series is done by animation studio Kusanagi– same team that did illustrations for [C] The Money of Soul and Possibility Control, Magi, Gunsmith Cats and the Read or Die OVA. They also have done a ton of artwork for various video games including the Final Fantasy series.
This entire episode is dedicated to Eriri and Tomoya’s relationship however it’s great to see that Utaha isn’t completely out of the picture with that funny scuffle between the girls. I enjoyed the Utaha arc much better than this one because of how subtle the jabs were between the two of them. Eriri’s is cookie-cutter: the childhood friend trope that separates the male lead from her because of bullies. She’s temperamental and yells at Tomoya at the slightest pen drop– that often at times throughout this series is too dramatic. Even now she still views herself as the girl in love with young Tomoya. Regardless of my issues with the overused tactic, I like how we get to see her father selling his daughter’s work at Comiket. She’s had supportive parents all her life that hits home Saenai‘s larger themes about artistic potential and the respect that comes along with it.
Both the Utaha and Eriri’s arcs are about unresolved love with Tomoya and how the girls view their own work from him– in other words finding approval. This is where the basis of a visual harem novel story intertwining from Blessing Software game to reality comes into play. And I might add this certainly shakes up Saenai‘s biggest theme of all that a creator’s relationship with their work is the fundamental key in establishing a successful bond between artist, scenario writer and in this series’ case main heroine together.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 6/10
Last time was build up for everything that occurs here– Tomoya helps Izumi out by promoting her doujin at Comiket. Since the series began I’ve noticed that this series is a tried-and-true harem with a unique twist– Eriri and Utaha both accept the fact that Megumi isn’t there for romance purposes but for Tomoya’s career goal of creating a doujin game that will capture people’s hearts. Both girls are here to help Tomoya get this idea into a reality through their talents of writing and artistic skills.
With the introduction of Izumi last episode there is finally a storm coming– she’s disturbing the once complacent relationships between the three girls and Tomoya in the most generic harem way as possible– jealousy. She’s vying for his attention and affections– through Tomoya’s eagerness at making her inspired to enjoy japanese illustrated works. Utaha is absent for pretty much the entire episode and it makes sense here that why this is. This is more keen on a rivalry between Eriri and Izumi– two doujin artists trying to make it big in the world of Comiket. Great way to enrich these characters by learning about their own personal goals while the main story of doujin authoring takes a backseat.
Knowing that this series will be receiving a second season sometime in the future this makes this episode one of the stronger ones of Saenai due to its cleverly-timed sequences of passion between Izumi wanting to become better, Tomoya vicariously fighting in promoting Izumi’s work so that he can understand how he will jump start his and of course Eriri’s dramatic cries for help. My favorite character here though has to be Megumi because while she’s dense she is acting out [in various ways] how she should be Tomoya’s girlfriend wonderfully– “get your mitts off my Tomoya, you home wrecker”. Her scenes are really funny and is a fantastic contrast between reality and the otaku dream of game creation.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10
Is this the first time we’re seeing an A-1 Pictures series that has been so well-animated receive a drop in quality? Cinderella Girls a somewhat spin-off of Idolmaster constantly is under-budget so I would have thought this series wouldn’t have received an episode that had so many out of place drawings.
Nonetheless, this episode gives gives off a decent balance that there is actually going to be some competition within the doujin world. At some point we should see a comiket appearance by Tomoya. Something I’ve mentioned before is how toned down this series is in delivering the harem tropes of this Saenai— as we get this heavy worn out scene between Eriri and Tomoya trying to complete her doujin work just in time to meet deadline. It’s highly understated in content yet comes off very refreshing because it’s underlining meaning is all based around an 18+ work by an author that isn’t even of age yet! This entire sequence really lays the foundation for Izumi’s introduction as she considers Tomoya the man that made a woman out of her– really nice to see how deliberate the dialogue is here because Eriri and Utaha are obviously perplexed and agitated by another woman in Tomoya’s life it also comes back to the fact that Tomoya really is an otaku.
The animation might not have been as good as any of the other episodes thus far but at least there as some decent writing in between. Katsuyuki Kodera directed this and I must say its definitely a step in a different direction than anything he’s ever worked on especially with 2000’s Sci-Fi Harry and Jigoku Shoujo.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 6/10
We’ve got a strange lineup for Noitamina this year. Saenai follows the life of an otaku surrounded by the very harem he wants to include in his dream game. Punchline [which I will be posting up an initial impression soon] takes a Samurai Flamenco-esque approach– adding in tons of elements from aliens to government conspiracies and ghosts arriving at one single thread– if a boy sees panties he will destroy the world. We’ve got a couple of darker series later this year. As of today the first key visual for Rampo Kitan is out and I must say it looks fantastic! Just hope Lerche can handle animating the complexity of Edogawa’s aesthetically bizarre stories. Now onto Saenai!
The inevitable hooking-up encounter. This was bound to happen from one of the girls at some point– I was expecting this. Utaha’s editor is really funny she’s fully aware of the relationship between Tomoya and Utaha that she allows the two of them to sleep in the same hotel room. There is a definite strong sexual tension in the air between the two of them and its great to see how overlooked this is when they start jumping into developing a plot that would captivate Visual Novel players.
Tomoya has a strong passion for Utaha’s writing– he shows up to her book signings, and she realizes this. Don’t forget Tomoya is an otaku and creator at heart so its only natural for him to accept how good a work is– this results in the wonderful chemistry between them throughout this episode! Heck, we even see Utaha tweak her writing out of approval from him! Fantastic! I just hope we get more episodes like this by developing a situation that enriches the character’s potential at being greater than they’ve expected out of one another!
I’d like to point out the absence of music and how important it is here– Utaha is showing skin as most of her scenes are her in a bathrobe. The sensual cinematography strongly suits what this series’ intention are– a ruse into the genre of harem that symbolizes how much Tomoya wants to include a touch of what visual novels normally include– fanservice. How it is portrayed in reality throughout this show is satisfyingly timid and a great way to allude that Tomoya’s game may go this route.
Great build-up towards evolving Megumi’s bland personality by including a slight jealous tsundere expression on her face after the credit sequence! It’s great how we don’t see her face just a representation of it from Eriri’s artwork!
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10
I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about this series– an adaptation of a romance light novel. Luckily this anime is being written by the writer of the light novel and manga series so there’s no worry it won’t be adapted correctly. Something I hadn’t noticed before was the music– it’s bright and contains a well-suited nature for this show’s overall tone– a comedy romance anime. K-On’s composer Hajime Hyakkoku knows exactly where Saenai is headed and has a good sense to write some sensible music scores for this that work out entertainingly. Director Kanta Kamei is giving a good gradual build-up with these girls here. It hasn’t rushed right into the story as we are still getting to know everyone and their talents that will make the circle design a solid game.
The story is coming together here and I’m really enjoying where this is headed especially with this episode. Tomoya is still trying to figure out what he wants to write about with his game– gradual motivation that dives into the varied girls of this series a ton. Instead of dallying around using Eriri’s angry emotions and Utaha’s passive aggressive conversations Saenai winds up taking these personality traits to give Tomoya a driving competitive edge that he needs to find a romance story worth telling and illustrations worth seeing.
Emphasizing this is Eriri’s responses in Tomoya’s room– I like how he doesn’t notice her until he comes back upstairs with two drinks. His head is just like all the posters, manga and light novels that separates himself from reality.
Their interactions are always great– generic yet its the premise of the series that pushes this to the max. I like how she ends up hiding every trace of herself from Tomoya’s place when Utaha shows up– their both vying for the affections of him and its nice to see that his story to the viewer is clear as day but to him he can’t come up with a single plot for his game.
Megumi is slowly turning into the heroine of his dream game– so refreshing in this second half! At last! Her transformation into a girl filled with moe and it is all due to what had to be done to establish this within her– Eriri and Utaha’s talents as illustrator and novelist associating with one another to help Megumi shift away from being plain.
I think its nice to see this balance between the three girls come into play here– working together to give Megumi an image that Tomoya can take inspiration from. A love story within a love story and now the reality of it is finally falling into place without the otaku-obsessed Tomoya even realizing it!
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10
I’m going to just say it now: this first half was so much better than the second. We already know Tomoya is an otaku and given that he’s inviting a girl into his room this is becoming all too similar on purpose. It’s funny however, it would have been nice to see a bit more of the outside world before venturing into Tomoya’s apartment. Speaking visually I feel that Saenai is intentionally being more like a SHAFT series with some awkward camera angles. I’m a bit on the fence about this after having seen three episodes move towards this style of material. I do want to mention that A-1 Pictures is putting this series and Shigatsu first and foremost, apparently from what I’ve seen of Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls there has been quite the drop in quality with that series.
After Tomoya has taken notice that Megumi is the girl that made his dreams come true here: I like how its dismantled completely. He’s so dissatisfied seeing how Megumi really is: boring, without much interest on anything and it doesn’t help his visual novel game endeavors that she has without a doubt a single shred of energy to become a girl filled with moe! This is great because while he’s pouring his heart at that cafe about how she should act for the sake of his game– Eriri and Utaha show up to make this encounter much more awkward than it has been.
I have to hand it to Tomoya’s seiyu for doing a great job: Yoshitsugu Matsuoka has probably done one of his stronger roles here and it really comes through with his screams of surprise and dismal behavior. The relationship between Eriri, Utaha and Tomoya is fantastic because we’ve got the perfect setup for what Tomoya wants: a story that features a male character with two beauties right under his nose that follow stereotypical anime tropes one in particular: tsundere.
I think my favorite character so far is Megumi because she’s entirely out of place for this series that it works wonderfully in adding as much realism that’s far away from the romance game they play at Tomoya’s apartment and even the design he’s had in his head all along about developing a game that would sell millions. As much as I like the way she reacts to Tomoya I felt this would have been much better for him to have the all-girls scenario with Eriri and Utaha tagging along for commentary while Megumi tries out her first visual novel game.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 7/10
Yes! Finally the real introduction to these girls takes fruition here at the school! It’s good to see that they already know each other too. This will make for a clever comedy series. I’m glad the creators chose to give us an episode last week that jumped right into what this series is about as I felt with how slow-paced and dialogue-heavy this one was it would have turned off a ton of viewers. Now that we have a slight idea of what each girl’s personality is, I find that the school-setting works out extremely well here.
Saenai reminds me a lot of what Bakemonogatari had been when it first began– various girls following a very popular collection of anime behavioral tropes. Tsundere and tease tropes with Eriri Spencer most especially when she grabs the Limited Edition Amber Concerto from her locker and Tomoya reveals her true nature. A secret agreement between the girls that if it got out at school Tomoya would be a dead man. Her obsession and eroge artist skills pushes forward a really strong setup towards Tomoya’s dream of developing a Visual romance game. The chemistry between these two finally makes sense after seeing this episode, as the previous one slightly jumped into it with each other girls. Oh that is great where she slaps Tomoya with her pony tails, the animation there was slightly different almost as if it might have been intentional.
He is actually living out his light novel aspirations and the funny part about this is that he doesn’t even know it– his friend points out how hot Spencer is and Tomoya only thinks of 2D girls. This is an anime we’re talking about here and it would be great to see this dynamic shift towards a realistic one where he realizes he’s actually in a visual novel.
Moving forward with this episode he attempts recruiting tsundere type girl, Utaha Kasumigaoka. She’s calm in her wit-minded jabs at Tomoya’s writing skills and this strongly echo’s her secretive background as popular high-school romance author really well. The dialogue in this is fantastic and Tomoya having a freak out moment where Utaha crumbles up his script makes me realize how solid the direction for this episode is even with the animation.
The backgrounds are gorgeous and it’s not surprise coming from one of the top studios in the business right now– A-1 Pictures. They do at least three series a season and this one alongside Noitamina’s other works Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso proves the level of talent they have in these animators. One thing I can tell is how much this is trying to cater to being an example of SHAFT’s productions. The closeup shots of walking and slight fan service angles illustrates this greatly! The ending was nice here– we get a chance to see the girl that progresses him forward into making a VN (visual novel) and it ends up being an average student and classmate. Can’t wait to see the interactions with the other girls.
The opening was more revised here featuring less scenes of the bath segment from Episode 0 and with a more toned down look at school-life.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10