Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend
Harem Fan Service for Otaku
Warning: this review does contain a few vague spoilers.
Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend may just be one of the most misleading anime titles I've seen lately. The real translation is "How to Train the Ordinary Girl to be a Heroine," yet, even that isn't completely accurate. Sure, that is a part of this series but, only a very small portion.
So, what is Saekano? It's a harem anime that follows an Otaku who tries to follow his dream of creating a dating sim based on his real-life experience when he first developed feelings for one of his classmates, Megumi Kato. Although, being a harem anime, much of the time is filled with awkward situations and the banter between the characters, thanks to all of his friends being girls who all love him.
I found the story of him trying to create a team to make his dream game a great foundation for this character-driven series. The creation process, the struggle to keep the team together, and the use of their experiences to form a scenario, was fantastically well done. This part of the series felt very natural, yet entertaining.
Even the character advancements were fantastic, especially that of the main female lead, Megumi. Each of the characters in this series has a gentle arc that brings them to thoughts and actions they would never have thought of when they were first introduced. Most anime series are good at this, but normally it takes the character to fantasy-levels, like making a normal person into a true hero with powers. All the character development in Saekano is done without lifting them off the ground of believability, leaving the illusion that they all could be real people with real lives. That is until you start factoring in the harem part of the series.
I never really cared for the whole harem trope in anime and games. It just feels so unbelievable, and is often so over-sexualized making everyone appear like sex-crazed nymphomaniacs. There is some of that in Saekano, especially surrounding one certain character, but, for the most part, the story takes it into a different direction. Instead, we see the downsides, and problems with being part of a harem, from both the male and female perspective. This leads to so many emotional scenes that just ooze off the screen, yet never reaching the point of tear-jerking. Much of this is thanks to the hilarious way it approaches each problem, keeping even the most routine scenes entertaining.
Although, there are a few huge problems that is going to drive so many people away.
This series is completely directed toward the Otaku. The story tries to explain a few things with character dialogue, but there's a good chance that you won't know what they are talking about unless you already have a deep fascination with 2-D characters, specifically females. This means that any non-anime fan is going to find Saekano really stupid or boring, especially if your not into watching sexy 2-D animated characters.
This is made even worse by the fact that all these characters are high-school students, and it's obvious that they are not over 18 years of age. It gets so bad at some points that I actually starting feeling grossed out by the things I was seeing. The view is almost aways focused on the female characters' bodies, specifically the chest and groin region, even during serious dialogue. Sure, they aren't showing anything, but constant underwear and skirt shots of underage girls aren't something that is acceptable in most countries, yet it is what makes up most of the series.
Worse yet, it heads extremely close to what many would consider animated child-porn during the bath and shower scenes. We don't see anything that crosses the border, but it will certainly make many viewers extremely uncomfortably. They really should have made these characters college students instead.
Yet, all these problems are shown of as features of this anime, meaning that if you can't enjoy the sexualization of young girls, constant underwear and cleavage shots, you aren't going to find this series enjoyable. It got so bad at times that I just focused on what they were saying because I didn't like what being shown.
This made Saekano really hard for me to watch. If it wasn't for the interesting story, which never gets finished, I would have probably stopped watching this series after the first few episodes. Although, because the interesting part never gets completed, I found this anime a waste of time. For those who consider themselves Otaku, this will probably be a great series, but everyone else should seek entertainment elsewhere.