Please send this young lady to 98% of light novel authors.

Tomoya Aki is both a high schooler and mega-otaku with the ambition to create an incredible game (namely, a dating sim). He’s assembled a doujin circle out of various talented girls – there’s the sharp-tongued writer Utaha Kasumigaoka, his childhood friend the tsundere artist Eriri Spencer Sawamura, and the energetic anime cover-song musician Michiru Hyodo. Amongst all these vibrant personalities is one more girl – Megumi Katou, the alleged inspiration for the girl’s ‘heroine’.
In this special episode before we presumably flash back to how things began, the group are visiting an onsen in the mountains in autumn in order to collect reference material for the game. Of course, this is an anime, so the life of this guy who is making a dating sim is also like a dating sim itself.

In some scenes the lines turn different colours like pink or green, and I like it.

Let me get one thing out of the way – I have no idea how to write the full title for this show. It uses the kanji ‘Kanojo’ (which means both ‘she/her’ and ‘girlfriend’ depending on context), but with the written pronunciation of the english word ‘Heroine’. I would have assumed what I wrote in this review is therefore correct, however the show’s official shortened title seems to be ‘SaeKano’, and the english title ‘How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend’, despite how much better ‘How To Raise A Boring Heroine’ sounds to me personally. Whatever. (Also, the whole time I was watching this I just knew I’d seen Eriri before and finally remembered it was in this spinoff manga that ran in a magazine I used to follow.)

It’s kind of an odd choice to have this special episode 0, which has all the characters acquainted and the game itself apparently nearly finished, before the actual start of the show. I was worried it would be something aimed at existing fans of the novel it’s based on only and that watching it would be a waste of time for me and would thus be better to do a first impression of episode 1 instead. However, this special was quite easy to follow, and did quite a nice job of divulging the plot and information about the characters in an amusing way. It’s one of those incredibly self-aware otaku-orientated shows, which I usually think aren’t as funny as they think they are. This time, however, it actually did make me laugh. What seems like fourth-wall breaking as the characters criticize choices in writing and character introduction are actually referring to stories within the show, and yet they mirror the show itself. For example, we open with the girls lounging in the hot spring and discussing the merits of an anime with too much fanservice off the bat and whether one should stick around to watch the rest, and Tomoya’s monologue plot introduction is cut off by Utaha harshly criticizing the writing on his laptop. While the banter between the characters is annoying quite a few times, it’s also often clever. There’s quite a few moments I laughed – when we first see Tomoya with his ear to the hot spring wall, upset that a conversation was happening without him – it’s actually not the cliche boob discussion it would be in another anime, he was actually upset at missing out on their anime conversation and wished they had saved it for the hotel room. I also liked Eriri and Utaha getting incredibly worked up and passionate over a game of table tennis despite mutually sucking at it.

Visually the show is gorgeous to look at, from its detailed characters to its vibrant colour palette to its beautiful backgrounds. The character designs are all appealing – even Tomoya’s – with Megumi being suitably plain. Her being the ‘boring heroine’ in question was one thing that wasn’t really dwelled on quite enough, although I’m assuming the actual first episode will clear up exactly why the inspiration for a heroine is part of the actual game team. Maybe she actually does do more than just hang around.

Unfortunately I feel like the sheer amount of fanservice in this really does bring down the overall grade for me. It’s at least slightly ‘classier’ fanservice than the stuff I’d normally pan,  and its true that this episode 0 was billed as a ‘fanservice special’ so its possible it’s not actually representative of the amount in the actual show. But still, an awful lot of pointless stuff happens solely for there to be a shot of someone’s boobs or ass, and the opening is chock-a-block of slightly creepy voyeuristic shots of the girls bodies without their faces shown. (In contrast, the ending is really nice, and one of my favourites from this season so far.) The worst scene happens when everyone gets drunk on alcoholic chocolates and starts molesting Tomoya, which is clearly meant to be funny and sexy but…isn’t. Sexual assault isn’t funny, come on, whether you reverse the genders or not. The scene itself was also bafflingly pointless. As for the other negatives, it’s already pretty obvious that every one in the doujin circle has the hots for Tomoya. True, he’s more likeable than your average harem schmuck but a load of girls throwing themselves at main characters still isn’t my cup of tea, even if I do like these characters more than other shows like this. …Except maybe Eriri, at least, who is so far the stock childhood friend tsundere to a capital T. While I’m kind of interesting in watching the behind the scenes stuff that goes into making a doujin game, I’m really not into the heavily forecasted catfights between these girls over Tomoya.

Basically, it’s a show with a lot of strong positives and a lot of strong negatives, and I’m trying to decide whether or not they balance each other out. The gorgeous visuals and occasional sharp writing do have my interest at least a little, though, so I’ll be watching the first proper episode all the same. If the negatives start tipping the scale too much, however, I doubt I’ll stick around.

He might not have the most ground-breaking character design, but he’s pretty cute. Also, the whole scene in the bamboo forest was gorgeous.

Out of 5,