Two months ago I reviewed a show that I really liked and invited you to do same given a new instance of Saekano was near. Now that that is over, it was no surprise that the continuation of Aki' story of love, ideals and meta commentary was among my top three shows for the Spring season. Before jumping to the review, I should say I had some trouble picking it over other two shows that are also good but will continue past this Spring and my unwritten rule is only choose among the shows ending the corresponding season. Leaving that behind, let’s talk about Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭.
About the show
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭ (冴えない彼女〈ヒロイン〉の育てかた♭), translated as How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend ♭ is the second season of a LN adaptation of the same name. Announced on March 2016, the show aired during the 2017 Spring season. The show consists of twelve episodes, although the episode 0 can be considered as a mere re-introduction of the characters and a recap of the previous season.
Continuing with the development previously presented, Aki and the gang continue to work tirelessly to create a unique Visual Novel capable of capturing the hearts of the players. Things get difficult along the path when rivalries increased and the characters forget their original intentions. Could they deliver the game in time and also maintain their group? That’s the story of the season.
Saekano is part of a trend of modern Anime shows that want to have their cake and eat it too. As I previously mentioned on the Konosuba review, these type of shows can function both as an examination and lampooning of the genre — this case being harem and romantic comedies — and also excel at them by following the usual conventions. Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭ has a more cynic tone to its commentary in comparison to the previous one. While the first season focuses on the struggles to translate an ideal into reality, this one makes the audience aware of the real life consequences of such naivety, but to be fair, it does not reach Oreigaru / Girlish Number levels of cynicism. The show has left any pretense of non-bias towards who is going to be the “main girl”, Kato plays a major role during the entire story, and even when there are episodes where she is not featured, her influence still affects the outcome between the other characters. A welcoming development for those who liked the character and felt the “background girl” joke was overused.
Another pleasant surprise with Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭ is that it feels that the creative team behind it were given more freedom with the source material. All the episodes feel less restrained and they were able to explore more about the personalities and problems our characters faced and how they affect their relationships with others. Even when I said that Kato was the favorite girl, Eririn and Utaha were also the highlights of their own episodes. No longer they are a cutout of their own tropes but full-fledged people with ambitions and doubts, just as anyone else. The art quality did not decline as many second seasons tend to (looking at you Konosuba), nor did the score/soundtrack which is still on point.
One of the points of divergence with the previous season is the buildup for a major arc and it is not the creation and presentation to the world of the Visual novel, which might as well be a red herring at this point. I’ll try not to spoil this major event for those who haven’t watched it yet, but I’ll try to explain the importance of this development. When I did my the review of the first season I did not talk much about the team behind it and during the transmission of the second one I discovered why this show had a familiar feeling, and it was because the creator of Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭ is also the evil mind behind White Album 2.
WA2 was a visual novel that was adapted to Anime in 2013, and it was hard hitting show with its approach to the romantic drama genre. One of the things that differentiate the show with others was the personality of the characters, all of them were faulty and acted upon those imperfections. The show has a bittersweet ending (more bitter than sweet) and was somewhat controversial among those who followed the series. This is the part where it all connects with Saekano, this season was built to rely on our characters to act completely different to the tropes they were, as presented by the last season and be imperfect humans. In other run-of-the-mill harem romcom, the obliviousness of our main character would serve as comedy relief but not here where our MC is punished by it. The insecurity and indecisiveness of the tsundere childhood friend is perceived as cute, but in real life those treats would lead to pain and error. I’m not saying there’s no space for those tropes, they exist for a reason but if you want to tell a different story that stands out over others, twisting the formula is a good way to do it. And Saekano does it very well.
Nothing in life is perfect, and there are reasons why Saekano took the second place. The show decided to abandon characters who were featured more during the first season, they completely vanished only to return for a brief moment the last five minutes of the last episode. Maybe they will play a major role in the next arc of the story but at least they should have let us know those characters were still alive and relevant. The introduction of a new villain while making the previous a friend of the main character was predictable but the worst thing of that is the new “villain” does not fit the tone established by the show, her interactions with the girls was awkward but not as the director wanted, the scenes with her were all over the place.
When all is said and done, Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭ surpasses its previous installment in writing, art and ambition. It was a good ending for this story and who knows if they are going to give us more of it. I know the Light Novels have not finished yet and there mangas with alternative stories for each girl, but for now, the normal boring girl is the best. I highly recommend Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭ for those who watched the first season. Anime is available where anime is.