Looking into Saekano FINE

Back in full form and glory. Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata has finally concluded and now joins the rare collection of light novel titles that become fully adapted into anime.

The movie, titled Saenai Heroine no Sodate-Kata FINE, retains what made us loved both of the series’ first and second seasons. Sacrifices had to be made for sure, as it is a movie which covered from volume 8 all the way to the final volume (13). Time constraint is a very common issue for many anime movie adaptations and Saekano FINE is no exception to that.
Would I want it to be a third season?
I had wanted a third season, but now that I have seen the final work, I became convinced that an entire cour is not really needed since majority of the contents between volume 9 to 11 can actually end up boring even for the most hardcore fans of the series looking for just intense plot. In other words, the melodrama was dragged on far too long.

The movie is consisted of 16 chapters including the ending credits. Fumiaki-sensei has really done the expected job of shuffling around chronological events in the series and professionally altered them to the point that I can almost call this movie “original”.
I still cannot and so can’t you.
The most obvious one would have to be the ending scene — it is clearly different to the light novel but the “end result” is not. Megumi is still the clear waifu at the end of the day. But oh boy, whether you have read the light novel beforehand or not, watching Saekano Flat and FINE will absolutely be of new experience to all. The settings of each and every events from the original source material are entirely different. The character appearances on scene differ, too. But somehow all of these insane alterations make sense in the end and that is the only thing which matters. This is the very meaning of adaptation. Another fine example of this I can think of on top of my head is Ufotable’s adaptation of Fate franchise.

Remember, this is not just a review but also a Looking Into which I personally consider to be a special type of post for my blog. Though I will not cover all chapters of the movie.
Let us dig in!

Chapter 1
This movie starts off in melodies, not at all shy from the fact that drama ensues. It is also the one last chance minor characters from Icy Tail get to have screen time. I do not think anyone can disagree that they are more than welcomed, especially to the finale. Well whatever. One thing they knew for sure was that we would all be there for them.

Not all adaptations are perfect; Saekano, too! If there is one thing that was intentionally left out of the movie it would have to be the reason as to why Megumi HATES Iori deeper than his guts.

That… can be traced back to the light novel’s volume 8 when:

Tomoya offered Iori to become Blessing Software’s manager, to which the latter declined. Even though Tomoya kept asking for a reason as to why he was rejected, Iori denied all of them; this reminded him of last year when his proposal was repeatedly rejected by Utaha and Eriri. Iori said that his proposal had a nice balance and all the heroines were well done, but it wouldn’t sell, which confused him even further. Megumi then stood up out of the blue and said that wasn’t right; even though Iori said it wouldn’t sell, he wouldn’t even tell why.
Tomoya told Megumi to calm down. Megumi argued that it was not fair, but Tomoya replied that it was certainly fair as he was asking Iori for a favor. Tomoya then confirmed with Iori when they would be meeting again.

Before leaving, Iori said to Tomoya:

“Your girlfriend is pretty severe*, you know?”

At that very moment, Megumi’s eyes died.

*Iori used 重い/Omoi to describe Megumi’s severity, which can be interpreted as serious, but literally means “heavy”.

And that was the very beginning of Megumi’s personal grudge against Iori, vividly seen throughout the movie.

Utaha is back with the aggressive flirting despite knowing that Tomoya’s well taken at this point. Having opened up Tomoya’s old wound which was the second season’s finale, even Megumi was taken by surprise.

I’m not even surprised to what Megumi can become at this point…

It is not just this little conversation but the entire scene which have been altered from source material. Thing is, all of them did happen at some point but each and every one of them did not happen at the same day. If my memory serves me correct, the part where Utaha had exposed Tomoya in front of Megumi was in volume 9 or 10 and the part where Akane interrupted the main cast happens right after, except that she’d called the betrayer duo back to her office instead of physically showing up. And of course, Icy Tail’s celebration is in the final volume, so technically that should have been the only part shown in this scene which to me sounds too light-hearted and potentially boring and unlike Saekano, doesn’t it?

It is extremely genius of Fumiaki-sensei to have incorporated all of these events together in a Yakuniku place. Kousaka Akane’s entry should not have happened at all but here she is, interrupting good times like she always does. If you see reviewers complain about this film “rushing” source materials, they probably meant something like this.

Furthermore, Megumi’s grudge towards Eriri was legitimately the main plot from volume 8 all the way to volume 12, hence my comment on melodrama being dragged out too long. The fact that the movie started off having Megumi being passive-aggressive towards Eriri and continued that way until the reconciliation moment at the ending credit which happened in volume 12, albeit in different setting altogether, is on a retconning level. But I guess you cannot call it retconning since the original work/story still exists.
A reimagination, maybe?

Megumi declaring waifu war in Girls Side 2 (between volume 8 and 9)
Movie Ending Scene
Volume 12 Cover

Later on they talk about their situations and progress, to which the betrayer duo (I’m seriously going to call them that with vengeance) comments on how Tomoya has changed in a threatening way (to their talents).
It has been a long time since I could be so proud of a supporting character. In my humble opinion at the very least, Saekano makes admirable use of supporting characters and Izumi happens to be the one supporting character when gets used, is consistently used in the right place and right time unlike her brother Iori, which to me served mainly as a comedy stand in anime while he actually represents one of the most badass anti-heroes in rom-com light novels.
Okay so this is where we get to see Izumi, in her full glory, stands up to what she believes in. Remember last time when she’d taunted Eriri back in second season?
Now she takes on both Eriri and Utaha.
Izumi is still the same kouhai you know and secretly love. She is just unsurprisingly consistent with her daring character.

It is Utaha’s first clash with her (in anime) but for Eriri, this would be a repeated objective.

In the name of Blessing Software…

If I am being asked to describe Saekano FINE in one word, I would confidently answer with satisfying. Whether you are in for drama, comedy and most importantly at this point romance, you are almost guaranteed a few occurrences of them. Just because 5 volumes of adaptation meant dragging melodrama does not mean the movie should be having 3/5 of the duration being dramatic; that is the weakest point of any faithful light novel adaptations, I dare say.

What the movie has done considerably better than specifically the second season is upping the romance game, giving us more of the absolutely normal interactions between Tomoya and Megumi — the aspect which exists predominantly in the first season. Out of 16 chapters of the movie, half of them involved the couple. This looks very balanced to me given that they are supposedly the focus of the title, no?

Romance does not need to always be butterflies in my stomach as Saekano has proven that even small things in life can accumulate to something bigger. The fun things you do with whoever you can love will lead to relationships. This will all click and make total sense whenever you have completed the re-watch from beginning, picking up the hints that you might have missed along the way. In fact this works with any good rom-com title. My point is to not let yourself by ridden by hype — enjoy the ride at your own pace and Saekano will easily rev up to be your among your rom-com faves.

I am not even going to put up pictures of what would otherwise be an uncontested, top tier waifu material. Sweet moments should just be left alone for you to enjoy in the movie and not on my blog posts. ❤

Chapter 4 – Tomoya gets his draft reviewed by the lovely Kousaka Akane since his primary consultant is absent.
Akane might have joined the show in the roughest way possible for a truly supporting character but she is no slouch. I know some of you may still harbor the hate for her character but she is exactly the type of character Saekano needed and rightfully deserved.
What’s so good about her, you might ask?
Well, it is the ratio of your reactions per minute of her screen time, I guess.

I mean a character that gets straight to the point, works hard but plays harder and is a great drinker who talks like she is at-all-time sober?

Her character.
And let us not talk about the references in the background…

Chapter 5 is once again a sweet little moment between Tomoya and Megumi. I am just going to reaffirm the fact that even Tomoya likes season 2 episode 8 the most, as quoted in his answer to Megumi when asked why such an ordinary event can be the one to raise Meguri’s flag. At this point I should remind you that they are working on a game that is based on the events that actually happened in the series (in this case the anime). You should have figured that one out by the time of first season but I guess Inception can do more harm than good sometimes.
Megumi specifically requests Tomoya to remove a sentence in the route Meguri 15 where she’d hugged the protagonist (based on Tomoya) when he’d cried atop the hill (the crying part being an actual scene in season 2 finale). It is only natural since Megumi did not actually hug him at the time. She is keeping the game as faithful to her experience as she can and not letting Tomoya ruin it with his fantasy as suggested by Akane.

Megumi, like any normal person, has an ulterior motive.

Chapter 6 continues their lovey-dovey moment. Tomoya gets Megumi to review his draft in person. Her reactions are well within Tomoya’s calculations so that is a few seconds of hype. Megumi on the other hand, did not have her expectation met…

The movie neatly highlights Megumi’s improved straightforwardness as she grows into a less boring girlfriend over the course of two years in the series timeline. But that attribute of hers is highlighted mostly when she is alone with Tomoya. It is so clear-cut to the point that even Michiru can figure out their relationship simply because the two may have disagreements, arguments and maybe even misunderstandings. However, there was never drama between the two.
That makes total sense, actually. Like I had mentioned years ago, drama only existed in this anime partially because of Eriri and mostly because of Utaha. The anime adaptation actually toned down a lot of Utaha’s way of dealing with issues, partially mistaken as rudeness by fans. Though, the anime as a whole did Utaha injustice since most of the dramatic events fully involved her. In the original work, Megumi’s interrogation that led her to admit “Tomoya-kun is mine” was actually done by Utaha with Michiru and Izumi as scapegoats. She still gets credit for the plan, though. It is entirely her plan after all and not Iori’s as shown in anime.

Here is a snip of Girls Side 3 book that I own:

“So, what will you do? Katou-san.”
“What will I do…”
“Do you want Rinri-kun back?”
“In the first place, Tomoya-kun is blessing software’s property.”
“Hmm… Say it one more time, okay?”
“That’s why I already said, Tomoya-kun is mine… Ah, I mean, err, that is…”

It is not all happiness in Saekano and we know it. So, let us look at the parts where Tomoya remains an emotional hero of nobody. In chapters 6 and 9 he has finally hurt Megumi once more.
I can mostly empathize with both Tomoya and Megumi since that is also how I feel about my relationship with my girlfriend. I am the one with many things in sight and I am constantly heading to each and every one of them for some sort of achievement. However I never come close to Tomoya’s level where he would even abandon Megumi while doing so. Deep in Tomoya’s mind has always been the thought of “if it is Katou Megumi, I know that she will somehow manage.”
And he is not wrong about it. I for one strongly believe that if a person can be happy on their own, they can be happier with someone. This is where Megumi falls short since deep down she is sort of selfish and “wants it hog it all” to herself, as described by Utaha.

When you look into Megumi deeper than just her flatness (which I highly contest upon seeing her in bras), she really represents a typical girl with various emotions and you have probably met many of them in your lifetime. A typical female can and often feels neglected by their loved one so watching Tomoya do this is only adding salt to the wound that gets reopened by both anime and real-world scenario.

…causing you trouble, getting angry and crying?

She also mentions being a 2D girl and let him go with a smile, which to Tomoya is the obviously more fitting answer to his intention. If there is one advice I can give to anyone who has recently got into a relationship, the one magic word for everlasting love is not “please” but rather “compromise”.

Compromises are exactly what allows two people to meet each other at half-way. But sometimes the two can meet at the extreme when one sacrifices their wants in order to make up to the other person’s needs. We know that Megumi wants to have it all, Tomoya included. But she is not willing to sacrifice her time with him to meet his needs which is seeing his rival’s game to its completion. While we may not like it, Tomoya’s fair and square goal of having a competition against the betrayer duo (which is now heavily backed by Izumi) is his life’s purpose as a member of Blessing Software and as a mere high school student. And Megumi is literally trying to take him away from that just for a night’s affection…
I feel sorry for both of course, but this is one of those moments where head comes before the heart. Be rational.

Chapter 10 marks one of the “work” moments of Saekano and I for one welcome that very much. Often we become too focused to the waifu war and forget that Saekano actually has a legitimate and concise story!
Tomoya manages to convince Mars company to extend Fields Chronicle project deadline by a quarter of what Eriri and Utaha hoped for.

Back to Blessing Software side of things, Megumi becomes extremely discouraged by Tomoya’s purposefully absence to the point that she is not even taking in others’ concerns and attempts to redirect them to the leader.

“Without our leader around, we can’t make any decisions.”

That sounds personal. Dependency is one of the things that make relationships click, after all.
Nevertheless, this scene was one of my favorite comedic ones from the film for sure. And that would not have been achievable without making use of the well known joke character Michiru!

Seeing just the girls hanging out together can be quite fun in anime. Even Iori respects that. It becomes unsurprising as to why girls only anime can gain equal if not more popularity than the all boys shows. In fact Saekano dedicated its side stories to only girls, hence the name Girls Side, which has a total of 3 volumes.

Notice that the old camera techniques which were used to highlight Megumi’s invisibility are nowhere to be seen because of her character development. I quite loved the running gags about her being cut off in parts but now we get to really see her in full glory…

…in pain.

In chapter 11 Tomoya has finally finished working with Eriri and Utaha. The next step of his life is clearly to reconciliate with Megumi, to which he starts off by sending what Utaha calls a “painful script to read” to her..

Now, credits to my Japanese friend for helping me translate only to later realize that it pretty much matches up with online fan translations from the novel which you can find anywhere else but here!

I think that I am a better producer than I was last year.
I had to negotiate with some game veterans. Sometimes we even yelled at each other and they’d absolutely thought, “who the fuck do you think you are, a mere high school student”.
I’d thought the same, too.
Honestly, this is what I’d started but you’ve got to be kidding me. Why does an ordinary high schooler like me have to power play* to the point of mental sacrifice?
Ahh, I want to just play Galge! I want to flirt with the heroine!
…I want to see her ASAP.

*Power Play = Japanese way of saying intentionally forcing one’s way through obstacles

And another part where Utaha zooms into (the cut-off sentences in bracket):

[Even though this is a coincidence, a miracle,]
I can’t say I’m not happy.
[Right now, I am blessed]…sorry, Megumi.

In the light novel, Tomoya actually sent three separate emails to Megumi. What you have seen above is just a part of the first and second mail.

On the next day Megumi’s inner fire has got her all worked up and she is well ready to…

Tomoya’s emails are the reason for her reaction. The anime might actually have cut corners with this important scene so please go over and read up on all three of his emails sent to Megumi.

Well, turns out she got scammed by her circle members…

I am going to stand my ground and say that I liked the anime version much more than the potentially gruesome clash between Megumi and Utaha in the light novel version. The anime just makes things more ‘watchable’ and that is nicely achieved by lightening up the mood of everyone but the main heroine, whom should still feel guilty until proven innocent.
Well actually, she’s guilty as charged.

From this point we get to have our largest dose of diabetes yet: a far cry, definite upgrade from season 2 episode 8 Megumi we have all been waiting for.

Am I not supposed to have my heart racing to this scene?
Why in the world did I get chills down my spine instead?

The make-up scene was done so perfectly I got shivers from it. Everything from the location to voice acting and even the insert music used to create what would be remembered as one of the sweetest romantic scenes in anime history.

*Goes straight to my PC wallpaper*

And Blessing Software is back in full form in chapter 14! The team would need to do well in the home stretch and finish their game in time for Comiket. However, something in the circle has clearly changed for the better… or not?

Love stinks.

Actually, I am most concerned about Iori in this scene:

No homo?

Obviously playing the events of season 2 episode 8. Just how many more times does this episode needs highlighting?
We know it was the greatest episode of the season but man, this is getting repetitive.

Eriri and Utaha barges in which is by all means really awkward for everyone but Tomoya. It is understandable since they actually hadn’t actually seen the duo since Yakuniku place. Otherwise Izumi and especially Michiru happened to be middlemen to Utaha for most of her interactions with Tomoya without having to go through Megumi in the light novel volumes 8 and onward. Tomoya’s final confrontation with Eriri also gets a mood lift. If anything, Eriri’s conclusion in the light novel is by far the nastiest so now having the anime to compare with, fans have an opportunity to pick their red and blue pills.

Post credit took me by complete surprise because it is probably the only true anime original content. It is probably Fumiaki-sensei’s full intention to end the series in a happier way than how the light novel ended. The anime legitimately skips the light novel’s epilogue and goes straight to the aftermath. The first part almost had me convinced that would actually be the true ending. But this is very well expected within Utaha’s performance. Thank goodness.

I never get tired of the soft comedy in this series; maybe that is my soft spot.

Right from Megumi cock blocking Tomoya
To Eriri’s funny pose… again
Double Skadi and Zerkerlot farming?
Tomoya is a man of culture. Can I have his friend ID?

Tomoya being a busy salesman with no dreams but every day calls for his need to farm embers. Well done Aniplex, you have really done it with the references.

Up until the series’ ending, do you realize just how Saekano is extremely generous with the wardrobe?
Unless the characters are in school uniform, their unique, casual attires are almost never repeatedly seen on different days on top of being very fashionable.

Overall, Saekano FINE does exactly what is need to satisfy both light novel readers and anime-only watchers alike. And that will be a big plus for longevity as I can confidently say that Saekano is not just a hype but a timeless show for any and all generations to enjoy.
From marketing standpoint I would say that Saekano pulls a professional level tactic to lure anime-only watchers to read up on light novel and vice versa since the materials are guaranteed to be different. This series probably uses the importance of my to-live-by quote “life is a journey, not a destination.”
Even though we know that Megumi ultimately wins, the portrayal of her life’s journey to get there in the light novel is considerably different to that of the anime.

Some things left to wonder:

The make-up scene insert song is called Ultimate♭ which now makes up the four of out six letters for Megumi songs sang by her seiyuu. Intentional?
M – M♭
E – Eternal♭
G – Glistening♭
U – Ultimate♭
M – ???
I – ???

One can only hope to see this to completion. Who says that you cannot have a season 3 after a movie?
Jokes aside it will most likely be of new title altogether since Megumi is no longer a boring girlfriend. Maybe how to keep an emotional wife?
Let us not forget that spin-offs exists, one for Eriri and another for Utaha.

Until then, let us celebrate with Saekano staff for the completion of anime adaptation, 100%!

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