Light novel adaptations have a reputation for being disasters waiting to happen. The number of light novel adaptations that come and go each season seems to increase as time goes by, with a number of them being pelted by viewers with verbal insults and sarcastic raspberries. History has shown that many of these novel-to-anime transitions can be fairly successful (Toradora!, Monogatari series, Baccano!, to name a few), but to compare it to all the misses, the scale tends to dip towards a dark and stormy direction. In recent years, the number of these adaptations that have given me a stir has been quite low—try as some might to remain on my good graces—but a certain series has appeared that has reminded me that light novels can be a source of quality entertainment.
It does so by laughing at the clichés light novel stories normally cruise upon.
Saekano’s first season was a rocky trail, full of ups and downs and rough footings. Its biggest fault lie with its inability to stay consistent in both its parody and level of seriousness with its actual story and characters. It paints the image of the typical high school setting with the typical female character archetypes fighting over the typically overbland male lead while working together in the typical environment of a club. However, quite soon into the first episode, viewers will find something off about the dialogue, the situations, and one specific character. It follows the trends perfectly, though not without some subtle inclinations of self-awareness. Self-awareness? Subtlety? Together?
Gloriously, it found its shtick. It uncovered the power of quiet strength within the ability to gently mock what it’s so keenly identifying with. With this, a path of unpredictability follows, allowing the writer to control exactly how these typically overdone situations play out, and how these typical archetypes are developed as people. Unfortunately, I feel it overindulges in its display of tense, sexual situations involving the male lead for the sake of sexual fan service. Too often it paraded itself as being self-aware while also partaking in everything it seemed to mock without reason. What would be a great way to mock the oversimplified, one-dimensional, and horribly slow pace of developing relationships between teenage characters abundant with sexual tension? Actually developing their relationships. Saekano doesn’t quite seem to understand this.
Hearing that a sequel was announced, I was honestly excited. I found there was enough potential left undone in the first season to warrant more chances in a sequel. To some extent, there are some lingering drawbacks to what Saekano ♭ does that ring familiar when reminiscing about the first season. What ends up becoming different is what it almost drops altogether.
The biggest compliment that one could give to Saekano ♭ is that it feels like a serious story. From beginning to end, the situations presented feel realistic within the context of the characters’ bonds and the weight of their club’s growing popularity. This doesn’t feel tight within its beginning episodes, which is probably the biggest flaw and another level of inconsistency that the story takes in stride. An occasional line about the characters being self-aware exist, but as the series goes on, it disappears. All it does is embody the drama and the emotions that would come with the story at its current position, months past its chronological starting point. As though Saekano as a series had evolved from its caterpillar roots into a butterfly of its own volition, it almost completely abandons its cynical nature and takes it upon itself to sterilize the tone for the sake of maximizing its emotional potency.
This ends up being the most intriguing factor of Saekano ♭, seeing as it wonderfully transitions from its condescending mimicry to hopeful drama concerning following in one’s decisions and ideals. It does exactly what I felt should have been done more in the first season, even if somewhat sporadically and with many spoonfuls of bitterness. Its final few episodes provide a lot of character insight and how they would react under tense situations; “adversity,” if you will. Even if one character seems to be getting more than the other. There’s something there for people to latch onto, and no longer does the series rely on balancing the act of being serious about not being serious. Should it have taken this seriously from the start, who knows how the series could’ve ended up. As it is now, it at least gains points for being fairly unique.
I suppose the entire point of this post was to both generate buzz for a light novel-adapted anime I find of good quality while also lamenting that light novel-adapted anime can’t take more risks. I understand the business, the desire to make a profit by taking refuge into the clichés that sell and that work. Primarily sex and fantasy flicks that don’t offer much intellectual stimulation. But imagine a world where stories can be free to be as imaginatively weird or stupid or challenging as possible. To cast off the shackles of what the money commands and have people be given the liberty to write what they please. Ah! Please excuse me, I’m getting a little too idealistic. In any case, Saekano ♭ is a decent sequel and a rare example of a light novel-adapted anime that has enough to tickle the noggin to stimulate the internal pump, all while transcending its initial identity to prominent execution of industry standards.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.