First of all, apologies for the lack of coverage on this show. It’s really good, but life just caught up with me. I’ll try to be more consistent in the future!
Boy, did a lot of things happen in these 6 episodes. I’ll give you a recap.
After the school festival ends and the main conflict with Utaha is resolved, we are now faced with Eriri’s struggle to keep up with the new content that Aki has now pushed upon her. All of this extra work on top of her competition with Izumi for Winter Comiket has led to a lot of stress, and a slight slump. Thus, Eriri decides to lock herself away at her mansion in Nasu Kougen to finish the final illustrations for Cherry Blessing.
Surprisingly, Utaha is worried about this creative slump that Eriri is having, and in particular is not very happy with the way the Tomoya is dealing with it. Just like in the case with her script, Tomoya is avoiding conflict with his creatives in order to keep the stauts quo. It was when Tomoya had pushed Utaha to change her script, that she finally respected him as a creative and a producer; but now here he is again, skirting around the issue of whether or not to be harsh on Eriri or not for not meeting her deadlines. Utaha respects Eriri as an illustrator–we know this from earlier in the season, but seeing Tomoya baby Eriri angers her because it won’t be good for Eriri as a creative in the future.
We see that Eriri starts to devolve into grief as she cannot find the inspiration to draw with her signature touch, and she looks to Tomoya for comfort. All she really wants if for him to accept her and say he needs her art, but he just gets irritated that she has suddenly decided to change her whole drawing method at the very end and tells her to “do whatever she wants.”
This is important for the future because it motivates Eriri in the wrong way. Feeling scorned by Tomoya, she draws with a ferocity that pushes her to overcome her fears of not being needed by Tomoya. In the end she completes the final 7 pages of illustrations for the route that he wrote for Cherry Blessing, at the cost of her health.
Tomoya rushes to Nasu Kougen with the help of Iori, and finds a sick Eriri on the floor next to her work. He takes care of Eriri, but is left with a very adamant command from his rival to rely on his friends to burn the final master of the game to meet the Winter Comiket deadline. Tomoya refuses to send Eriri’s work and ask his team to push themselves more for his whims because it has already resulted in one of them collapsing sick.
Eriri wakes up and finds Tomoya sleeping on the ground, but is distraught to learn that he did not send her final illustrations to finish the game and get the master copy to the production facility. This is a crucial mistake that will haunt Tomoya.
Now that Tomoya has seen what his whims have brought upon one of his precious friends, he begins to waver in his resolve. He begins to baby Eriri and tells her that she doesn’t need to push herself anymore since she’s become his #1 illustrator. This is exactly what Utaha had feared would happen.
Cherry Blessing is now complete, and they will have 100 self-burned copies to sell at Winter Comiket. The game’s demo garnered the attention of many people, thus resulting in a sell out at Winter Comiket. The only problem now is that all of Tomoya’s mistakes have accumulated to the breaking point.
We see that Megumi, who has put her heart and soul into the circle for her friends, is now mad at Tomoya. Tomoya had not only failed to realize the tremendous amount of work and detail she had put into Cheery Blessing, but he also failed to rely on her for help when he needed it; even though she offered her support multiple times. Tomoya had become so engrossed with his worry for Eriri, that he failed to trust in his team, his friends. This was something he had done to a fault previously.
Another issue that resulted from these events is Eriri’s new, greater slump. She has gotten everything she ever wanted–Tomoya’s approval. Now that she has nothing to prove to him, she loses her motivation to draw. This is exactly why Utaha had told Tomoya to not baby Eriri in the last spurt of development for Cherry Blessing. Now Eriri is having an identity crisis as an artist. If she has no need to have Tomoya accept her art, why does she need to draw anymore?
Months pass, and Cherry Blessing is a hit. Even the members of rouge en rouge fall in love with the game. Eriri is in a slump, but now has her relationship with Tomoya restored. Utaha is business as usual with her sexual harassment of Tomoya, but mentions cryptically that she fears for Eriri’s slump as she wants to create another game with her. Despite this harem situation, all seems well and good, except that our main heroine has stopped attending circle activities.
In order to right his wrongs, Tomoya catches Megumi on her exit from class and brings her to the AV Room in order to convince her to be his second-in-command for his 2nd game idea–going back to his original concept of making a game about realizing the best qualities of the heroine. He apologizes to Megumi for not realizing that she had done everything in her power to help the circle succeed, and yet in the most crucial moment, he failed to realize that he could rely on her strength to pull them through a tough situation.
This brings Megumi to tears. All of her pent up emotions and frustrations for him are now overflowing. She agrees to help Tomoya once more because she truly had fun creating a game with everyone.
All is right in the world again…for now.
More time passes, and ultimately, Eriri has still failed to escape her slump. Utaha graduates and is met by Tomoya as she leaves her graduation ceremony.
They go to a cafe and discuss Utaha’s post high school life. Tomoya decides that now is the time to ask Utaha to look over his proposal for Blessing Software’s second game. Surprisingly, she gives it fairly good marks, but sadly knows what is about to come next…Tomoya’s request for her to join the production of How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. Let us remember before, that Utaha had told Tomoya that she wanted to create another game with Eriri, so she asks him if he had already asked Eriri to be a part of the team. To Tomoya’s horror, Utaha is forced to break the bad news for him. She had been scouted to be the main Scenario Writer for the 20th anniversary installment of the popular Faries’ Chronicle series, and the lead character designer would be Eriri. They had been scouted by someone who had taken notice of Eriri’s talent at an inopportune time for Tomoya, rouge en rouge’s founder, Kousaka Akane; the woman who had driven Tomoya and Iori to Nasu Kougen to check up on Eriri.
We find out that one month prior to this moment, Kousaka Akane had used her leverage in the gaming world to get a meeting with Utaha and Eriri. Eriri, who had no intention of accepting the proposition, is still in her slump and would be happy just being by Tomoya’s side once more. But her drive as an artist gets the better of her.
Akane, a very ruthless and fierce producer, tells Utaha and Eriri that they must live and died by this new Fairies’ Chronicle project, and she knows just how to steal Eriri away. Realizing that Eriri is in a slump, she tells her that the reason why she cannot draw anymore is because she is a bad illustrator, and that her drawings are complete and utter trash, but Akane can force Eriri to push beyond her limits as an artist. Akane even goes as far as to emulate Eriri’s drawing style to a T to throw in her face. Eriri is furious to have everything she had built up to now was being trashed as if it meant nothing, but it lit a fire inside of her to prove Akane wrong. The end result is that Eriri finally exits her slump…by making her best art yet.
This frustrates Eriri because she can’t be the great illustrator that Tomoya wants her to be, while being at his side. All it took was the brazen Akane, trashing her work, to light the fire of passion back inside of her. She is completely disgusted with herself that she cannot draw for Tomoya, but is able to draw for such a despicable person like Akane. Reluctantly, Eriri decides to take this grand opportunity and prove to Akane that she isn’t a bad illustrator, and to transcend her previous self as an artist.
This leads us to Utaha’s decision. It was always dependent upon Eriri. She was the one who had warned Tomoya before about babying Eriri, that it would lead to a crisis in her creative career. It was also Utaha that had told Tomoya that she wanted to work with Eriri once more, for the two of them to push one another and create a masterpiece. Despite her love for Tomoya, she decides to follow Eriri in order to satisfy her creative drive and push herself to become a writer like she’s never been before.
Unfortunately for Tomoya, his circle is now destroyed. Iori sends his apologies for his circle’s founder’s actions in stealing his two prized creatives, but Tomoya knows it is his own fault for not realizing that he was making plenty of mistakes as a producer, despite Iori’s warning to keep Utaha and Eriri close. We now learn that Iori and Izumi have left rouge en rouge to pursue a different and more rewarding project with a different producer “who drags people into his own whims,” not unlike Akane. The main issue being that Iori cannot force himself to be the villain that Akane has trained him to be in order to push his team to reach further.
We are left with a depressed Tomoya, walking up the same hill he had seen Megumi standing at for the first time. And lo and behold, Megumi was standing at the top of the hill once more with the same outfit and haircut, recreating the scene from a year prior. It is at this point that Megumi tells Tomoya to go on a date with her.
Phew! That was a lot to cover. Now let me delve into my thoughts on the events that occurred in these last 6 episodes.
Megumi, the ‘Flat’ Heroine
What this season has done so well has been their handling of Megumi. While everyone constantly pokes fun at her stoic and uninspired way of handling herself, she has seen tremendous character development in the background, while everyone’s attention has been on Utaha and Eriri. It’s not hard to be swept up in the whims of those two with their strong personalities, but each and every episode, we are shown tidbits of Megumi growing as a character. It’s not until we reach episodes 7 and 8, that both Tomoya AND us–the audience–realize that we had been played like a fiddle.
Megumi had become the silent hero of Cherry Blessing, working tirelessly and selflessly for the circle. She learned to program just to help everyone realize the dream of creating a great game, and even added her own flair of changing the heroines expressions to the game herself without anyone realizing it until Tomoya finally plays the release copy. It is in this moment that Tomoya, and us included, realize that Megumi has changed.
Just as Tomoya wants to create a game that focuses on the human behind the character, whose expressions and way of speaking changes as the relationship with the protagonist changes, Megumi herself has changed in her interactions with Tomoya and the expressions she shows him. Megumi has grown on me more and more as this series has progressed. Despite being thrust into the background most of the time, she has slowly, but surely, become a true main heroine. One that you can’t help but notice as cute. At the end of episode 8, she tells Tomoya to forget everything he saw of her after his apology, but he can’t easily forget this new side of her. She is starting to–whether she wants to or not–fall for Tomoya, and I for one, can’t help but want to cheer her on (despite being an Utaha fan).
It is also safe to say that Megumi is a good foil for Tomoya. She easily takes his wild outbursts of otaku passion with a stride, and goes at her own pace, rather than being swept up in his.
The Breakup of Blessing Software
While it is hard to fathom this group of eccentric individuals going their separate ways, everything that fell into place was forecasted long before the last domino fell. Both Utaha and Iori had warned Tomoya about how his change in attitude would affect the circle. It was Tomoya who had forced Utaha to come to grips with her complacency and push beyond that in the first place and ultimately what led her to respect him as a creative and a producer. To see that change just because he was afraid of pushing Eriri away must have irritated her to no end. Ironically, by not pushing Eriri forward and babying her, he essentially did exactly what he was trying to avoid, thus leading to the departure of Utaha and Eriri from Blessing Software.
I personally believe that Tomoya made a huge mistake by not pushing Eriri like he did with Utaha. It may be understandable that he didn’t given his past history with Eriri, but as a producer and a friend, he shouldn’t be trying to shield her from the harsh realities of being a struggling artist. He should be encouraging her, and pushing her to DO MORE. If you’re not giving it 110%, there is no way you can grow in whatever you are doing. You are merely being complacent. He should want and expect more from his team. This is the same thing as not having faith and trusting in his friends to pull things through, because in the end, that is exactly how he pushed Megumi away in the first place. He had zero expectations for Eriri, and that is why she couldn’t grow and entered a slump.
Understanding the Betrayal
I know many of you are probably furious with Utaha and Eriri (and the writer/director or the series) for betraying Tomoya and the circle. It was a kick to the stomach, but the pieces had been laid for this event to occur long before the decision was even made. We know that Tomoya had handled the situation poorly with Eriri, and ultimately he has a lot of blame to be dealt. But let us understand as well that Utaha and Eriri put themselves into this situation as well.
Utaha and Eriri had taken this project as a sort of way to connect with Tomoya. You can see in Utaha’s original script that she had written it just for him, and that she was trying to have Tomoya “pick her” and accept her as the main heroine in his life. As we all know from the end of episode 4, Tomoya essentially rejects her by dismantling her script without realizing her true intentions, and forces her to overcome he complacency. This is what sparks Utaha to want more as a creator, being rejected by the one she loves the most.
Eriri, on the other hand, had been drawing with the sole purpose of connecting with Tomoya and being #1 in his eyes. Instead of kindling the fire that he lit inside of her when he told her to overcome her shortcomings and become a better illustrator, Tomoya chose to shield Eriri from the harsh reality of “hitting the wall”. He became more and more lenient with her, to the chagrin of Utaha, until she became complacent herself in realizing her dream of being his #1. The way he does this is by rejecting Eriri as well. In stead of pushing her to overcome her own deficiencies, he chooses to reject her drive and steer her away from the wall she had hit. She overcame her obstacle for the time being, but eventually found an even bigger wall because of it. If Tomoya had rejected her passion as a creator, how could she continue drawing for him?
Don’t Hate, Appreciate
It’s easy to both hate Utaha and Eriri, as well as Maruto Fumiaki for “writing them off”. Let’s not forget that the opportunity afforded to these two girls is HUGE. If they succeed in overcoming their past selves and create an amazing game at this level, they will evolve as creators. But in the end, instead of creating for Tomoya, they need time away to create for themselves. Their passion should be something born from inside of them, and not because they want to influence Tomoya to choose them.
This is actually a big step for these two characters, and it will be a big developmental step for Tomoya as well. Without the need to try and create to please Tomoya, Utaha and Eriri will become respectable creators that can truly be seen a amazing in Tomoya’s eyes. I actually applaud Maruto for planting the seeds for this betrayal into the story, in what would ultimately be a very unpopular move for all of the Utaha and Eriri fans. I’m sure most people feel slighted because the characters they loved are essentially now sailing away in the war for Tomoya, with Megumi now bolstering a fleet of astronomical proportions. But please take this as a step forward for the two characters. In order to become more than their tropes, they need to evolve in order to become heroines in their own rights, just as Megumi has begun to do.
Let’s face it. Cherry Blessing wasn’t the game that Tomoya wanted to make, and the reason it turned out that way was because of the influence of Utaha and Eriri. Their strong personalities not only took over the attention of the viewers this season, but they also took over the whole focus of the game. Just look at how Ruri, who is supposed to be a character based on Megumi, is basically a representation of Utaha. Tomoya was carried by these two in Cherry Blessing, and he needs to work without them in order to grow as a creator AND to achieve his goals in creating the game he truly wants to make.
But What Happens Now?
We only have one episode left in this season, and things looked to have turned for the worst. But I see it differently. All of this was necessary in order for the whole cast of characters to grow. It is the absence of something that you took for granted that causes you to realize it’s true value, and thus help you grow in order not to make the same mistakes again. But do we really believe that Utaha and Eriri are gone? Nope.
Let’s be honest. This is not the last time we will be seeing Utaha sexually harass Tomoya, or Eriri get tsundere with Tomoya. I’m pretty sure that Megumi will be the one Tomoya can rely on to refocus himself and thrust himself back into the lives of Eriri and Utaha. Just because you don’t work together, doesn’t mean you can’t be friends. While many may see this as an impossible betrayal to overcome (I mean these two were probably the closest they’ve ever been to Tomoya and then pullled the rug out from underneath him), I have faith that Tomoya won’t back down that easily, and force Utaha and Eriri to acknowledge him as a creator.
My wish for the future is that Eriri and Utaha succeed in finding themselves as creators, but long for the fun side of creating that Akane seems to have thrown away, and Tomoya embraces. Akane and Tomoya are both people that “pull others around on their own whims”, they just both live at opposite ends of the spectrum. While Akane may be the ruthless leader needed to create results, Tomoya is the charismatic leader you enjoy creating with. It is this lack of enjoyment that caused Iori to leave rouge en rouge in the first place in search of the fun he used to have creating games before. I hope that Utaha and Eriri realize that while they may find themselves and evolve as creators, it means nothing is they don’t have fun doing what they do. That in itself can lead to a loss of motivation and possibly a burnout that can end you career.
The way I see it, Tomoya will grow with Blessing Software and be the beacon of light that Utaha and Eriri will want to look for in their darkest times. Tomoya will create the circle anew with Iori and Izumi, who just so happened to have left rouge en rouge because they don’t agree with Akane’s ruthless vision. It also helps that Cherry Blessing should serve as a motivation for Izumi to evolve as an illustrator and spark her competition with Eriri anew.
Let us not forget that Tomoya’s goal with How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend is to highlight the human behind the character. Just as Maruto Fumiaki has slowly done so with this series, Tomoya will craft heroines out of Utaha and Eriri into his game, just as he has done for Megumi. This is enough reason for him to continue sticking into their lives as “research”. We should expect to see the same for our two other forgotten heroines, Izumi and Michiru, who should play a larger role now that Utaha and Eriri are no longer with Blessing Software. Well. That’s at least how I see things going from here on out.
Thanks for sticking it out to the end here. This is a pretty lengthy post, and I have been lagging on coverage of this show, but I will do my best to keep pace in the future!