Wednesday, April 13, 2016

How To Raise A Boring Girlfriend Vol. #1 Manga Review

That was the day...I met with destiny.

Creative Staff:
Original Story: Fumiaki Maruto
Art: Takeshi Moriki
Character Design: Kurehito Misaki
Translation: Kumar Sivasubramanian
Translation Consultant: Chitoku Teshima
Lettering: Phil Christie

What They Say:
Aspiring visual-novel game designer Aki Tomoya thinks he's just met his dream girl, but reality comes crashing down when he finds out that this girl is none other than his beautiful but boring classmate Megumi Kato! Fueled by a desire to make Megumi the heroine of his dating sim game, he recruits two more beauties - Eriri, his artistic childhood friend, and Utaha, a genius writing prodigy - to form Blessing Software. The road to making a dating sim game is full of fun and romance - especially when life begins to imitate art!

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
Back in early 2015, I was immediately hooked on a show titled "Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Or "How To Raise a Boring Girlfriend") so as soon as I caught wind up the manga adaptation being published in English, I kind of freaked out. The thing is, I didn't catch wind of that until about two months after it had already happened. So it was kind of like someone threw a surprise party for me that I never showed up to and when I finally did, like four people were still there. Regardless, I grabbed this right away in hopes that the manga would be able to deliver an experience that could parallel my relationship with the animated series. And boy, I was not let down. In fact, this could wind up being even better -- and that's saying a lot considering just how much I love the original series.

Saekano (Which is what I'm just going to refer to this as because there is no way in hell I'm typing out the full title more than once per article) follows the same basic plotline that the anime did. Tomoya Aki has a chance encounter with a girl (Megumi Katou) whose hat flies off her head and lands right in front of our protagonist. The downside to this fated scene from a visual novel turned real is that Katou is essentially the most boring person of all time. She has almost no expression ever, she speaks monotonously, and she doesn't even really have any interests. At least not yet. Tomoya, being a super otaku, has big plans of transforming her into a girl that will melt the hearts of everyone (Albeit a video game version) -- hence the title of "How to Raise a blah blah blah." 

So, what Tomoya plans to do is create a visual novel with the help of a few select individuals, each of which is reluctant to join him. The first of these is his childhood friend and famed Pixiv dojinshi artist, Eriri Spencer-Sawamura (Also known as best girl). Second is his senpai, Kasumigaoka Utaha, who has already built up quite the following due to her light novel series "Metronome In Love". This visual novel can't be started, however, until everyone is on board for the project. So, first thing's first, Tomoya needs to get Megumi to accept and appreciate the culture of dating sims and visual novels. After literally forcing her to marathon a few games and books with him, she begins to understand Tomoya's interests. This is probably due to the fact that she has no personality and her brain is essentially devoid of fun. Either way, it winds up working and she and Aki quickly become a determined duo. Well, at least Tomoya is determined. Katou is kind of just there.

The next hurdle is going to be Eriri (I hate typing that name, by the way). However, this hurdle winds up being less of an obstacle than expected thanks to some good old-fashioned blackmail. Tomoya apparently replaced the last disc in a bluray set that Eriri had borrowed with some insanely grotesque horror material that caused her to have a bit of a mental breakdown. This, of course, leads to Eriri spending some time in Aki's room with him and Katou because, you know, childhood friends and jealousy and stuff. After the three marathon a series that both Tomoya and Eriri are clearly fond of, it's evident that the tsundere childhood friend will ultimately wind up joining the project. At the same time, though, she must protect her reputation at school. So obviously the best thing to do in order to preserve said reputation is to threaten Katou with unbridled violence that will be unleashed if she utters a word about the "real" Sawamura. Scary.

The third and final girl that must be forced/brought onto the project is Kasumigaoka. Tomoya winds up approaching this hurdle in a more sly manner, however. After getting Katou to read through "Metronome In Love," she winds up becoming pretty infatuated with it. As it turns out, Aki planned on bringing Katou to an autograph signing the author is holding nearby. What Katou didn't know, though, is that the writer of the series goes to the same school as her. Being shocked by not only the situation but that Kasumigaoka is friends (Kind of) with Aki, she winds up talking about how much she loves Metronome to her in a pretty fangirly way. This winds up prompting Utaha to be less harsh considering that Katou was generally happy to meet her -- as opposed to Tomoya just being Tomoya. It was actually pretty cute. In the end, Tomoya and Katou somehow manage to get Utaha to at least think about joining their project. However, nothing is clear at the moment and we must wait until the next volume to see how things progress.

In Summary:
I'm not being biased when I say that the first volume of Saekano is impressive on all fronts. The art is some of the cleanest I have ever seen, which is extremely impressive due to the slightly unpopular nature of the series. The text is incredibly detailed and clear as well, sporting a massive word total for the 160ish pages the volume has to offer. Massive word totals, which can very easily become something that forces a manga to grow boring and uninteresting, actually wind up working in Saekano's favor and force the reader to move on through well-written comedy and a plethora of popular allusions. To top it all off, there's even an extensive list of those allusions (As well as some Japanese words and references) located in the back of the volume. It's evident that an extraordinary amount of care was put into this series and I'm extremely happy with the overall outcome. I highly urge anyone into romantic comedies and gaming to pick this up.

Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A+

Age Rating: 14+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: January 26, 2016
MSRP: $13.00

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