The ourobourous is strong with this one.
I confess I quite like Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu. That’s not as surprising as it could be with Tanaka Romeo writing and Sato Takuya directing, true, but it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this is the sort of story that’s normally a pretty tough sell with me. The kind of self-aware parody Shoujo-tachi is trying to pull off here is wickedly difficult, almost always losing its nerve and/or lapsing into fawning rather than satire. But this is Tanaka we’re talking about, and anyone who knows his writing knows he’s got nerve to spare and an edge that can cut like burnished steel.
I don’t know if that’s all going to pan out here, but the show is off to a promising start. It’s funny when it needs to be, obviously knows the subject it’s focused on extremely well and doesn’t seem inclined to turn its characters into caricatures. We’re obviously not going for photo-realism – a couple of high school kids don’t get a VN staff together in a day or two – but what I rather suspect is happening is that Tanaka is trying to do two things simultaneously – satirize the sillier and more absurd parts of the game industry, and communicate something of the exhilaration of creating a piece of art about something you love simply for its own sake. One might infer that in doing the latter he’s trying to recapture something he hasn’t had for a long time, but I won’t make that assumption.
As he did in Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (though in slightly more restrained fashion) it seems clear Tanaka-sensei is using the absurd to shine a light on reality. Kuroda-san speaking in code – and Bunta’s reaction. Atomu’s tortured good-boy-meltdown. The trip to Akiba – complete with Yuuka’s “Where are the tsunderes?!” comment right off the train, and Bunta’s guilty obsession with seeing a meidou cafe. And Andou’s schizophrenic behavior when Bunta catches her in the act of working there. It’s all good fun, but there’s a definitely element of truth underlying all of it.
In effect, I think what’s been created here is “Hey Kids – let’s put on a show!” scenario. And as such, I don’t expect things to ever get too dark and cynical, because I suspect on some level Tanaka kind of likes what he does. It almost puts me in mind of “Waiting for Guffman”, which was obviously a satire in the full Christopher Guest tradition but somehow managed to maintain a kind of sweetness to it, and never wavered in its affection for its characters (absurd though they were).
Helping all that along is that the remaining “staff” all seem likeable characters. Joining Yuuka (the seiyuu) and Atomu (the director – eventually) are the aforementioned maid Andou Teruha (Akesaka Satomi) as ‘Grammer and Uguisu Yuuki (Sato Satomi) – “Hokekiyo”, the Pixiv legend – as the artist. Adding spice is the fact that Andou is an admitted fujoshi and timid little Yuuki longs to draw 18+ hentai material. They make an interesting group, and I’m keen to see where Tanaka takes them from here.