First Look: Eromanga Sensei

Light Novel Adaptation by A-1 Pictures
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Masamune Izumi is a hard working, modestly successful light novel author and all around nice guy high school student. He has never met his illustrator, the popular “Eromanga Sensei” who, you guessed it, is known for making erotic drawings. Through a series of coincidences he discovers Eromanga Sensei’s true identity – his cute step sister who never leaves her room!

Jel’s verdict: My Little Sister Can’t Be thisAAAAAAHHHHHHHH k i l l m e

I think to fully understand Eromanga Sensei we need to try to understand the mind of author Tsukasa Fushimi, best known for making anime incest mainstream with his previous work Oreimo. Fortunately, his entire point of view can be summed up in an infamous speech by Oreimo’s Kuroneko in the “True Route” episode 14:

A friend once told me ‘these things you’re writing are nothing but self gratifying masturbation novels, right?’ That same friend also told me that the most important thing for an author is working on something he or she enjoys. If they don’t, then there’s no way they can ever write anything interesting. Isn’t that what the heart of a creator truly is? But that only works for people who are lucky enough that what they enjoy equals what sells. What about everyone else? I hate people who can freely write anything they want like that, from the bottom of my heart. I want to kill them in the most bitter, agonizing, twisted way possible. Don’t you want to show those kind of people a thing or two? I’ve thought about it. How can I scare the hell out of those people? Turn my nose up and defy their concept of what things “should” be like. Self gratification? Masturbation material? Like I care. I’m going to do whatever I want to do, how ever I want to do it. To me, a doujin is something you’re supposed to slap a “100% self-gratifying masturbation material” sticker onto. If they say that my masturbation material is boring, then I’ll just have to show them masturbation like they’ve never seen before!

It’s pretty obvious Fushimi is talking about himself. Both Oreimo and Eromanga Sensei involve characters that are light novel writers and deal with the issues that come with it. For all the attention Oreimo got for it’s harem of cute girls and its terrible, mind breaking ending, this speech is truly what he wants us to take away. Fushimi is going to write about the only thing he knows, which is writing about the only thing he knows. It’s an empty circle, an echo chamber filled with the sound of a man mentally jerking off. You’re welcome for that image.

Of course artists making art about making their art is nothing new, but to understand why Fushimi drives me particularly crazy let’s compare to one of his contemporaries, Wataru Watari (My Teenage Comedy SNAFU, Girlish Number). I’m not a huge fan of Watari’s work either, but I can appreciate that he understands how trivial his industry really is. In SNAFU, he mercilessly skewers the rules and clichés that nearly every anime romantic comedy slavishly adheres to. In Girlish Number he takes things to the cut throat real world of making anime, even inserting a pathetic, socially awkward light novel author that no one can stand to have around and they all know his novels are trash. It’s both incredibly self deprecating and a huge indictment on the industry, as if to say “look everyone, we can do better.” I can respect that.

On the flip side, Fushimi portrays authors (and therefore himself) as heroes. Oreimo’s Kirino is talented and popular and good at everything she does. The aforementioned Kuroneko is also a talented writer and artist who is adored by the audience. And now we have Eromanga Sensei’s Masamune, who is hard working and kind and has a bright future ahead of him. Fushimi wants us to see what they (and him) do as noble and beautiful, sharing their passion with the world and sticking to their ideals regardless of what everyone thinks.

There is a ring of truth to that in theory, so where does this all go wrong? Let’s go back to the echo chamber. Is being creative still noble when all you do is acknowledge things other people have done then pat yourself on the back for it? Beyond covering light novels, both Oreimo and Eromanga Sensei rely heavily on portraying and explaining the anime nerd lifestyle, like going to a midnight launch of a visual novel in Akihabara or watching an artist livestream drawing on NicoNico. The characters themselves fit neatly into various clichéd anime molds despite some effort to make it seem otherwise. I’m sure Fushimi is passionate about all of those things, but there’s not a drop of genuine creativity in any of it. It’s just showing us things he likes and then he wants credit for telling us about them. Once again, it’s all mental masturbation. It makes him and those like him satisfied for a moment in thinking that what they do is important, but there’s no lasting value.

And so for me the most damning part of Eromanga Sensei wasn’t the paint by numbers tsundere act by it’s leading lady or the leering camera angles or even the absurdly stupid coincidence that is the entire premise of the series. It’s when Masamune slams down his thick pile of ideas and explains the concepts for his next two novels. One will be a super powered high school battle series, another will be an adventure set in an alternate universe. To invoke Girlish Number again, that show rightfully recognized how tired and and creatively bankrupt those kinds of novels are with the atrocity that was Millennium Princess x Kowloon Overlord. Here though, they are presented without further comment and Masamune is praised for his hard work. Rather than saying “we can do better”, Fushimi is saying “isn’t all of this great?” No, it isn’t. Everyone please go watch something else and I promise I won’t shut down the site. Probably.

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5 thoughts on “First Look: Eromanga Sensei

  1. I won’t blame you if you did (shut down the site, I mean). But I would indeed miss your scathing remarks towards current shows. It’s incredibly comforting to know that I’m not the only one who’s soul is slowly slipping off into a void due to the increasing number of titles like this

  2. Oh me. I just bought all 7 volume of Koe no Katachi in Japanese. So I can occupy myself with something otaku culture has produced that is actually good.

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