Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu is a series all about finding oneself and a direction in life... no matter how far off the beaten path it might be.
Buntarou Hojo is a high school student who has a talent for writing, but no real direction in life or any plans for the future. His classmate, Sayuki Kuroda notices his talent, decides to help him find a way to use it properly by enlisting him in her bishoujo game development group.
When Buntarou is cornered in the men's bathroom at school by Sayuki, he is surprised when he is asked out on what he thinks is a date, and even further surprised when he finds out that it's not a date, but a job interview. Reluctantly agreeing, the two start recruiting other members for their team but will they learn more about game creation, or life itself along the way?
Please don't tell me this is any indication of Romeo Tanaka's future as a writer.
It should be said that I had a lot of anticipation for Kouya when the visual novel was first announced a couple years ago. Being the first big project from Romeo in quite some time--- the man responsible for Cross Channel, arguably one of the best and most well-written visual novels-- I had expected something more than the nonsense it actually turned out to be. It seems Romeo may have gotten jealous of Maruto, a fellow, former (?) VN writer's success with Saekano, and felt the need to also get a
piece of the tired 'high schoolers making eroge!!' cash-cow of a genre. Yawn.
And that normally wouldn't be such a bad thing if it was coming from someone other than Romeo, but the bigger issue is that Kouya is a hot pile of garbage even when compared to something completely run-of-the-mill like Saekano. Where to begin?
One could simply write a checklist of all the obnoxious tropes and cliches Kouya is permeated with, and you would get a pretty good idea of how brainless the show can be. For one, I am getting real sick of anime where the most beautiful girl in school is somehow, for some reason, secretly an otaku, as if only the super attractive and the super ugly can be interested in anime and eroge, while someone like Buntarou, a completely ordinary guy, is presented as the outsider for not being on one of these two extremes. Not only is this absolutely silly and insulting to anime fans, but it is a very obvious attempt to manipulate certain viewers into making them feel special and unique for identifying with Buntarou. He is just your typical high school student, after all (just like me!), and all the cute girls around him are hardcore otaku, too! Awesome! Allow me to groan.
(I also want to die every time there is an onsen scene where the female characters compare and grab each others' boobs, as if the audience is comprised solely of 11-year-old boys who just entered puberty.)
Kouya goes the extra mile in being asinine, the characters acting out eroge scenes in real life as "practice", which is probably a good indication that the they are in dire need of mental help. There is even your typical scene where the group rushes to meet the deadline for their doujin game, and succeeds with about 0.2 seconds to spare, the characters passing the game disc along like a baton and screaming at each other in encouragement ("Go, go!"). Does this stuff still appeal to people, i.e. actual human beings?
Take care to prepare for the wacky antics that ensue, as our beloved protagonist is locked in his room and forced to write an unreasonable amount of text, sleeping by accident and then being encouraged by the rest of the club, dressed in meido outfits, including Atomu who is actually a boy!! なんてこった!! Funny!! Nice joke (lol)!! I didn't laugh a single time. For a show that is primarily comedy, there being nothing that is actually funny is a bit of an issue. (I did, however, laugh at a scene later on in the episode, where Buntarou passes out in the bathtub and is later seen lying on his bed covered in bandages. What?)
None of the characters are particularly interesting or compelling, and are often defined by a single trait. Andou is a fujoshi who thinks everything in the world is gay, Atomu is a misogynist who hates the normies, Yuuka is a whiny brat, and Kuroda is your typical kuudere devoid of feeling or personality. Buntarou should, however, at least be given some credit for actually having some personality and not being just a worthless, spineless blob of nothing for viewers to self-insert into, as is the case with just about every single anime of this type. Yuuki is also an adorable little lady; it's just too bad the visual novel is planned to be all-ages, as we will not be able to see the protagonist bone her in the full game. And that may just be the greatest crime of all.
The romance-- or whatever you can call the show's half-hearted attempts at romance-- is, not surprisingly, completely juvenile. You'll regularly be witness to crap like Yuuka running away in tears, yelling "you jerk!" repeatedly, all because Buntarou had the nerve to politely respond to someone asking him a question? Or she'll run away crying like a big baby, nearly getting run-over by an oncoming train (because drama), simply due to her not being able to perfect her lines, and having to meet a time-limit just like every other damn character has, and has been struggling with, for the entire show. Someone clearly never grew up past their elementary school years.
Considering how one-dimensional most of the characters are, there is little reason to care about their struggles or the potential demise of their doujin group. It presents itself (poorly) as a comedy, and then on occasion it decides it wants to make us feel something. It doesn't quite work like that. Drama must serve some kind of purpose, and it must be built up towards gradually over the course of the story. Here it comes across as nothing but haphazard and unnecessary, and does nothing but make the anime an even bigger chore to watch. I don't give a donkey's poo-poo about some insipid melodrama, and I doubt anyone else watching this show does, either. I'll drop the words 'rival eroge group' and you can already have a good guess of where the final episodes go. And it's nowhere interesting, to be sure.
Kouya can at times feel like Romeo stroking his ego. There's a fair bit of self-referential dialogue (i.e. how becoming an eroge writer will open paths to industries such as anime and light novels), which almost felt as if he was proposing that Kouya can teach the audience how to become a Cool Successful Guy like him. Perhaps that was not his intention, but he should at least have had the hindsight to see that people familiar with his work may interpret it that way. This issue is also compounded by the lack of any of the insider knowledge and commentary you would expect from someone who has been involved in the industry for over fifteen years. Kouya is a completely banal and sometimes false interpretation of the eroge industry, and it seems Romeo is satisfied with that. This could have been the eroge equivalent of Shirobako, you know? It's been a while since I've seen such an enormous waste of potential.
The art is not quite poor enough to be firmly labelled 'bad', but it is certainly not something your eyes will take any pleasure in seeing. The whole thing feels very cheap and low-budget, lacking in any noticeable animation, and filled mostly of close-up shots of the characters making angry (:<) or sad (;_;) faces, or sitting still and talking as if they were programmed to. There were, however, some neat easter-eggs during the characters' initial trips to Akihabara, with plenty of real-life eroge (i.e. Baldr Sky Zero, Sharin no Kuni and Pretty x Cation) hiding subtly on a bookshelf. I can only wish there was more of that: something to make the whole 'otaku' thing at least feel the slightest bit authentic, and less like the sham that it actually is.
It is quite clear that Kouya's anime is little other than an advertisement for its source material, when you take into account the timing of the anime (it finishing its airing just a day before the release of the visual novel). Do you really want to watch a 12-episode long advertisement? I doubt it. Having finished reading the trial for the VN a few days ago, while I can say that the VN is a much improved experience (and with far better artwork and production values), it still wasn't anything overly-impressive. The visual novel is written and paced like it wants to be anime, and yet the actual anime-- the only exposure many people will have to this series-- is hot garbage. I really don't know what Romeo had in mind with this thing.
While it remains to be seen how much of the blame should be put on Romeo versus the anime team, the end result is still a foul, rancid mess that is just not worth anyone's time. Do yourself a favour and instead watch something like Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu-- a recent anime that doesn't completely suck. It's getting awfully hard to find ones that don't.
Well here's a show that I think got a bit of a bad wrap for no real reason.
But I do have some reasons for why people wouldn't like it so much.
Firstly Saekano came before this show, and the novelty of it had already worn off for many people.
Secondly people set their expectations too high for something that never really tried to be anything special to begin with.
--Actual review: minor spoiler warning.
-Presentation(visuals & sound)
To me nothing looked visually out of place, which isn't weird considering this isn't a very action heavy show requiring lots of animation.
Sound vise I like the OP and ED, I actually think
they were some of the better ones of the season, I like just how bombastic the singing was.
But even then none of the background tracks stood out to me.
I basically picked this show to just watch something that would be easy to get into without having to think about it much.
and good that I did because this is certainly not a masterpiece of a plot, nor is it necessarily bad, just very average.
My biggest problem with it is how the characters would occasionally get mad at each other for no real reason.
That kind of stuff basically happens whenever a writer has to work with a very limited time left in the series or the movie they're working with, so they rush it a bit.
At least the characters realize how stupid the thing is in a pretty short amount of time.
Another thing that could be considered a nitpick is how the characters seem like they've never heard of the internet and still try to get their game to the manufacturer by disc for added drama.
There were some "romantic" scenes that didn't really go anywhere at the end, not that I
expected them to.
On a few occasions this show makes a comment about the VN industry, but not often.
Compared to Saekano Shoujo-tachi focuses more on actual creative parts of making a game, it doesn't have as much humor.
Overall this show doesn't really fail with its plot because it keeps its goals fairly grounded.
This show has very archetypal characters, and it knows it.
For example every character has a name related to one of the things that defines their archetypes, for example Kuroda's name refers to her black hair.
Also I bet all the voice actors were told to do the most typical voice for the archetype they were playing, even if it's over the top.
But not every character is completely archetypal, Buntarou actually contradicts quite a few things that make a generic harem MC, he isn't an unsociable nerd who gets uncomfortable around girls, instead he Writes plays, actually likes being helpful and is quite confident of himself.
Kuroda also subverts a typical thing for her archetype, Instead of constantly having an icy personality she is the first person to approach Buntarou about the game project.
The characters are still left mostly unexplored, though it has some decent character interaction.
Definitely not what I would consider a terrible anime, you can't judge it by premise alone.
But it's nothing amazing either, there aren't any deep characters or unconventional and interesting plots with tons of twists, and the animation while certainly decent doesn't have any moments to show off.
The best thing about this show was probably the songs.
Rarely do I see a show that was so unsurprising to me.
If I was asked to recommend either Saekano or shoujo-tachi I would tell you to just go with whichever sounds like more fun.
I would recommend this to people who already watched Saekano and want something similar and people who just want to fill time with something easy going that some story to go with it.
Oh goody. Another anime written by a visual novel writer. Or to be more accurate, it's adapted from a visual novel written by a visual novel writer (aware of the redundancy, thank you). And we all know how much I love visual novel anime, what with their cliched characters, excessive dialogue, blatant fanservice that doesn't further the story in any way, and overall bland approaches to serious subject matter. Oh, and what's this? It's another anime about a bunch of people making a visual novel? Let me guess, it's going to be completely self-aware about its cliches, do nothing interesting with said awareness, have a
very imbalanced gender ratio of females to males, and have no actual stakes or motivation for the character to make the visual novel beyond "I want to do it". Boy, I'm loving this trend.
Well you'll be please to know that not only did Girls Beyond the Wasteland prove me completely right, but it's such a step down from Welcome to the NHK - the only good anime about making visual novels and NEETs and such - that it actually caused me physical pain. Want to make the characters short on cash and living in squalor as motivation/contrast to their goal of making it big with animated porn? You've got a couple of decently-off high school students who don't have parents and want to make visual novels because they can. Want to have the characters explore serious social issues through their slice-of-life interactions? You've got girls moping about how hot they are for Blandy McBlanderson whilst noting how similar it is to their visual novels. Want to see an actually experienced studio tackle your serious material so that even when the animation is bad, at least it'll be expressive? You've got Project No. 9 taking a dump on your eyeballs. If all that appeals to you...get out of here right now.
Girls Beyond the Wasteland, or Shoujo-tachi Blablabla as it's called in Japan, is an anime based on a visual novel by the godly writer himself, Romeo Tanaka. Yes, that Romeo - Jinrui - Rewrite - Cross Channel - Tanaka. A guy whose prose is about as subtle as a Jackass stunt and whose humor is about as funny as a G-rated Rodney Dangerfield. I'm not a fan personally, but then again I don't get the appeal of visual novel writing at all, and that's one of the least weird things about what they like in the East.
Seiji Kishi's adaptation of his light novel series, Humanity Has Declined aka Jinrui wa blablabla, is remembered by people as one of the best surprises in recent years. Christ knows why. It was fucking AWFUL! Set in a world where everyone reacts to everything with a deadpan expression (which wasn't funny when The Avengers did it either), the satire amounted to nothing more than a bunch of ripoff scenarios from much better post-apocalyptic products along with a bunch of anime in-jokes that made me want to vomit out the window. It depended way too much on its premise and setting and those freaky fairies without actually making things happen, taking way too long to get to the punchline and actually causing me to fall asleep watching it. Which is kind of a miracle because I stayed awake the entire time watching Girls Beyond the Wasteland and it is a million times worse than those dancing fairies could ever be. Although I've got to say, pausing the video and pacing around the room for five minutes to think about what you're doing with your life isn't exactly a better alternative. Especially when you do it three times during one episode.
Seriously, the only way Girls Beyond the Wasteland could have been worse is if the cast from Little Busters was voicing these people whilst scratching chalkboards during recording. Not only does it have the same lack of stakes that Saekano has, the main character literally asks the main female why she wants to make a visual novel in the first episode and she flat out responds that she can't tell him, but he'll do it anyways. What kind of person would possibly consider that an acceptable hook? And then there's the fact that if you didn't tell me this was originally by Tanaka, I wouldn't have made the connection at all. As boring as I find his pretentious dialogue is, at least it stands out when it appears. This show though? I could write the dialogue that showed up in the subs and every thing I've written has been so awful I never made it public. Not even on fanfiction.net.
Then there's these usual "spending your first few episodes introducing the characters and setting up the premise without making some plot happen in the process" that always comes with visual novel anime, except whilst most of these types of show get the drama kicking in around the halfway point, Girls Beyond the Wasteland waits nine fucking episodes for the characters to even push towards getting the visual novel done on time, and there's still nothing else to pay attention to other than that boring plot point around then. One episode is literally just the main character in his room struggling to get some writing done and procrastinating the entire way through whilst the girls put on maid outfits to inspire him for like two minutes before they leave. I'm sorry, but who thought this would be exciting to watch in any way? And whilst the show does try to throw a little personal drama in the mix, quite frankly it makes Full House look butch. Girls Beyond the Wasteland just doesn't make any of the personal struggles the characters go through dramatic enough, always involving little insecurities amounting to the modern equivalent of "that Shuffle episode where Sia's lucky panties couldn't help her in her date with Rin" that are solved by the end of the episode because of an inspiring speech.
It doesn't even have the decency to ramp things up appropriately for its final act. When they finally tell you what the visual novel is actually for around the closing act, it's so generic and involves a character who had no importance until said reveal that I couldn't bother spoiling it even if I wanted to. And what follows after, let alone before, barely has any relevance to the reason to begin with. It's just used to cause some drama that immediately gets resolved in like five minutes and nothing changes story-wise apart from the characters getting resolve that they've already gotten a few episodes ago. We don't even get a fucking payoff to the visual novel's creation. It gets submitted in a competition that is immediately skipped despite a good amount of buildup to it, and the results are brushed off with a few lines of dialogue and a half-assed attempt at deciding what the future is going to be like. Throw in some terrible title references, and you can tell the creators are just stuck in that terrible era of anime where visual novel adaptations were getting churned out left and right.
Not only is this a bad show. Not only is this another example of how awful visual novel anime tend to be. This is one of the worst anime I have ever seen in my life. Yes, even worse than Myself;Yourself and Plastic Memories, this is Da Capo levels of bad. I seriously can't believe how empty and unfunny this show is. The direction and energy put into this adaptation is one of the most lifeless things I've ever seen, and the story is so fundamentally flawed that it resembles a little kid crying in the corner as he lets a bunch of 80s thugs kick him to the ground. Ignoring the fact that it has no aspirations to be anything but another generic "follow your dreams and you'll succeed" anime, the characters don't have any reason to have the dreams they do, they never suffer any problems in regards to their goals other than mild inconveniences, and the humor consists of nothing higher than leaving a camera on and watching actors shoot the shit to the point that it pretty much defines how not to do comedy. I bet you anything that if you were to watch a random sitcom on CBS, it would be a million times more entertaining than this pile of garbage! Fuck. Everything. About. This. Anime. Period.
If you were like me, you are probably thinking about watching this show because it looks like another Saekano. Surprise: it’s not!
Girls Beyond the Wasteland is a series about a group of friends/schoolmates getting together to make a bishojou game. They all bring a different skillset to the table and serve in different positions: Buntarou is the script writer; Andou is the coder; Yuuki is the artist; Yuuka is the voice actress (voiced by the amazing Kana Hanazawa, mind you); Atomu, the assistant and member-at-large; and Sayuki, who basically checks over everything and takes care of everything else.
Girls Beyond the Wasteland is a show that
takes a slice-of-life approach. What I mean by this is that most of it (emphasis on most) occurs on an episodic basis. Whenever you want to incorporate a slice-of-life approach, you need to balance it out with something else because you are basically forsaking a definitive story that would otherwise unite the entire plot together. Whether it’s pure humor (e.g. Hanayamata, The Daily Lives of High School Boys, etc.) or a colorful cast of characters that mesh well with each other (e.g. Love Live!, K-On!, etc.), something needs to occur to captivate the audience somehow.
And that’s the numero uno problem with this show: there is nothing captivating. At all. Nothing. There is some humor, but it is sporadically placed throughout the show in a poorly integrated fashion. As for the characters themselves, well they are mostly archetypal, one-dimensional, clichéd, and with no development. But I’ll give the show this: there definitely was some potential for development. However, it did not flesh out this opportunity well. Some characters are the stars of their own episode (e.g. Andou, Yuuka, Buntarou, Yuuki, etc.) but literally nothing happened. Awfully formulaic too, since it usually boiled down to this:
- A conflict occurs, either internally or with someone else
- Some lame resolution is reached
- Move onto the next episode and (usually) pretend like that was it and nothing happened
Fortunately, towards the end of the show, whoever wrote this show does break away from this dry formula. A slight improvement, yes, but this also presents its own set of flaws. For example, Sayuki’s brother – someone who was never mentioned in the show until two episodes before his actual appearance – is forced into the plot because, you know, the plot needs to move along somehow. Same goes for the other competitive game-making group that wants to acquire members from Buntarou’s group. It’s something that does not build off on anything in the show. Aside from that, other aspects of the plot is also pretty clichéd. Obligatory fanservice episode with no meaning? Don’t worry, it’s there alright!
If you’re worried about the pacing, it is actually alright for the most part since the story is presented episodically. The only issue with it is with the first episode, where basically getting every character to join the group is crammed into an incoherent 24 minutes. Because of this, you may end up questioning why some of them decided to join the group.
As for the art, it’s very mediocre. There are some minor shading inconsistencies and the characters themselves seem to almost never change facial expressions. Sound-wise, the voice acting was done well and the music was alright, but I didn’t find it too remarkable.
All in all, a dry cast of characters and a formulaic plot is never a good combination. There were times when the show could have built off the potential it had, but it blew every chance that it was given. I wouldn’t recommend watching this unless you were so bored that you have nothing to do. Then go ahead.
P.S. Did you pick up on the references to other shows? (cough Saekano cough)
Author's Disclaimer: Please remember, this is my own personal opinion. I critique anime primarily on how the story is executed and how well-rounded the characters are. This review is not meant to target any other review but was intended to provide a more holistic analysis.
It should also be noted that this is a full-fledged review of the entire season.