The life of Tomoya Aki, a high school otaku working part-time to support his BD hoarding. With remarkable luck, he bumps head-first into, Megumi Katou, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. Naturally, the meeting twists his life into a complicated torrent of relationships. Eriri Spencer Sawamura, his half-foreigner childhood friend who's always valued her relationship with MC. Kasumigaoka Utaha, a cold, composed renowned literary genius who shoves everyone aside from our protagonist. What is this? An eroge introduction?
The tale of a small not quite doujin circle, but not quite indie studio's journey through the tough territory of Comiket and beyond.
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (or Saekano) is a light novel series written by Maruto, renowned for writing visual novel script, and illustrated by Kurehito. It is a light-hearted school life series. The readers follow the protagonist Tomoya Aki and his doujin circle (harem), as they try to find success in making a visual novel that people will enjoy.
If the description so far sounds like a typical school life harem series, it is because Saekano never denies itself as such. Its character cast is set up with the classic harem formula. It has Kasumigaoka on the senpai role, Eriri on the osananajimi role, Mizuhara as the
cousin character, and a couple more characters to fill in the cliches. While the set up is nothing new, Saekano is aware of its own cliches, and often play it to its advantage. The characters, most of them "otakus", are frequently aware of their own predicament as they get into a "cliched situation", and make fun of themselves using sarcasm. The story often "meme" well-known works in ACGN industry, especially Maruto's own works. The memes are presented in a light way that would provide mirth to those who understood it but would not overwhelm if the readers don't get it.
If this is as far as it go, though, Saekano wouldn't be anything special. There is one thing that Saekano does that set it apart from other novels, that is, by giving "realistic high school girl character traits" to its main heroine, Megumi. If one reads enough typical visual novels, one will come to expect certain things from a typical heroine, usually in a way that best appeases the readers, who are presumably 30yo, male, living in his mother's basement. Maruto, having wrote enough galgame to understand the heroines, wrote a character that is exactly the opposite of the cliche. Megumi is a girl who will not fall in love with the MC at first sight, who keeps a calm face when the MC does not keep his promise, who would not be jealous at everything the MC does, whose emotions are sometimes unpredictable, who can keep a normal conversation without trying to make a move on MC, nor would she immediately reciprocate MC's feelings after he professes his love for her. If you find a tons of similarities between Megumi and your girlfriend or yourself (for female readers), well, that is exactly what the writer is shooting for. When a character like Megumi is elevated to the role of central heroine in a somewhat typical harem comedy situation, the story is bound to become something very different.
The parallel between the game script written by the protagonist and his relationship with the heroines together with his own emotional state is another shining point of this novel. Since the protagonist is the game script writer for his group, and he draws on his own personal experience to write the story, the story in Saekano is told from two fronts. This becomes important especially toward later volumes, in that the script protagonist wrote echoes his own feelings, and sometimes even become a channel of communication between him and his friends.
In summary, while Saekano seems like a typical harem school life story at first, it sets itself apart by having a "realistic high school girl" central heroine and its own willingness to make fun of its cliches. The end result is a organic slice of life high school story about a group of students trying to make it into the doujin industry. Saekano is mostly humorous, sometimes dramatic, and occasionally heart-tugging, all in a very fresh way.