OK, so here we have a spin-off manga of Saekano. Spin-offs normally just feel like a cash grab that are rarely as good as the original, but I believe this one is an exception. This review is written assuming that you've already seen some of the original series, but I do believe this manga can hold up as a stand alone even without seeing/reading Saekano.
Saekano is a harem series, and while it is one of the best harem series I've personally seen it ultimately was not above the tropes that seem to define the genre. To the people that are turned off by harem
series, or even love triangles but liked other aspects of this show then this manga might be for you. This manga is basically an alternate universe where the doujin circle is never formed and Tomoya helps Utaha pursue her writing career instead. Here, Tomoya probably never met Megumi to begin with, and characters like Eriri and Michiru are only given a passing mention. There is a new girl introduced that I don't think is even present in the original but thankfully no love triangle is formed. To put it simply, this manga is the Utaha route.
The original story did require some suspension of disbelief in the sense that the main character conveniently happened to know multiple hyper-talented attractive girls to make a visual novel with. Instead of being the director of a doujin team here, Tomoya is thrust into an even more implausible role as Utaha's official editor. If you can get over the implausibility of a high schooler being a professional light novel writer and her junior from school being allowed to be her editor the rest should be easy enough to accept. The story is basically following Tomoya and Utaha as they go through the process of working on her new light novel series. It plays the story pretty straight, though it doesn't exactly reach the depth of Shirobako or anything like that in dissecting the process. But to be honest that isn't really the most interesting aspect of this manga any way. It's not so much about the process of making a light novel as much as it is about seeing our quirky novelist go through it. The story isn't anything groundbreaking, but it serves its purpose.
One thing you might notice if you have seen or read Saekano before this is that the art style is a bit different. This manga is not illustrated by the same guy that did them for the original series. Honestly, I don't think that's a problem at all because the characters still look nice even if the art style is a bit different. The characters still look like who they're supposed to look like, and the art looks nice regardless. The backgrounds are pretty simple and unimpressive if you care about that, but otherwise there's no major flaws to the art style. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it does its job.
Of course the main attraction of stories in this genre are the characters themselves, and this is where the story is strongest. Of course there is Utaha herself, who was my personal favorite character from the original series. Due to a lack of competition she is not as aggressive with her seduction attempts, but otherwise she's the same as she usually is. This manga obviously puts more focus on her than the original source did, so there's the added bonus of expanding on her character more than the original did. Also, since the situation is different from the original source you get to see certain sides to her character that weren't as apparent in the original. Utaha being herself is one of the main things that makes this manga so enjoyable. If you like her character, you will probably like this manga. If you don't like this character, you probably won't like this manga. It's really that simple.
Of course we still have Mr. Ethical, our male main character as well. And yes, he's still dense as hell when it comes to romance here. He's not a fundamentally different character than he was in the main series or anything, but people who dislike his character will probably find him at least a bit more tolerable here. He doesn't screw things up as often as he does in the original, and he has mellowed out a bit. He's still not an amazing character, but he still has enough of his own quirks that stop him from being a completely generic protagonist.
Then finally there is Mayu Sagara, who I believe is a character unique to this manga. From what I gather her main purpose is to serve as Utaha's illustrator without the love triangle stuff that would happen if Eriri filled that role. She also has the distinct honor of being one of few girls in this series that gets reasonably close to our protagonist without completely falling head over heels for him. While the story doesn't place that much focus on her she's likable and gets fleshed out a decent amount.
As a spin-off manga of a light novel series it would be easy to assume that this was written as an after-thought. Maybe some might see this as a cheap cash grab for Utaha fanboys, but it appears to me that there was actually a good amount of effort put into this. I will note that there's less of an emphasis on humor compared to the original series, but you will still find a good dose of humor here and there. Also, while this is in many ways a more straightforward romance series between two characters the romantic progression is certainly on the slower side. The fact that chapters are released monthly doesn't help matters. Overall, this story is not exactly breaking new ground for the genre. However, for a romance manga the story is above average, it has an enjoyable cast of characters, and a great main heroine. I will confess that I love Utaha, she is among my top 20 favorite anime/manga characters. This manga certainly would be lower than an 8 if I didn't love her character so much. But even if you don't like her character as much as I do it's still a solid romance manga.
(non spoiler review)
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata: koisuru Metronome is by far my favorite spin off. I immediately fell in love with this manga after a couple of chapters. I may be biased because I myself am Team Utaha senpai but the story, art, and characters are all enjoyable. As for the story, it is nothing special, the main MC is now an editor of Utaha and the story is about them two working together to make Utaha senpai rise to the top. The story may be plain but the way the story is portrayed and the development of the characters makes the seemingly boring story
into a fun and heart warming adventure.
As for the art, it's pretty good. I enjoyed every character design and the drawings are well thought out and detailed.
Characters: The characters stay to their true nature from the anime/light novel and each character is essentially the same. Tomoya is still the dorky otaku, Utaha is still the psychopathic hot senpai. But for this spin off, there is no Megumi or Eriri, it's focused on Utaha and another character. I'm not going to spoil the other character but SHE IS ABSOLUTELY MY FAVORITE. I liked Utaha but after reading this spin off I like the other main character better honestly.
Overall I'm sad that I read this all in one go. It's a really good spin off manga and I'm happy that I got to read it. I definitely recommend it 10/10. One of my favorite mangas out right now.