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.