Harem haters bother me. They tend to hit that sweet spot where self-righteous and overly vocal meet on my graph of annoying personalities. Sometimes though, they have a point. There are a lot of crappy harem shows out there that are just fan service vehicles. There are plenty of things to criticize in a bad anime, regardless of type. Settling on the genre itself as the reason a show is horrible is lazy thinking. I have major issues with both of the harem shows that I am watching this season, and those issues have nothing to do with the harem elements.
Testament of Sister New Devil has more wrong with it than the fan service or the plot device which has the main heroine in a master/servant pact with the hero. It has misplaced priorities. Basara is an outcast “hero” that has been traumatized by a past event, who now finds himself heading down an inevitable path towards conflict with his own people. He is also a typical harem lead that has the “luck” to constantly have girls fawning over him while he keeps “accidentally” seeing them in various states of undress. Where Testament goes wrong is that it is spending way more time on the latter, and very little time on the former. The creators have decided on a path of emphasizing the fan service instead of character. This was not a forgone conclusion that has to happen in any ecchi harem show. There was and is plenty of room for both. However, the creators have decided not to take the plot seriously and instead have made pantsu the focus instead of an element. What could have been an interesting show has been reduced to something only worth watching for the train wreck. I am dropping the show. Fan service didn’t ruin Testament, prioritizing the fan service over the story did.
Saekano, on the other hand, has gone the opposite direction. Testament is guilty of not taking itself seriously, but Saekano seems to be in love with itself. The emphasis in episode 2 was how boring the main heroine Megumi is. She is, in one word, normal. Our harem lead, who is oblivious to his fame in the school, has decided to pick a normal girl to be the main heroine is his dating sim. The show flipping harem tropes around could be clever and interesting. The problem is that Saekano can’t resist telling you that’s what it is doing. They really want to drill the point home, so much so that they just spent an entire episode being dry,dull, and talking way too much. I am assuming that this was all intentional. The only humor came from the scene going on behind Megumi in the restaurant, which served the purpose of distracting us from the girl herself. Knowing what was going on didn’t make it any more entertaining to watch, and now for the second time in the three episodes I’ve seen, I am hoping that the show has gotten something out of it’s system.
In addition to actually being entertaining, the show needs to do something about Aki. Far from being the normal nice guy protag, he is more along the lines of a stereotypically obnoxious otaku. Hopefully his character development will turn him into something more tolerable. Right now it’s hard to see why any 3D girl would want anything to do with him.
Fan service is not an integral part of a harem, and I have no problem with the show leaving out the panty and cleavage tropes. The romance is another matter. A little doki-doki is a good thing, and the next episode needs to start generating some chemistry. Saekano needs to lighten up and quit trying to show us how clever it is or it will be dropped as well.