How To Raise A Boring Girlfriend, Vol. 1

By Fumiaki Maruto and Takeshi Moriki. Released in Japan as “Saenai Kanojo no Sodatekata” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Dragon Age. Released in North America by Yen Press.

I think you have to be very careful when part of your work has “boring” in the title. I’m not sure if the original Japanese conveys quite the same meaning, but if the core of the work is that you feature a heroine who is meant to be uninteresting, then you’re already climbing up a larger hill than normal. Now, of course, this is something of a comedy, and the point of the whole exercise is that we have a hero who is surrounded by stereotypes of the standard light novel girl, and yet he decides to take the average, nebbish girl and turn her into heroine material. Unfortunately, at least by the end of this first volume, most of what I get from it is that the other two girls really *are” more interesting.

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That is not, of course, the boring girl in the foreground – it’s Eriri, the hero’s tsundere childhood friend who’s a famous doujinshi artist who has at least four different traits for a harem romance. The actual boring girl is sitting in the seat at the back. Our hero’s other close friend is Utaha, who is a bestselling novelist and fills the ‘cool yet snarky’ part of the otaku equation. Naturally, they dislike each other hovering over our hero Tomoya, who is something of an otaku who has grand ideals for a dating sim, but no actual talent to turn them into anything beyond cliches. He needs his two friends to actually do the work and make it good… particularly since his heroine in this dating sim is based on Megumi, who is simply there.

This is one of those series where Yen On did not pick up the light novel it’s based on, and I suspect that it would do better without the manga format. The writer of the original story jokes about the fact that the titular heroine “will never be in the center of the panel frame”, but even a cursory glance can tell you that’s not true – Megumi is present and paid attention to throughout, she’s just dull. This is the sort of series that cries out for exaggeration, and I could see her being drawn in a way like Sunako from The Wallflower, who only appears out of “superdeformed” mode in cool moments. Instead, Megumi’s presence and the delivery of the lines feel like the author explaining a joke that isn’t as good as they think it is. The premise is that we’re meant to wonder why this obvious visual novel hero is pulling away from the two cliched girls to find the ordinary one. But as a reader, I know why – cliched or not, Eriri and Utaha are far more interesting than Megumi is, and I’d like to actually know about *them*. Saekano (not to be confused with apocalyptic romance Saikano) sells its tedium a bit too well.

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