My enjoyment of Eromanga-sensei, at least the first six episodes collected in volume one, depended on a several caveats. Namely, ignoring the more problematic parts of the narrative. The worst offender was the constant sexualisation of its young female characters in the name of fan service, something which worsened as the episodes wore on. And yet, I found myself laughing more often than not and was always at least part invested in the plot, such as it is.
The basic shape of the story is that after an accident kills their parents, Masamune Izumi is thrust into the role of carer for his young step-sister, Sagiri, someone he admits to falling in love with the first time he saw her (when she was barely in double digits). Masamune finds an outlet for his grief and depression through light novels, at first reading and then publishing his own. This starts out as serialised stories online, but, lo and behold, he soon secures a publishing contract. Sagiri, though, locks herself in the sanctuary of her bedroom. Here she hones her drawing skills and finds solace in an online community.
Far from publishing success, Masamune only longs to see her face again. The kicker is that, unbeknownst to one other, they’re the writer and artist respectively on the same light novel series. After discovering each other’s identity, they develop a strange relationship that’s one-part professional to two-parts will-they-won’t-they. That should hardly come as a surprise, given the manga on which this series is based was penned by Tsukasa Fushimi, the writer behind Oreimo, a series that teased a romantic relationship between siblings.
Much of the humour is derived from satire, whether that’s of the publishing industry itself or of popular titles. For viewers interested in the minutiae of making a light novel, say in the same way that Shirobako showcases anime being made, there’s plenty here to tantalise. Only it all needs to be taken with a generous pinch of salt. It offers an inside look at the light novel business – no doubt inspired by Fushimi’s experinces – but it is an odd little microcosm in which amateur teens and wunderkinds dominate the charts. One of those chart-toppers is Elf Yamada, an arrogant fourteen-year-old who has sold over two million copies, a fact she’ll make sure everyone around her is aware of. This first volume ends with the introduction of Muramasa Senju, an even more successful author who enters into a competition with Masamune to win a publishing spot. An opportunity Masamune needs to keep caring for his sister.
Another saving grace is the quality of the animation, the kind one expects from A-1 Pictures, and director Ryohei Takeshita is no stranger to attractive looking series having clocked up credits on Flip Flappers and New Game!. If there is a deeper meaning to Eromanga-sensei, it’s that creative outlets have an important role to play in dealing with grief and depression, and that online communities can bring people together. For all its often deeply problematic fan service, that’s a message I think we can all get behind and I’m honestly looking forward to diving into volume two.
Extras: Web previews; trailers & commercials; clean opening & closing animation; trailers