How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend
冴えない彼女（ヒロイン）の育てかた (Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata)
MARUTO Fumiaki (story), MORIKI Takeshi (art), MISAKI Kurehito (character design)
Shounen – Comedy, harem, romance
3 Volumes (ongoing) of 11 Volumes (ongoing)
Tomoya dreams of making the best dating sim ever. All he needs is… well, a plot. Inspiration strikes when he has a destined encounter, but his partner turns out to be the most boring girl in school! Tomoya believes he’s on to something, and now all he needs is his two sort-of friends with secret hobbies to turn Megumi into a game heroine.
It took me about a half a volume to realize How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend was not for me.
I really didn’t know anything about this series before I started reading it. The title sounds like a guy wants to keep his girlfriend boring to prevent any future love triangles. No, instead, we get… whatever this is.
Tomoya thinks he may have met the girl of his dreams. Well, it turns she’s an almost-invisible, background-character-like classmate. Then Tomoya gets the idea that Megumi could be used as the basis for his game heroine. According to Tomoya, otaku extraordinaire, being plain is an attribute, but Megumi is “dead of character”. So he’s going to show her how anime characters act to teach Megumi how to stand out, and then this will improve the game he’s going to make.
Seriously, I have no idea what the point of this manga is. (It’s based on a light novel, but I can’t compare the manga to the original.) How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend is certainly not a gut-bursting comedy, but it’s also not an introspective look at otaku life. The summary makes it sound a bit like Comic Party and other stories where one person is an otaku and their boyfriend/girlfriend is a “normie”.
Most notably, Megumi isn’t Tomoya’s girlfriend, and she really doesn’t have an issue with his hobbies. Meanwhile, Tomoya is almost depressed by the fact Megumi isn’t acting all cute and embarrassed around him. Well, if a guy in my class didn’t even recognize me and then told me later I was cute but had no personality, I probably wouldn’t worry about him taking a romantic interest in me either. We’re supposed to feel sorry for him? Tomoya also mentions Megumi is a pushover, but he should be grateful she hasn’t fled or spread rumors about him. She agrees to help him out and is willing to try out dating sims and anime. What a nice girl. I guess Tomoya wants her to protest in tears before running away. It will inspire him I suppose. He even wants her to bust down the door in anger instead of working to fix it. Yeah, how dare you not break school property, Megumi!
I actually like Megumi as she is. She has more personality than Tomoya gives her credit for. She is stunned when what a build-up towards a large compliment or confession turns out to be more of an insult, and Megumi actively pulls back when a younger girl says some very inappropriate-sounding statements about her and Tomoya’s relationship. She has a personality; it’s just not extreme enough.
The plot is even more bizarre considering Tomoya has two anime-like acquaintances. In fact, they are introduced to readers before Megumi. (Megumi often feels more like a fourth wheel than a main character.) Eriri acts like a lady at school, but she’s actually a prone-to-violence otaku who makes doujinshi based on what’s popular. Tomoya’s other acquaintance, Utaha, is secretly a novelist. This seemingly elegant lady has a sharp-tongue, a critical eye, and a mischievous streak. For as much of a galge expert he claims to be, Tomoya isn’t very good at finding flags in the real-world and choosing the right responses. (In his defense, at least the mistakes he made with Eriri and Utaha happened before the start of the manga.) Eriri really acts like a classic tsundere, and Utaha also has that anime (or galge) feel about her. There’s a little sister character as well, and she is even more cliche than the other two girls. At least Eriri has some depth with her worry and jealousy over being outdone, and Utaha has a reason for calling Tomoya by a nickname.
Part of the problem with the series is that it feels a little elitist. Ever been accused of not being a “real” fan of something? Like that you aren’t a true anime fan because you adore popular titles like Attack on Titan and Naruto and cannot name the top 10 directors that don’t include Miyazaki, Anno, Kon, etc.? I kind of get this feeling while reading How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. You’re an anime or manga fan? Oh, you’re not? Then you’re not worth talking to. You’re a fan? You don’t love tsunderes and imoutos? Then you’re not a true fan. The manga makes a lot of pop culture references — which are entertaining — but there’s this layer where it feels like Tomoya (and How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend‘s creators) look down on 3D girls, that if you aren’t welcome if you don’t catch references to Ace Attorney and Madoka Magica. I’m finding it hard to describe, but the manga doesn’t feel welcoming. It’s like the story is only for the Tomoyas of the world.
In addition, Tomoya seems to (to borrow a popular phrase) want his cake and eat it too. He wants an ordinary heroine for his game, but he and the girls put on a mock trial when Megumi changes her hairstyle for a day. (It’s not that funny.) He has a good time hanging out with Megumi at an amusement park, but she isn’t allowed go somewhere with her older male cousin. It might ruin the game, you know! Meanwhile, Tomoya helps out a younger female friend, and this leads to a big, dramatic moment with Eriri. Megumi may be the titular character, but she’s almost secondary in importance. The manga really could just be titled Real-Life Flags and be about the difference in capturing hearts in the 2D and 3D worlds. Or perhaps How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend might have been better if it had just either focused on Megumi or Eriri and Utaha; the way the drama with the latter two just doesn’t jive with the comedy of the supposed heroine.
The only real issue with the art is that it looks like it was inspired by another form of media. I’m not saying it looks bad; it just doesn’t feel like Moriki is the original designer for Tomoya and friends, and that’s because he isn’t. Eriri looks like almost every tsundere twintail in existence, and Utaha’s character design is black hair with a headband. Real bold style choices there. In a light novel with limited illustrations, this isn’t a big deal. In a manga, the designs are typical and uninspired. Otherwise, I like Moriki’s art. The chapters aren’t rushed, and he mixes up the layouts with large panels and one- to two-page spreads. Eriri’s and Utaha’s working modes are pretty funny to see, as they are quite different from their usual selves. The manga has a lot of shading and screentones; this makes this seem more like a serious manga than a comedy. (Not that I was laughing much, but I digress.) Anyways, I really didn’t have a problem with the art. It looks pretty good actually.
Honorifics are used. Lots of translator’s notes are included. This is really nice with all the anime/manga references and Japanese in-jokes. Some are fairly obvious (I don’t know why you would jump into this series without knowing what a doujin is), but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of butter sand. “Dating sim” is usually used for “galge”. Eriri’s ultra-polite mode includes a bit of French in the English version. All in all, I thought this was a good adaptation.
How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend is going to be a love-it-or-hate-it series for most readers. You can easily guess which group I fall into. If Megumi = boring, then How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend = annoying.
Crunchyroll streams the anime, or you can buy the Blu-rays from Aniplex of America.