Gamers! Episode 4
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Gamers has been foreshadowing Karen's downfall as the school's queen bee since the beginning, and this episode spends a lot of time focusing on her downward spiral. A “before and after” comparison shows how her obsession with Keita is affecting both her social life and her gaming skills, and the problem is obvious enough that Karen knows she needs to do something about it. A chance encounter with Keita leads to a luck-based challenge in the local arcade, which Karen wins by an overwhelming margin. Victory doesn't bring her the satisfaction she expected, but the challenge does bring out a side of Keita that she's never seen before. This leads to another discussion of their perspectives on gaming, though it doesn't help much with Karen's declining skills.
The “before and after” sequence takes up the first half of this episode, and it uses the contrast between Karen's past and present behavior to good comedic effect. The show makes the clever decision to keep the wording of her narration the same, creating plenty of moments where Karen's monologue no longer matches her actions. Some highlights include her new ulterior motive for helping out the science teacher and her unintentionally brutal rejection of a hapless male admirer. This sequence requires a lot of build-up, and it would have been difficult to pull off earlier in the series. The reason it works here despite the gradual pacing is that the audience comes in with a pretty good idea of where all of this is going. It's easier to sit through the slow opening when we're able to anticipate the payoff.
Karen and Keita's “walk” (don't call it a date!) features some entertaining tension, especially early on when Keita's well-intentioned refusal only serves to wind Karen up even more. Their arcade challenge ends up being somewhat underwhelming, especially if the audience goes in expecting a head-to-head competition. At the end of the day, it serves mainly as a convenient way to reveal that Keita still cares about winning and losing despite his claim of playing for fun. It's an unexpected outcome, especially since Keita still ends up getting crushed despite his best efforts. That surprise is important, as it leads into the episode's most important conversation.
The chat in the park serves as a follow-up to Keita's refusal to join the club in the first episode. It brings back the basic divide between playing for fun and playing to win, and it clarifies Keita's position a bit. He admits that he does actually care about winning, and even goes so far as to say that the tension between victory and defeat is a crucial part of gaming's appeal. In his eyes, the difference between himself and the members of Karen's club is a matter of perseverance. Where they have the tenacity to get better at a particular game by practicing over and over, he'd rather sample lots of games even if it means he'll never be great at any of them. Once again, Gamers! does a respectable job of articulating two different perspectives on the same hobby.
Where last week's episode suffered from trying to focus on too many storylines at once, this one slows the pace down and zeroes in on one thing in particular. I think it's a little better off for doing so, as it's able to commit more time to both setting up its comedic scenes and letting the characters share their personal views. Karen comes across as a more sympathetic character despite obsessing humorously over Keita, and we get a better sense of how their perspectives differ from one another. Gamers! continues to put forward some inspired moments of comedy alongside thoughtful bits of dialogue, and the balance between the two makes this series more compelling than I ever expected it to be.
Gamers! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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