The Summer 2016 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
New Game! ?
What is this?
Aoba Suzukaze may still look like a kid, but she's actually a newly-minted adult ready to start her first job as an artist for game company Eaglejump. On her first day, she gets to meet an all-female staff populated with all sorts of eccentrics, but her biggest discovery turns out to be working under the character designer for Fairies Story, a game she loved as a child that inspired her to pursue game production herself. Despite the steep learning curve and her initial apprehensions, this may turn out to be her dream job after all! New Game! is based on a 4-koma manga and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Tuesdays at 1:00 PM EST.
How was the first episode?
Alright, Doga Kobo good for you! This is a step up from last season.
This premiere's host studio is known for pumping out candy-colored cute-girls-doing-cute-things confections with surprisingly good character animation, but their effort last season, Three Leaves, Three Colors, was such a shruggy dud that it fell right off the bottom of the viewer interest poll for daily streaming reviews. New Game! one-ups not only Three Leaves, Three Colors, but much of the studio's recent output in general by kicking off with a solid premise (all-girl team of devs creating a sequel to a beloved hit game), a relatably nerdy cast of characters (project lead who sleeps at the office in her underwear, introverted code monkey who prefers to only communicate through IM), and a healthy handful of visual gags to complement the studio's strengths.
That said, New Game! isn't likely to offer many insights into the world of video game development. Most of the show is taken up with mild guilt-free fanservice and workplace antics rather than an edutaining journey into the creative process like Shirobako or even Seiyu's Life!, but there are still nuggets of knowledge to be gleaned around the corners of this predominantly slice-of-life comedy. Eagle Jump's office itself is immaculately detailed, like a fantasyland version of a real creative company's cubicles, and tidbits of the production process come through in discussions of the upcoming timetable and whose job on an asset needs to be completed before someone else can start their own. For the most part, this is just another Doga Kobo treat for fans of moe-flavored comedy, but it's got a little more memorable punch behind it than most of their work. It might be worth a shot if you're on the fence and looking for some cute girls doing cute things in a workplace setting rather than a high school.
The first episode of New Game! does a very good job of capturing the “first day on the job” feeling. It reminds me a lot of my college internships at production companies and radio stations; like Aoba, I usually spent my first day frantically apologizing to everyone I met. Considering that her main role seems to be serving as the viewer's window into the game design world, Aoba actually has quite a lot of personality. All that nervous energy and wide-eyed enthusiasm makes it pretty easy to like her.
For the time being, the series seems to be going fairly light on the game industry trivia. We get a little information about what each character does at the company, but we don't really see much of what they're working on as they sit at their desks. This episode seems more concerned with establishing the atmosphere within the office, with Aoba getting plenty of chances to observe her fellow employees either getting along or giving one another a hard time. The only sign of actual conflict is a brief hint that the company is about to get really busy, so don't expect too much in the way of personal drama.
The comedy in New Game! is of the cutesy, low-impact variety. Everyone at the office seems to be a little eccentric in one way or another, and most of the humor comes from Aoba's reactions to all of the quirkiness going on around her. It's not uproariously funny, but it's generally well executed for this style of comedy. A few moments of fanservice seem to be at odds with the otherwise harmless vibe, but they're brief and mild enough that they don't distract from the rest of the episode. The show's artistic merits are competent if unspectacular, and it's not as if you need sky-high production values to show half a dozen people sitting around an office.
If you're looking for a spiritual successor to Shirobako, then you should probably keep on looking. New Game! doesn't appear to have the necessary ambition to hit that same level of creative insight, but it's pretty good at what it does. As an entry in the low-key workplace comedy niche, it hits all the right notes. With a pleasant cast of characters and just enough comedic energy to keep things interesting, it should do well as a weekly escape into a world where going to work is always fun.
It's always kind of interesting to see where a new slice of life show will find its tonal balance. New Game! has a somewhat unusual premise within its genre space, in that its collection of cute girls are all working professionals. That makes things feel just a hint more grounded here than they usually do in this sort of show, but overall, New Game! sticks to well-worn genre territory. The show is about fluffy characters making mild jokes, a sprinkling of overt fanservice, and lots of expressive fragments of animation.
There's a bit of an inherent tension in New Game!, in that the basic assumptions of its genre are sometimes an uneasy fit with its professional setting. There are moments here of legitimately relatable new employee drama; scenes of Aoba trying to make new professional friends, or being unsure who she should ask for help, ring true to the adult world in general. But on the other hand, every single employee at this company is apparently a cute twenty-something woman (even the character designer who inspired Aoba in elementary school), and Aoba's nearby coworkers are ready to stop work at the drop of a hat in order to have a tea party. New Game!'s world is a bit too idyllic to feel like a real place, but also a bit too real to feel like a total escape.
Outside of that tonal incongruity, New Game! also suffers from the fact that many of its jokes just aren't very funny. There were plenty of scenes in this episode where I found myself waiting for more of a real punchline, as well as moments where Aoba's wild overreactions felt totally out of step with her fairly routine experiences. It's that “character does something mildly unusual and everyone overreacts” school of anime comedy, the sort of thing you see in shows like Servant X Service. There's apparently an audience for that sort of thing, but I personally kept finding myself asking when they'd reach the actual joke.
It's not all bad, though. As I mentioned before, some of the general office observations here were very relatable, and I particularly liked how the show acknowledged and emphasized how much working professionals communicate through email. The animation was also quite strong throughout (as expected from Doga Kobo), giving the characters a clear physical presence to match their expressive designs. New Game!'s character writing and sense of humor aren't sharp enough to keep me engaged, but if you're more of a fan of very mild incidental humor, it might be worth a shot.
When I first heard about New Game!, my first thought is that this was just going to be a new variation on 2014's Shirobako, albeit one focused on game production rather than anime production. In actual execution, though, the series is much closer in tone and structure to the early 2000s OVA Animation Runner Kuromi. And that's not a bad thing, either.
Basically, the first episode suggests that this is just another form of workplace-based humor. Nearly all of the characters introduced so far are at least a little odd, which is practically a requirement for the genre; after all, without such quirks the writing would have far less to work with, particularly in terms of potential comedy hooks. Aoba's new coworkers are an amiable bunch, too, with several standard character archetypes being recast in somewhat different manners; for instance, the Energetic Girl is an motion team artist who likes to act out poses for reference and the Shy Girl is perfectly fine as long as she's communicating through IM but can't really do face-to-face interactions. Too soon to tell if there's going to be much depth to any of them, but this is based on a 4-koma manga so I'm not expecting much on that front.
The series may not need to go deep, though, because it works just fine with what it has already established. These eccentrics give Aoba plenty of people to interact with and bounce off of, and the fact that some of them are just as uptight about having a new junior as Aoba is about everything new is rather cute. The lightly comic tone works well for the content and turns the series into a friendly, approachable view. Insights about actual game production are thin so far, but them coming along piecemeal as the series progresses is perfectly fine. After all, this looks much more like a comedy about what goes on at work than about the work that is actually getting done.
It's also noteworthy that the entire case is female, and young adult females at that; once character whose stated age is 25 seems to be the oldest (the director is likely older but doesn't too much so herself). As you might imagine, that opens up some opportunities for fan service. They are mild so far – just a little boob jiggle for one character and another who is found sleeping in her panties – but the opener suggests that they will be a regular element. The artistic production from Doga Kobo is otherwise nothing special.
Overall, this looks like it could be an innocuously fun little series.
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