Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Keita Amano is a loner, but he's okay with that – as long as he has his games and his in-game friend Mono, he's a very happy guy. That gets turned on its head when he bumps into Karen, the most popular girl at school, in the game store one day. Karen, it turns out, is a gamer too, and she wants him to join the school's game club. Amano's flattered, but not really interested, finding the club too competitive for his liking. Unfortunately for him, his refusal and Karen's subsequent crush on him makes him the center of school attention! With misunderstandings, unexpected friendships, and misguided attempts at getting through to the group of friends Amano suddenly has, the game that is his life just got a whole lot harder to play.
We talk to other people all the time, but do we really listen? That's a question that never gets directly asked in Gamers, but it certainly forms the backbone of the story's misunderstanding-based humor. Following a group of high school students who aren't quite as together as they think they are (in several senses of the word “together”), Gamers uses video games as a metaphor for the ridiculous situations and relationships the characters find themselves in in a story that's funny even if you've never touched a controller in your life.
The story begins with unassuming student Keita Amano getting a surprise invitation from Karen Tendo, the most popular girl in school, to join the game club. Karen's a closet(ish) gamer, and she's been working on reviving the club on her own, searching out gamers from the student population. She's got her eye on Amano, but once he sees that the club is based more in competition than enjoyment, he declines to join, citing the fact that he plays games for fun, not to beat or set a record. Karen, who has never considered this in her perfection-based life, finds herself falling head-over-heels for Amano, much to her confusion, and without further ado is off her golden pedestal. Amano, meanwhile, has zero idea what's going on, and gets himself taken under the wing of his classmate Uehara, who saw the whole debacle go down. Uehara was like Amano in middle school, but more bothered by the opinions of others than Amano will ever be, he reinvented himself for high school and even started going out with the pretty but ditzy Aguri. Thinking that Amano is about to fall into the same trap he once did, Uehara sets out to help the other guy with the unstated goal of finding him a girlfriend more his speed than Karen. That brings us to Chiaki, the fifth main cast member, who at first seems like the perfect girl for Amano…if only she wasn't so like him that the two butt heads at every opportunity, something Uehara can't understand.
The idea of not understanding or misunderstanding is the source of most of Gamers!' humor. From simple things like Karen not realizing she's being a creepy stalker (and Brittany Karbowski's Karen in the English dub does a terrific job of chuckling creepily) to much more drastic misunderstandings, like Uehara thinking that Aguri is cheating on him with Amano, virtually no one is able to get their real intentions across to the other characters. Rather than being annoying, as this is likely to be in real life, it makes for a stunning sequence of ridiculous suppositions, almost theater of the absurd-like in the way everyone keeps going around in circles. We in the audience can see that most of their assumptions are not only proving the old dad joke (“assume is to make an ass of u and me”) right, but also say a whole lot more about their own insecurities than what they truly think the other party's motivations are.
That's another unexpected strength of this show. Despite the exaggerated nature of everyone's decisions about what the others are doing and why, there's something very relatable about the insecurities the characters are expressing. Uehara is convinced that his normalcy is fleeting and that underneath everyone knows who he used to be, Aguri is sure that Uehara is only with her to kill time and doesn't really love her, Chiaki and Karen have zero idea what they're really feeling, and Amano has the uncomfortable sensation that none of this is real. At least one of these feelings is likely to be one recognizable for many viewers, albeit in a less exaggerated state, and that grounds the series in very real emotions, which are then used for humor. It rarely, if ever, feels mean, and if it's at times uncomfortable as it reminds you of something misguided you did, it gets played off as just one silly little thing more as the characters work towards figuring things out. Whether it's meaning to say one thing and saying another, trying to pair off two people who really shouldn't be together, or the petty irritations of playing Life, Gamers lets us see how goofy all of this can really be. (And that Life episode is particularly good on that front. Does that game ever go well?)
The show is equally funny in both English and Japanese, which is impressive given that humor is often best enjoyed in your native language. In part this is because of the fact that the humor is based in misunderstandings, which are truly a multicultural thing, but it's also due to the excellent voice casts in both languages. The English dub does rely more on slang that is already beginning to feel a touch dated, but both are still laugh-out-loud funny. Art and animation are also quite good, with Uehara suffering the most from off-model shots (typically his body rather than his face) and Karen's nonsensical hair ribbon being the persistent visual issues. The show is largely fanservice-free as well, with episode twelve, which has the feel of an extra, being the only episode where it's really present.
Gamers is overall simply a fun time. With relatable but not mean humor, good vocal performances from both casts, and a nice use of non-gendered pronouns in the dub when discussing Mono (whose gender Amano has no way of knowing as they're online friends), this is a solidly entertaining series about how we talk but don't always remember to listen – and how funny that can be.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Hilarious comedy, characters are believable and even a little relatable, strong voice casts
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