Episodes 1-2

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Gamers! ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Gamers! ?

It should have been a match made in heaven: average high school gamer Keita Amano runs into the most popular girl in school at a video game store, and she invites him to join her competitive gaming club. It seems as if Keita has finally found a place to belong, at least until he flat-out refuses to join the club. Even Keita himself is surprised by his response, but a chance encounter with class tough-guy Tasuku Uehara in the local arcade might help him figure things out. The meeting also proves to be enlightening for Tasuku, who sees his former self in the geeky, game-obsessed Keita. Will the electric joy of video games bring this diverse collection of characters together or tear them apart?

As it turns out, Gamers! is hiding some unexpectedly smart writing under its “yet another high school game club” premise. Where similar shows have typically lumped all of their characters under a single umbrella, this series acknowledges that not all gaming enthusiasts share the same motivations. This idea is brought into stark focus during Keita's second refusal to join Karen's club, where he points out that he'd rather play for fun than focus exclusively on winning. The implication isn't that one approach is better than the other, but rather that the two are not always compatible with one another. Tasuku adds a third perspective to the argument as someone who tried to abandon his gaming hobby, and it's fascinating to watch his views clash with Keita's.

Of course, all of these musings don't change the fact that Gamers! is a comedy at heart. The good news is that it seems to have a good grasp of the basics: many of the jokes feel fresh despite working with familiar material, and the show's timing and delivery are both reasonably strong. The only potential weak point is the frequent use of on-screen text to add humorous foreshadowing of future events, a technique that's overused to the point of distraction in the first episode. Thankfully, it's used more sparingly, and therefore more effectively, in the second episode. While the comedy definitely seems geared towards viewers with a working knowledge of gaming culture, most of the jokes are funny and accessible enough to draw in a wider audience.

On that note, it's also encouraging to see that Gamers! generally seems to know what it's talking about. These opening episodes cover smartphone RPGs, fighting games, and first-person shooters with a respectable level of authenticity, which is a refreshing contrast to the wealth of shows that lean almost exclusively on role-playing tropes. One particular highlight is the fighting game showdown between Keita and Tasuku in the second episode, which does a wonderfully brutal job of picking apart Keita's rookie mistakes. Rather than just going through the usual motions, it seems like Gamers! might actually have a solid foundation for its referential humor.

Admittedly, the visuals in this series are something of a mixed bag. While the character designs are relatively solid across the board, the animation tends to look rough at times. While it's good enough to get the job done, I wouldn't go into this show expecting any truly spectacular eye candy. I will, however, give it credit for the contrast between Tasuku and Aguri's past and present appearances, which give the audience a visual reference for how much both of them have tried to change themselves in high school.

The list of shows that have tried to take advantage of the audience overlap between anime and games is long, and it's littered with many cases of bland and pandering humor. So it's tempting to write off Gamers! based on the familiarity of its basic premise, but that would be a shame because the execution in these opening episodes is strong enough to make a compelling case for this series. The comedy is sharp, and the character writing is surprisingly strong. If it can keep this up, Gamers! has a good chance at standing out in a crowded genre.

Rating: B+

Gamers! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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