Reviewby Nick Creamer,
New Game!! - Season Two
After a hectic first assignment assisting Eagle Jump on their esteemed Fairies Story franchise, it seems like Aoba Suzukaze has finally settled into her work as a game designer. Together with her mentor Ko Yagami and her many rowdy coworkers, every day is a new adventure and learning experience all in one. But as Eagle Jump begin to brainstorm their wholly original next project, Aoba will find herself challenged in all number of unexpected ways, and taking on responsibilities far beyond anything she imagined. Working on Yagami's designs for Fairy Story was one thing, but taking a lead design role demands confidence, creativity, and more than a little elbow grease. Aoba will do her best to survive the continuing trials of game development in New Game's second season!
The first season of New Game!! was a very pleasant time all around, presenting the trials and tribulations of a small game development studio with all the coziness it could possibly afford. New Game!!'s gentle slice of life storytelling meant it didn't really succeed as an incisive character drama or exploration of the actual nature of game development, but its likable characters, consistent animation, and light reflections on professional life all made for a very comfortable viewing experience. It was essentially a school club slice of life transposed to the working world, with all the strengths and weaknesses that premise would imply.
In its second season, New Game!! embraces a far greater sense of narrative momentum and consequence, as we explore the continuing trials of Aoba and her friends at Eagle Jump. With introductions done and Aoba herself having settled into the pace of life here, lighthearted episodic adventures are replaced with a fairly focused narrative arc - the creation of a New Game!! and intellectual property altogether. Early on, Eagle Jump director Shizuku announces that while their new property's fundamental gameplay concepts have been decided, its visual and narrative design are all up in the air. And so, starting with her successful submission to a character design competition, Aoba begins to set forth on her own journey as an art designer.
The design and development of this new property gives New Game!!'s sequel a welcome sense of focus and progression, as we move from early character designs to iteration, managing design priorities versus technical limitations, and even working on minigames. While New Game!!'s first season offered a regular sprinkling of light reflections on the game development world, its sequel puts all of these fragments in a context that makes it easy to invest in the fate of this project, while also giving us in the audience a far greater understanding of the development process. From deadpan jokes about applications freezing to heated arguments about design spec creep, New Game!!'s second season consistently and directly engages with game design in a way that seriously elevates its appeal.
This increased sense of narrative consequence is also reflected in the sequel's characters. While the first season of New Game!! often seemed to exist in the timeless space common to slice of life shows, there's a sense of urgency and personal growth all throughout season two. Aoba herself gets the lion's share of development, as her successful character design submission ultimately telescopes into her sharing art design credit with her inspiration, Ko Yagami. In the first season, Aoba's relentless determination and work ethic came across as endearing character attributes, but didn't really impact her professional life all that much. Here in season two, her tremendous personal strength and ambition serve as a source of both inspiration and anxiety to those around her. There's a caustic and welcome bite to sequences like Yagami lashing out at her subordinate when her own designs are rejected, or Yun worrying that she's simply treading water in her career. New Game!!'s second season isn't exactly a hard-hitting character drama, and it still possesses a frustratingly complacent relationship with the exploitative expectations of the gaming industry, but it cuts deeper than you'd expect with very welcome frequency.
While the focus on Eagle Jump's new project and Aoba's career path does a great job of expanding New Game!!'s dramatic priorities, its more traditional slice of life material feels a bit less impressive. New Game!! is still an inherently charming show full of very likable people, but the contrast between its grounded career drama and sequences of idle banter creates an odd sense of dischord - it's at times hard to believe the same people second-guessing their career ambitions are also the ones freaking out about where to go for lunch. The relative weakness of New Game!!'s traditional material is exemplified by its two new characters, Momo and Naru. With Aoba and her teammates growing into fully realized people, it feels like New Game!! almost felt a need to counterbalance that with some goofy stereotypes, meaning Aoba's very human anxieties are often sharing screen time with Momo's obsession with food and simplistic “I'll never accept you!” routines. This issue is likely worsened by the fact that these characters only really come into prominence in the season's second half, drawing focus away from Aoba's story right as her journey is reaching a climax.
New Game!!'s visual execution is as strong as ever, as you'd expect from a Doga Kobo production. The character designs exemplify the fuzzy warmth of this production, and though this isn't a highlight-heavy production by Doga Kobo standards, the overall quality of animation is very consistent. Key emotional moments are elevated through detailed character acting and smartly employed post-production effects, while basically every episode is stuffed with lots of funny expression work. I particularly liked all the design work afforded to Eagle Jump's New Game!! property, Peco; from a silly sketch of a girl wearing a big bear suit, Peco convincingly evolves into an entire fantasy world. It's a testament to New Game!!'s excellent design choices that by the end of this season, I was actually a little annoyed I couldn't go buy Peco and play it myself.
New Game!!'s sound design is also quite strong, with the soundtrack featuring a number of diversely compelling melodies, and leaning into the show's premise through a heavy focus on chiptune-style compositions. The dub also remains a very consistent offering, with the persistent caveat that Nenechi's original chipmunk voice just plain doesn't translate to English. I felt Jeannie Tirado's performance as Naru was a bit informal in a way that didn't necessarily match the original performance, but that too somewhat reflects the difficulty of translating a character archetype whose affectations aren't necessarily natural in English. And that informality also reflects the overall adaptive script, a loose and creative effort that does a great job of emphasizing Eagle Jump's friendly atmosphere. Outside of that dub, this collection doesn't really come with any extras - just the show itself on bluray and DVD, along with the textless opening and closing songs.
Ultimately, while New Game!!'s second season certainly isn't perfect, its newfound dramatic ambition and fuller exploration of its characters makes it a marked step up from its predecessor. The show's mixture of traditional slice of life shenanigans and heavier character drama is a sometimes messy combination, but the persistent focus on Peco's design process, Aoba's growth, and how both of those affect the people around them makes for a generally propulsive and satisfying ride. Aoba's trials and victories here feel impactful and earned, and the show's thematic emphasis on the need to change in order to grow gives it a strong sense of purpose. Whether you just miss the first season's cast or are hoping for a more dramatically focused adventure, New Game!!'s second season has plenty to offer.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Tells a thoughtful and focused story of professional growth while still maintaining the series' goofy charm
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