by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 12 of
New Game! ?
Now that the latest Fairies Story game is on store shelves, Aoba and the rest of the girls all get a free copy of the software they've poured countless hours of work into. But come on, who wants a regular copy for free when you can line up at the nearest store to buy the limited edition? After picking up their fancy boxes full of extra merchandise (and accidentally leaking a spoiler or two), everyone dresses up for the company's big release party. Yagami slips away early to fret over the possibility of being promoted to art director for the next game, but some timely encouragement from Aoba gets her back on track.
There's something inherently funny about everyone from Eagle Jump waiting in line to buy their own game, and this episode draws a lot of humor from having the characters geek out over the finished product. Hajime and Nene are particularly amusing, and their dorky enthusiasm is nicely balanced against everyone else's embarrassment at being seen with them in public. As entertaining as the group's antics are, it's also kind of endearing to see the cast acting excited and nervous over the retail release. These scenes really sell the idea that the characters care about what they've been working on, which helps this little victory lap feel worth taking.
While some of that comedy carries through to the release party, this episode's latter half is more notable for the sense of perspective that it lends to the series. Considering how much time the show spends focusing on just a handful of characters, it's good to fill up a big room with people to illustrate how much work has gone into this one game. The scene also captures an interesting moment in the development cycle, with everyone taking a moment to look back on what they've done. This is the kind of scene that I was hoping to see more of when I started watching New Game!, where it's possible to get a sense of how it might feel to work in this particular field. More than creative insights or industry trivia, the biggest strength of a career-focused story is its ability to humanize a job that the audience would normally only be familiar with in an abstract sense.
The speeches by Yagami and Hazuki provide a bit of industry commentary, but the focus here is primarily on the characters. The conversation between Nene and Umiko is kind of cute, emphasizing just how well these two have begun to work as a comedy duo. However, as expected from a final episode, it's the main characters who really steal the show. Yagami's impending promotion provides a last-minute opportunity for some extra insight into her backstory, and her chat with Aoba is one of the most emotionally compelling moments in the series. After all the subtle things Yagami has done to help Aoba settle in at the company, it's nice to see Aoba return the favor and encourage her mentor to take a step forward.
Without a big dramatic story arc to wrap up, this episode was never going to be the kind of full-throttle finale that leaves a long-lasting impression. However, for a low-key series with little narrative momentum, it's pretty close to an ideal ending. We're able to leave the characters at a natural ending point, yet it would be easy enough to have them start right up on another game if a sequel were to come about.
Watching New Game! has been frustrating at times, but only because the series has shown the potential to aim higher than the modest narrative ambitions it set for itself. If it had placed a few more challenges in front of its characters, it could have been something more special. As it is, it's still a fun little comedy with a likable cast that managed to end on a strong and somewhat thoughtful note. For mostly harmless humor with a focus on video games, you could certainly do a lot worse.
New Game! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.
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