by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 3 of
New Game! ?
If nothing else, this episode of New Game teaches us the importance of setting a backup alarm when you've got to be somewhere on time. Aoba's commute gets a little more hectic than usual after she sleeps through her alarm, and not even a pair of well-intentioned coworkers can save her from being late to work. With Yagami's wrath still ringing in her ears, Aoba does her best to finish her first character model for the game. She's pretty confident in her work until Yagami sends her back to the drawing board over and over, with a new list of revisions every time. It takes a week of trial and error, but Aoba finally manages to put together a fantasy villager that meets Yagami's standards. In recognition of her efforts, Aoba is tasked with making another character model in less than half the time. Hey, nobody ever said working on video games was easy.
After a couple weeks of playing its comedy by the book, New Game manages to have a little fun with genre conventions during Aoba's rush to get to work on time. A mildly humorous conversation with Yun on the train leads into what should be a standard “do our best together” scene: as Aoba starts to fall behind, Yun reaches back to pull her friend along through the final stretch. It looks for all the world like Aoba's going to take Yun's hand in a moment of sappy camaraderie, right up until the moment she falls flat on her face in spectacular fashion. It's a fun little reversal of expectations, and it suggests that New Game might have a sharper sense of humor than I initially gave it credit for.
Just as the opening scene gives the show a chance to flex its comedic muscles, the character design assignment allows it to delve a little deeper into its subject matter. The specifics of Aoba's job are made a little clearer, and the process of making a game finally serves as the driving force behind a storyline instead of merely acting as an excuse to get all the characters together in the same room. The message we get is a simple one, but it also shows a little bit of insight; Aoba is finally able to finish the character model by thinking of it as a human being with a personality instead of a pile of data that needs to be turned in on time. By remembering that the game needs to tell a story, she's able to get over her creative block. This should be an encouraging sign for anyone who came into New Game hoping that the show would include some musings on the creative process.
This episode is also able to get some work done on the character development front, especially in relation to Yagami. She's largely been an object of admiration and curiosity for Aoba up to this point, so it's nice to see the show look at her as more of a person. We see Yagami fret over how to deal with her subordinates being late to work, only to freak out in private once she realizes she's gone overboard in an attempt to be strict with the girls. Aoba's late-night train ride with art director Toyama provides some further insight into Yagami's personality, along with helping to explain why the company is bothering to train a rookie like Aoba in the first place.
These improvements are more like small steps than giant leaps, and New Game still seems very comfortable in its cutesy office comedy niche. Even so, those small steps are headed in the right direction. They suggest that this series might have some narrative ambition after all. New Game has a solid grip on the basics of the genre, and it seems increasingly likely that it's going to build an interesting little story on top of that foundation.
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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