by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 4 of
New Game! ?
Some weeks at work are full of new challenges and personal epiphanies, and others are just business as usual. For the characters of New Game, this episode falls into the latter category. After a long day at work, Toyama ends up staying at the office overnight with Yagami. They argue about Yagami's questionable fashion standards, chat about their hopes and fears for the game, and deal with a poorly timed computer crash. The second half of the episode sees Aoba get her first paycheck, which sparks a lively debate over what she should spend the money on. Her coworkers reminisce about what they bought with their own first paychecks, ranging from expensive desk toys to a half-forgotten vacation. Aoba ends up saving most of her money, though she does spring for a cake on her way home.
With some character development already in the bank for Aoba and Yagami, the first half of this episode focuses mainly on Toyama. Her late-night chat with Yagami gives us a chance to see Toyama's perspective on the game, and her concerns about her job as art director add some depth to her “responsible mentor” persona. She also seems to have an adventurous side, as evidenced by her amusingly ill-fated attempt at following Yagami's early morning dress code. The series does some decent work here, adding some believable depth to a character who had previously been a little too bland.
The comedic dynamic between Toyama and Yagami certainly has potential, with Yagami constantly testing the limits of Toyama's carefully maintained composure. As far as their actual relationship goes, New Game seems content to leave an awful lot of room for audience interpretation. Are they just friends who know how to push one another's buttons, or is there something more going on here? Toyama certainly seems to get much more flustered around Yagami than she does with the other characters. Considering New Game's conspicuously all-female cast, it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see the series make the occasional nod to the yuri crowd.
The second half of the episode feels like it was ripped right out of the Slice of Life 101 textbook: give the characters a topic to chat about (in this case Aoba's first paycheck) and have them sit around drinking tea until that topic is thoroughly exhausted. We get the obligatory moments of character humor as each girl talks about her first big purchase, and everyone else responds with witty remarks and mild overreactions. At least Aoba gets a chance to go through some personal growth by hitting a small milestone as an adult with a real paying job.
This is, for lack of a better term, an episode that runs mainly on autopilot. It features some formulaic but effective humor, a bit of character development, and a couple moments of fanservice just to make sure the audience is still paying attention. Compared to last week's foray into the actual process of making a video game, it's not as overtly compelling. It is, however, a neatly paced and well-executed slice of life episode, the kind of performance that a series in this genre can fall back on between its more interesting moments. Let's just hope that New Game ventures back out of its comfort zone sooner rather than later.
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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