by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 5 of
New Game! ?
The cast of New Game may be working in a creative field, but that doesn't preclude them from dealing with the everyday hassles of office life. When Hajime and Aoba are sent out together on an errand, Hajime is eager to show off to the company newbie. This plan goes downhill in a hurry when Hajime realizes that her wallet has gone missing at some point between the office and the store, and Aoba ends up being the one to pull the shopping trip back from the brink of failure. Back at the office, Yagami and Hajime engage in a battle of wills over the thermostat. After going back and forth between too hot and too cold a few times, they find themselves on the receiving end of a lecture from Toyama. Finally, an early arrival at the office gives Aoba a chance to learn a little more about Yagami.
The character development spotlight falls on Hajime this week, with the spunky character animator getting plenty of screen time throughout the episode. The show doesn't really go in-depth here; there's not much to see that the audience hasn't figured out already. Hajime has way too much energy for someone who sits at a desk all day, and she really wants Aoba to look up to her as a more experienced employee. Not a lot of emotional complexity to be found there, but the episode does at least expand Hajime's comedic range a little. She plays off Aoba fairly well as an unreliable upperclassman, and the battle over the thermostat shows that she can help bring out Yagami's mischievous side. As a supporting character, Hajime seems to have found a comfortable niche for herself.
Most of this episode's humor comes from Yagami and Hajime battling over the air conditioning, and it's the sort of laid-back comedy that New Game seems to specialize in. It's fairly predictable and more amusing than outright funny, but the pacing is decent and the characters' personalities allow for some witty dialogue. The strongest moment comes when Hajime cheerfully owns up to messing with the thermostat; it's hard not to laugh when she claims credit without a hint of guilt or apology. This approach of having characters happily point out their own quirks and failings has worked for similar shows in the past (Wagnaria comes immediately to mind), and New Game makes good use of it here.
The series continues to devote plenty of time and effort to developing Yagami as a character, even when she's not the primary focus of an episode. This seems like a good idea to me, as she's proven to be the most compelling member of the cast so far. By giving Aoba a chance to rummage through some of Yagami's rejected character designs, this episode's final segment hints at a lot of hard work behind that carefree attitude. Toyama's comments about how Yagami's personality has changed over time are also interesting, as they paint a picture of someone who's actively trying to grow into a reliable team leader. New Game appears to be putting a fair amount of thought into its main characters, and that opens up the potential for stronger storytelling as the season rolls along.
In order to capitalize on all this character development, New Game will eventually need to introduce some genuine conflict into the mix. The series has been hinting at an impending deadline crunch for a couple of weeks now, and a work-related crisis could be just the thing to give the cast a real challenge. We've spent enough time with the Eagle Jump crew to get to know them, but it'll take more than some mild comedy to get the audience emotionally invested in the fate of the company.
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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