New Game!!
Episode 5

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 5 of
New Game!! (TV 2) ?

With so many characters working on their own projects, this week's episode of New Game has quite a few storylines to cover. Hifumi is starting to settle into her new role as leader of the character team, and she faces her first challenge when Yun misses a deadline. Meanwhile, Hajime finds herself stumped when she tries to come up with a new ability for the game's protagonist. Aoba is busy designing the villains, specifically the evil queen who will serve as the final boss. Everyone eventually comes up with solutions to their dilemmas, and there's enough time left over for Aoba to reconnect with an old friend from high school.

As Hifumi and Yun sort out the deadline issue, they touch on some interesting side effects of Hifumi's promotion. Hifumi's approach to managing the team is a big change from having Ko in charge, so it makes sense for Yun and Aoba to have some trouble adjusting the way they report their progress. Yun's perspective is particularly interesting, as her concerns over letting Hifumi down end up causing her more stress than the missed deadline itself. Hifumi's response to the problem is surprisingly calm and constructive, which gives us another indication of her personal growth. Her “in-character” solution to reprimanding Yun also ends up being the episode's funniest moment as it goes spectacularly off the rails.

The humor tapers off in the episode's middle section, as New Game starts to delve deeper into the design process. Hajime's role has been somewhat vague ever since she started expressing an interest in working on design instead of animation, but this sequence suggests that she's been given a chance to work on some of the game's mechanics. While the solution of bouncing her ideas off her coworkers isn't exactly a grand epiphany, it's still interesting to watch the group come up with ideas for the fish costume. Aoba's dilemma with designing the queen is reminiscent of her first villager model from last season; once she figures out who the character is as a person, she's able to figure out how that character should look. Considering Shizuku's comments about each designer having a different approach, we can infer that Aoba is starting to find a process that works for her.

The episode wraps up with the introduction of Aoba's old friend Hotaru, though it's unclear how much we'll end up seeing of this new character. If her appearance is just a one-time deal, then it seems a bit superfluous; Aoba could just as easily have talked to any number of existing characters about her choice to start working instead of going to college. If Hotaru is going to appear more often, then her role is unclear; Nene already has the “childhood friend” angle covered, and there's no obvious way of working Hotaru into the game design process. For now, her main role seems to be as an excuse to send Aoba and Nene to a hot spring for some fanservice. Only time will tell if New Game can find a more substantial niche for Hotaru to fill.

Ultimately, this episode's appeal will depend on how interested you are in the nuts and bolts of developing the game. Hifumi's new role adds some fresh dynamics to the character design team, Hajime's brainstorming session touches on the challenge of coming up with in-game mechanics, and Aoba's final boss dilemma gives us some insight into her creative process. If any of that catches your attention, then this episode should function nicely as a window into the characters' daily grind. If not, then you're not left with much besides the fanservice scene and some amusing interactions between Hifumi and Yun. I'm happy to see the series delving deeper into the development process, but your mileage may vary.

Rating: B

New Game!! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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