by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 6 of
New Game! ?
Aoba gets her first chance to design a game character this week, and she does her best to live up to everyone's expectations. It's not until after Yagami gives the design the green light that Aoba realizes the NPC's backstory and personality were based on her. Everyone at the office gets a rare day off, and Aoba ends up going to the movies with an old friend from high school. A meeting the next day reveals that the character design team is behind schedule, and the girls are facing plenty of overtime in the near future. Aoba's first all-nighter with Yagami goes well, at least until she makes the mistake of sleeping too long in the meeting room.
Aoba's first shot at designing a character from the ground up produces its fair share of amusing moments. It's hard not to laugh when Yagami catches her doing an image search for pigtails instead of just looking in a mirror. The strongest scene in the sequence comes when Aoba realizes she's been working on turning herself into an NPC, and everyone starts calling her by the character's name. Amusing as it is though, it feels less significant than you might expect from the heroine finally having a proper shot at her dream job. There's a thoughtful discussion and some cheesy inspirational music, but there's no real sense of challenge or accomplishment here. New Game did a solid job of depicting Aoba's time modeling one of Yagami's designs, so it's odd that the show isn't able to turn in a similar performance for this milestone in her career.
Everyone's day off is used for exactly what you might expect: minor character development with a side of comedy. Aoba's trip to the movies with Nene does at least capture an interesting dynamic, as the old friends awkwardly dance around the possibility of their lives going in separate directions. The brief appearances by Yun and Hajime are kind of fun, and the show does a nice job of circling back to the movie at the end of the episode. Overall though, this portion of the episode is a little bland. New Game is able to distinguish itself from the slice of life crowd when the characters talk shop at the office, but it loses some of that spark when it sends everyone out for a normal day on the town.
Yagami and Aoba's all-nighter comes at the right time, as it allows the episode to end on a strong comedic note. The image of Aoba waddling around the office in her ridiculous sleeping bag is a hoot, and the show is able to get a lot of mileage out of this single prop. Yagami's horrified realization that Aoba is still sleeping in the meeting room the next day is a fairly standard piece of comedy, but good timing and a strong delivery help make it work. This is also a fairly good-looking scene, and New Game avoids the temptation to half-ass its background art under the cover of low lighting. The characters' desks still have plenty of personality, and there's a very nice shot of the sun rising on the office building. Good humor, good art.
Despite some underwhelming scenes, this is a serviceable episode. What continues to frustrate me about New Game is that it feels like it could easily be better than it is. The creative insights and sympathetic characters are all there; the series just has to be more proactive about using them. Let the audience into the meeting room with Yagami and Toyama for more than just a quick reaction shot, or have the girls' tempers run short as they start working overtime. Finding that ideal slice of life comfort zone is all well and good, but it wouldn't take much to elevate New Game from a good entry in its genre to a great anime series period.
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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