by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 9 of
New Game! ?
I suppose a video game isn't really complete until someone messes around with the third-person camera controls. Nene starts this episode off by finding a quirk in the game's camera system that allows the player to look up characters' skirts. Umiko wants to list it as a bug to be corrected, but Hazuki decides to officially incorporate it into the game instead. The updated specs mean that Aoba and the rest of the design team have to pull an all-nighter to make changes to the character models. The one upside to staying at the office overnight is that the girls get the local bathhouse to themselves in the wee hours of the morning. Meanwhile, Toyama catches a cold and Yagami takes her home to recover.
Nene's debugging misadventures continue to be worth their screen time, providing both entertainment and a little industry insight. Her discovery of the camera bug leads to an amusing scene, with Hazuki waxing poetic about the need for upskirt shots and Umiko inevitably laying into both of them with an airsoft pistol. The whole saga also uncovers an interesting dilemma for Nene as a software tester; by doing her job and uncovering problems within the game, she indirectly makes more work for Aoba and the other girls. Sure, she's just doing what she's being paid to do, but she can't help feeling guilty about going home when the design team is getting ready to work overnight. It's the kind of personal conflict that makes a workplace comedy more interesting, and it helps make Nene a more compelling character.
New Game also seems to do a better job than usual with this episode's character interactions. The chemistry within Aoba's little cubicle group is strong, whether they're getting distracted by Hajime's action figure or just talking shop during their all-nighter. Nene and Umiko are also evolving into a decent comedy duo, and it looks as if Umiko's starting to enjoy scaring Nene to death on a regular basis. The relationship between Yagami and Toyama continues to be more of a question mark; they work well as the show's pair of old friends, but New Game continues to be vague and noncommittal over whether or not there's a genuinely romantic side to their interactions. This will either be fine or frustrating depending on your tolerance for shows that suggest a possible relationship without actually developing one.
The bathhouse scene is much more up front about its fanservice aspirations, though the direction does a decent job of going through the scene without getting overly leery. The writing brings a modicum of tact to the inevitable boob comparison jokes, and the scene doesn't seem too out of place in the context of the episode as a whole. If a series is going to take the fanservice route, this sort of delivery is far more palatable than trying to wedge an overly sleazy scene into a serious storyline. It's there if you want it, and it's mostly harmless if you don't.
Whether you're watching for the video game jokes, the character humor, or the fanservice, New Game feels like it's a little more on point than usual this week. It's still the same old workplace comedy that we've gotten used to, but the pacing is smooth and the execution is solid. That little bit of extra polish is exactly what a genre piece like this needs in order to really be worth watching, and it'd be nice if New Game could carry that momentum into next week.
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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