New Game!!
Episode 9

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 9 of
New Game!! (TV 2) ?

Newcomers Naru and Momo get the lion's share of screen time in this episode, but things start off with an afternoon outing for Yun and Hajime. An encounter with one of Hajime's friends from high school leads the two of them to reminisce about their teenage years, and it turns out that both girls have changed quite a bit since then. Back at the office, the new interns start working on real assignments for the game after demonstrating their skills. The friendly vibe between Nene and Naru gives way to rivalry as they clash over Nene's qualifications as a programmer. Finally, Naru and Momo do a bit of “debugging” in their apartment, though not necessarily in the way you might expect.

The chemistry between Yun and Hajime has always been reasonably strong, with Yun playing the levelheaded young lady to Hajime's impulsive tomboy. This episode's opening scene adds some depth to that dynamic by giving us a look at who they were before they started working at Eagle Jump. What's interesting here is that the two of them have essentially followed opposite character arcs; Hajime ditched her cover as a trendy high school girl in order to embrace her inner nerd, while Yun covered up her frumpy otaku past with an elaborate fashion makeover. The scene doesn't dig much deeper than that, but it does create a nice moment of understanding between the longtime cubicle-mates.

As the focus moves back into the office, New Game!! makes a somewhat surprising move by stirring up a conflict between Nene and Naru. Considering that the two of them got along well in previous episodes, it's a little odd that the series would make such a major pivot at this point. At least the cause of the rivalry is fairly plausible; it makes sense that an experienced programmer like Naru would resent having to work as an intern while a rookie like Nene gets hired as an actual employee. On the other end of the equation, it's intriguing to note that Nene is able to shrug off Naru's criticism of her skills but draws a line in the sand as soon as Naru starts questioning Umiko's judgment. It remains to be seen if this rivalry will heat up in future episodes, but it's an intriguing setup once you look past the sudden about-face from last week's friendlier tone.

The episode ends with another look inside Naru and Momo's apartment, and it's here that New Game!! loses its focus. This scene doesn't do much to expand on the established chemistry between the two girls; we already knew that Naru is the more dependable of the pair, while Momo typically has her head in the clouds. Instead of significant character development, we get some fanservice and a weak comedy segment featuring the girls' panicked attempts at dealing with an insect in their apartment. There's a promising moment where Momo observes that Naru is angry about something (presumably her fight with Nene), but New Game!! passes on the opportunity to let Naru vent. Given that the show's biggest challenge at the moment is making these characters seem like a natural part of the cast, I wish this scene had included some more substantial content.

For now, New Game!! appears to be stuck in a holding pattern until it figures out what to do with Naru and Momo. They've stirred up personal rivalries with Nene and Aoba, but right now they're sitting in a middle ground between friendly competition and genuine conflict. This series has a solid track record when it comes to handling both gentle character development and more consequential drama, so at some point it needs to just pick a direction and stick with it.

Rating: B-

New Game!! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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