New Game!!
Episodes 1-2

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 1 of
New Game!! (TV 2) ?

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

New Game is back for a second season, and these first two episodes provide a fresh start for both the characters and the series itself. With their previous game completed, the employees of Eagle Jump are gearing up for a new project. This means new roles for some of the company's veterans: Rin has become a producer, Ko is the new art director, and Umiko is stepping up as the lead programmer. For fresher faces like Aoba, an opportunity has opened up in the form of a competition to design the characters for the next game. This could be Aoba's big chance to pursue her dream, but the competitive nature of the process threatens to drive a wedge between her and Ko.

In most areas, the series appears to be taking an “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” approach with this new season. Its humor and slice of life elements remain largely unchanged, although some small refinements can be found here and there. With a season's worth of character development already done, the chemistry within the cast feels more natural. This allows for smoother delivery on the comedic front, and it also opens the door for the occasional in-joke. Small callbacks like a glimpse of Aoba's sleeping bag or the return of Hajime's obsession with the “Dandy Max” films add a sense of continuity, while intentional similarities between the two seasons' opening episodes demonstrate how Aoba has begun to feel at home in the office.

There is at least one significant change here, although it doesn't become fully apparent until the second episode. Where the first season often suffered from a relative lack of narrative ambition, the series now appears to be aiming a bit higher. The conflict between Aoba and Ko over the design competition is arguably the first time New Game has pitted two of its characters directly against one another, and the show ventures into some new emotional territory along the way. The writing does a nice job of pulling both characters out of their comfort zones: Aoba is forced to compete against her longtime role model, and Ko is clearly horrified to find herself acting just like her old rivals. It's not long before a convenient compromise is found and the show returns to its usual upbeat tone, but this is still New Game's most serious (and most effective) dramatic effort to date.

That theme of pushing forward in pursuit of personal goals carries over to the rest of the cast, with largely positive results. Hajime's efforts at crafting a full game proposal add a more ambitious side to her personality, and there's a potentially interesting conflict brewing between her skills as an animator and her aspirations as a designer. Hifumi's goal of becoming more assertive looks like it will be a simpler process, but again it adds some depth to her character. Yun's search for personal motivation is perhaps the most open-ended of the bunch, and it could be a compelling storyline if it's presented well. Even Nene is getting in on the act with an amateur game design project, which promises to reunite her with her first-season comedic foil Umiko. While most of these character arcs will likely play second fiddle to Aoba and Ko's journeys, it's still encouraging to see so many ideas being put forward in the early going.

New Game also continues to benefit from reasonably high production values, especially considering that it's a laid-back workplace comedy. The backgrounds are as nicely detailed as ever, and some strong character animation helps reinforce the cast's personalities in the opening episode. The show's penchant for tossing in the occasional fanservice shot remains, though for the time being it's relatively mild-mannered and not overly distracting. New Game could probably get away with looking much less impressive than it does, so credit to Dogakobo for putting in the extra effort.

This new season is very much a continuation of its predecessor as far as the plot goes, and as such it's not an ideal jumping-on point for new viewers. Returning fans, on the other hand, will find that the basic style and structure of the series is largely the same. Its appeal as a moe workplace comedy remains intact, and the show's newfound dramatic ambition has already yielded an impressive result. If New Game can continue to build on this foundation, then I wouldn't be surprised to see this turn into a case of a sequel outdoing its predecessor.

Rating: A-

New Game!! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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