New Game!! – Anime Series Review

Episodes: 12

Genre(s): Comedy, Drama, Slice-of-Life

Aired: July 2017 to Sept 2017

Also known as: NEW GAME!!

Summary: Suzukaze Aoba has now been working at the Eagle Jump game company for a year. With Fairies Story 3 now complete, a company-wide contest is held to determine who will be the lead character designer for the upcoming game. Aided by company veteran Yagami Kou, Aoba ends up winning the competition and becomes the lead character designer for Eagle Jump’s newest intellectual property, a fairy tale game known as Peco. Will Aoba be able to handle her new duties and responsibilities despite being a relatively inexperienced character designer?

Review: I feel like sequels can often fail to live up to the hype presented by the original season and end up falling flat. Fortunately, that isn’t the case for New Game!!, which is a very strong second season that focuses more on characterization and is overall more serious without abandoning the idealistic tone established in the first season.

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It’s hard to deny that last year’s New Game!, while very good, could be considered to be rather run-of-the-mill by certain critics. “In comes just another CGDCT series except it just takes place in an office environment,” they would say. Such statements are very reductionist, however. Perhaps said individuals hold these opinions because the series promotes an idealized work setting (who can get away with sleeping sans pants at work in real life). Aside from this aspect, there were indeed plenty of instances of cute girls doing cute things which provides a degree of validity regarding their complaints.

Be that as it may, New Game!! branches out but in a way that still pays homage to its roots. Yes, there are still fluffy, idle chit chat amongst the female characters within the series, but more sobering topics are touched upon and addressed. Struggling with self-confidence when others achieve better results, coping with feeling left out, chasing after dreams with no familial support – all of these powerful yet relatable moments and feelings crop up and resolved in an optimistic manner. As such, viewers are left feeling relieved and maybe even a bit encouraged to try harder as they watch their favorite characters develop as individuals.

See, what New Game! established was a status quo. Aoba joined Eagle Jump and she had to quickly learn the ropes. In due time, she became one of them and her interactions with her coworkers became comfortable and cordial for both Aoba and the audience. But in this sequel series, the status quo is threatened and then drastically altered by a handful of factors, which includes Aoba’s new role as the lead character for Peco.

In a setting where Yagami Kou has regularly been accepted as the company’s top artistic asset, Aoba’s promotion affects many people. Some people who had entertained a defeatist attitude came to realize that Aoba’s optimistic attitude in the face of defeat is surely a more correct mindset. Others start evaluating their own long-term goals and then begin to make strides towards achieving said resolutions. In the face of a large gap between her own skills and Kou’s ability in a follow-up competition, Aoba’s go-getter attitude is challenged directly and she (as well as New Game!!) sticks to her guns and tries even though she knows she can’t win as she is right now. It’s an admirable mix of idealism and realism and really shows how Aoba has developed as a character – she no longer is content to stand behind her idol but she yearns to be next to Kou as equals or rivals.

And in the middle of these emotional changes, the introduction of several new characters are particularly attention-grabbing. Unfortunately, the two new interns, Momo and Tsubame, really irritated some viewers due to their aggressive behavior towards established fan favorites. I myself was a bit hard on them.

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But they, too, serve an important role due to how they also contribute to shaking up the status quo. Otherwise New Game!! might have turned out to be more of the same. With the inclusion of Momo and Tsubame, however, there are now a few (more) injections of realism. Feelings of pride and spite and rivalry are all feelings that many of us feel – frankly, those are not exactly the nicest emotions so it’s reasonable that people will inherently reject characters who display such sentiments such as Momo and Tsubame. Yet these are common feelings and to deny that these occur in everyday life is to be living in a sheltered world. But, yes, I can see how these two characters are controversial. Be that as it may, they both are shown to have their own reasons and are understanding of others’ intent and feelings, so it’s not like they’re monsters who ruin New Game!! They actually are just agents of chaos who spice things up a bit, that’s all.

Even with all of these changes, however, New Game!! remains the same. Instances of fanservice will pop up from time to time, much like in the first season. But they do serve as a means to lighten the series in-between tense scenarios, so they’re not entirely unwelcome.

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It’s not all perfect, however. While I do ship Yun with Hajime, their shared scenes outside of work don’t really seem to contribute much to the overlying plot or message. As a result, the episodes featuring said scenes seem weaker overall since a portion goes to showing the two girls doing this and that, which unfortunately lack any sort of direct relation to what’s shown to be happening within the office setting. BUT AS A SHIPPER, these moments are golden since it’s clear that Yun’s kid siblings are very fond of Hajime so I can pretend that Yun and Hajime are parents with their own kids or something.

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As for the other ships, the Rin x Kou ship is as strong as ever and is the ship that goes beyond just subtext. However, Hifumi x Aoba seemed to have fallen by the wayside and Aoba x Momo seems to have risen from the ashes. I’m still rooting for Nenecchi x Umiko, however, and my prayers were soundly answered in this second installment.

Verdict

If you’re a fan of the first series, then you’ll be doing yourself a disservice by skipping this sequel series. New Game!! manages to masterfully balance idealism with realism with a strong, focused message about how one should push onwards despite suffering defeat.

Just remember to keep an open mind and to not label a series as “ruined” simply because one or two characters are initially disagreeable. No character is entirely good or bad, after all. Just because one snaps at another doesn’t mean the former is a corrupt and morally bankrupt person. So just sit back and watch a lovely series unfold without taking the series overly seriously.

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