“New Game!”, Your Typical Slice of Life Anime with an Office Twist

By: Dylan Hysen

 

2016-10-09-34New Game! is a slice-of-life/comedy anime that aired in the Summer season of this year from Doga Kobo. In most respects this is another ‘all cute girls, high quality animation, not much doing plot-wise’ series that seems to make up half of all animes these days. I’m a pretty big fan of this genre and have seen many, many series like this. What drew me to New Game! and what makes the series unique is its work-place setting. 99% of this type of anime takes place in High School, usually involving some club or another: marching band, light music club, swimming, some weird other type of club.

2016-10-09-13

But New Game! actually takes place in an office. Aoba, fresh out of High School joins the character design team of Eagle Jump, the company that made her favorite video game growing up. At its core this is still a “group of young people work together to accomplish something they’re passionate about” that the normal high-school-club version of this genre is. But this series focuses on aspects that separate a workplace environment from the normal one such as deadlines, working late, paychecks, boss-employee friendships. This aspect of the show is very well done, especially early on in the series when Aoba is integrating into the company, and is the primary reason I think the series succeeds. Even with generic character archetypes and a slow-moving plot, New Game! feels fresh because of these unique office dynamics in play.

2016-10-09-5

The other big highlight of New Game! ends up being experiencing the process of a videogame coming to life. This blindsided me a little bit, as the first half of the series clearly focuses more on Aoba’s first job, rather than viewing the process of the in-universe “Fairies Story 3” being created. But the series shifts gears nicely and ends up being a really interesting take on the creative process. The series does this very well as it incorporates the contributions Aoba makes to the game in the first half of the series into the rest of it. We see Aoba’s first major design, Sophia, given motion, integrated into the story, debugged, put into the trailer, and then discussed after the game releases. We don’t actually end up seeing many specific aspects of the game being created (the series clearly focuses more on the characters who are doing the creating), so seeing how this one aspect we are familiar with progresses is very satisfying. In particular the scene where a bug is found in that there’s a way for Sofia to not die and the story to therefore not progress is incredibly well executed and actually seeing that scene played in the game when before we’d only heard about it is great storytelling.

2016-10-09-29

At its core New Game! is a character-focused series and for the most part its characters don’t rise too far above the generic archetypes they begin as. This is the main thing limiting the show from becoming a top tier example of the genre. Still though, the characters are serviceable and definitely likable. The highlight is definitely Aoba, the main character. I really love Aoba’s design; she’s very cute and still very much looks the young 18-first-job-out-of-high-school that defines her character. Aoba’s very determined of course and fairly social and personable, something that really works when she’s so much the center of all the character interactions in the show. Aoba’s coworkers Hifumi, Yun, and Hajime are mostly generic characters and I wish the show gave each more than the two episodes apiece to dive into more aspects of them. More successful is the portrayal of Ko and Rin and their relationship. Ko especially is the second most successful character portrayal as the show definitely takes the time to get into her mentor-mentee relationship with Aoba. Around halfway through, the series pivots and spends much more time with up-until-then very minor characters Umiko and Sakura. Both end up being fairly successful portrayals and they’re the two most colorful characters in the cast, but I think it ends up taking away from the rest of the supporting cast.

2016-10-09-37

Much like other all-female slice of life animes, New Game! wants to get into exploring romantic relationships among its characters, but is limited by its unwillingness to explicitly portray them. Aoba & Hifumi, Yun & Hajime, and especially Rin & Ko all could have gone in this direction, but were hurt by the show’s unwillingness to go into romantic territory. This is absolutely not uncommon among animes, and New Game! is just another one that falls in this “yuri, but not actually yuri” category. Interestingly, the show clearly displays romantic feelings from Rin towards Ko, but never explores a manifestation of those feelings. This explicit portrayal of feelings makes Rin and Ko the most powerful relationship explored in the show. Yuruyrui is another series by studio Doga Kobo that portrayed clear romantic feelings between girls but never got into actual romantic relationships. That series had more successful character portrayals, and was more bold in portraying feelings amongst its cast. I think Doga Kobo would certainly be better served in the future by not feeling limited to avoiding explicit female-female romantic portrayals, but this is also more of an issue with Japanese culture at large. New Game! is not hindered too much by this limitation and this isn’t a story that would explore romantic relationships to too much of an extent anyway.

2016-10-07-6

Overall, New Game! is certainly worth a watch for fans of the genre, and maybe even those who don’t watch much slice of life anime if the workplace game development premise interests you. It’s got a very likable cast, incredible animation, appealing character design, and a plot with more depth than is immediately apparent.

Series Grade: 8/10
The Overly Animated grading scale is out of 10 with a 5 being average and 10 best-ever.

Dylan Hysen, a software developer from the DC area, hosts the Overly Animated podcast discussing everything animation.
 

8 Comments

  1. Steve October 9, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Have you seen Izetta: The Last Witch, I highly recommend it, only 2 episodes I am liking the story, the two main characters are female, and it seems they clearly the main ship of the show.

     
    • Dylan Hysen October 9, 2016 at 8:19 pm

      Have not seen yet, looks very interesting.

       
      • Steve October 9, 2016 at 8:31 pm

        Well it is Crunchyroll, there to watch nice and legally.

         
  2. Tyrone Wells Jr. October 9, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    I think you have great taste in shows and will be willing to check out an episode at least. Does the romance between Rin/Ko feel like just another attempt to moeify the lead characters (along the lines of the hair color, the big eyes, super tiny mouths and hands, button-dot noses, cutsey seiyus, pig tails, etc.) so more people will watch the show/write fan fiction or does it help to move the plot/add legitamate character depth to the characters in any way? I hope it doesn’t come off as more of a calculated manufactured appeal to sell more Blu Rays.

    The panel with the four characters standing side by side seemed especially tropey.

     
    • Dylan Hysen October 9, 2016 at 9:37 pm

      That image of the 4 of them is from the opening credits so it’s definitely tropey. The characters are definitely moe-ified, so if that’s a big turnoff maybe the series isn’t for you, but I don’t think it’s particularly overdone.

       
      • Tyrone Wells Jr. October 10, 2016 at 9:06 pm

        Moe isn’t my thing (esp. at my age) but you’ve surprised me before with the Voltron recommendation so I’ll check it out.

         
      • Tyrone Wells Jr. October 12, 2016 at 8:39 pm

        Hey Dylan,

        Came back from the first seven episodes. I can see how if you’re a fan of the genre, you have everything you need in this show. While I’m not compelled to watch more, I can definitely see the appeal for people that like this genre. It’s very much in the same vein and perfect bullseye in that particular comfort zone.

        I have a rhetorical question: If the character-based show hosts characters that don’t really rise above their archetypes, is admittedly formulaic, and doesn’t even go into detail about video game design or take advantage of it’s novel setting… then what do you actually find appealing about the show aside from the moe of the month?

         
        • Dylan Hysen October 12, 2016 at 9:12 pm

          Cool that you checked it out Tyrone. I do think you’re caught up a little bit in the moe: that’s more just how anime works now, I don’t think any of the characters are particularly too cutesy or that the show is based around them being cute. I don’t think going into detail about videogame design is the point and not really what I cared about, it’s more these characters who I care about, especially Aoba who I think is much better than the formulaic side cast, going through the creative process together. Also about Aoba adapting to her first job, something I really relate to just having gone through it this year! Most of the characters are definitely archetypal but I do think they were good representations of sympathetic archetypes and that’s where I think the main appeal lies (outside of the genuinely interesting narrative aspects of the workplace and creative process): sympathetic, familiar characters doing interesting things and interacting with each other. It’s a very comfortable, enjoyable experience for me if done right. And that is the basic premise of all slice of life anime lol

           

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *