Review: New Game!

From 2014 to 2015, a drama anime aired called Shirobako, and it was pretty successful. I watched it episode-by-episode myself, and I rather enjoyed it. More specifically, this show was about an employee of an animation studio in Japan; it’s an anime all about making anime.

When New Game came onto the scene for the Summer 2016 series, people instantly began comparing the two, calling New Game “the Shirobako for the video game industry”. I was intrigued enough to sit down and start watching a few episodes. Unfortunately, just like Orange, I hadn’t had the chance to finish the show until much later.

An Introduction

Aoba is fresh out of high school, and excited to move on to the next big thing in her life. She just recently got hired on as a character artist for the game studio that impressed her as a little kid: Eagle Jump.

Walking into her new workplace on the first day, though, she realized that she’s entering into very unfamiliar territory here. She doesn’t know anyone else here, and everyone’s all holed up in their cubicles, staring at their screens, getting work done. Where does she go? Is she even in the right place? Who does she even talk to?

Soon enough, though, the nervousness goes away and we see her enter into the world of game development. She meets her coworkers: Hifumi, who’s super-cute but super-shy, and Yun and Hajime, two girls that seem like total opposites. Hajime is loud, bubbly, and laid back, while Yun is proper and quiet. Aoba also quickly meets her bosses: Rin Toyoma, the art director, and Ko Yagami, the lead character designer. Ko was Aoba’s inspiration when she was young, so working alongside her is like a dream come true! But that’s not all…

The next big game that Aoba is helping to work on: the third installment in her most favorite video game franchise.

The Plot and Characters

Although I’ve first heard this show described to me as Shirobako for game making, like I said above, I don’t really feel that’s true.

While a decent amount of time each episode does feature some sort of game design progress, a lot of time is spent more on the characters and random hijinks related to them. I feel it’s partway between K-On! and Shirobako; there’s even a pull-out tea cart that the characters sit around during the middle of work to just sit and chat.

Delving more into that last paragraph, the sections of New Game that are about the actual game design process are pretty cool, and will probably be at least kind of insightful for those who don’t know much about it. As Aoba is the main character, her perspective as a character designer is what gets mostly shown. Nearly any other context of video game development is quickly brushed over or not even mentioned. I really connected with Aoba and her coworkers in the earlier episodes, as New Game took her experience a few days at a time. The final episodes, though, simply showed the major milestones of the game development, meaning days or weeks could skip between episodes. My connection with the characters was certainly strained by this.

Starting around halfway into the show, there is also an additional focus on Ko Yagami as well, especially her relationship to her job and to Rin Toyoma. It’s relatively cute and nice to see; it was a bit unexpected because I wasn’t seeing Ko as being a lead character in the series. Another addition to the cast was Aoba’s high school friend, Nene, who comes in a bit over halfway to be a QA tester. She acts rather childish and silly, which the show does point out a number of times, but she overall seemed like an unnecessary addition.

The drama present in this show never really gets that deep or troublesome, despite what some episode titles may lead you to believe. There are also portions of many episodes that are simply focused around the characters sitting around and talking (including around the pullout tea cart). Episode 4, in particular, brings pretty much everything to a halt to have all the characters in the show sit around and talk about their experiences getting paychecks. Although these scenes are pretty nice for helping to add some depth to New Game’s characters, it does mean the show’s pacing tends to be a little bit all over.

All in all, though, it was a fun little series to sit and enjoy. It’s something I could see myself watching after a stressful day, the cheerfulness of the series is a tad contagious. The show also allows you to become attached to its characters as well, and even though its drama never gets all that deep, it’s still there to keep you interested in seeing the next episode.

The Atmosphere

To match the overall cheeriness of the series, a lot of bright colors are used for the art, along with simplistic, moe-esque (and also rather cute) designs used for the characters. It’s yet another thing to contrasts the series with Shirobako, which focused a bit more on being realistic and mature-looking. New Game’s art and designs, though, are fun and fit with the mood of the show, and all in all, they look pretty great.

I particularly like Aoba’s and Hifume’s designs, and think they both look pretty cute in variety of settings; Hajime also looks pretty good at some points. Honestly, though, there are no particularly bad character designs; I rather like all of them. If there’s any I could give any complaints to, it’d be Umiko (which is probably because her obsession with military weaponry is kind of odd in this light-hearted show) and Nene (whom I don’t really like that much in the first place).

The background art, despite being mostly within a game studio, can get rather detailed at points, and I appraise the show’s designers for creating relatively realistic-looking computer program designs (my day job is programming, so of course I get hooked up on computer programs that look weird or overly complicated for the sake of looking so). Nothing in the game studio ends up looking super realistic or anything, though, always staying within its brightly-colored style.

The show’s opening, Sakura Skip, is also kind of catchy, and appropriately upbeat. The song isn’t the best thing I’ve ever heard, but I’d say it’s pretty good, and fits pretty well. The opening animation is also pretty awesome, featuring some Studio Shaft-esque vector art alongside some nice-looking shots with Aoba in a sakura forest. It’s probably among my more favorite openings of 2016, but to be honest: I haven’t seen many openings, and there really hasn’t been any (in my recollection) that have really blown me away. This opening doesn’t blow me away either, but it’s well done.

The ending song is a bit more mellow in comparison, but doesn’t seem out of place either. It’s a pretty alright song too, but I feel I prefer the opening a decent amount more. The ending animation is rather simple, featuring a lot of the characters in various poses or images of various other game-y objects. It’s a mellow ending for each episode, and it works. It seems the ending song is a bit more popular on the Internet than the opening though, according to a quick cursory Google search for both songs.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

New Game! is a light-hearted show about video game development, featuring bright colors, cute characters, and a cheerfulness to it that ends up being infectious. The show provides you an insight into the life of a character designer, and gives you a chance to become connected to its characters as they progress as game designers. Altogether, this show is a lot of fun.

If you’re looking into this show hoping for a major insight into game development, you probably won’t find all the details you’re wishing for, as New Game is pretty focused on Aoba’s journey as a character designer and that’s mainly it. That’s said, it shows the character design parts fairly well. Other than that, this is a fun show for slice-of-life fans, and those just looking for something nice to take your mind off things for a while.

Rating: Great
Recommendation: Watch It
+++ great and cute character designs and bright colors, can connect with Aoba and Ko throughout the series, opening song/animation is pretty good
— Nene feels like an unnecessary addition to the cast, final episodes skip between days and weeks straining connection to characters, most aspects of game development barely mentioned

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