Review/discussion about: New Game!
While I never aspired to be a music composer, one of my favorite musical artists worked on my favorite video game of all-time. The game being (and as no surprise) Banjo-Kazooie, and the composer being Grant Kirkhope.
Mr. Kirkhope put his heart and soul into that game. He created melodic, catchy, and atmospheric pieces that are a staple in any video-game-music track list. His blending of the music as the player moves between different parts of Gruntilda’s Lair and the overworld entrances stands as a technical and innovative achievement. And he even voiced both Mumbo Jumbo the slightly incompetent shaman and the ghostly voices of the pots within Mad Monster Mansion, pots that may or may not say something rude after an egg or two is “thrown” their way.
Given his work on Banjo-Kazooie, I can only imagine that he is a hard worker and a good person to learn from. And, as New Game! shows, such people exist closer to us than we may think.
New Game! stars Aoba Suzukaze, an eighteen-year-old woman fresh out of high school. Opting to pursue her dream job rather than trudge through college, she starts work at the popular video-game company Eagle Jump. Her boss just so happens to be Yagami Kou, the character designer of Aoba’s favorite video game series Fairies Story and the person who inspired her to be where she is now. With work, stress, and fun in tow, Aoba, Kou, and the others get to making their new game together.
When someone first looks at New Game!, perhaps the knee-jerk reaction would be to dismiss it for its forwardly cutesy and rather simplistic nature.
To be fair, such a reaction is not uncalled for. The anime relies heavily on enticing the audience with cute girls who have the hots for one another (blatant or otherwise) that does not always add much to the scenes besides more reasons to form semi-canonical lesbian relationships. And it does not like to challenge itself, choosing mischief with buying too many donuts rather than trying for unique jokes.
However, this shallow description does not do New Game! enough justice, for it is surprisingly relatable. Especially to those who have worked or are currently working for a living.
As part of the premise, Aoba is a brand-new employee who has never worked before. Thus, the anime showcases a variety of moments that happen in any workplace environment. Learning how to use a tool never taught before. The boss being away causing the subordinates to relax a bit more than usual. Arriving late to work gets one anxious but isn’t the absolute end of the world. That first paycheck. Earning precious PTO (which is “paid time off” for the youngsters out there).
Some of the moments get head-nods, and some of the moments will make one say, “I know exactly how she feels.” But they all show some part of what it means to work.
Related to the work environment, New Game! also educates its audience on what goes into making a video game. What the different sectors do, such as the character designers’ constant changes and the programmers’ debugging. The hierarchical structure of the employees and their role within the company. Specific jargon like “beta” and “AD.” The anime does not go into the nitty-gritty details, but these examples consider the behind-the-scenes process, making the show’s premise more than just an excuse to have cute girls clumped together.
The anime also uses work as the crux for many of its jokes. In one of its very first, Aoba leaves to go to the bathroom, but, since she had yet to receive her identification card, she gets locked out of their work area. Nothing extravagant, but Aoba’s reaction and the fact that such scenarios are not uncommon sells this joke well.
As was mentioned, though, the anime does not strictly stick to work-related material. Going out for drinks to celebrate Aoba’s hiring, seeing a movie with a best friend, and undergoing medical checkups have work tied into them in some fashion, but they more so highlight the girls, the pleasantries, and the fun.
These more down-to-earth events also allow New Game! to get at more general ideas of life that anybody can appreciate. When Nenecchi eats Kou’s pudding and the subsequent “fallout” that occurs, the show teaches how it’s okay to make mistakes so long as one does what he or she can to make up for them. And when Rin speaks with Kou about her own thoughts on being the art director, Kou explains that it’s less about how well the game sells and more about making something that they feel is worthwhile (while supporting her best friend with kind words in the process).
New Game! shortly follows this conversation with a lewd bit where both Rin and Kou are without pants (a common occurrence for Kou but a new venture for Rin). And, later in the season, Aoba and the other girls go for a nighttime bath (with extra emphasis on Hifumi showering). Meaning, the anime does not mind including more provocative scenes that don’t really have a place within this work-centric, slice-of-life tale. However, they are at least tasteful and not at all distracting, so these scenes simply add to the charm of the show.
Perhaps its most important takeaway, though, is when the work lifestyle intertwines with the slice-of-life.
Work life is hard. Within Eagle Jump alone, they have harsh deadlines, ridiculous overtime hours (sometimes to the point that they must literally sleep at the office overnight), and numerous issues that pop up along the way.
But, as New Game! highlights, hard work and dedication at one’s job leads to rewards of all kinds. Seeing one’s own efforts within the overall project. Gaining new friends and colleagues through mutual understanding and teamwork. Receiving positive reviews from the masses.
Aoba worked on the game for half a year, and the rest for a year or more. Watching it all come together, after countless hours and obstacles, stands as not just a huge relief for everyone involved but a major accomplishment. An accomplishment where these quirky characters and their different skillsets each meshed together to create a (coincidentally enough) new game that they could be more than proud of.
So, sure, a tech company having 99% females would be a miracle on Earth. And, yes, the simple, silly shenanigans are more frequent than what one would normally find at a job. But New Game!’s ability to showcase what daily work life and its ultimate outcome is like gives the anime more substance than at first perceived.
Arguably, New Game!’s art and animation takes the top spot in terms of the anime’s greatest strengths.
A lot of different elements come together to make this argument so. For instance, New Game! loves its colors. Bright greens for the office. The various shades of violet that Aoba wears. The yellows and reds that accompany the different flavorful backgrounds filled with shapes and imaginative depictions. These vibrant, happy colors help to set the same tone for the anime itself quite well.
Detailed background art also adds to the anime’s visual appeal. Locations like the inner city, the inside of a movie theater, and a gaming convention show off the anime’s realism. And the desks of the cast – Rin’s refined and proper organization, Yun’s more gothic figures – highlight their personality with just a glance.
Actual animation is another key factor. Certain scenes, like the Internet-famous one where Aoba strips down to change her outfit for the night, receive extra attention. And, in general, character interactions involve many reactions as well as nuanced eye and limb movement. Often, these reactions and movements are done to an exaggerated extent, giving the scenes their comedy and cuteness with ease.
And the character designs are noteworthy, too. Hifumi’s ponytail, sapphire eyes, and pretty outfits. Umiko’s darker complexion. Hajime’s tomboy look. Not only are they each attractive through their slim figures, ample assets, and large eyes, but their individual designs have their personalities painted on them. Plus, they are distinct enough between each other that they cover a lot of the tastes people often have when finding beauty in women.
If nothing else, New Game!’s eye-catches live up to their name very well. The explosions of color, the soft lighting, and the often too-cute direction make one want to create an album of just these drawings to save for later viewing.
The workplace is a hodgepodge of people and personalities that, despite their differences and skillsets, come together to create something not only functional but also worthwhile. Thus, it makes sense that New Game!, as it explored narratively and showed visually, presents a group of characters that are representative of the different employees seen there.
Take Aoba, the lovable main protagonist of this tale. She’s what people in the workforce call a “new hire.” Right out of education, brimming with optimism, and ready to prove herself wholeheartedly. She has never worked a day in her life before, so she first must learn how to use the company’s tools and how the whole place operates. She makes easy mistakes, befriends her coworkers, and does what she can to contribute to the project at large. All while being the cute, responsible woman she is.
Umiko is another nice example. She is the straight-laced hard worker, maintaining a stern demeanor to keep everyone in line with the work that they need to be doing. She also isn’t afraid to say what needs to be said workwise (and is not the biggest fan of her last name, Ahagon).
Aoba and Umiko are just two examples, but every character has some affiliation with the workforce.
Kou is the friendly boss with tons of experience and fame behind her name.
Rin is the managerial type, making sure everything is on track as can possibly be.
Hifumi is the quiet one who may not say much but always gets her work done regardless.
Hajime is perhaps a bit too loud and energetic for the office, but her enthusiasm keeps the others’ morale high.
Yun is there with the snacks and the tea to help the rest with their rest and relaxation.
Shizuku, the head honcho of the whole operation, is the mysterious woman who appears out of nowhere and that nobody has any idea what she really does, but they subconsciously understand that, without her, they would be totally out of a job.
These women also have more personal characteristics that add to their appeal. Aoba does her best to look and act more adultlike since most people perceive her as a kid, fitting her new-hire status. Kou works harder than anyone at the office, so she doesn’t mind letting loose with pants undone and panties out to relax at the end of a long day. Hifumi barely says anything at all, but, speak with her on a messaging app, and a boisterous, happy-go-lucky person springs forth from her.
Again, each cast member has at least one extra characteristic that helps to define them beyond just their workplace persona, improving the overall appeal of the anime.
New Game! also pairs many of the characters together.
One of the more notable pairs is Rin and Kou who are practically a married couple. Rin dotes on Kou with affection and thoughtfulness, and Kou supports Rin with compliments and playfulness. They are a tight duo, seen when Rin gives her lap to Kou to sleep on after a turbulent medical checkup and when Kou makes food and feeds it to Rin while she is bedridden. Best friends and (to the audience) yuri lovers, Rin and Kou highlight the best of the relationships on display.
While none of the pairings come close to these two, some of the other connections are not without their own charm.
Umiko is extremely strict with Nenecchi since she roams around too much and can sometimes bring accidental hassle. However, Umiko looks out for the college-going woman, encouraging her to make up with Aoba after they fight and providing her with a business card for future reference.
Nenecchi is Aoba’s childhood friend. They talk late into the night over the phone, and they hang out together during Aoba’s time off. Nenecchi joined Eagle Jump as a part-timer to look out for Aoba and make sure her place of work was filled with good people. They do get into a fight when the two butt heads over Aoba’s work style and habits. But, following a small (and slow) flashback of Aoba protecting Nenecchi from some bullies, and Nenecchi tripping without grace (and even more slowly), the two reaffirm their friendship with ease.
But perhaps the most important is the relationship shared between Aoba and Kou. Kou is Aoba’s idol, the very person who inspired her to pursue her passion of character designing. So it makes sense that Aoba looks up to Kou. Maybe not when it comes to Kou’s lax rules on wearing pants, but Aoba more than admires Kou’s work ethic, skills, and importance.
Kou, in turn, looks out for Aoba. Kou takes the usual boss actions such as reviewing Aoba’s work (repeatedly) and explaining to her the different ways in which the company operates. But she also gives her that inspiration. When Aoba says aloud that she is envious of Kou, Kou agrees that Aoba should be. That she should strive for greater heights and, more importantly, have fun with what she does while doing so.
However, Kou has her own envy. Sparingly throughout the season, New Game! describes Kou before Aoba arrived. She was quieter and didn’t really get along with those around her. Especially the older, more experienced designers who she outperformed by having her designs chosen over theirs. Thus, she expresses her envy of Aoba. How Aoba can so easily integrate into someplace new without much trouble at all.
Near the end of the season, Shizuku promotes Kou to art director, but Kou gets visibly upset and audibly believes it a poor idea. When Kou walks away, Shizuku explains to Aoba that Kou was once an art director, but, given her personality and habits, she was very tough to work with – to the point that she drove away a new hire like Aoba within the first six months.
This last-minute attempt at adding extra weight to Kou and Aoba’s relationship is a mistake since there’s almost zero time to let this information sink in. But, thankfully, New Game! makes the most of it. Aoba not only genuinely asks for Kou’s autograph but also declares that Kou is someone both worth looking up to and following no matter what.
Altogether, Aoba and Kou’s relationship is heartwarming, indeed.
New Game! unfortunately fails to put as much time and attention into the other pairings as the four presented above. Most notably, Aoba and Hifumi have a small friendship that doesn’t go anywhere interesting, and Yun and Hajime do not have as many moments as they need to demonstrate their closeness.
In general, the anime simply falls into the same trap as many other shows: It does not have this large number of characters interacting with each other enough. Rin and Hajime, Hifumi and Yun, Nennechi and Kou.
One can chalk up this lack of substance between some of the characters as work related. That is, like a regular job, some people just don’t talk with others for various reasons. Even if this argument works, it still leaves the audience wondering what could have been when a relationship like that between Rin and Kou exists within the show.
New Game!, like most strong video games, creates a nice handful of solid pieces for its original soundtrack. They not only stand as fun tracks to listen to but also adopt a video-game motif that reinforces the premise of the anime itself. One track goes for an 8-bit beat that gets at a more retro feel. Another incorporates lots of xylophone usage for extra comfort with a twinge of silliness. And an orchestral arrangement that usually accompanies those more inspiring moments adds a lot of hope and sincerity.
The voice acting performances likewise prove their strength. Yuuki Takada as Aoba embraces the meta with this role being one of her first major ones ever. Megumi Yamaguchi as Hifumi is just as much of a novice and brings just as much talent, her intermittent pause speech pattern fitting Hifumi well and increasing her cuteness. And Ai Kayano comes in with the veteran experience to show all these newbies what’s what.
(As a side note, Chitose Morinaga as Umiko, Ayumi Takeo as Yun, Madoka Asahina as Nenecchi, and Megumi Toda as Hajime, like Ms. Takada and Ms. Yamaguchi, are relative newcomers to various degrees. Each voiced their role as well as they could, considering the popularity of New Game! and the high-profile studio backing it.)
Unfortunately, the opening and ending tracks are not as interesting as the OST and not as daring as the new VA actresses. The OP has lots of energy and fun packed into it thanks to the trumpets and differing lyrical approaches. The ED leans on electric guitar and a steadier beat to achieve a sense of determination. And the actresses sing together on both fronts. However, these two tracks have very little going for them in terms of intrigue beyond these qualities. They are not weak songs, but they are not that strong either.
Moe up the wazoo? Yuri pairings everywhere I look? The women are actually of age so I don’t have to be somewhat self-conscious about finding most of them attractive? Yes, yes, and yes, please.
I’m quite partial to Rin. She’s classy, kind, and a beauty to boot. Her relationship with Kou also made for some wonderful yuri moments involving (implied) romance and adorable behavior. They are my favorite couple in the show for sure.
I also quite liked Shizuku and Umiko. I am attracted to the former’s glasses and the latter’s darker complexion, but Shizuku’s forward attitude made her entertaining and Umiko’s work troubles were ones that I sympathize with given that I, too, program for a living. It’s no wonder, then, that my second favorite couple are these two.
Aoba and Hifumi are up there as well. Both mostly for the high levels of cuteness, but Aoba’s fiery determination and Hifumi’s funny reactions had me smiling wide. They come in at third (and could potentially go higher if the anime does more with their connection in that upcoming season).
And I was honestly surprised at how much I liked Nenecchi. I thought I was going to be annoyed by her just as much as Umiko was, especially when some of the later episodes gave her a bit more focus than she probably needed. But her whimpers and her relationships with both Aoba and Umiko were more than enough to get me laughing.
Lots of fun moments were had, too. Hajime’s big pout in the beginning of the season. Yun skipping all happily after her waist-size measurement and the subsequent ab massages. Hifumi imagining Aoba as an “evil” devil. While I cannot say I am love with this anime, I certainly had an awesome time with much of what it offered.
New Game! reaches the end of its first season without wasting too many one-ups. The story’s focus on the workplace environment, the colorful artistic direction, and the characters’ different representations of employees provide a strong outing. Unexplored pairings between some of the cast members and a lackluster OP-ED combo may be problems, but they are supplanted by the cuteness and the comedy given. Mr. Kirkhope will probably never watch this anime, but, if he ever does, it’s almost certain that he would appreciate all the effort put into it.
Story: Good, while it may at first seem like just a bunch of cute girls almost hooking up, the insight into a working lifestyle, the fun-filled, sometimes meaningful slice-of-life moments, and the rewards a job ultimately brings give the narrative more substance than initially perceived
Animation: Great, a wide range of colors, high-quality movement, and attractive character designs come together to make the visuals a powerhouse worth praising
Characters: Good, Aoba, Kou, and the rest of the cast represent the hodgepodge of people in the workforce, and, while some relationships clearly stand out, other pairings lack substance
Sound: Fine, okay OP, okay ED, good OST, and good VA performances
Enjoyment: Good, Rin is attractive, Hifumi is cute, and Nennecchi was surprisingly likable, with lots of fun, entertaining moments throughout
Final Score: 7/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3