Anime Review: New Game!

As I mentioned way back in my review of Shirobako, I’m a fan of works about the making of stuff, going all the way back to reading Aliki’s How A Book Is Made and Digging Up Dinosaurs when I was a little kid. Consequently, when I learned about the anime series New Game!, it went on my watch list. I’ve finished watching that, and while the second season is currently airing I figured I might as well give my thoughts on the first season.

The anime follows Aoba Suzukaze, a girl who has just graduated from High School, and rather than going to college like her childhood friend, she has entered the workforce by becoming a character artist at the game developer Eagle Jump, who made her favorite game as a kid. The show from there follows her progression as she learns the ropes as a character artist on her first game, Fairies Story III.

Along the way through this process, she’s taken under the wing of the game’s character designer, Kou Yagami, and becomes close friends with her co-workers, fellow character artists Hifumi Takimoto and Yun Iijima, and character animator Hajime Shinoda. Oh, and all these characters are female, because the head of the studio Shizuku Hazuki (who is also female), prefers to hire cute girls who are also good (or are likely to be good in the future) at their jobs.

So, this anime could very easily end up slipping in is focus from being a Manga About A Thing (like how Moyashimon is a manga about fermentation and Hikaru No Go is about playing Go) and into a Cute Girls Doing Cute Things manga. Thankfully, the anime balances the two aspects of this show’s nature incredibly well – balancing Aoba learning how characters are made in a video game, and Aoba and her friends hanging out.

The creator of the manga the show is based on,  Shotaro Tokuno, had previously worked in the video game industry, and his knowledge of how the industry works really shows in the writing – and the animators also show real tools in the interfaces we see in the show, from Maya to Unity.

The show has a moderate degree of fanservice – Kou has a habit of spending the night in the office and sleeping in her underpants, meaning we get some frequent shots of her underwear clad posterior. The show doesn’t linger on it in this season – though I will be talking about this some in the second season. Instead, the show has shots using the male gaze for about as long as Kou’s underwear is the center of a character’s attention, before moving to a wider shot where the fact that the character is in their underpants is played more matter-of-factly.

The cast of the show has great chemistry, both in terms of being animated well and in terms of the voice acting and writing. Of particular note is the character of Hifumi Takimoto, who is borderline non-verbal at the start of the series, to a degree that I suspect that she’s on the Autism Spectrum, and as she bonds more with her cube mates she begins to open up more, to the point that by the second season she’s chatting with them normally.

All in all, season 1 of New Game! is a solid, fun and somewhat educational anime series.

Season 1 is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation, with a dub on Funimation. It’s also getting a Blu-Ray/DVD release, which is available for pre-order from RightStuf and Amazon.