OP: 「SAKURAスキップ」 (SAKURA Sukippu) by fourfolium: 高田憂希, 山口愛, 戸田めぐみ, 竹尾歩美 (Suzukaze Aoba, Yamaguchi Megumi, Toda Megumi, Takeo Ayumi)
「なんだかホントに入社した気分です!」 (Nandaka Honto ni Nyuusha shita Kibun desu!)
“It’s like I’ve actually started working here!”
Many video game nerds—of which I am one—probably dreamt of working on game design at least once. At one point long ago I entertained such a fanciful idea too, before disabusing myself of the romance of the entire thing. It seemed like the only anecdotes I regularly hear about game design are horror stories. Development hell is real, and its layers are infinite. Even outside the nightmare scenarios there is perhaps an even worse fate: tedium, for although we associate games with fun, going out of our way to create that fun may be a different matter altogether. Eating the sausage is great, but making the sausage is unpleasant work that we shouldn’t really think about too much. I imagine the team tasked with churning out new FIFA games year after year must be broken men one and all, their souls having long fled their bodies, just empty husks chained to their keyboards.
Peeking inside the industry may not necessarily turn out to be that entertaining, is what I’m saying; informative, yes, interesting, maybe, but perhaps in the way that a tragedy is, keeping us frozen between pity and terror as the damned ply their profession. Despite the warm reception for a show like Shirobako and its proof of a market for these sorts of insider shows, but there’s still some work to be done spinning various technical and mundane topics into an interesting anime (well, an interesting manga that then gets adapted to anime). And care also needs to be taken to maintain realism, yet also not driving viewers into disillusionment. And NEW GAME! probably knows this, for it employs anime’s most potent weapon in the fight to make otherwise mundane topics appealing: cute girls. It worked for Shirobako, and it’d likely work for NEW GAME! as well, for protagonist Suzukaze Aoba (Takada Yuki) is a veritable ball of condensed cute. Anime loves cute school girls, but how do we fit one into a professional setting? Just have one anyway, and say she’s actually 18 because, I dunno, a dwarfism gene. And entire company seemingly staffed entirely of comely females, though, may be pushing it a bit, but New Game! does not live by its mono-gendered cast alone. The even the art outside the character designs look pretty good, as does the animation. I usually don’t talk about animation too much, and Doga Kobo has always been a studio of consistently quality animation so it’s not much to write about, but NEW GAME! is almost excessively animated at times by the standards of its genre, as if someone was showing off. It does go some ways to push some of its exaggerated comedy, though, so it’s not a complaint. Also on the visual appeal front, NEW GAME! also has fanservice! Nothing major, but a higher quantity than one might initially expect coming from Shirobako or Sore ga Seiyuu!. NEW GAME! is capable of marketing itself from many angles.
How about the meat, though, the actual making of videogames? Not as much there, I’m afraid, but this is just the first episode, devoted more to character introductions, with some little observations of general office life like communicating with colleagues and the all-important ID card. As it stands, I consider it a low-calorie Sore ga Seiyuu!, lighter even than Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu, and that show was more a youth drama than about the videogame industry. Problem is, one of the best things about Sore ga Seiyuu!, in my opinion, was that it pulled no punches, and felt like an authentic take on the industry, despite its cute-girls-doing-cute-things trappings. Does NEW GAME! intend to rise to that challenge? I don’t know, and perhaps it doesn’t intend do. I hope it does, though, because while its simple workplace comedy is charming enough, it can certainly go beyond. It alludes to the infamous ‘crunch’, so it certainly knows its industry is, pardon the pun, not all fun and games, but whether it intends to milk any drama out of that remains to be seen. Either way, though, I think it’ll be a solid, entertaining show; it’s simply a matter of whether it wants to be more than that.