“It’s up to you now, Aoba. Now you must sleep in the office in your panties.”
The second season of NEW GAME!! managed a delicate trick: adding characters without overwhelming the old, going deeper without losing the glow, and adding real workplace drama to a moe-moe comedy in a way that improved the whole.
The things I remember most about the first season of NEW GAME! are mostly vague, or a few jokes about overtime that hit uncomfortably close to home. This is not a dig; the character of have always been easily recognizable, memorable, and enjoyable, and the jist of their relationship is what I most remember about the first season. But most specifics are lost. I know they released Fairies 3, and Aoba made a lot of NPCs, but much past that he details are as fluffy as the series’ atmosphere always has, and always will, be. It was cute, light, and fluffy, a cute-girls-doing-cute-things about making games and work woes. And that was great.
The delicate dance that NEW GAME!! pulled off with this season is diving deeper into what the premise offered: a glimpse into white-collar working life in an industry that people yearn to be part of. Not only that, it did so without losing the cute, light, fluffy atmosphere, by harnessing all our built-up good will over these characters into short bursts of grounded drama, and then getting back to the fluff afterwards.
Whereas I’ve forgotten most of the details of the first season, I don’t think I’ll be able to forget about the contests in this season, especially the second one. The first one was great for the result it gave: Aoba and Ko teamed up to refine Aoba’s character designs and breathe life into what would become PECO. Putting Aoba into that position changed the dynamic, and that alone was good for the series, because it changed the status quo in a way that gave rise to new interactions. But it can’t match the second contest.
Ko’s eruption—there’s no better way to put it—when it was revealed that she would do the promotional art so that the game would sell better was a raw moment. Real emotion, to the point that I’d damn well believe it if you told me the original author had been in either Ko’s or Aoba’s seat in that situation—or they’re just good at their jobs, in which case, you know. Also a compliment. The sour taste that scene, and the results of the second competition, despite the wonderful poster Aoba created (they should have used that at some point too!), left—that colored the story going forward in a way that only became clear when the finale came along. It’s the feeling that something changed, so that when Ko revealed that it was Aoba’s striving in the face of a competition she knew she would lose that made her want to grow herself, and lead to her transfer to a company overseas, well. I believed her. It made it feel less like contrived season ending drama, and more like something that naturally would happen.
Maybe it did happen in the manga, which would go a long way toward explaining that; having the good luck to have source material that fits your episode count happens too. The plaudits still count.
It also helps that workplace dramas are like sports anime in a way. The strength of sports anime is that the protagonists can lose without the whole story ending, because nobody is going to die if they lose; likewise, Ko can transfer away, and though she’s lost to the story (to a point) either forever or for a time being, it’s not like she’s died. That makes it easier for it to happen. Add on that I’m a working stiff myself, and I’ve seen people who I dearly care about leave the companies I work for, or move away and out of my immediate life—and I’ve been that person more than once—and it brings it home extra. Probably I’m jiving on the story out of proportion to how much a younger viewer would because of that. Fair! Like I said, the plaudits still count.
Still, I stand by my assertion that the second season is superior to the first, though certainly the first was required for the second to do so well. Elements like adding a second major area of focus inside Eagle Jump—that of the programming team, with the addition of Nene (more permanently) and Narumi—as well as giving us more time with Hazuki via Christina, helped to flesh out the setting and mine other areas of game development for laughs and fluff. Though the character team wasn’t neglected, and Momiji is a good addition to their ranks, even if I feel like she hasn’t been fully utilized yet.
Plus, did you see how flagrant they were getting with the Ko x Rin romance at the end there? Just out with it already! This isn’t Nanoha, it’s 2017, you don’t have to hide your lesbians anymore (trope!), just let them be gay already! Though at this rate I wouldn’t be surprised if Rin runs off to marry Ko in France, or they shack up as soon as she’s back in Japan. That scene after the going away party, man. So gay. So great!
NEW GAME!! was always a good time, and NEW GAME!! just upped the storytelling quality. Add on the developed relationship between Ko and Aoba, where it really does seem like Aoba might be able to pick up where Ko left off, and it builds on the original, adds new characters, dives into some real drama—and does it all without letting the magic die. Highly suggested, would PECO again!
My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for updates. At stephenwgee.com, I’ve begun blogging again! The latest post: Help Houston.