First Look: New Game!

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Manga Adaptation by Dogakobo
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

In the most unconvincing premise of the season, a high school graduate gets hired without any credentials or prior experience at a company led by a woman.

Aqua’s verdict: We Have Reached Peak Dogakobo

Few shows have come as close to being exactly what it says on the tin as New Game!, a show that couldn’t be any less predictable if it tried. Granted, when Dogakobo are involved, predictability is not necessarily a bad thing, as New Game! keeps up the studio’s longstanding tradition of zany animation flourishes for no justifiable reason. Yoshiyuki Fujiwara is back in the director’s chair this time around, and while he’s obviously Dogakobo’s perviest director – his dedication to the age-old art of the jiggle previously brought the cringe in Engaged to the Unidentified – he might also be their most inventive. New Game!’s presentation is memorable throughout, with private messaging sessions between characters translated in myriad, yet consistently creative ways, and subtle (or not so subtle) flights of visual storytelling breathing life into what is otherwise a substandard collection of obligatory jokes and stock tropes.

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And so we return to the very same problem that has been plaguing Dogakobo’s productions ever since Love Lab. A dearth of any meaningful content is New Game!’s elephant in the room as well, with the final product feeling more like the result of an overnight rush job with a how-to guide than the spunky comedy that actually deserves the good looks it’s been granted. The decently executed angle and distinct lack of sailor suits and rooftop lunches does reveal a somewhat credible itch to stand out, yet New Game!’s meat and potatoes remain the same-old safe-old of the genre: Overeager but naive protagonist? Check! Quirky coworkers who don’t do a lot of work? Check! Gay ship teasing that comes ever so slightly short of actually challenging the heteronormative status quo? Check and mate. New Game! is the anime equivalent of cup noodles: It might be tasty and easily consumed, yet essentially it’s little more than some freeze-dried artificial tripe that will mostly likely end up killing you. But it’s some damn fine hot water they made these cup noodles with.

Jel’s verdict: Just Make Season 2 of Nozaki-kun Already

After slogging through last season’s Three Leaves, Three Colors and pretty much everything else Dogakobo has put out in the past 3 years, it’s clear they are wasting the careers of a lot of very talented individuals. The visual style and animation in New Game! is endearing in that cartoonishly squishy “I want to hug these characters” sort of way that the studio has come to master. Just looking at it makes you feel good and want to give them the biggest benefit of the doubt possible.

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Sadly, there’s just nothing else here to latch on to. It’s a group of girls with their own little quirks getting to know and like each other. I think this episode would have been essentially the same if Aoba had gone into any other industry or, dare I say, was just in another club back in high school. I appreciate they don’t get into too much meta humor about the game industry, but any goodwill is cancelled out by the unnecessary panty shots and jiggle animations on characters that look way younger than they’re supposed to be. I have to admit this show looks so good that I’m tempted to continue watching just for the spectacle of it, but I have a feeling I’ll regret it if I do.

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