“When I left you I was but the learner; now I am the master.” –Darth Vader, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
With the competition to design a character capable of absorbing enemy capabilities beginning in earnest, Aoba struggles to come up with new character designs against veteran Kō, whose experience allows her to make considerable progress and makes her a favourite to win the competition, but when Hazuki cites Kō’s work as being too familiar to the art of Færies Story and approves Aoba’s designs, Kō is devastated, snapping at Aoba when the latter asks her for advice later. Rin speaks with Kō, reminding her of her own past as a lead character designer, and later, Kō agrees to help Aoba out. The final product, bearing a combination of their styles, impresses Hazuki and she assigns both of them to become the character designers. While Kō’s been around the block and is familar with the technical details, however, Aoba finds herself becoming lost, feeling ill-equipped to handle her position. Hifumi takes Aoba out for lunch to show support, as well as to practise talking to someone familiar and improve her shyness. Meanwhile, Nene’s made further progress in her game and arranges to meet up with Umiko to gain additional feedback on her game. New Game!! is settling into its narrative after three episodes, and insofar, it’s been a welcome return to this Manga Time Kirara adaptation that has captured game development in an immensely entertaining manner.
While subtle, it is quite clear that with the honeymoon of Aoba’s first year past – pure comedy is gradually giving way to character development, following the pattern that GochiUsa and Kiniro Mosaic employed; this approach is superbly effective at setting the stage and subsequently depicting facets of characters unseen to illustrate that the characters are more fluid than initially apparent. Whether it be Kō getting salty in front of Aoba out of jealousy, Hifumi’s efforts to become more social or Nene striking up a professional relationship with Umiko, it is definitely meaningful to see the different characters change over time. This has been something that GochiUsa in particular excelled at, and watching New Game!! apply this towards a fictionalised game developer shop successfully means creating a cast that viewers can empathise with more strongly with, regardless of whether or not they are familiar with the industry. To create characters viewers can become invested into and care for is the mark of a strong narrative. I also look forwards to seeing what directions the technical elements will take – New Game!! is authentic when it comes to its portrayal of elements that adds an additional level of depth to the anime, so it will be interesting as to what sort of tools and techniques will be shown as Aoba and the others begin working on their next title.
Screenshots and Commentary
- New Game!! is the only anime besides Princess Principal I’m following with any semblance of regularity this season, and while I’m thoroughly enjoying both, I don’t feel that I can offer much to talk surrounding the steam-punk supernatural elements of Princess Principal, especially considering how I would likely pick the anime apart in discussion by comparing it to Tom Clancy novels. This is unfair considering the differences in genre, and as I am liking the direction Princess Principal is taking, such a post would probably not be indicative of this enjoyment. Hence, for the time being, I’ll stick to watching Princess Principal, and possibly returning to do talks on it later.
- Freshman Aoba against Veteran Kō in the character design competition seems to bring to mind the face-off between David and Goliath – Yun is convinced that against the likes of Kō, competing is futile since Kō’s prowess makes her a shoo-in for becoming the next lead character designer, but Aoba decides to try anyways, feeling that it’s a part of her job description to contribute to the team and see where her art needs improvement even if winning the competition does not seem likely.
- When Hajime comes in exhausted from a night of binge-watching anime, her coworkers assume she’s been hard at work on character designs and attempt to make things easier for her, leading to guilt. I’ve heard that marathoning (alternatively and more widely-known as “binge watching”) makes up viewing habits of upwards of sixty-one percent of all Netflix users, while sixty-four percent of all steaming viewers have marathoned a show at least once in a year. Three quarters of people define binge watching or marathoning as “two to six or more episodes in a sitting”, a definition so loose that, under these terms, even I’ve binged watched something before. I normally watch episodes one at a time, or at most, two in a row.
- In the OVA, it was the snowmen, and here, Aoba plays with her stationary while staying late nights to work; she tortures her eraser out of boredom and snaps out of it a moment later, returning to work. While I’ve never been a fan of what are colloquially known as “all-nighters” and avoid them like the plague, I can and will continue working from home on things if the need arises. At least this way, I can work from the comfort of home and immediately hit the hay when the tasks have reached a satisfactory state.
- I have a feeling that seeing Kō’s pantsu is intended to be the exception rather than the rule, and as such, it would be unfair to assess New Game!! on the basis of its first episode alone. The closest it gets is showing Aoba’s (shapely) legs under her desk as she slumps in her chair during her overnight stay at the office. After a particularly long coding session, I might have degenerated into this position at my desk, but I try to make it a point of standing up and moving about every fifty minutest to reintroduce circulation, as well as stretching a little.
- Inspired by her bear-shaped sleeping bag, Aoba’s sketches “accidentally” make it into the competition and impresses Shizuku, who approves of the designs to enter the second round of competition. I feel that Aoba’s use of hiragana in the drawing translate approximately to the Cantonese equivalent of “啤啤”, or “bear bear”. Formally, “bear” referring to members of the ursidae family is described as “熊” (phonetically similar to “red” in Cantonese), but for one reason or another, I’m really fond of calling bears “啤啤”, akin to how I prefer calling rabbits “bunnies”. Incidentally, while English has the more endearing form “bunny” for rabbits, I don’t think there’s such an equivalent for bear, and most children refer to their stuffed animals as a Teddy Bear.
- Frustrated and upset that she was upended by an upstart, the tension in this moment is palatable when Kō loses her cool and yells at Aoba. Even without the audio elements, seeing Kō’s eyebrows makes it clear as to what she’s feeling: this is why I think anime eyebrows are relevant, as they can convey emotions very well. The shape and dimensions are very indicative of how the characters feel: in manga, this is especially important, since the visuals are fixed and as such, must capture as much as possible.
- While perhaps not visible in this compressed image, Aoba is holding back tears after trying to talk to Kō for advice. In this moment, the differences between Yun and Aoba’s desk are quite clear: Aoba’s got some personal effects and a few resource books, but otherwise, her workspace remains quite free of personalisation to the extent of other desks. It will be here that I mention the page quote: Aoba’s definitely without the arrogance of Darth Vader, but the consequences of her chat with Kō exuded this sense. I also note that at some point, Aoba powers on her computer by pushing at the large button, which begins glowing. This is not a design characteristic of either the Dell Inspiron or XPS 8900 line: the Dell logo does not glow on the XPS 8900, and the power button is located near the top of the tower, further indicating Eagle Jump uses custom-built computers.
- Meanwhile, Rin shares some insights with Kō, reminding her of how she came to be one of the greatest assets at Eagle Jump. She guides Kō and inspires her to make up with Aoba, leading Kō to help Aoba out. At the competition, the work that Aoba submits has Kō’s style and methods in it, leading Aoba to say that it was something the two of them created. Aoba’s new ideas with Kō’s skills allow their designs to take on a new feeling, and it is this sort of novelty that Shizuku is looking for.
- Thus, Shizuku reaches a decision that sees Aoba and Kō work together jointly as character designers. Adding more interpersonal conflict into New Game!! furthers the enjoyment factor and shows that even in such a idyllic portrayal, problems can arise and need to be solved. The sort of drama is nowhere near as deep-seated as in a more focused workplace anime such as Shirobako; there is a limit to how serious New Game!! can get, but seeing the narrative unfold in this manner adds diversity to break up what would otherwise invariably end up as a monotony of comedic moments.
- As it turns out, Hifumi is rather big on shopping for clothes, but her crippling shyness leads her to hardly ever buying anything despite her looking quite nice in a variety of outfits. It would explain how her interest in clothing has not put a massive strain on her expenditures, and putting this side of Hihumi’s character into the episode’s opening shows that the episode is in part about her longing to be a bit more comfortable talking with others.
- Aoba finds herself out of her league when the discussion on 3D modelling gets serious, leading her to blank out and not offer any insights or suggestions on Hifumi’s preliminary model. Their talk of fur effects here is a legitimate conversation: rendering fur, even on the new generation NVIDIA cards, is an expensive process, and most games will fall back on textures with a good set of normal maps in order to achieve a similar appearance without the graphical overhead. With this in mind, for pre-rendered scenes, more sophisticated visuals can be used.
- In order to both help Aoba relax and also practise speaking up, Hifumi invites Aoba out to lunch, a fancy place serving crab spaghetti. A cursory glance at my posting this month finds that, this post included, I’ve a paltry seven posts. This is because I’ve been out and about more outside of work hours: I went to Banff National Park yesterday, complements of Parks Canada and did a bit of a hike around the Vermillion Lakes trails before having dinner at Melissa’s Missteak to celebrate yet another cycle around the sun: I ordered their six-ounce sirloin and lobster tail dinner with a fully-loaded baked potato. Under the steak house’s old-time ambiance (the restaurant is in a log cabin dating back to 1928 and looks like the timber-framed buildings of Colmar), I enjoyed the tender, juicy steak and lobster fresh from their live lobster tank: if you’re reading this and you’re in Banff, I highly recommend eating here. Between the atmosphere, friendly, attentive staff and excellent food, it’s a superb venue for eating before or after a long day’s hike.
- After dinner, we then took a walk by the Bow River before driving home under a blood-red sunset, courtesy of the forest fires raging a province over. Returning to New Game!!, I’m similar to Hifumi in that social activity and crowds wear me out; quiet time is what allows me to re-energise. However, for me, things aren’t quite as bad; it’s more of a preference that I enjoy quiet and “me” time over being with a large number of people, but I can hang out in groups just fine. Here, Aoba, Kō and Yun watch as Hifumi flits between being awake and being asleep.
- Kō watches Umiko working on her assignment: this scene was remarkably well-done, transitioning between Nene’s simpler project and Umiko’s commercial-grade work. In comparing and contrasting the two, New Game!! illustrates the similarities between Nene and Umiko even in spite of the differences in the scope of their work; from their encountering of bugs to solving them, only to have someone else coment on their work, Nene and Umiko’s parallel experiences are meant to show that novice and expert programmers differ in how they handle issues and design systems even if they’re working on very similar tasks.
- With this in mind, word of certain imageboard’s userbase delving into irrelevant details behind Nene’s background (such as her major and the nature of her post-secondary institution) has reached my ears. I’m not sure why they are focusing on the minutiae and ardently maintain that their discussions are to be disregarded: Nene’s current major has very little impact on her ability to learn C++, and while folks are perhaps making Nene to be more talented than she is (learning a programming language and the basics of programming is by no means difficult), I personally respect her character for having made an effort into learning something new.
- Similarly, whether or not Nene’s campus is modelled after Hitotsubashi University, in either architecture or offered courses, should have no bearing on the fact that Nene simply enjoys learning about C++ and has an eye on working towards a programming-related career: focusing on irrelevant details is a halmark of folks who do not understand what analysis is, only leading to inane speculation that is a waste of time. A short example how to quickly address minor details follows: let’s say I’m bothered slightly by the fact that Nene and Umiko both compile their code with the enter key for the sake of discussion. In Visual Studio, the default keyboard shortcut to build is ctrl-F5. However, I can then apply a bit of thinking, suppose they’re using Visual Studio’s terminal, and we’re good to go. Returning on track, Shizuku seems to enjoy getting on Umiko’s nerves, promptly earning herself a flick to the forehead that leaves a visible mark.
- Hifumi decides to share lunch with everyone in an effort to get to know everyone better, but it turns out she’s bought some of the components. She also offers Aoba some home-made meat and potatoes, but Kō hops in before Aoba can, leaving both Hifumi and Rin irritated: the former had wanted Aoba to be the first to try, and the latter is stung by Kō’s remark that Hifumi’s cooking surpasses hers. After a tiring but enjoyable day in the mountains, I relaxed under sunny, if somewhat smokey skies today. It seems the smoke covering Mount Rundle yesterday has finally reached home. The smoke did not detract from my Battlefield 1 matches or the chocolate cheesecake partaken in today.
- Umiko mentoring Nene brings back memories of when I mentored undergraduate researchers in my old lab a few years back, as well as when I was being mentored by my old lab’s graduate students. Having a good instructor is essential, as it can encourage aspiring individuals to persisting on, although looking back, I had it easier than my mentor did: by the time I became a graduate student, our lab had moved over to Unity and Unreal Engine, whereas when I first started, we were using an in-house game engine whose internal workings were difficult to fix.
- Nene and Aoba chat over the phone as the third episode draws to a close. New Game!! has succeeded in keeping things fresh for the most part, and I’m looking forwards to each episode. With this post in the books, I am looking to write about the long-awaited Amanchu! OVA; it’s been out since March, but unforeseen circumstances mean that I haven’t really had a chance to look at it until recently. Moving into August, the posting schedule becomes a little less clear: aside from the Brave Witches OVA, set for release on August 25, I’ve not any other posts set firmly in mind to write about as of yet.
Three episodes in, New Game!! has definitely maintained my intrigue for its combination of character growth, consistent comedy and the occasional inclusion of technical detail that adds immersion into the anime. The main question that remains is when the new characters will appear: while watching new developments amongst the present cast has proven enjoyable so far, it will be much more interesting to see how the introduction of new characters disrupt the status quo and bring about transformation in the existing characters. Because there are four characters, I imagine that unlike GochiUsa, the new additions will require a bit more time to adequately develop and integrate into New Game!!‘s story: consequently, I look forwards to seeing how new folks will interact with the current group of characters, driving New Game!! into novel directions that give the anime a unique sense relative to the tone set by its first season. Of course, manga readers will likely already be familiar with New Game!! and understand precisely what directions the second season intends to take, but for me, I look forwards to seeing how the anime presents things, especially with respect to the simultaneously developing mentor-student relationships between both Kō and Aoba, as well as Umiko and Nene.