“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” –Colin Powell
Hajime and Yun spend time together at a concert while Aoba, Nene and Hifumi do the same. Later, Hifumi accepts an assignment to be the lead character designer in place of Kō after their proposal is accepted by the publisher, and she sets about trying to keep the progress at a steady pace, although she finds Yun being dishonest about being able to make deadlines. This issue is resolved when Hifumi helps Yun design a more efficient workflow. Meanwhile, Aoba struggles to design the game’s main antagonist, but with some insights from Rin, manages to design a compelling backstory. She spends time at a hot springs with Nene and Hotaru Hoshikawa, an old friend from high school, discussing their visions of the future, and later, Nene demonstrates her completed game to Aoba, impressing her. However, Aoba is asked to turn over designing the artwork for their upcoming alpha to Kō, despite Kō’s objections. She nonetheless produces a finished product, resolving to see her assignment to completion even in the knowledge that Kō’s experience far outstrips her own. In the end, despite her drafts being declined in favour of Kō’s, Aoba feels that the learnings have been most valuable and allow her to improve for the future. This is the more serious direction that New Game!! has taken; dealing with internal struggles of interacting with fellow employees as well as handling decisions higher-ups make based on market forces.
The shift towards topics that are more sobering in nature is a direction well within the purview of what is reasonably expected of New Game!! – as remarked upon in my earlier discussion, the honeymoon that New Game!’s first season depicted is over, and Aoba is now gaining exposure to a reality driven by concrete decisions driven by the single most powerful actor: dollars. While it is saddening to see Aoba fall to tears when overwhelmed by the realisation of just how far the skill gap between herself and Kō is, even after holding back her disappointment at the higher-ups’ decisions, business decisions are often made with very specific reasons in mind that extend well beyond emotions. Consequently, to remarks that this makes Christina Yamato a villain, I counter that her message from the executives is a logical one; companies do what’s best for the bottom line, forcing folks like Aoba to take one for the team, because the alternative can mean the entire team fails. I myself am getting a first-hand education in these things, so I find that, while Aoba’s situation is unfortunate, it is also necessary for the company to successfully market the game. Consequently, Christina Yamato and the people she reports to are hardly villains: in fact, to add this into New Game!! is to introduce an impediment to Aoba, and seeing her overcoming this particular challenge will be rewarding, indicating Aoba’s own growth as she learns more about the game development process.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Hajime’s excitement about Moon Ranger concert tickets leads her to be reminded not to slack off during work hours. In spite of her efforts, Hajime is beaten to the punch and fails to buy her tickets, but turns down Hifumi’s offer. The rate at which tickets are bought by bots and scalped has reached ridiculous levels, and in a newspaper article I read a few weeks back, more stringent means of defeating measures are still needed to ensure that real fans can purchase their tickets. Yun invites Hajime later to join her siblings for the afternoon event.
- Yun’s younger sister is a splitting image of her; both her sister and brother get along with Hajime without any difficulties. I’ve seen queries raised as to what difference there is between the children’s showing and adult showing, although the answer itself is quite apparent: the children’s show is rather more structured, being akin to a play, while the adult showing feels more like a concert, allowing attendees to dance along to the performance. The differences are geared to maximise enjoyment in both demographcis, although as Hajime finds out, the children’s concert is very enjoyable.
- Nene and Aoba encounter Hifumi at the adult performance later, decked out in gear in preparation of supporting a group she’s fond of. I’ve never actually been to any concerts from performers in my area before, primarily because I’m not particularly keen on the sort of music that is popular (e.g. Katy Perry or Taylor Swift). Instead, my music tastes are considered fringe, as I prefer soundtracks, J-Pop, symphonic metal and older Cantonese songs (e.g. Sam Hui, Danny Chan, George Lam).
- While New Game!! excels at illustrating the dynamics amongst the characters in and around work, the excursions into the staff’s time outside of work is also important, helping convey that each character is more than merely who they are at Eagle Jump. The differences are quite pronounced, from Hifumi’s enjoyment of shopping for clothes to Hajime’s tendency to binge-watch anime, leaving her tired and ill-prepared to deal with work the following day.
- While New Game!! might appear to be a generally relaxed anime, I’ve seen my share of discussions where participants have been very serious with respect to details in the anime, from whether or not spoilers from the manga should influence discussion on what has already occurred in the anime, to speculation of industry standards where Eagle Jump’s staff run into difficulties. It is impressive that New Game!! is able to prompt such conversations, although I tend to stay out of things when they start getting too technical.
- Despite her shyness, Kō and Shizuku decide that the time has come to transfer Kō’s role as lead character designer over to her. In spite of her doubts, Hifumi agrees, feeling it’s an opportunity for her to learn to speak up. While technically skilled, Hifumi initially runs into some difficulties in dealing with Yun when she begins slipping on her schedule as a consequence of challenges both in and out of the workplace.
- In the end, Hifumi manages to set things straight with Yun and even helps her improve her workflow productivity by way of suggestions. However, this is done after Hifumi begins roleplaying, only for Aoba to walk in and observe the proceedings. It typifies New Game!!‘s ability to throw in the comedic with the serious, and this is one of the greatest strengths of the second season so far.
- When Hajime encounters difficulty in designing underwater gameplay mechanics, she manages to gain insights from a shared conversation with Aoba and Yun. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and is also essential to the game development process: mechanics can shift gameplay in different directions and alter how the final product feels for the end users. This is why weapon balance patches are continuously being tested and deployed in games like Battlefield 1, and why some players suggest avoiding Far Cry 4‘s Buzzsaw.
- Aoba develops an inspired antagonist for their proposed game, and later reports this to Rin. When she begins showing some photos of her and a friend to Rin, she comes across a picture of said friend kissing her, prompting this reaction. I have the opposite problem that Aoba faces: because I skimped on storage in my iPhone when I bought it back in 2015, I typically off-load images onto my desktop and back them up to an external hard drive for long-term storage. As such, when friends ask me about the things I did during my trip in Japan or the hike from last weekend, I cannot show them, since they’ve been moved.
- The amount of groping and general antics is what gives the fifth episode of New Game!! its name. Hotaru is seen in the middle here: voiced by Manaka Iwami, she’s one of the new characters introduced in New Game!!, being Aoba and Nene’s friend from high school, who was part of their school’s Art Club. A capable artist, she is enrolled at a fine arts college in order to become a professional illustrator.
- Such antics thankfully remain confined to the realm of fiction, and during my sojourn at a Japanese hot springs back in May, I’m doubly thankful that I had the entire place to myself. I recall mentioning this in the Amanchu! OVA post, about the different forms of blushing and noted that the black body radiation kind was my favourite. Hotaru’s reaction here to being inappropriately touched at Aoba’s hands, of all people, lead her to emit thermal energy energetic enough to become visible light. Things later become more serious when the conversation turns towards the future: Aoba states that dreams turn out to be a mere stepping stone, and she’s ready to continue improving in order to pursue her goals.
- This brand of thinking eventually becomes her mantra for New Game!!, driving Aoba onwards even as things become increasingly tough. While the stakes are elevated as New Game!! progresses, one thing I can always count on are the interesting faces the characters make under stress; here, Aoba rests her head on her desk at the prospect of what work there is on the horizon.
- Nene’s demonstration of her game, Nene Quest, to Aoba goes rather well, although Aoba finds herself requiring a school bus, as she is being schooled at the game by Nene’s friend from university; befitting of gamers, Aoba and Nene’s university friend begin shouting mid-match, prompting the café’s staff to request a little quiet. Seeing Aoba enjoy her game and offer feedback is what spurs Nene on, and if memory serves, she will join Eagle Jump as a programmer later on. Whether or not this will be seen during New Game!! has yet to be seen, but it is very likely to be a pleasant moment when it does happen.
- While Hajime swings her fists around to gain some inspiration for her game, I will take a detour and mention something completely unrelated: tomorrow is the first total solar eclipse since 1971 to grace North America. A partial eclipse of magnitude 0.8 will be visible from my position, reaching its maximum at 1133 MDT. Local news sources state that eclipse glasses have been sold out across the city, although I’ve still got a pair of Eclipse Shades from the partial eclipse viewing party held on campus back during 2014, when I was just getting started with Sora no Method. It seems that I’ve been aware of this eclipse for quite some time, having been looking forwards to it since 2012 when a total eclipse graced China, Taiwan and Japan in May 2012, although contrary to my remarks, I’m still well aware of what K-On! means to me.
- To the upper right-hand corner is Christina Wako Yamato, a producer with Eagle Jump’s publisher, Houbundo. Houbundo is to Eagle Jump what Bethesda is to iD Tech and Machine Games, and what EA is to DICE. Business decisions made by the publisher do not always align with the development company’s goals; this is partially one of the reasons why Battlefield‘s DLC model has been a point of contention, and in New Game!!, Aoba and Kō experience this first hand when Christina announces that Kō is to do the artwork, prompting Kō to bring out her Mio Akiyama voice. In the end, to lessen the damage on Aoba’s feelings, Rin agrees to allow a minor competition to give Aoba a “fighting chance” even though she knows that the results will be foregone.
- Kō offers Aoba some black coffee here, which Aoba drinks in one go despite her aversion to bitter-tasting beverages. For coffee, I invariably will prefer the addition of cream and sugar, enough to take the edge of the bitterness, but for tea, I prefer tea without any additions, having drunk it on its own at dim sum and Chinese dinners. Aoba pushes inwards with her project, not knowing it will never see the light of day, and as she continues to build it, her vision for the game becomes very clear.
- It turns out the game that Eagle Jump is working on is a sort of RPG-adventure in a world of plushies, where the player can absorb the powers of different enemies while on a quest to liberate said world and help the queen turn things around. I’ve jokingly remarked elsewhere that such a game could be considered more violent than even the likes of DOOM, but in execution, the game looks rather family-friendly. As Aoba’s vision takes shape, I find that, were such a game to be built in real life, it would likely be published for a Nintendo platform, and would score favourably for its novelty, plus entertainment value for families.
- The end result is that Aoba creates a cityscape type drawing featuring the protagonist hidden amongst the plushies, which speak volumes about the game itself. Her coworkers root her on as she continues working towards her goal, and later, Aoba pays Kō a visit to see how she’s doing with her work. Kō’s drawing is more action-oriented, and while others have argued Kō’s is superior, I personally prefer Aoba’s because it captures the atmosphere of the game more succinctly. I will disagree with the folks at Tango-Victor-Tango, however: neither are suitable as box art for the game. Aoba’s concept, modified to feature just the main character and the setting, would be the best overall, being clean and concise to show the main character in conjunction with the world the game is set in – consider the box art designs for games like Halo, Battlefield and Deus Ex.
- Aoba’s tears begin flowing freely upon realisation that Kō’s technical superiority leaves her in the dust. Reactions to this moment in the preview led viewers to wonder what was going on, and while Kō attempts to reassure Aoba, Aoba picks herself up, promising to at least finish what she’s started. It is this admirable resolve that makes New Game!! worth watching, and personally, I am a little surprised that messages of resilience, determination and a steadfast willingness to learn are often forgotten amidst a scramble to dissect the often-irrelevant technical elements surrounding New Game!!
- This post on New Game!! comes out of the blue, simply to emphasise that I’m still enjoying what I see in the anime so far. As we hurtle towards the end of August, there are a few more things on the table left to write about, most notably, the Brave Witches OVA and Łupków Pass for Battlefield 1. For now, however, there’s the total solar eclipse to look forwards to. I’ll see if I can get a few photographs of it ahead of whatever my next post is: tomorrow also happens to be the date that DICE is rolling out a major Battlefield 1 update, which brings Łupków Pass to premium players ahead of the In The Name of the Tsar DLC in September.
I’ve heard that New Game!!‘s shift in tone can potentially divide the audiences into two factions, with one being appreciative of the changes, and the other feeling that treatment of Aoba comes across as being unfair, a deliberate attempt to set her career back. I contend that this is not the case; challenges are introduced precisely because they offer writers an opportunity to illustrate how people might reasonably handle them as they come up, and New Game!!‘s execution so far has been successful in showing Aoba as being determined and persevering. She may be overwhelmed by her emotions at times, but this is hardly unusual: what matters in the end is that she’s always willing to learn and improve. As such, I find that this new direction in showing hurdles that Eagle Jump’s employees face with the new project give audiences incentive to root for them as they call upon all of their resources and skills in order to deliver their assignments. Demonstrating that endearing elements can co-exist with more serious, real-world situations that have no easy solutions, these elements certainly have made New Game!! more enjoyable to watch, and I will be following New Game!!‘s second half with a keen interest.