The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

New Game!!- Review and Reflection at the ¾ Mark

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” ―Leo Tolstoy

Aoba and Umiko interview Nene for an interim programming position, while Christina tries to warm up to the character team after fearing that they must hate her for her decision with the key visual, but it turns out they’re not bothered. Two new interns, Momiji Mochizuki and Tsubame Narumi, join Eagle Jump: Momiji is a graphics artist and begins work with Aoba, while Tsubame is a programmer. The others decide to host a welcoming party for the newcomers, with the aim of helping Momiji becoming more familiar with the character team. Later, while talking to Nene about how she came to be a programmer, Tsubame’s opinion of Nene and Umiko is diminished when Nene reveals she picked up programming as a hobby out of curiosity, feeling that Nene’s a part of Eagle Jump only for her connections. Determined to earn her place at Eagle Jump, Nene resolves to improve her programming skills. Meanwhile, Hajime grows worried about her high school friends, Akki, learning of her interests in anime and games while on an outing with Yun and her siblings. After a heart-to-heart talk with Yun, where they share images of their high school selves to one another, Hajime decides to reveal the truth to her friend, only to find that her friend’s long known and is accepting of Hajime’s hobby, to her surprise. As we enter the final quarter of New Game!!, the second season certainly has taken steps away from the happy-go-lucky atmosphere of the first season, introducing new interpersonal dynamics amongst both old and new characters to liven things up around Eagle Jump. The latest additions to the staff include the competitive Momiji, who views Aoba as a rival after learning of her involvement in creating the designs for the company’s latest project, and the programmer Tsubame, whose remarks against Nene and Umiko have made some viewers very salty — individuals have felt Momiji and Tsubame to be quite unwelcome in New Game!!, although this is an position that I find ludicrous.

While dislike of these characters is perhaps only a natural reaction to two of the more hostile additions to New Game!!, I find that Momoji and Tsubame’s addition to the cast is a powerful one, serving to introduce conflict of a sort that previously has not been seen in New Game!! — early conflicts were resolved quite quickly because the old gaurd at Eagle Jump (including Aoba) have had a year to grow accustomed to one another and so, have learned how they best deal with challenges. However, Momoji and Tsubame are newcomers without any experience in company culture, hence their clashes with Aoba and the others. The rather heated discussion between Nene and Tsubame serves as a bit of a catalyst for hatred amongst viewers; most folks express disgust and disappointment with how Tsubame is quick to tear down Nene and Umiko after Nene casually remarks on her ties with Umiko and Aoba led her to Eagle Jump, and how she has no prior programming experience. However, I contend that Tsubame’s reaction, however inappropriate they were, is a natural one: people have a sense of pride when they’ve spent a considerable amount of time cultivating a skill. As such, when Tsubame learns that others can master those skills at a much quicker pace, it becomes a source of insecurity for her. In the absence of any knowledge about the actual journey Nene’s taken, Tsubame does jump the gun. However, this is surprisingly common; I have a friend who is a fantastic programmer, and folks (oftentimes, more senior developers or programmers) occasionally undermine him simply because they’re not appreciative of the fact that he’s very fact-driven and goes with better solutions based on hard numbers, rather than what experienced people have grown partial to, in order to build a system. One of the elements that New Game!! has not shown until now is that there are numerous unfavourable individuals in the real world. They can’t be ignored, removed or otherwise altered, so it is logical to work with (or around) them in the best capacity possible. Consequently, from a personal perspective, the inclusion of Tsubame and her remarks against Nene serve to strengthen New Game!!, showing that their universe is not merely a highly idealised depiction of reality, and that even in an all-girls environment, there can be conflicts. The true strength of New Game!! therefore comes from how the narrative presents Aoba, Nene and the others in helping their new hires develop the interpersonal skills to work in industry, as well as helping them adjust to life in the office.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve given a few interviews previously for new hires and as I am relatively new in industry, I completely emphasise with Aoba, who remarks that she knows very little programming. However, this interview is more of a test to determine if Nene is a good fit at Eagle Jump. This post comes somewhat out of the blue; I was not expecting Tsubame’s conversation with Nene to ignite discussions of that scale, so I figured that I should step in and offer another perspective. As with all of my previous New Game!! posts, this one will feature twenty images and their accompanying figure captions.

  • Before we dive any further into this post, I’ll explaining this post’s page quote: it’s sourced from Leo Tolstoy, a famous Russian author counted as one of the greatest writers of all time and refers to prevailing attitudes about New Game!!; while a large number of individuals seem to have it in their mind that Tsubame is in the wrong, it’s equally important to see things from another perspective. This is why I am not so hasty in dealing out judgement about her, nor will I dismiss all of the things in New Game!! that make it enjoyable simply because of one moment that seems inconsistent with the general tone seen previously in the anime.

  • While seemingly cold and strict at work, it turns out that Christina’s actually quite sensitive and shy, admitting to Shizuku that she was not comfortable at all with the decision she’d previously made to put Kō as the credited artist on the concept artwork.

  • While Shizuku might be a bit of a trickster who enjoys pranking her staff, she also has their best interests at heart, and so, arranges for Christina to meet up with the others, rigging her cat, Mozuku, to assist. The end result is that the character department and Christina become on more cordial terms with one another: Aoba isn’t particularly disappointed or resentful of their decisions, and her willingness to continue moving forward is perhaps one of the strongest aspects about her character.

  • The introduction of Tsubame and Momoji form the next disruption at Eagle Jump that alters the status quo. All stories worth partaking in involve a disruption to the status quo, which sets in motion the rising action. While New Game!! might be classified as a “cute girls doing cute things” anime, its biggest and best surprise is exploring territory that remains somewhat untried, especially with respect to drama, while simultaneously retaining comedic elements. The sum of this is that New Game!! is able to stand out from its predecessor.

  • Momoji and Tsubame share the same dynamics as Aoba and Nene: the former in both cases are artists, while the latter are programmers. The freshman, however, seem more serious about their chosen professions and have some experience with graphics work and programming, respectively, while Aoba and Nene are individuals who, while still finding their feet in the industry, genuinely love what they do and are shown to be ready to learn with the aim of improving. The differences between the two sets up the potential for conflict, and Momoji immediately opens by counting Aoba a rival.

  • Shizuku decides to simulate a Maid Café with Aoba, Yun and Hajime here to their surprise. I’m not sure how it is elsewhere, but I’m almost always eyeballs-deep in code at work, so I’m not particularly big on distractions that do not deal with work (meetings are fine, provided they are about requirements and deliverables). I’ve been counting Nene and Tsubame “programmers” throughout this post, rather than “developer”; while the terms are often used interchangeably, a “programmer” is someone who specialises in writing good code and have a thorough understanding of how to build a solution. Conversely, a “developer” is someone who devises solutions, puts the components of a system together, gathers requirements and when needed, writes code. For a developer, communication becomes much more important.

  • Developers are true generalists, and unlike programmers or computer scientists, don’t always live and breathe code. I count myself a developer because of these reasons: I’m not a particularly skilful programmer by any stretch, and enjoy designing systems the most. As evidenced by this blog, I don’t always write code in my spare time. Of course, at work, I’ve no qualms about diving into APIs, documentation, or even Stack Overflow, to learn more about what I might need to do about a task at hand. Back in New Game!!, Shizuku has a bit too much fun in photographing Aoba, Yun and Hajime in maid outfits, much to their collective embarrassment.

  • When Shizuku approves of Hajime’s maid “skills” ahead of Yun and Aoba, Yun grows irate, while Aoba is merely confused, speaking to Aoba’s innocence. Hajime’s smirk is actually quite entertaining. I’ve seen the question being posed of whether or not anyone’s worked with superiors who are like Shizuku, and I am immensely grateful that my answer is no. This element is strictly relegated to the realm of fiction: in reality, people are rather more on-topic and focussed when work is concerned.

  • After the struggle to find a suitable restaurant to welcome Momiji, the character team settles down for lunch at a conventional restaurant. One of the greatest questions I’ve got about New Game!! is why audiences are taking it so seriously, lumping real world experiences and even credentials into things when the anime (and its source manga) are meant to present a fictionalised story at a game company. Wind of folks arguing about differences between a college and vocational institute have not escaped my ears; this is trite and quite unrelated to New Game!! on the whole. To haul terms into Canadian terminology, a college is an institute that does not confer degrees, offering certificates or diplomas upon successful completion of a programme (technical schools are a subset of a college, usually offering job-specific training programmes). The rest of the world considers this a vocational school. In Canada, universities are accredited to give degrees at the Bachelor, Master’s and PhD levels – in the United States, colleges refer to institutes that can only confer Bachelor degrees, while a university is an institute that also offers post-graduate degrees. So, by Canadian definitions, the people on messages-boards can go take a hike: a college and vocational school are interchangeable north of the 49th parallel.

  • Momiji is seen with uncommonly large portion sizes, and here, holds an onigiri that she’s brought for lunch. Aoba and the others attempt to help her feel more at home by inviting her out to lunch, although they relent when they see Momiji with her own lunch. There is a reason why I bring my own lunch as opposed to eating out: my office is located in the middle of nowhere as far as being close to food options go, and a quick lunch means getting back to work faster.

  • Tsubame is a capable cook, and usually whips up dishes that Momiji enjoys even in the absence of a substantial protein source. The two are roommates, a common arrangement amongst post-secondary students who live a considerable distance from their institution. The academic term is starting again for students; while I’m no longer a student, the effects of back-to-school are not lost upon me: traffic has increased slightly, with more pedestrians out and about now.

  • At one point, Momiji addresses Aoba as “Suzumiya” rather than Suzukaze when making her rivalry known. Struggling between being impressed by Aoba’s work and longing to surpass Aoba, the source of Momiji’s competitiveness towards Aoba remains relatively unexplored. Going from what has been presented, I would hazard a guess that Momiji is not happy about Aoba’s style having an impact on Kō’s style.

  • While attending an event, Hajime decides to catch up with one of her high school friends, but is to embarrassed to mention that she works in the games development industry. It’s revealed that Hajime had long hair in the past, and in response to the query of which incarnation of Hajime I prefer, I’d have to say that shorter hair seems to be more fitting for her current character, even if she is more appealing with longer hair.

  • While promising not to laugh, Hajime nonetheless finds herself facing Yun’s exasperation after seeing a photograph of her during her time as a high school student. Back then, Yun had coke-bottle glasses and was quite shy. When she graduated, she sought to reinvent herself, explaining her present tastes in clothing and distinct style. I am immensely glad that optics technology have largely eliminated the need for such glasses, otherwise, things could be quite uncomfortable on my end.

  • We’ve gotten to the moment at last in this talk: while I’ve spent the paragraphs explaining why I won’t vilify Tsubame, this post only features a total of two screenshots from that scene, which goes to show just how little the moment figures in the grand scheme of things: the whole scene lasts about two and a half minutes, which constitutes 0.95 percent of the entire anime’s length). I wonder what reasoning folks have for how one percent of the runtime in an anime such as New Game!! can render the whole of it (and the episodes upcoming) a failure, especially when considering how no plot holes are introduced, no unnecessary plot twists occur and there’s not deus ex machina, either.

  • It just wouldn’t be a proper post without an angry face from Tsubame. I’ve never particularly felt threatened by people whose talents in programming far surpass my own, although amongst my friends, I’m probably the most similar to Nene: I started out with a Bachelor’s in Health Science because I was indecisive about my career path, and while I could keep up with computer science students with vastly more experience and skill than myself, I continued wondering if software would be my calling. It wasn’t until the Giant Walkthrough Brain where I realised software development was my cup of tea. Unlike Nene, however, I’m always aware that I’m usually lucky with respect to solving problems, and the more I learn, the more I realise just how little I know.

  • In the time since I started this post, at least one other individual out there is in the same page as myself, suggesting that I’m not alone in thinking that Tsubame’s reaction hardly merits her becoming the “worst girl” or rendering the whole of New Game!! unwatchable. In order to ease out of that discussion, I’ll return to a moment of Hifumi handing Momiji new character designs to work on. While steadily improving, she still becomes flustered whilst dealing with people, and Hifumi has become one of my favourite characters of New Game!!.

  • The ninth episode’s namesake comes from this particular moment, where Momiji walks around in naught but her pantsu following a shower, to Tsubame’s disapproval. It’s been quite hot around my parts this summer, but not quite hot enough for me to do the same (if only for the fact that I don’t like walking around sans clothing). Given the stance I’ve taken on what ground New Game!! has covered and where these developments could lead things, I would not be surprised if this post becomes quite controversial and earns me several slaps on the proverbial wrist.

  • Having said this,  it would be interesting to see further rationale behind people’s perspectives: I already know of their stance about Tsubame and the execution of that particular scene, but the question I bring to the table is “what experiences in your life drive your outlook?”. Such a discussion could be very illuminating and offer insight as to how different people approach interpersonal conflict, but in the meantime, Battlefield 1‘s In The Name of the Tsar is out, and it’s time to explore those snowy Eastern Front maps, if only to get away from the heat that lingers over my area.

With these elements in mind, New Game!! has continued to impress in its presentation of the ins-and-outs of game development; the additional conflicts (and the prospect of solving them in the remaining episodes) means that New Game!! has done a considerable bit more to discern and differentiate itself from the first season. From the audience’s perspective, this is welcome, giving the second season a considerably more meaningful message than if the writers had chosen retain the languid pacing of the first season. I definitely do not hate Tsubame, and my expectations entering the final episodes are precisely to see what path Aoba and the others take towards addressing this particular conflict. It is understandable that people make mistakes and speak their minds without understanding the big picture, but if this were the basis for people to escalate their conflicts or simply run away from their problems, there would be no progress at all to speak of. Within the context of New Game!! and the thematic elements of learning, cooperation and appreciation of one another that are presented, it is likely (and expected) that the final episodes will deal with making the new hires a part of Eagle Jump. Overcoming their challenges and resolving their conflict is consistent with the message that New Game!! strives to present, and to leave these elements unattended is in contradiction of the ideas New Game!! has provided audiences up until now. If and when I’m asked, I’m on Tsubame’s team because she’s a part of Eagle Jump (albeit a temporary part for the time being): a team is only as good as its weakest member, and if Tsubame is allowed to learn and grow to succeed, the team’s success together follows.

8 responses to “New Game!!- Review and Reflection at the ¾ Mark

  1. ernietheracefan September 8, 2017 at 21:15

    I was expecting myself to be mad to Tsubame, but after watching last episode, I’m quite understand her (let’s not forget that Nene’s words were causing this drama). And Nene is motivated to prove that Umiko didn’t wrong for believing in her (we should grateful for that instead).

    I think many fans are mad to her because she indirectly insults Umiko and acts goody-goody after that..

    Christina is cute in her own, and Shizuku is channeling her inner Sumi (photo is love).

    Trivia: Tsubame’s VA was also voicing Diesel-chan from Shirobako.

    Like

    • infinitezenith September 8, 2017 at 22:19

      Conversations don’t always proceed neatly; it takes a modicum of skill to be able to navigate one without escalation. Tsubame’s actions are, as noted in my earlier discussion, not completely implausible even in the context of New Game!!; the folks with a strong aversion to this likely have dealt with people like this in the past, or else have unrealistic expectations of the world. I’m inclined to think the former is more likely.

      I must say, I did not think to take a look at Shizuku’s voice actor: I know Eri Kitamura for roles in Sora no Woto as Kureha, Girls und Panzer‘s Darjeeling and Madoka Magica‘s Sayaka Miki. What a pleasant surprise this is 🙂

      I wonder if the other folks at AS will get your references to Hai-Furi, though!

      Like

  2. arkhangelsk September 10, 2017 at 23:43

    I’ll try to answer as a person that would consider himself moderately perturbed by what happened. Overall, it is certainly true that New Game!! is just that bit grittier than first season as it steps out of elaborating on different characters and starts handing out challenges from reality. I think that’s great and really I find it hard to imagine how much longer they could have remained in the First Season’s mode without running out of gimmicks.

    Having said that, a unifying theme that has held true was that ultimately, everyone’s a good person and the team’s mutually supportive. And I think the dividing line as to whether Tsubame becomes worst girl (and since this show is so fluffy and everyone basically so darn good, it doesn’t take a lot to fall into that slot) is whether the show managed to sell the idea Tsubame’s little display is a blowout from some kind of localized complex that Nene stepped on rather than a general indication of Tsubame’s morality.

    Unfortunately, as the scene actually played out on screen, between the voice and face, Tsubame was more cold than agitated, so the idea that she’s greatly hurt (if that was indeed what was intended) just does not sell. Nor does she seem to feel the least bit of guilt over the incident. Comparing it with Kou and Christina and you can see the difference in portrayal. And if isn’t a blowout, there aren’t many conclusions left.

    And I don’t think reality is a defense. Not only are Tsubames not that likely (there was every reason for her to bite her tongue in that scenario), but one difference is that you are ironically freer to make your own judgment about a person in reality. When you are watching a show, it has its own decision over who’s good and who’s bad. Through the use of atmospherics, music, plot, convention .. etc, it tries to sell this view which is not always in-line with real life morals.

    Most of the time this works well (how else can we find “slapstick” acceptable?), but writers can overestimate what they can hard-sell as “acceptable”. When that line is breached, viewers still realize they are supposed to think of Character X as “good”, but they can’t anymore, and they lose empathy with the story that seems out of touch with them.

    And that’s when a few minutes (or even seconds) can potentially ruin a show for someone.

    Like

    • infinitezenith September 12, 2017 at 10:08

      New Game!! is about fostering a good team environment at the workplace, and a lack of conflict would detract from the message; it is therefore disingenuous to suppose that reality isn’t a defense, especially considering what the story stands to gain when it presents the conflict resolution perspective. The fact is that this offers New Game!! a new direction, and gives it more depth beyond the usual fare. I accept that this can be jarring for viewers, who’ve grown accustomed to the easygoing atmosphere in the anime, but these directions have the potential to strengthen the team, as well. In Tsubame’s case, I find it difficult to believe that you’ve never encountered people like that; she grows insecure and defensive, which leads to her remarks. She’s not hurt, she’s evidently intending to cause hurt towards Nene. While a bit unexpected, it also sets the stage for seeing what will happen in order to rectify this. As such, I can accept Tsubame’s actions, provided that they drive the narrative in some way, and with three episodes left at the time of writing, there is opportunity to see where this goes.

      As for deciding whether or not characters are entirely “good” or “bad”, viewing them solely as occupying one niche during the course of a narrative is something that I would count the mark of an inexperienced reader; authors often depict their characters on both sides of the fence to remind readers that the world is not black and white. Similarly, an experienced reader learns to appreciate that some characters can change. Good characters might be forced to committing evil, and evil characters are capable of good. Similarly, experiences drive change in characters, and for me, it is always rewarding to see events drive initially hostile characters to warm up to the protagonists. Sakura Quest presents a more subtle example in Chitose Oribe, who initially opposes the Tourism Board’s actions, but through Yoshino’s actions, slowly becomes more accepting of her choices and suggestions. Tsubame might be hostile and unfriendly now, but it speaks to the impact of her experiences at Eagle Jump if her beliefs and actions change.

      I acknowledge that minutes (or seconds) can be a deal breaker (in the world of software, a program crashing on launch is certainly unlikely to receive a warm reception), and that this can work for a movie. However, New Game!! is an episodic deal: some are too hasty in dealing out judgement with respect to making their decision when they lack the whole picture. A more accurate assessment can be made once the anime is finished, and it is known as to whether or not this particular instance is advancing or hindering the anime’s ability to convey a particular message/ Of course, I’ve long held that a handful of folks watching New Game!! are taking the anime (or perhaps themselves) too seriously. It’s an anime – lighten up!

      Like

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