There are endless examples of anime that explore the lives and relationships of teenagers and they often mark themselves out from one another by focussing on an after school club or shared interest. You can probably guess the shared interest that connects the main characters in Gamers!
The series offers us an unlikely love match. Keita Amano is a shy boy who keeps himself to himself and loves playing online games. It is a solitary life but it brings him happiness. Two people online inspire him: his gaming friend “Mono”, whom he has never met in real life, and an amateur game developer called “Nobe”. Amano has a chance encounter in a video game shop with the most popular girl in school, Karen Tendo, so popular that she spends her days fending off confessions of love from all the boys at school. Tendo is a member of a gaming club at school and invites Amano to join, but he declines due to the club’s focus on competitive game play. Tendo is instantly fascinated by Amano’s gaming passion and philosophy and falls in love with him.
Gamers! then does something very clever to distinguish itself from other similar series. Normally you would expect the will-they-won’t-they storyline to be the focus of the entire series (and lots of anime simply end with this kind of story unresolved), but instead Gamers! wraps that up pretty quickly and gets on with the business of misunderstandings and love rivalries. This makes for a very funny series.
Mono and Nobe turn out to be the same person, and in a coincidence that’s hard to swallow (but let’s run with it) she is a girl in Amano’s school. The two have clashed over their strong opinions about gaming already, so it makes for an interesting situation when the real Mono/Nobe starts to recognise the qualities in Amano that attracted her to his online persona, and of course fall for him. Despite being funny it is bittersweet, because you do get the impression that these two were destined to be together, and yet Amano is already in a relationship that seems equally perfect. It’s hard to know who to root for.
Completing the main cast of characters are Chiaki Hoshinomori and his girlfriend Aguri, both nerds at heart and both having sacrificed who they are to become the cool kids. The series works as a fascinating parable about being true to yourself, with Hoshinomori having to come to terms with how he has changed himself to be able to live the popular life with a cute girlfriend like Aguri, only to discover that she knew him back in his nerdy days and loves him for who he truly is, also changing herself to fit in.
Gamers! runs through all kinds of funny scenarios, with some kind of a relationship misunderstanding almost every episode. For example, Amano and Aguri become close friends, with Amano a useful confidante for Aguri. They are never anything other than friends, but Tendo and Hoshinomori consistently misunderstand their relationship.
It’s all very funny stuff, but it manages to entertain us while tackling important questions of identity, honesty and the nature of love and attraction.
At the time of writing Gamers! is only available as a Region A Blu-ray, but so much good stuff only gets a US release that this “poor relative” across the pond long since saw the value in purchasing a multi-region player. If you are based in the UK and are serious about collecting anime, that might be something to consider. It would be a shame to miss out on overlooked gems like Gamers!
I am not a gamer myself, and was left with the impression that there are probably lots of references throughout the series to familiar games, which a lot of viewers would probably enjoy more than I could. But the intelligent and entertaining approach to life and relationship issues was enough to keep me watching. RP