New Game! gains a second exclamation mark for the second season, but that doesn’t really indicate that it is more amazing or zany or exciting or anything like that. This is very much more of the same, but that’s fine, because it’s a lovely, cosy series to watch, just the thing for troubled times. The only aspect that really warrants the “!!” is the increased level of fanservice. The first season was almost always wholesome, but for the first half of the second season there is a much greater focus on getting the characters stripped off, but it’s only sporadic and seems like a very odd thing to do, as if the people making this doubted themselves and their ability to keep the viewers interested. Later in the series this mercifully fades away, because fanservice is an awkward fit for New Game!
Last season explored new employee Aoba joining a games company and helping to make her first professional game. So with that game released where do we go from here? A new game, of course. The question is, what? There is a competition to come up with some character designs for a concept, and surprisingly Aoba wins, beating her mentor Ko. This is a big shock, but echoes the past where Ko arrived as a newbie and did the same thing. Aoba’s ideas are fresh, whereas Ko is doing more of the same. However, this is a mature enough series to not focus on a rivalry between them. It does bring up some conflicting emotions, which are explored, but the two of them end up working together as a team, as co-designers. The way that rivalry doesn’t need to damage friendships is a key aspect of this season.
The original ideas are of course Aoba’s, and they are very cute, based on the idea of a girl wearing a bear suit onesie, but with a fantasy twist of the bear suit being the skin of an enemy in a fantasy land of dangerous bears. The protagonist in the game wears the skin as a disguise. It’s a quirky idea, and Aoba’s designs are a lot of fun. You could see how it could be a popular game in real life, especially in Japan, with that mix of fantasy jeopardy and cuteness.
Despite Aoba’s success, Ko is chosen to create the key visuals for the game, and the reason is probably depressingly true to life: she is a big name, and the company wants her name associated with the project, not the name of a newcomer. Aoba and Ko choose to have a contest to create the key visuals, despite their bosses making it clear this will not effect the outcome. Ko’s visuals will be used, whatever happens. We get to see both, and Aoba’s work is in my opinion vastly superior to Ko’s. The writing is clever enough not to tell us what to think, in that respect, but later in the series my opinion was echoed by a new character.
That brings us to the two new main characters this season, Momiji Mochizuki and Tsubame Narumi. Momiji, like Aoba last year, is starstruck by Ko. She is also astonished and sickened by the idea of Aoba being the character designer despite her inexperience, and immediately jumps to the wrong conclusion about the game poster, thinking it was designed by Aoba and the rejected one is Ko’s which she thinks (quite rightly) is a lot better. Of course, she has that in reverse, and there is some great, gentle drama about making the wrong assumptions and misjudging people. Her best friend also joins the company and becomes a rival to Aoba’s best friend Nene. So we have a degree of drama here that didn’t really exist in the first season, taking the series further away from the slice-of-life genre. It all plays out in a very positive and heart-warming manner eventually, but in the meantime the new characters are hard to warm to, and feel like interlopers, with the series having already established a large cast of likeable characters during the first season.
Further gentle drama is provided by Hifumi being appointed as the character team leader, despite her social awkwardness, and it has been lovely to see her develop from the person she was at the start of the first series, virtually unable to say a word to anyone. Towards the end of the series, there is an emotional storyline concerning the imminent departure of a major character, who wants to keep challenging herself and realises she can’t do that any more at Eagle Jump. So for a gentle, cosy series, this gives us plenty to think about. I would be quite happy to watch more seasons of New Game! or should I say New Game!! or even New Game!!!? In fact, it’s fine by me if they keep making it until they run out of exclamation marks. RP