Fresh out of high school, 18 year-old Suzukaze Aoba is off to join the workforce, and she’s not just landed any old office gig, she’s going to work for a game development company named Eagle Jump – creators of her favorite games, the acclaimed ‘Fairies Story’ series. And as if that’s not enough, she’ll be working alongside her idol, character designer Yagami Ko – the very person who inspired her to pursue game development as a career in the first place!
Based on a manga series by Shotaro Tokuno, New Game throws Aoba, still very much unprepared for the amount of adulting she has ahead of her, straight into the corporate world as we meet her on the way to work on her first day, getting swept away with the crowds at the train station and embarrassingly being caught practicing her self introduction outside the office by a senior Eagle Jump employee, Art Directer Toyama Rin, who mistakes her for a middle schooler. Unfortunately for Aoba, her first day continues to get off to a rocky start as she first lays eyes on her idol, Yagami Ko… Asleep on the floor under her desk. In her panties. As the day unfolds (and Yagami puts pants back on), Aoba meets the rest of the main crew of the series – Takimoto Hifumi, the quiet, anxious character artist who barely speaks but excels at offering emoticon-filled encouragement through the office messenger program, Shinoda Hajime, a boisterous animator with a desk covered in toys and sentai memorabilia, Ijima Yun, a fancy-dressing monster designer who loves a spot of tea, and Hazuki Shizuku, the game director who brings her absolute chonker of a cat Mozuku to work and likes to surround herself with cute girls (hence the all-female staff in the EJ office I guess). They’re all an instantly likable cast and their various personalities play off each other well, especially Ko and Rin, who are something of the office’s married couple, as Rin looks after Ko wherever she can, fearing Ko would just live under her desk and never eat well if she doesn’t look out for her (and gets very jealous when Ko like’s Hifumi’s meat and potatoes – not a euphemism – more than hers!)
New Game! applies the tried and true slice of life comedy formula to an office environment in a way that really works and much like the real working world, it’s not all laughs – as Aoba learns the ropes of character design and 3D modelling and faces the various dramas of having to do revisions while feeling hopelessly outmatched by the longterm staff I found it fairly easy to relate, having recently moved jobs as a newbie into an experienced team myself. But of course it’s not all drama and uphill battles for Aoba, and there are plenty of lighter moments, such as her experiencing a work drinking party (despite not being old enough to drink herself) for the first time and the joy of seeing her first model make it into a build of their new game – which just so happens to be the third installment in the Fairies Story series!
We meet more characters along the way, including the lead of the programming team, Ahagon Umiko, a very serious woman with a love for all things military, and Aoba’s bestie, the easily distracted college student and accidental pudding thief Sakura Nene, who comes to work part time at Eagle Jump as a debugger. This release collects both seasons of New Game! and as season 2 unfolds we’re introduced to yet more characters, but the series always does a good job of fleshing everyone out and giving them some personality and story to work with, and the new additions along with the cast introduced early on all get some time to shine and let us know a bit more about themselves as the series goes on.
Produced by studio Doga Kobo, very much specialists in the slice of life comedy space if you look at their track record, it’s no surprise New Game! looks great and even in this ‘nothing happens’ genre has plenty of fun and drama along the way, along with some emotional moments for the Eagle Jump crew. I found New Game! very compelling to watch, and in the end sat through almost the entire series in just three sittings, though I should probably disclose that that was after having four wisdom teeth out and being on some fairly serious pain-killers, so you may not be as immobile as I was in your viewing of this series!