So, here we are at the final episode of New Game!. It’s a series that’s come and gone too quickly. But before I wax all melancholy, I’d better talk about this final episode.
I admit, I’ve never been one to line up on opening day for a game release. Given the increase in digital distribution over the past few years, I’m not sure how much of a thing that is any more (I know in the US video game retail stores are struggling to stay afloat, as more and more people switch to just buying their games online. I can’t speak for Japan, though), but certainly at one point it has been a real thing, only a few years ago, and it may well still happen. And one of the big things that drew people to buy games from different locations was the limited edition extras that come with pre-orders and first-day releases. For several of our ladies these are valuable mementos. And it even comes with a burst of nostalgia for Rin and Ko: the two of them did this exact same thing for the original Fairies Story when it released. Back then it was just the two of them. The smile as they look forward at the new members who have joined them since then is small, yet heartwarming in its own way.
I must also admit that cosplaying is entirely outside my area of expertise. I don’t do it myself, and while I can admire someone else who does it well, I don’t go tracking down cosplayers for pictures or anything. That said, the employee cosplaying as the heroine, Karen, looks pretty good to me. Of course, I haven’t spent God-only-knows how long staring at these character designs and models the way Yun and the others have, so I’m not going to argue with Yun when she says she spotted something off about the costume, but I’m going to go with Aoba’s attitude: it’s good enough, and the customers loved it.
Meeting up with Nene is no surprise. She’s as much of a limited edition goods fanatic as Hajime, so learning that the two of them had coordinated in getting versions of the stuff being sold at other locations… yeah, that’s believable. On the other hand, what happens next… Folks, don’t do what Nene did here. Revealing in front of a line of eager customers that the black-haired boy in the hero’s party, Connor, turns evil and becomes the final boss of the game? Spoilers are bad, okay? All the more so because all of our crew here are still under non-disclosure agreements. Luckily for our girls, that particular piece of info had already been spread across the internet by people who got their hands on the game early and did marathon sessions to beat it, so no one can link that leak to Nene. But still, no talky!
Umiko’s arrival is wonderful, especially stepping up behind Nene with her trademarked “Sakura-san,”™ sending poor Nene into her reflexive terror mode. It looks like Nene has some ingrained trauma from having been scolded so many times while she was working there. Also Umiko gets even with Ko for constantly calling her by her last name by bringing the game magazine with the picture of feminine Ko from the previous episode. As everyone else exclaims over the picture and makes plans to buy their own copy of that edition of the magazine, poor Ko is so embarrassed that she can’t stand it. But hey, she brought it down on herself.
Moving on to the release party, this is where the emotional power of the episode comes into play. I can easily sympathize with Ko: I have certainly gotten up in front of people and then completely forgotten what I intended to say. But this runs deeper than that, I believe. The way the shouted support from her team and friends surprises and encourages her. Ever since the troubles she had in her earlier times in the company, I think Ko has lacked a certain sort of faith in herself. Faith that she is really capable of being a leader. Faith that the people she’s leading can believe in her, and respect her, and like her as their boss, and their friend. That Hajime and Aoba speak up so easily to support her, as if it’s just the natural thing to do, shows that they really do respect and like her, and that gives Ko the courage to speak and thank everyone for helping make this game come together.
It’s during the followup conversations that any final pieces that people haven’t yet put together are finally pushed into place. Ko nearly panics at the idea of being made art director, but learns that Rin will be moving up to co-producer for the next game. Attempting to keep her in place would be asking her to stall her career due to Ko’s insecurities, which would hardly be fair to her. Yet Ko remains certain that people won’t follow her. After she wanders out to think about the situation on her own, Hazuki tells Aoba the rest of the story: Ko had actually been the art director for Fairies Story 2. But she expected her people to be able to work at the same sort of pace she did, and many of them couldn’t take it. At least one new employee quit within six months. How much must that have hurt Ko, to think that she had so badly crushed someone’s dreams that they’d been driven to quit and run away? This is really the biggest source of her trauma, her belief that she isn’t suited to lead others. Yet Aoba sees the truth through all of this: a cruel boss wouldn’t have cared about the people she’d driven off. In truth, Ko is kind, and cares about every one of her people.
The conversation between Aoba and Ko that follows is deceptively simple, yet nearly impossible for me to explain in words. If I try to lay out the scene, describing it in its component elements, explaining the dialogue, all of that, it somehow loses the power that was conveyed in this moment. Yet in just a few short minutes (barely two minutes pass for the whole conversation), Aoba manages to shine light and warmth into that dark and lonely pain of Ko’s past and her doubts and fears. An impassioned declaration: “Right now, you are a boss I can respect! So if you become the art director, I will stay with you!” With her own courage, Aoba helps pull Ko free of the chains of her past, and set herself on the path to the future. I don’t think I can really do the moment justice. But it’s good.
So, here we are. After twelve episodes, this series has come to an end. It’s hard to even think of what to say at this point, because it all seemed to go by so fast. Once I’d read the manga, I did figure this was where we’d come to a stop: it’s the perfect place for a season to end. Now all we need is to convince everyone involved to make a second season. My thanks to anyone and everyone who’s followed these reviews. This is the first anime series I’ve blogged: the first time I’ve ever blogged anything, actually, so I hope you all have found it interesting. I’ll try to get a full series review post up in the not-too-distant future.
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