After a week’s wait, we return for more of New Game!. Beginning with a quick flashback, we see Aoba when she was first playing the original Fairies Story, and reaffirm what we already knew: she fell in love with the characters right from the start, and developed a deep admiration for their designer, Yagami Ko. I have to admit, I respect that aspect of Aoba, to some extent. She saw something specific she loved in the game, and she went to the trouble of finding out who was specifically responsible for creating it, and made becoming like that person her own goal. That’s more effort than I’ve ever put into any game I’ve ever bought, which may be why she’s a character designer and I’m not.
Everyone (or at least, many people) have their own heroes, and Aoba’s delight at having managed to end up working with hers is pretty infectious. Although she’s not so eager to imitate Ko’s tendency to sleep at the office in her underwear. Personally I was more horrified by that sleeping mask. It may just be me, but those things with the eyes on the outside look disturbing.
We get a quick reintroduction to the characters. Given that Shinoda Hajime, from the motion team, is a total otaku, it’s no real surprise that she has bought a toy for the new “Moon Ranger” movie that’s going to be coming out: a plastic magical girl wand. Unfortunately, while she’s waving it around enthusiastically showing it off, she accidentally smacks Iizima Yun, who’s just walking in, on the head with it. This, of course, results in Yun snatching the wand away and trying to hit Hajime with it for some payback, which quickly devolves into a wand vs. lightsaber battle.
Into the midst of this desperate life or death struggle walks the final member of the character team, Takimoto Hifumi. She blinks once at what’s happening, then dismisses it all as business as usual, sits down at her desk, puts in her earbuds, and gets to work, completely ignoring the two that continue to go back and forth behind her.
It’s worth noting that Yun and Hajime don’t actually hate each other. Despite teasing and occasionally play-fighting, they’re actually really good friends. They joined the company at the same time, they take their lunch breaks together, and at the end, when Yun passes out from drinking too much, Hajime makes sure to get her home safely. Even when they conflict, you can tell they have a reliable friendship.
Hifumi-senpai is a little bit of a tougher nut to crack. With crippling shyness and social anxiety that I can at least somewhat relate to, she finds it easier to have an early lunch at home with her pet hedgehog than to try eating with anyone else at work. As it happens, however, like many pet owners she is willing to share pictures of her critter with Aoba, which results in Aoba seeing one which includes Hifumi smiling. I have to agree with Aoba, Hifumi is adorable when she smiles. Even if it does utterly embarrass her. Sadly, it seems her hedgehog is unamused at her smiles, causing her to be in a poor mood the next day. Don’t mind, Hifumin!
On to Aoba’s job; she finally gets to do some real work, modeling the NPC villagers for an entire town. Crafting each and every NPC by hand is a lot of work, and, frankly, is more work than a lot of game companies bother to put in. They’ll usually use their character creation software to design a specific number of character models, then duplicate those models as needed across the world, resulting in a number of cases of characters with identical faces. Designing and modeling each NPC uniquely takes a lot of extra time, and ties up at least one team member doing that work. However, the end product can feel a lot more alive as a result, and that can make it feel worth it to those who are willing to go the extra mile.
As the day comes to a close, the character team (and Hajime, who is included because she sits with them) goes out to a restaurant to have a welcome party for Aoba. Alcohol is served… to everyone except Aoba, as we’re reminded several times that the drinking age in Japan is 20. Which puts her in the unenviable position of being the one sober person among a group of people growing increasingly drunk. Well, Hifumi and Hajime both seem all right, but they don’t take much part in the conversation, so things are still a bit uncomfortable for Aoba.
I’ve never really had that sort of experience myself. Due to heath issues that make it notably more dangerous for me than for the average person, I don’t drink, and that sort of party in general has never really been my sort of scene. Still I can’t imagine that having a co-worker almost immediately pass out, having one of your bosses pressuring you about whether you’ve got a boyfriend, and having your other boss drink a bunch, demand you pour more for her, drink it, demand someone else pour it correctly, and then pass out herself, is a very comfortable experience. Not to mention that after the party breaks up, Ko (who is still drunk) grabs her and drags her along to a bar for “a second round.” Yeah, I can’t blame her for being a bit tired after that.
The episode ends with another call from Aoba’s friend Nene. Just for the record folks, even though she didn’t mean anything by it, don’t do what Nene did here. People in the video games industry are under non disclosure agreements, and the hint that someone even unintentionally implied something about a game that they weren’t supposed to talk about can bring lawyers out of the woodwork. Especially in Japan.
So, people may note that I haven’t, quite, committed to fully blogging this series yet. Not because I lack interest (it’s one of my favorites for the season, actually) but because it’s a combination of slice of life and comedy, which are notoriously two of the hardest genres to blog about episodically. Still, fair is fair, and if by the third episode I can still find enough to talk about to make up a good post, I’ll stop waffling and commit to covering it for the season.
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