This episode is pretty much the inverse of episode 3. Where it had its silliness in the beginning and built up to its stronger emotional climax at the end of the episode, this episode had its strong moment where we connect with the characters in the beginning of the episode and then shifted gears into relaxing silliness for the remainder of the time. That’s not a common choice for episode design, but given that I felt this was the best episode we’ve had since episode 3, it seems to have still worked out for them. Let me unpack it a bit.
You all may remember last week I said I was hoping to see something I’d been waiting for. Well, it happens this week right in the beginning: Aoba completes her NPC villagers, and Ko assigns her a full-on character-design task. This is big for Aoba’s progress along her chosen career path. While there may not be too much more of it that needs doing for this game, in the future she will be doing a lot more of this sort of thing. This is a vital experience.
While this particular character is based off herself, she doesn’t realize it in the beginning and works on it from the ground up, which gives her a bit of difficulty. Ko’s curiosity gives Aoba the opportunity to ask for her voice of experience. The discussion of Ko’s past confirms some of the suspicions I raised about her experiences before, however, as important as those details were then, they aren’t what really matters now. The moment when she looks up the map on the server with her villagers loaded on it… even though it’s not given a lot of attention, I think this is actually the most meaningful moment of the episode. Being able to truly experience how all her hard work had added value to the game… That’s vital. It’s a perspective that’s not easy to have when just making them one-by-one. In a way it reminds me of a moment from Hibike Euphonium, episode 6, where Hazuki was shown the value of her practice by finally getting a chance to play in a group. Aoba has been making these villagers one-by-one, as individual static models. Even seeing Hajime animating one of them hasn’t really changed much of that. Seeing all of them together in the game world, moving around, going about their virtual lives, it allows her to truly make the connection between the small individual pieces she created, and the impressive final product that could only come into existence when the entire group has combined their contributions. There’s a power to this moment, and I think it’s important for us not to forget it.
Thanks to all this she manages to finally finish the design of her character, named Sophia-chan, and it’s only when Ko holds the drawing up to compare it to her directly that Aoba finally clues in that this is her… at least in the game sense. Her reaction is pretty amusing.
Next is the weekend, and we get a glimpse of how everyone spends their days off. Aoba’s panic at being told she’s acting just like her father is classic. I would say I’m most like a combination of Ko and Hifumi: sleep as much as I can, and spend the rest of the time on the computer. Of course Hajime spends her time doing otaku-based activities, while Rin is busy acting like Ko’s wife: showing up, making proper meals for her, and just generally taking care of her since Ko is terrible at taking care of herself. And lastly Yun is the reliable older sister, taking care of a pair of younger siblings.
At long last we get to meet Nene in person, rather than just glimpses as she’s talking over the phone with Aoba. While both she and Aoba are about the same height, Nene definitely comes across as being more childish. She’s a bundle of impulsive energy. It wasn’t really a surprise that the two of them would go to see the Moon Ranger movie, given that Nene had mentioned it before over the phone. It was even less of a surprise when Hajime was revealed a few rows back in the theater.
It was, however, a surprise that Yun had been there as well, having brought her younger brother and sister in order to get them to stop crying. Which was probably their plan in the first place. Little kids are diabolical like that. And Yun actually seems to have enjoyed the movie, given her behavior afterwards. Not that anyone at the office will ever get her to admit it.
Back at work, with the managers off to a meeting, the specter of the game release being canceled is raised. Sorry girls, but that can totally happen. In fact, the number of games that don’t make it out the door are probably much higher than the number of games that do. You don’t want it to happen when you’re less than 6 months from release, though. That’s a lot of money and effort that would end up having been wasted, and could be the death of a company, depending on their circumstances.
Fortunately it hasn’t come to that point yet. They are, however, entering crunch time. The character team has more characters that need completing than they have days left to complete them, which means it’s time for everyone to buckle-down and start putting in their 120-hour work weeks. Or just stay overnight/come in on weekends. Given that some of these women are already working 12 hours a day or more, that time adds up. Aoba is astonishingly cheerful about the idea, which tells me a couple things about her. First, this is the first time she’s ever worked significant overtime (which is unquestionably true, since this is the first job she’s ever had); and second, she’s in one of those rare and enviable positions where she actually enjoys what she’s doing and the environment she’s doing it in, so having to stay there longer and do more of it is not the intolerable thing it can be for someone working at an unpleasant job in an unfriendly work-environment.
Our fanservice quota this week is provided by Aoba herself, surprisingly, when she changes out of her suit into casual wear more suitable for sleeping at the office. And this bit does show us that Aoba is grown and proportioned like an adult. She’s not just the typical “loli who never grew any bigger” that one can see in many anime. She is justifiably an adult woman, who just happens to be very short. I do also have to say that she looks cuter, and more grown up, in her casual clothes. Her suit and her twintail hairstyle just end up making her look younger.
And at last we get the semi-infamous “kuma-san nebukuro!” That bear sleeping bag is just so… silly-looking. Also dangerous. A sleeping bag that completely encloses every part of your body except your face, including your head? It sounds like something that would be useful for mountain-climbers who are worried about losing body-heat or something, but they always look like some sort of full-body straitjacket to me. It’s probably not as confining as it seems.
Well! This was definitely a week. There was a lot of stuff to talk about, and still more that I didn’t even mention in order to save space. Tune back in next time for more cute women making cute video-game characters.
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