The Secret Stars of Anime Auditions: New Game!

Among this season’s new shows, New Game! is the obligatory cute-girls-doing-cute-things show. And if you know anything about me from my various blog posts, you probably know that I am a sucker for those kinds of shows. However, New Game! has a number of qualities that help distinguish it from other shows of its kind. First of all, calling it a “cute girls doing cute things” show is a slight misnomer, as the “girls” are all high school graduates, and are for the most part, adults. Sure, they still look all young and cute, but it does mean that the subject matter of the show can focus on different topics than what the usual high school setting show goes into.

Speaking of that subject matter, our main character is Aoba Suzukaze, who just graduated high school and got a job as a character designer for the video game production company Eagle Jump. The show does focus on some of the challenges that go into video game design, though one should not expect the in-depth exploration of the game-making process that, say, Shirobako had with the anime-making process. The more laid-back nature of the show limits the drama and the character-driven comedy means the focus is specifically on the character design aspect of game-making, when not indulging in more general workplace comedy. Still, as a fan of video games, any show that takes a look at a slice of that industry is welcome in my books.

What, office tea breaks are not standard at your workplace? Might want to file a complaint.

However, it is not until episode 3 when this show had a moment that really brought this show from being just a slightly different cute-girls-doing-cute-things show into something special. Aoba is given her first real job in creating a 3D model for an NPC (non-playable character) for the sequel to one of her favorite childhood games. The chance for Aoba to work on the game series that made her fall in love with video games and specifically with video game character design is already one of the nicer moments in the show, especially as she gets to work under the supervision of the character designer she admired all this time. As she learns, though, making a 3D model is not easy, and her supervisor, Ko Yagami, is not going easy on her. What she learns from the experience, though, is well worth the difficulties she goes through.

Not (Just) Good Enough

Aoba’s first job does not seem like a particularly big one: she just has to create a 3D model for a character Ko had already designed, who is just a random villager in one of the towns of Fairies Story 3 (which seems to be a standard JRPG). However, despite Aoba’s general talent with art and recently-acquired knowledge of 3D modeling, Ko continually rejects her submissions. The experience is understandably a bit demoralizing for Aoba, as every time she thinks she has fixed something, Ko finds something new she needs to work on.

After a few days of working on this one model, though, her other supervisor, the art director Rin, lets her in on a secret on the train ride home: Aoba’s first submission that morning was already good enough for the game. The reason Ko kept pushing her to improve on her model was because she recognized Aoba’s talent and had high hopes for her future as a character designer. As such, she did not want Aoba to be satisfied with just “good enough”.

This is the difference between an average NPC and an NPC that gets an entry on TVTropes’s Ensemble Darkhorse page.

How often in our work do we think, “This is not as good as it can be, but it is good enough, so I will just stop here”? Whether out of laziness or frustration, we stop working on something once it has passed the bare minimum standard requested of us. Oftentimes, though, “good enough” is not really a good thing. I know I have watched many anime series that I found “good enough”; they entertained me and did not make me want to drop it halfway through. But because it did nothing special, I cannot really recommend it to others, and after a year or so I forget about the show. Going off this show’s theme, gamers can probably think of many games they have played which were only “good enough”, but failed to make a lasting impression, or worse yet, a game that only barely meets the standards of what would be a playable game, but for which the actual experience of playing it is so bland and uninspiring that it becomes boring.

At the same time, we can all remember those anime and video games that did stand out, and can oftentimes even point to a specific moment where we knew that the show/game had gone from “good enough” to outright “good”. (In an amusingly meta way, this third episode was that moment for New Game itself.) The examples span all sorts of artistic mediums and can even go beyond art into other fields of work, but the point is clear all the same: only by going beyond “good enough” can you stand out from the crowd.

For Christians, though, we have even more encouragement to not be satisfied with “good enough”. In Colossians 3:23, Paul instructs Christians, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (ESV). Wherever we work, we represent our God with our work ethic. The “men” we work for may accept our work when it is “good enough”, but does that really reflect the passion with which we love and serve God? On the flip side, when we go beyond what is “good enough” with our work, that can be a powerful witness for Christ. Keep in mind that Paul is not advocating any sort of works-based salvation where going further in our work is necessary to be a “good” Christian, but rather encouraging Christians to let their love for God show through in their work ethic.

Not Playable, But Not Forgotten

One aspect of the character-modeling process that Aoba struggles with is making the model look less stiff and more lively. It does not help that the character is an NPC, and a random villager at that; in terms of what characters are most memorable from any given video game, chances are, “that one villager from that one village” is not very high on most people’s lists. Putting a bunch of effort into detailing a random villager almost seems pointless.

However, during a phone call after the events above, Aoba and her best friend talk about why they loved the Fairies Story series they played as children so much. One thing her friend brings up is how well-detailed the random NPCs in the game were, with their varied personalities and backstories, and they start imagining what kind of character Aoba’s villager would be like. At this moment, the light bulb comes on for Aoba, as she realizes not only the importance of her NPC work, but also the direction she needs to go to give her model life.

I’d be slightly worried if the mobs were more memorable than the main characters, though…

Whatever other companies’ attitudes towards NPCs might be, it is clear that Eagle Jump, or at least Ko Yagami, does not see NPCs as unimportant. Her attitude seems to have paid off, as well, if the detail put into NPCs is one of the aspects that distinguish Fairies Story from other JRPGs in-universe. In real life, you can probably also think of games (or anime or other works) that are memorable because they have memorable secondary/NPC/background characters. It might not be the only way a video game can stand out, but it does go to show that, when it comes to going beyond “good enough”, extra effort put into even the seemingly insignificant areas can be noticed.

This also means that when we are asked to do something that seems insignificant, we should take on that task no less seriously. Those small tasks are often what allow bigger tasks to run at their best. In the Bible, Paul frequently praises those who serve the Lord by doing menial, behind-the-scene tasks, as they serve every bit as important of a function as part of the body of Christ. It is all part of working heartily, as if for the Lord, wherever we are, as no God-appointed work is unimportant.

While New Game! is not a major narrative-driven story and remains a cute slice-of-life work comedy, the show does have small moments throughout that show more depth to the various characters or depict what it is like working in game development or a general office environment. These moments, as well as the overall setting of the show, help it stand out as one of the best “cute-girls-doing-cute-things” shows in recent memory.

As for content warnings, I should warn that this show does have more fanservice than normal for a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show; it’s pretty low-key but can still be jarring for those used to the normally-clean natures of these shows. There is also the usual subtext of romantic feelings between girls, and because the girls are adults, some of them do drink alcohol.

If you are okay with that and want a slice-of-life show (with cute girls) that moves away from the high school setting into the adult workplace, with a side of game development, New Game! might be just what you are looking for. The show is streaming on Crunchyroll.

3 thoughts on “The Secret Stars of Anime Auditions: New Game!

  1. Been wanting to check this one out 🙂 Thanks for writing about it. As a gamer myself, I’m looking forward to seeing how they handle that aspect.

    So true, we as Christians need to remember that doing those little things are so important to God and life in general. Personally, I am all about those little things that matter because that’s what grows relationships. It’s that little text message, email, etc. randomly to that friend you haven’t spoken to that makes them remember how important you are to them. Maybe it’s that smile or minutes you take to help someone out when nobody else paid attention. I know to me I find that encouraging.

    God listens to every prayer we offer to Him, and knows everything about us. Every hair on our head is counted, and that goes to show how perfect He made us that even our own physical details matter to Him. I’m thankful everyday to have a Heavenly Father who cares so much about me, even when I don’t deserve it.

  2. Colossians 3:23 is one of my favorite verses, and one of few that I’m willing to risk taking out of context and quote by itself simply because it is so applicable to most life situations.

    Additionally, New Game has been a surprise hit of mine this season. Maybe I’ve just been moe starved, but this one seems pretty “above average” 😉

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