New Game!, Vol. 1

By Shotaro Tokuno. Released in Japan by Houbunsha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Manga Time Kirara Carat. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jenny McKeon. Adapted by Jamal Joseph, Jr.

I have joked before about the tendency of trends in the Japanese manga and light novel industry, and over here in North America as well. The piles of vampire manga, the buttloads of zombie manga, the oddly weird Alice in Wonderland deconstruction mangas, etc. But one that has been around forever, and likely will be long into the future, is “a group of cute girls do cute and funny stuff in a 4-koma”, aka the Azumanga Daioh clone. The series are of various types – mostly in school, but some (like this one) in a workplace, and sometimes there may be a token man. But for the most part, that describes an endless number of series that have essentially the same premise and audience, and generally also succeed about the same way – “that was cute”. They also sometimes have yuri subtext, though that isn’t a requirement. It even has its own magazine devoted to the genre, Manga Time Kirara Carat. And now we have New Game!.

New Game! stars Chiyo-chan… sorry, Aoba, who looks like she’s a 7th grader but has actually graduated high school and headed into the workforce – in this case, a game company, where she’s starting off designing characters. The rest of the team consists of Kou, the “ladette” sort of woman who’s the main character designer; Rin, the art director and team mom who seems to have an unrequited crush on Kou; Hifumi (character design), who is painfully shy but also rather cute (and apparently a heavy drinker); Yun (also character design), who I didn’t get much of an impression of except she has a heavy accent; and Hajime (motion), who seems overearnest and a bit hyperactive. The bulk of the first volume shows us Aoba fitting into the team, learning how they do things, and designing background NPCs for the fantasy RPG they’re working on.

New Game! is cute. I enjoyed it as I read it. That said, a lot of the actual humor has difficulty sticking in your head after you move on. The one joke I recall is also, oddly, the most out of character, when Kou amuses herself by having Aoba finish the design of a character that’s clearly based on herself (which Aoba doesn’t realize), who is an NPC who’s there to start the plot and then get killed, much to Aoba’s horror. Apart from that, there’s a few workplace gags that touch on the insane hours these jobs entail, and some character development showing Aoba settling in but still being somewhat hapless. As I noted above, Rin seems to have a crush on Kou, and this occasionally comes up, mostly when she’s frustrated that Kou isn’t picking up on it. It’s all standard stuff, but I did find it quite enjoyable. I will note that, once again, the decision to translate a heavy Kansai (I’m assuming) accent as something out of the ordinary doesn’t always work well. Yun saying “Wot’s all this, then?” and calling someone a “tosser” took me right out of the manga and made me notice the effort, which it shouldn’t.

Despite having forgotten much of the manga a few minutes after reading it, I was pleasantly amused enough that I’ll get the next book. If you enjoy cute girls doing cute things with no plot to speak of, New Game! is an easy buy.

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