None of this blog post is meant to be a personal attack or mean-spirited.
If you see your comments in here, it’s because I need to cite actual sources instead of being vague.
Sources of articles or comments can be found by clicking their screenshots.
The reception of New Game! fascinates me.
Not only for the amount of people it pissed off by having Aoba get a game development job right out of high school and be trained in digital art design on the spot.
Which turned out to be something that can actually happen.
But also for the massive disappointment it created for not being Shirobako but with video games.
I think it’s safe to say New Game! is the most controversial Cute Girl show past K-On! or Love Live! or at least controversial in ways most Cute Girl shows aren’t.
Although comparing New Game! to Shirobako is apt on many levels
And comparisons are indeed at the core of how we evaluate media.
I strongly promote the idea that anything and everything can and should be compared to each other.
At the same time, we should be careful with comparisons.
Failing to take into account the intent, context and nuance behind each work may lead to comparisons being taken too far.
And works being unfairly criticized based off of goals they were never going for.
As someone who enjoyed both shows, I was curious…
How similar are New Game! and Shirobako?
Was New Game! meant to be video game Shirobako?
I decided to make a largely excessive and unnecessary blog post dissecting the differences between the two.
Starting off, New Game!’s manga predates Shirobako by over a year.
Despite my close reading of discussion threads, I’ve seen literally no one point this out.
Based off of this fact, we cannot assume that New Game! was specifically created to match Shirobako or be its sequel or whatever.
New Game! is published in Manga Time Kirara
Manga Time Kirara is a family of Cute Girls Doing Cute Things (CGDCT) magazines.
This is the same set of magazines where works like K-On! and Hidamari Sketch originated from.
Manga published in Manga Time Kirara are mostly characterized by
- Not taking themselves too seriously
- Being positive and cute
- Female utopia, 99% of the characters are girls
- Not information dense
- If there’s drama, it’s small and quickly resolved
- Mostly comedy focused
- Entirely character driven
- Quick read, few pages per chapter
By taking a quick look at New Game!’s source material, expecting the next Shirobako from the same magazines as K-On! doesn’t really sound like a realistic expectation.
Getting An Adaptation
Shirobako’s breakout acclaim undoubtedly brought more attention to New Game! and created an extra incentive to adapt it.
But if Shirobako didn’t exist, would New Game! have gotten an anime adaptation?
New Game! was already on the road to success before Shirobako had aired.
Here’s a excerpt from the above article (ran through Google Translate) describing how Vol. 1 of the manga sold out due to popularity and had to reprinted 4+ times to meet demands.
“Do you know the manga called “NEW GAME! “NEW GAME!” Is a story of girls working at a game company with 4-frame manga by Mr. Shotarou Imeno, which is serialized at Honbunsha’s “Manga Time KR Comics”. The main character is an 18-year-old girl and joined the game company “Eagle Jump Corporation” as a character designer. That daily life is drawn.
The release itself was February this year, but one topic titled “Today’s Happy New Year!” Will be on the net and it will be a hot topic. The effect reached to the shop front, and it became out of stock at most bookstores. After that, I will repeat reprints, but they are sold out each time, and you can also see resale at around 3,000 yen on the net. On the other hand, the author Shotarou Muneota warned , “Do not let the resale go out”. In addition, it was announced that the fourth printing will be issued at the end of August.
However, even the fourth printing is instantly sold out. It seems that it arrived in the head of September in Tokyo, but when I inquired the stock on the phone, I was promptly answered at many stores “Oh, I’m sorry, sold out.
Amazon also sold out as well, and now it is in the status of “normally ship within 2 to 3 weeks.” It is influenced or it is ranked second in the best seller of Comic · Ranobet · BL next to “ONE PIECE 75″.”
What caused so much sales?
It’s all thanks to Aoba’s signature phrase, “Ganbaruzoi!” reaching meme status in Japan.
New Game!’s success carried over to its Volume 2 where it ranked on Oricon’s March 23-29 2015 manga ranking at 36k sales.
Keep in mind, this was BEFORE New Game! even had an anime announced.
Also, I want to bring attention to the fact that CGDCT anime adaptations are nothing new.
Manga Time Kirara has a long history in cranking out CGDCT anime adaptations.
See a pattern?
The problem with trying to posit that New Game!’s adaptation was entirely thanks to Shirobako is that it immediately bring up questions like…
“Then, what made Sansha Sanyou possible?”,
“How about Sakura Trick?”
Keep in mind, K-On! was a huge success.
Due to their profits from K-On!, Kirara‘s publishers can adapt pretty much anything they want to.
Given New Game!‘s manga being successful, New Game! getting a season adapted was inevitable with or without Shirobako’s existence.
When we feel disappointed by something.
We can also say we feel “lied” to.
But did New Game! explicitly lie?
Was New Game! was advertised as a weighty workplace drama, a la Shirobako?
Let’s look at the key visual and the PVs for New Game!’s anime.
Oh, they’re moe as fuck.
New Game! wasn’t a bait and switch or anything.
It made it clear that it was going to be moe silliness from the start.
Setting or Theme Can Mean Anything
If I say an anime takes place in a high school, this tells you close to nothing of what the show will be about.
Pictured here are High School DxD, Another and Clannad
They have the same setting but exist in different genres.
We run into a similar problem even when anime take place in a more specific setting.
Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume and Ping Pong The Animation both feature ping pong in different completely valid ways.
We can go deeper and have an anime take place in a video game studio but the same concept still applies.
There’s still many possible roads a video game studio anime can go down, such as…
- A cynical comedy about a video game studio failing at making video games
- An in-depth look into how games are made
- A laid-back sitcom about game devs
Looking at New Game! and Shirobako, they ARE about creatives grinding away at a studio.
and you’d have to rewrite a majority of their plot if they took place at something simple like a high school club.
They just handle their settings and subject matters differently.
Now, I can totally understand picking up an anime because the setting or theme sounds intriguing but expectations don’t define what it will actually be about.
I could look at Working!! which takes place at family restaurant and say….
“Man, this show really wasted its potential, they should have made the nitty gritty restaurant drama I always wanted instead of this comedy crap. 1/10”
But saying that isn’t actual criticism.
Working!! never had to or ever needed to provide me that.
Now, it’s fine to say you’re disappointed you didn’t get what you wanted.
But what needs to be stressed here is the difference between a problem with the show and a problem with your expectations.
Although a bit tangential to my point, I thought this question-answer response from JekoJeko on his CuriousCat was insightful.
Shows Don’t Write Their Own Premises
The synopses you can find on MyAnimeList or Crunchyroll are usually written by people completely unconnected to the show’s production.
The synopsis on MAL doesn’t even mention the anime’s focus on moe…
Communicating with others always carries the danger of key information being omitted when anime are recommended to each other.
The synopsis on the English copy of the manga gives us a whole honest picture here.
I’m not advocating for being 100% untrustworthy of what you read online,
But, keep in mind that user submitted synopses may not be a complete representation of the show.
A staple of anime discussion is our tendency to talk about the creators of a show in a roundabout or nebulous way.
This begs the question, who is THEY?
Shirobako was the project of a seasoned and talented studio.
Given P.A. Works’ track record with their previous original Girls Coming of Age shows, Shirobako was not at all a surprise success,
With the bigger freedom an original script provides, they poured their soul into the show.
With industry veterans cameoing or literally self inserting themselves into the show.
Now, let’s see who’s behind New Game!
Oh right, New Game! is an adaptation so it’s pretty much one guy…
Now, I’m mostly the kind of person that focuses on the end product instead of the effort put in but man the production difference here is huge.
New Game! performing on the same level as Shirobako is straight up impossible.
Shirobako‘s primary objective can be summed up in two parts.
1. Tell a compelling story about 5 cute girls trying their hardest to accomplish their dreams in the anime industry.
2. Teach viewers about the amount of effort and step by step processes that go behind anime production.
Q: Allow me to ask you about the anime. Where do you think SHIROBAKO’s appeal lies?
A: There are many things worth highlighting, one of them being that it shows the reality of the anime production workplace. There are a lot of people involved in the making of an anime. The main cast may consist of us 5 girls, but it’s wonderful how the show painstakingly shows that the creation of an anime comes as the result of the efforts of a large number of people. After all, anime isn’t meant to be something that relies on the efforts of a single individual.
Also, it’s interesting to observe how the 5 main girls get involved with anime in various ways. They’re all working in different areas so they each have their own set of worries and conflicts; even the satisfaction they get from their jobs differs. The more you watch, the more your knowledge of the varying sections of anime production expands. If you’re at all interested in the anime production process, this is a work that you should seek out.
New Game!’s Intent
A common sentiment expressed towards New Game! is that the show didn’t really go all that in-depth into game design compared to what Shirobako did with anime production.
By all means, I’d recommend reading Gamasutra articles if you want to learn how to design a game than watching New Game!
But was New Game! even intended to be educational in the same way Shirobako is?
After some thought and research, the conclusion I came to was…
New Game! was simply NEVER meant to be in-depth behind-the-scenes look into the game industry.
Again, we can’t assume New Game! has the same intentions as Shirobako.
Just because an anime features an activity does not mean said anime should be seen as a deep examination of said activity nor should it be seen as social commentary on said activity.
Manga Time Kirara is dominantly a CGDCT magazine and NOT an educational one.
New Game! handles game development in the same way its contemporary. Yuru Camp, handles camping.
Yuru Camp gives you a fundamental idea of how camping is like and can very much inspire you to go camping but it shouldn’t be watched like it’s a lesson on how to camp.
Likewise with New Game!, it definitely gives you insight into the life of being a game developer and can be motivating for those interested in the industry but it shouldn’t be watched like it’s a comprehensive tutorial for Maya or C++.
The same thing applies to all other Kirara manga.
- Blend S doesn’t teach you how to run your maid cafe.
- Comic Girls doesn’t teach you how to publish your own manga.
- K-On! doesn’t teach you how to play music.
- Hidamari Sketch doesn’t teach you how to draw.
Furthermore, New Game!’s existence was pretty much a fluke.
“Contents up to the third episode were posted as middle-aged guest work, and it was decided whether to make long-term serialization by seeing the response of the questionnaire from the reader
The author’s ability is somewhat concerned as to whether or not the second volume and beyond can be sold, because Volume 1 of the book is sold with irregular topics, but Volume 2 has more copies prepared Despite doing it, it was said that the heavy press took place the next day after the release”
New Game! getting past three chapters was completely dependent on Kirara readers liking it enough to want it to continue.
Given their propensity to be cancelled, a CGDCT manga is not something you’d create if you wanted to deeply educate others on an industry.
If New Game! wasn’t trying to be as educational like Shirobako…
Then, what was New Game! trying to be in the first place?
From what I can piece together from interviews of New Game!‘s author (ran through Google Translate) and reading viewer comments on Reddit.
New Game! was born from the author wanting to convey the passion he has as an artist through an upbeat CGDCT workplace comedy.
──Were there games and other games that triggered the decision to get a job to a game company?
Mr. Kotoba: Since I joined a company that also made games I liked as Aoba like this, please let me lie down here (laugh). Just at that time, I thought that I liked the graphic taste and I felt that I joined the company because the reason was that I liked the picture rather than love the game. If anything, the person after joining got a lot of games.
─ ─ “It makes me want to become like it” is certainly an important point of view. So what is the point you are careful about when Mr. Genson is drawing the whole “NEW GAME!”?
Mr. Goten: Although it is a social worker, I always try not to let the reader remind me of that real painful thing. It was a theme and a target layer that the reader who returned home from the company had supposedly bought a magazine every month, a comfortable breath to relax.
──We think that some readers are aiming to create games and manga artists. Of course it is necessary to have a technical aspect, but is there real skills such as “Would you like to have this in reality” that you realized by actually standing at the scene?
Mr. Goten: I think that interpersonal skill (communication skill) is the most important thing. This is also the theme of “NEW GAME!”, And it is based on the assumption that work is also fun just because the relationship is good. Of course, consideration from seniors and bosses is also very important, I believe that it is the relationship established for the first time as we approach our newcomer boss. Even if only one side is compromised, it is only hard.
New Game!’s whole appeal lies in enjoying the adorable, awkward and sometimes difficult workplace moments in the show but not being burnt out like in an actual exhausting job.
The reasons why New Game! can’t be considered video game Shirobako can be summed up like this.
- Wasn’t made to be Shirobako‘s sequel
- Would have gotten an anime even if Shirobako didn’t exist
- It isn’t an ultra behind-the-scenes look into the game industry
- Doesn’t take itself as seriously as Shirobako
- Is published in a CGDCT magazine.
- Authored by just one guy
So, if New Game! was never meant to be video game Shirobako.
Then, that would mean that critiquing New Game! based off of Shirobako standards would be unfair.
Don’t take any of this blog post as an argument for why New Game! is an objectively great show.
I have problems with New Game!’s writing quality myself
Nor, am I trying to say that personal opinions shouldn’t be expressed.
Liking Shirobako and disliking New Game! is 100% okay
I want a video game Shirobako too.
But criticism requires judging the show based off what it’s going for.
And being able to parse flaws born out of intent and execution.
So, saying stuff like “New Game! is bad because it isn’t Shirobako” says more about your taste instead of an actual issue with the show.
Personally, from judging them based off their merits…
Shirobako: An anime documentary that happens to have cute girls
New Game!: Cute girls making cute video games cutely
I think Musani’s and Eagle Jump’s journeys were stories worth telling and I want more from both.
Is New Game! Disrespectful?
Being personally bothered by New Game! idealized and rose-tinted depiction of working is perfectly understandable.
But let’s shoot down the idea that New Game! is somehow disrespectful to creative industries.
1. Overworking is normal
Overworking is an accepted and inevitable aspect of work culture in Japan.
As how unfortunate it is, it’s not considered a big deal over there.
2. New Game! is not intended to be an exposé of the game industry
Absolutely none of the show is advertised as social commentary or propaganda on Japan’s work culture.
3. New Game! exists because the author feels appreciative of his past experience as a game developer.
Proof: this video.
4. Staff response was positive
The people behind New Game!’s anime adaptation responded overwhelmingly positively to working on it.
Here’s a list of responses.
Shotaro Tokuno (Author of New Game!)
Ryouhei Takeshita (Assistant Director of New Game!)
Ando (A member of FlightUNIT which is a 3D modeling studio. They happened to do the 3DCG for New Game!)
Yasuhiro Kimura (Animator)
Hiiragi Sugita (Animator)
Yuki Watanabe (Animator)
Hiromi Nakagawa (Animator)
Here’s a reminder that just because you feel a certain way, it doesn’t mean other people will too.
Shirobako isn’t CGDCT
Shirobako can be seen as some sort of a Cute Girl show but not as a strictly Cute Girls Doing Cute Things one
- Doing cute things doesn’t have a large focus
- The aesthetic isn’t that moe
- Too much drama
- Large male presence
Originality doesn’t exist
Every idea (99% of the time) has already been tried before somewhere.
Every story is just a reconfiguration of a previous narrative.
Even though a manga about ‘Cute girl(s) working at a studio’ may sound like the most unique concept ever to you…
Exhibit A: Honoka Lv. Up! (2005)
“As a lonely girl who draws for fun, Honoka was just a regular student until the day her uncle, Ryuichi, hired her to work as a character designer at his newly created game company. Now thrust into a complex, corporate world, newcomer Honoka begins to learn the ins and outs of the video game industry: the politics involved, each person’s responsibilities, and how a game is put together.
It’s a lot to take in, but one thing’s for sure—she’s going to step up her game if she wants to succeed, as putting together a video game is no easy task!
A realistic story about what it’s like to work for a video game company. Learn about the gaming industry through Honoka’s eyes.”
This one is remarkably similar to New Game!
- MC got hired out of high school too (plus she got her job through nepotism so this manga would have been doubly controversial if it got an adaptation)
- Laid back
- A bunch of cute girls (but there are actual male characters this time)
- Doesn’t teach you how to make games
Exhibit B: R18! (2007)
“Recently graduated Suzumura Rikako was still jobless when her older sister insisted that she apply to the company that she was working for. It sounds really great except for the part where that company is an erotic game developer. Rikako has yet to embrace her sexuality and add to that her shy personality and you have a recipe for disaster. But with all the employees, from the designers to programmers to advertising, being cute females, maybe Rikako won’t have such a hard time making this her career, or maybe it just might make it even more awkward. “
This goes to show that even though a game studio setting may sound like the most serious thing ever, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be.
Neither of these manga are popular so I doubt New Game! took any inspiration from them, this is just an interesting observation.