Monday Anime: Gamers!

Gamers 2

I’m a pretty easy going guy.

Mind you, that’s my opinion, and there’s plenty of people out there who would quickly disagree. Most of them are my co-workers, who think I’m far too serious and stuck up. Others who think me to be some kind of prude, or snob, that has never had a dirty thought, or made a joke in my entire life.

I spent twenty three years living with a woman who wrote porn for fun. Hell, one of my first publishing credits was in a porn magazine. So, yeah, I’m not exactly what people think I am. Honestly, I’m not even sure where they get these impressions.

The point I’m making here is that I have spent much of my life being misunderstood. I think it’s fair to say many people, if not most people, deal with the same thing. I doubt I’m any kind of special in that regard. Still, it remains that people seem to misunderstand me in a very specific manner.

They take me far too seriously, when I’m not a very serious person.

I’ve been running this blog for over three years now, and I really feel as if you guys, my most frequent visitors, know and understand me better than people who know me in real life. I’m not sure what that says about me, to be honest, but it’s how I feel about it.

Granted, I don’t have a lot of contact with people these days. I tend to keep to myself. Mostly, it’s just the people I work with that I deal with on a regular basis, the same ones who think I’m an overbearing supervisor, a snob, a stuck up prude, and a humorless bore.

Can’t imagine why I tend to avoid people.

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Yup. That’s about right.

It’s not like I don’t try to joke around with people, either. It’s that they miss that I’m making a joke, take me seriously, and get insulted, or confused. Sometimes, just straight up frustrated with me, as they feel I’m criticizing them, when I’m not. Perhaps it’s my rather cynical manner, or overuse of sarcasm. I’m not sure.

So, I’ve gotten use to being misunderstood, and don’t really try to make any sort of connection with others now. I keep to myself, do my thing, and let that distance that exists between me and the rest of he world be what it is. Because if there’s one thing I’ve found to be constantly true, at least in my life, it’s that any attempt I make to clear up that misunderstanding, only makes it worse.

I’m sure I could make some kind of a sarcastic comment about that, but I’ll refrain.

It’d probably just piss somebody off, anyway.

Because of these constant experiences in my life, I tend to get a little more out of the cliched misunderstandings comedies than most people. Simple misunderstandings spiraling out into absurd situations is something I can relate to, after all, as it actually happens to me every day.

No, seriously. I almost had to fire one of my staff a few days ago because he misunderstood something I said, got mad, and almost decked me. I was eventually able to calm him down enough to listen, but I had to have help, because once he misunderstood me, everything I said started getting taken wrong.

So, yeah, that sort of thing does really happen, if you are cursed in just the right way.

Me, for example, or the entire cast of today’s featured anime, who are not just cursed to misunderstand everything, but also burdened with an abundance of stupidity.

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Social encounters are good XP!

Gamers! is a 12 episode, 2017 series from studio Pine Jam, a fairly new mover and shaker in the anime world, having only been around since 2015. Their first offering, I’ve Had Enough of Being a Magical Girl, was also a comedy, poking fun at the magical girl genre, while their third was, apparently, a romantic drama. So, at least they’ve narrowed in on what they wanna be known for, I guess.

The series is an adaptation of a light novel of the same name, written by Sekina Aoi, and illustrated by Saboten. That has been running since 2015, and is apparently still going, though honestly, I’m not sure how, as the scenario they put forth seems rather limited.

The story follows Keita Amano, a second year high school student with no social life at all. He’s an avid gamer, but not a serious one, and prefers to spend his time playing games, rather than interacting with people. He’s a nice enough guy, mind you, and it isn’t that he’s socially awkward or anything, as he can have a perfectly normal conversation should the need arise. He just prefers to be gaming.

His cozy and uneventful life is shaken apart one day when, while buying a new game, the idol of his school, Karen Tendo, walks up to him, and starts a conversation. Karen is well known for not just being the most beautiful girl in the school, but also a star athlete, and a top academic student. Naturally, Keita reacts to this goddess talking to him the way all ordinary, plain boys do, and makes a total ass of himself.

He’s aware he’s making an ass of himself, too, but can’t seem to stop, which makes it hysterically funny.

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Very aware.

Turns out, Karen is actually a competitive gamer herself, though few people in the school are aware of this. She’s approached Keita in the hopes of recruiting him to the Gaming Club, an after school activity where competitive gamers actively compete for real world cash prizes. At first, this sounds like a dream come true for Keita, as he’s not only be getting to do the thing he loves, but he’d be getting to do it with the hottest girl in school.

Then he finds out just how competitive this club really is. They have top of the line gaming systems and computers, and all the hottest software, which they have bought and paid for through winning competitions as club activities. These guys take competitive to a whole new level. A level Keita simply doesn’t exist at.

Which is why, despite everything, he politely refuses Karen. This seems to break her a little.

Now, despite everything she has going for her, Karen is not some stuck up snob. She’s genuinely a really nice person, who just happens to be gifted in many areas. However, because of all that, she’s not actually accustomed to people telling her no. She even brags about King Koopa in Super Mario Brothers being polite to her.

And Keita just told her no. This causes her to develop a crush on him, as he is apparently immune to her charms. Like any highly successful, well adjusted, motivated, and normal person, she starts straight up stalking him, fantasizing about him, obsessing over him, and her entire life kind of goes right down the toilet from there.

Meanwhile, Keita just kind of goes along, doing his own thing, hoping they can at least be friends, as he is blissfully unaware she has a thing for him now.

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Subtle shojo bubble power activated.

Enter Tasuku Uehara, a reformed otaku. A few years back, he was a gaming freak, and a total nerd. He made some major lifestyle changes, however, and is now one of the cool kids, and even has a hot, if somewhat ditzy girlfriend, by the name of Aguri. Tasuku is in the same class as Keita, and saw his refusal of Karen, as well as her meltdown, as if she’d just gotten dumped by her boyfriend.

So, when he runs into Keita at a local arcade, he decides to get to know the guy better, and despite them having a bit of a clash at first, the two develop a friendship based on Keita having met a friend he can game with, and Tasuku figuring out the score with Karen, and deciding to gently nudge Keita into a romantic comedy life, just for the fun of it.

Tasuku may be a bit of a dick.

Actually, he is a dick, as he decides a romantic comedy isn’t enough, and tries to turn the whole thing into a harem comedy, by getting Keita to talk to another loner gamer, the rather off putting Chiaki Hoshinomori. At first, this goes well, as the two are unaware they are already friends in an online game they both play. They quickly bond over their similar interests and world views, which Tasukuk finds adorable, even as Karen continues to turn into a slobbering idiot over Keita apparently having an interest in a girl other than her.

Then, it all goes wrong, as Keita and Chiaki discover they have a very different opinion of moe. This leads them to hating each other, so to preserve his fun, Tasuku tries to intervene, which leads to Chiaki thinking he’s hitting on her, while Aguri also thinks the same. Keita picks up on Aguri being upset, and tries to mediate, but this leads to everyone suspecting Keita is actually a player and a heart breaker, and that Aguri is cheating on Tasuku.

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Find your happy place.

Tasuku tries to clean this up by making a few pointed suggestions about Keita and Karen, but makes things worse when everyone starts thinking Aguri is just cheating because he already cheated with Karen, who had her meltdown in front of half the school, because she was secretly dating Keita, who is cheating with Aguri.

So, basically, Tasuku gets his wish, but not in the way he wanted, as he’s now part of the harem romantic comedy as well.

All of this ends up leading to Keita and Karen actually dating for real by complete accident, and the entire thing is just one series of blunders after another, leading to everyone, somehow, being happy, somewhat. Chiaki kinda gets left out in the cold, as by the time she realizes she actually likes Keita, it’s already too late.

Yeah, there’s a little bit of drama, but not much, as this is primarily a comedy.

For the most part, it works as a comedy, too. The show is really funny for about the first half, though the central mechanism the show runs on, the constant misunderstandings, start getting kind of stale in the second half. Up until then, though, it really is hysterically funny as you watch these people fall all over themselves in their rush to reach the wrong conclusion about everything.

What works all the way through, however, is the exploration of how gamer culture is not homogenous. Everyone games for their own reasons, and every reason is treated as if it is a legit reason to be invested in gaming. There’s no right way to game presented, and no true gamer set forth. Gaming is a thing people do for their own reasons, and nobody’s reason is more legitimate than anyone else’s.

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No… true… gamer? Brain… shutting… down…

Keita just enjoys playing games. Sure, winning is fun, and like anyone, he wants to win when he plays, but winning is not his primary goal. Having fun is. So, while many might consider him a filthy casual, I kind of feel like he’s got the most sensible approach to it all. Cause, if you aren’t having fun, then why are you doing it?

Granted, everyone’s idea of fun is different. For example, the other members of the Gaming Club. There’s Gakuto Kase, who is an avid player of first person shooters, and is ranked internationally among the best in many of them. He takes winning very seriously, but to him, this is fun. In part because his father is a mercenary, and trained Kase to be one as well every since he was a child, but it’s still fun for him.

Then there’s Nina Oiso, who gets so into fighting games she zones out, and becomes unaware of others even being present. She’s having fun, yes, but she’s also trying to bring her best friend back from being a member of a violent gang by being able to beat them in a fighting game challenge.

Actually, ya know what, those guys are terrible examples. As is Eiichi Misumi, who is a puzzle game master, but only because his first memory is sitting naked in an arcade game playing a puzzle game. He has only distant flashes of memory that involve being experimented on, and hopes to use puzzle gaming to recover his memories, so he can know who he truly was. So, sure, that’s fun.

I think it’s fair to point out now that these characters are not normal, and are intended to be cliches. That’s part of the joke.

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The joke which is mostly on Keita.

Back with the main cast, Keita just wants to have fun. Karen kind of takes gaming seriously, but then again, she takes everything seriously, and everything she does, she tries to excel at, because that’s just who she is. She’s still a really nice person, and it isn’t the competition she’s after, so much as it is the chance to excel. She likes winning, and after Keita handed her the first defeat she’s ever known, she kind of falls apart.

It’s funny to watch, because it’s always funny to watch people who have their shit together lose their shit. Sure, that’s petty as hell, but what the fuck do I care? I’ve never had my shit together, and look at how far I’ve come.

Yeah, okay, fine, sarcasm. I know.

Besides the running gags and often slapstick humor, the show does a few other things I found to be rather endearing. The first of which was how it incorporated gaming, and gaming culture, into the very animation itself. Health bars pop up, as do damage indicators during points when people are feeling insulted. Things get referred to by terms like boss fights, and so on. There’s a lot of elements that are put in place that reflect gaming culture in loving ways.

Cause, this show really is very loving towards gaming culture, even as it pokes fun at it a bit. The characters aren’t presented as weirdos for being into gaming, so much as they just have a different viewpoint, and different hobbies than other people. Hell, Chiaki is a known developer of freeware games, who is making strides towards becoming a successful game developer as an adult. Cause gaming can become a lucrative career for some people.

The second thing the show does is a very tiny detail, but it jumped out at me, and I can’t ignore it. It makes a point of acknowledging that the crazy hair colors we frequently see in anime, are total bullshit.

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If I’m a lie, does that make me cake?

Sure, Karen is blonde, but by her first name, we can assume she’s not entirely Japanese by birth. In fact, the show strongly suggests one of her parents is American. So, she comes by her looks naturally. Aguri, on the other hand, with her crazy pink hair, is shown in a flashback having perfectly normal black hair. So, she dyes is.

Anime characters with crazy hair colors dye their hair, guys This show admitted it. It quietly called bullshit on anime culture. That’s kind of a big thing.

Well, okay, I thought it was a big thing, but only because they do it very subtly, very quietly, and then never comment on it. They just show it, and then, move on, allowing the terrible truth to sink in to the viewers mind. Every anime character with a funny hair color we have ever met, probably dyes their hair that way on purpose.

My view of the anime world has been shaken to it’s very core.

Now, like I said before, many of the gags work for the first half or so the show, but after a bit, they do start wearing somewhat thin. By the later part of the second half, even being complete idiots does not excuse the misunderstandings, and general absurdity of the plot. Nor does introducing a new character to keep the pot stirred up after Tasuku backs off his manipulations, having gotten his hand bit because of it.

It just kind of makes the second half drag somewhat, as we keep circling the same jokes, which were funny enough in the first half, but start getting kind of tired the more they go on. That kind of sucks, but the show does sort of make up for it in the final episode, by having the most ecchi conversation ever, while subtly criticizing the viewer for watching the most ecchi conversation ever.

It was actually both insulting, and deeply clever, at the same time. It was weird. I feel enlightened, but in a really dirty way. Like learning that Jesus was a crack baby.

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The fuck?

Basically, the show is funny to a certain point, then it starts getting kind of dumb, before concluding on a weird high note, that actually refers thematically back to the games that Chiaki develops in a super meta contextual way. It’s very bizarre.

As far as the animation is concerned, it’s pretty good. The character designs are all very solid, and everything moves very well. Characters do something I don’t see enough of in anime, and that is wear different outfits when they aren’t in their school uniform.

You know what I mean. Characters in a lot of shows seem to only have two changes of clothes, and that’s all you ever see them wear. Here, the characters change up their outfits a lot, and that was a nice bit of attention to detail, and took some extra work on the animators parts, but was very welcome.

The backdrops are nice, if somewhat generic, but the show makes up for this by being brilliant with character facial expression. While the usual anime emoticons are present, such as the giant cross for anger, and the giant teardrop for annoyed, we also see a lot of classic Western style influences at work, especially in how the eyes are animated, or in various goofy facial features. It was actually one of the funnier aspects of the show, watching all the ways they could come up with draw a character.

The series was directed by Manabu Okamoto, and it is their first time directing a series. He, or she for all I know as I could find little on them, has done episode direction for shows like Akme ga Kill, Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls, and Re: Zero before, as well as a lot of storyboarding, unit direction, and even episode writing, but this is their first time directing a series.

Overall, I gotta say, I hope to see more from Okamoto. While a lot of the gags get kind of stale in the latter half of the show, the overall quality and pacing of the show is rather excellent. How scenes are framed, characters are presented, and the whole shebang is really solid. It’s a very good first outing as a director, and shows a very solid grasp of how to make an anime, even one that is more or less just good, rather than great, still work well, and be very watchable.

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Go, you!

The writing was handled by Hiroki Uchida, who besides this, has done series composition work for shows like Merc Storia, and Schwarzes Marken, which he was also the creator of the scenario for. Other than that, he did a ton of 3D and regular CG work for Felix Films.

This surprises me, as he’s actually a very solid writer. While, yes, I admit, the jokes get somewhat stale by the second half, overall, the writing is surprisingly solid, and the characterization very consistent. I’m kind of curious about the other stuff he’s worked on now, as neither of them are shows I’ve even heard of, much less seen. If his dialogue is as well written there as it is here, they may be worth checking out.

The music was handled by Yoshiaki Dewa, who has also composed for series like Amnesia, Flying Witch, A Lull in the Sea, and Kino’s Jounrey: The Beautiful World. He’s also done a bunch of OP and ED arrangements on shows like Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy, Fate/stay Night, and Buso Renkin.

The music here is built around the gaming concept, much as everythign else is, and while normally, I’d not care for that, Dewa is very smart in making sure it matches up to the fact that this is a comedy. There’s a lot of old JRPG style riffs in the music, which is actually pretty clever, and funny, and while there’s no single piece that really jumps out at you, it does complement whatever is happening on the screen at any given moment very nicely. So, it’s good and works well for the show.

The OP, on the other hand, is a work of god damn genius. It doesn’t just lean into the gaming aspect of the show, it revels in it. The song is Gamers!, duh, and is sung by the three lead voice actresses in the show. It quickly became a favorite OP for me, and rather than try to describe it, I’m just gonna share it below. It’s great.

The ED, while it doesn’t feature the fun visuals of the OP, has a great song, titled Fight On, and performed by Luce Twinkle Wink. The harmonizing on this is as close to perfect as human beings can get, I think, and is just a really good piece of music. I would happily add it to my music collection, because it sounds so wonderful.

Overall, this is a show that starts out high, dips into kind of okay, and ends on a really strange note that is both self referential, meta contextual, social commentary, and a bit of a critique on all of us, in a very uncomfortable way. So, the sort of thing I like, which probably skews my opinion of this show a bit.

It’s funny, when it’s funny. It just can’t keep the humor going all the way through. Still, I admit, I enjoyed it a lot, and found myself laughing a lot more than I didn’t, so for that, I give it a pass.

Like anything else, humor is subjective, so it may not work for you, the way it did for me, and that’s good. It’s be a drag if we all had the exact same taste, which is more or less the point the show itself is trying to make. Still, for it’s very affectionate ribbing of gaming culture, it’s ability to grasp how misunderstanding someone can really make their life absurdly complicated, and it’s generally great grasp of characterization, unique animation, and that damn good OP, I’d say give it a go, at least once.

The worst thing that can happen is you’ll identify with one of these idiots, like I ended up doing.

That part was awkward.

Meh. My life is mostly made of awkward, so it’s all good.

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No, you may not object to that.
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6 thoughts on “Monday Anime: Gamers!

  1. This was a comedy I actually got into and found the first couple of episodes really fun. As you mentioned in your review though, it gets a little tired and stale toward the end, but given I finished it and still kind of liked it, for a comedy anime that’s actually pretty rare. Gamers was a fun ride for the most part. It relies way too much on misunderstandings and coincidence to keep the plot moving, but they just go with it and the sheer absurdity of the situations and the characters usually managed to get a laugh. The final episode though was just weird no matter how I look at it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup. Even when things got kinda repetitive, I was already invested enough in the characters to still go with it. That’s not a bad thing, really. Good characters can make anything better.

      Though, I admit, I’m still trying to figure out what the hell was with that last episode. It was way beyond strange.

      Like

        1. I’ll give that it does make that commentary. Yet, it does a lot of other really weird things, too.

          It gets self referential, by having the final episode be a complete left turn into something totally different than how the show started, much the way Chiaka’s games were. This seemed entirely too deliberate to be coincidence.

          The part of the conversation in the bath also felt very double edged, combined with the rather risque visuals, something the show had not done up to that point, making it very out of left field. Combined with what they were discussing, it seemed rather meta contextual, though I can’t be sure of that.

          It really was just so damn strange. I honestly have no idea what to make of it. It was either insanely clever, or really poorly thought out.

          Liked by 1 person

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