The second episode of New Game!! is a significant improvement from the first one. Gone is the abundance of fan service which plagued episode one, in its place a commentary on the creative process.
This episode titled “This Is Just Turning Into Cos-purr-lay!” focuses strongly on feelings of inadequacy. Aoba enters the character design competition fully expecting Kō to win, yet her design she didn’t think was any good piques Shizuku’s interest. Kō’s handling of rejection as she faces the reality a newcomer has upstaged her despite being an industry veteran creates a strong moment in this show, demonstrating that being the best means that there will always be someone looking to take your place.
Aoba faces a similar issue. She doubts that she has the talent to compete against her idol, and while her designs are appealing enough, they need further refinement to be usable. Parallel to Kō’s struggle, Aoba’s story portrays a life lesson that many creative people learn early on: you never feel that you’re good enough, even if you’re the best in your field.
Episode two also addresses the subject of inspiration, which is something every artist must consider. While Kō can draw up several fantastic character designs quickly, they’re deemed too similar to her previous work on the Fairies series. Aoba, on the other hand, draws inspiration from her surroundings, and even though her characters are not perfect, they form a solid basis for further improvements. In many ways, this episode is about pushing your boundaries and working outside one’s comfort zone.
Even Nene finds herself willing to try her hand at the competition. Although she doesn’t have much experience, she doesn’t want to be the only staff member with nothing to submit, and in some ways, this echoes both Kō’s and Aoba’s initial character arcs. The audience has already seen how passionate she can be, and it may turn out that she has a hidden talent for this kind of work.
Ultimately, this episode resolves the central conflicts amicably. Both Kō and Aoba collaborate to finalize the character designs in time for the next competition. Their teamwork potentially opens the door for significant character development in the coming weeks, as Kō will benefit from a fresh perspective on her work, and Aoba, an experienced mentor.
Forgoing flashy visual effects, this episode centers on a contemplative insight into the feelings and motivations of its main cast. Like always, Doga Kobo animates characters beautifully. However, the designs the characters Aoba and others create are the real stars this time. Some of Aoba’s designs don’t look out of place in Monogatari and shows that there’s more to creating human/animal hybrids than putting cat ears on a person and calling it a day. The complex themes this episode address work well with the slower than average pacing. Next week’s episode would do well to build upon these rather than falling back to the “cute girls doing cute things” trap that hamstrung the first episode.
Be sure to check out New Game!! Episode 1: Off to a Good Start