Anime of the Year / A GAMERS! Review (Part 1)

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It might not come as such as a surprise now that I’ve gushed on and on about best girl Chiaki, but GAMERS! is by far my favorite anime of the year. As a self-proclaimed connoisseur (and fervent lover) of anime rom coms, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that near the top of my annual list would be a member of the genre—had there been even a good one in the given year. Of course, just being a romantic comedy isn’t enough to earn such a prestigious award here at There Goes My Kokoro. When it comes to the densely populated crowd of high-school-slice-of-life-rom-coms, there are some clear indicators that separate the remarkable from the mundane. Those things, to me, are being able to show a deep understanding and love for generic conventions, and then going on to creatively utilize that knowledge and passion through avoidance, acknowledgement, and/or indulgence, ultimately giving birth to something original.

To start with the story, GAMERS! plot is heavily driven by coincidence and character misconceptions…and yes, that is usually a telltale sign of a cliché narrative—the kind of story that makes you want to throw a brick through the monitor as you sit there and watch these characters struggle for no good reason, all their problems building up when you know that the easiest remedy to all of this nonsense is just a simple ounce of communication. If these characters just talked to each other, everything would be fine.

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GAMERS! is no exception, in the sense that good communication would resolve everything in a matter of seconds. That being said, the show gives us a myriad of reasons as to why these miscommunications happen in the first place, setups that place its characters in the perfect perspective for which we can completely understand their read of the situation. Character’s motivations and their trust in others don’t just appear and disappear in order to service the developments in the story—they’re convincingly brought up and/or beaten down with a clever buildup of instances.

Aguri doesn’t just immediately assume Tasuku is cheating on her. She catches him in multiple near-incriminating scenarios, and after he gives a generous complement to a girl who’s clearly just changed her look for him, Aguri runs out, shaken out of her fear of losing him. Amano sees this and tries to comfort her as a friend. Together they go out for tea and just as Amano reassures her that she has nothing to worry about, bam! Aguri spots Tasuku across the street, hanging over the shoulder of Chiaki.

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We know from having the perspective of the entire cast that what appears to be happening isn’t the case, yet it doesn’t come off as a cheap ploy for developing drama. It becomes funny in the scheme of the entire show, because the show is just a finely-crafted, tangled-mess of teenage relationships built off of charmingly anxious characters, reinforced by absurd coincidences, and navigated with a strong knowledge of the generic traps that lay ahead. GAMERS! knows what it’s doing, and so the narrative setup of which I had described earlier ends up feeling extremely captivating and refreshing, despite admittedly sounding a bit hackneyed when I finally read it aloud to myself.

What really makes this all work, however, is how often GAMERS! is willing to change. Prolonging the drama is the biggest pitfall these types of shows have, as they easily become stale after keeping any sort of relationship progress on hold for entire seasons. Waiting until the last episode of a 12 to 13 run for anything important to actually happen isn’t very enjoyable, and people don’t like the will-they-won’t-they bullshit when it starts to feel like it’s at the end of Bowser’s infinite staircase from Super Mario 64.

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The plot feels like it’s always changing in GAMERS!. Feelings and relationships don’t stay the same for the entire season, nor even half of it. The way characters think, and how their misconceptions about each other resolve, come quickly and organically. We’re given the convincing contemplations that go on in the minds of all these characters, and so we can come to appreciate their perspective when paired with the limited information we know they have—though what makes us appreciate it even more, is that their temporary mindsets never overstay their welcome.

To be continued…

Sorry about the shitty “Part 1” shenanigans I’m pulling right now. I swear I’m not trying to make more “content” by delivering a post in multiple, unnecessary pieces. It wouldn’t even matter if that was my intention because I don’t get paid for any of this. No, what happened simply was that I started writing this feature too late in the day, and then a few hours later I realized I wrote this entire first part off the top of my head without even touching the first of my 12 pages of notes. So I’m going to finish off Feature Week 2018 here, get some rest, then come back tomorrow and finish this review. Of course, before I do any of that, I must express my gratitude to all of you that have been sticking with me and my blog for this last week, and last year. It is truly heartwarming to know people still care about what I write after that obnoxiously long break I went on. I appreciate all of you for giving There Goes My Kokoro the time of day, let alone seven, and hope great things await you in this new year. Thanks for reading.

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