Gamers! was an anime that I was honestly excited to watch when it first started airing this past season. The first couple episodes were funny and the characters were people I could relate to as someone who avidly follows videogame culture. Then the episodes started to get more and more into relationship drama and I finally had to take a break at episode seven. It strange to think that as someone who loves romance, has built this blog around romance, that I would find relationship drama in this show grating and way too awkward to watch, but I did. However, I came back to the show a few days ago to write this review and found myself oddly enjoying it for the most part. There were still moments that annoyed me, but that instinctual hatred of awkward comedy that I was feeling before was dulled. I’m still on the fence about whether I like the series or not, but logically I can see the good and the bad in it.
If you haven’t had a chance to catch up on the Summer 2017 season, Gamers! is a show that follows the life and troubles of five high school students whose love of videogames brings them together. Their friendship quickly becomes fraught with misunderstandings, relationship drama, and he-said-she-said moments. Originally an ongoing light novel series written by Sekina Aoi, it was picked up by Studio Pine Jam for its 12 episode run. While not one of the top-rated shows of the season, it still clocked in at 7.33 on My Anime list.
I don’t really have any complaints when it comes to the production or sound design on the series. Pine Jam did a great job with the animation and the opening of the anime has to be one of the best of the season. I won’t go into it in too much detail here, because I think there are reviewers who have done it better and I really don’t have anything to add to the discussion. But the opening deserves mention if only for the fact that is crams so many video game references in and pairs them with a catchy song that is sure to draw in the kind of fans that will find this series enjoyable. The opening theme is actually sung by the three lead female voice actors of the series, and I have to say they do a fantastic job.
My problem with this series begins as Tendou and Keita’s relationship takes off. I think it’s around here that the story starts to lose some of the elements from the beginning episodes that originally drew me in. Less and less we see the contrast between the gaming club members and Keita’s own philosophy of video games. In fact, the other members of the gaming club seem to disappear entirely after a few episodes until the final episode of the anime where they are brought back for some entirely random skit. We still get the contrast of competitive gaming versus casual through Keita and Tendou’s relationship, but it seems a huge waste to just not utilize the characters they introduced in the beginning of the series. Perhaps they come back in later volumes of the light novel, but looking at the anime separately it seems like too much of an oversight.
My enjoyment of the series started to decline more after that as the focus of the anime started to narrow further into relationship drama. I have a weird visceral reaction to awkward comedy to the point where it becomes too painful to watch, and Gamers! sparked that in me. However, this is where my love-hate feelings kick in. On the one hand, I hated the fact that their relationship resolutions were drawn out for 12 episodes purely through the use of misunderstandings and poor communication. It’s made worse by the fact that we don’t even really get a clear resolution by the end of the series either. Keita and Aguri still wind up believing that they’re being cheated on regardless of points in the series where they pretty clearly seem to realize this isn’t true. On the other hand, I realize that this is supposed to be about awkward people being bad at relationships. After all Keita seems to think that all relationship problems can be solved by using what he knows from dating sim games. Both Aguri and Tasuku changed their appearance and personality to be more likable so there is definitely a lot of self-confidence issues there too. In the end, it makes sense that we would see a breakdown of communication between them that then develops into awkward comedy. Looking at it this way then, I think it boils down to how far the director and writer take the absurdness of this comedy that can make it good combined with what you personally want or hope to get out of the series. I definitely didn’t expect the series to be packed with so much rom-com misunderstandings (which I probably should have), and that may have hurt my overall view of the series once I managed to finish it.
Looking back on the episodes that I liked the most, I think I’m starting to get a clearer picture of what I may have wished this series would be. The first episode I really loved was episode 2 where Tasuku reaffirms his love for videogames after playing with Keita at an arcade. Later he also finds out that Aguri fell in love with his nerdy side after he won her a stuffed animal in a crane game. In both events we see the influence of videogames in their daily life and future choices. Tasuku starts to move away from the group of friends he had cultivated after he changed himself to be more popular, seeing some sort of realness in Keita’s love of games even if he sucked at playing them. We see the influence of games in the forming of Aguri and Tasuku’s relationship, revealing the fact that Aguri also changed herself to match Tasuku, never letting on that she was the nerdy girl he met at an arcade in middle school. It becomes a heartwarming story of self discovery and re-affirmation of values in the face of social pressure.
This comes up again in my other favorite episode: episode 10. It’s a small part of the episode but in it we see Aguri come face-to-face with her old friends as they question her friendship with Keita — someone they consider a gross nerd. We see Aguri forced to make a choice in this moment — does she choose the friend group she tried so hard to fit in with or the friend that has been there for her through her relationship troubles? We also end up seeing this contrast between Tasuku and Keita that is fairly revealing and even somewhat frustrating. When Aguri tries calling Tasuku for emotional support after breaking off her friendship with her old friends, he doesn’t pick up and we are show that his cellphone is in his bag as he is walking with Chiaki and Tendou. In the end it is Keita who responds to her call, rushing over to see her rather than buy the new game he was looking forward to. In these moments we see two things: that Keita sees friendship as more important than videogames, something we’ve been building to the whole series, and that Tasuku is so involved in other people’s relationship drama that he starts neglecting his own girlfriend. I say this last part is frustrating to me because in episode 2 we see Tasuku’s renewed feelings of love for Aguri, and now we see that being overtaken by his meddling in relationships. It seems as though Tasuku is supposed to be the word of wisdom in the series, but that is contradicted by his inability to maintain his own relationship.
In a way though, maybe that’s also the point of the series: people are not always as they appear. Tendou is the ultimate popular girl in school but is secretly a total nerd for competitive videogaming, Tasuku looks fairly normal but is really more inept at relationships than he lets on, Keita seems nerdy but winds up being fairly good at cultivating relationships and being honest with people. Overall I think my love-hate relationship with Gamers! boils down to the overused trope of misunderstandings to fuel relationship drama (we can honestly think of something better s the basis of drama at this point right?) and the drifting of focus away from talking about videogames. My latter point was made more apparent with the release of episode twelve. Episode eleven seemed as though it was wrapping up the series, and then we get twelve with their in depth discussion on DLC in videogames. To me it seemed like an after-thought, a way of connecting back to the original point of the series by bringing it back to talking about videogames and our relationship to them. I love Keita’s philosophy of playing games and the contrast to hard-core gamers, and I would have loved to see more of that throughout the series. Instead we get 80% awkward comedy and 20% videogame discussion.
Let me know your thoughts on the series in the comments below. Be sure to also follow me on Facebook for updates and on My Anime List to see what I’m watching this season.