Less than five minutes after the first episode of GAMERS! started, I had a broad grin on my face.
This, it was abundantly clear, was a show put together by people who understood gaming. People who understood why people play, why they feel so passionate about their hobby — and even why, at times, you just want to enjoy it by yourself without sharing it with others.
After the two episodes that have already aired at the time of writing, the show is already a delight, and looks like being a distinctly “feel-good” summer hit.
The protagonist of GAMERS! is one Keita Amano, a somewhat immature high schooler who is a passionate gamer but also someone who has, up until the time at which we join him, been quite happy being a loner.
Keita’s social interactions at the start of the show primarily consist of offering support to a fellow player of a distinctly Granblue Fantasy-esque mobile game, so he is very surprised to find himself face-to-face with Karen Tendo, believed by most people to be the “prettiest girl in school”, and moreover to find her requesting that he join her in the school’s Game Club.
Being rather socially inept, Keita immediately interprets Karen’s interest in him as her having romantic feelings towards him, though his hopes are seemingly crushed when he discovers he is not the only one who had been invited to pay the Game Club a visit. He presses on, however, and discovers an active if low-key club where everyone seems to have found a niche for themselves, and where the members have been pushing themselves to achieve great things in competitions giving their activities a sense of “legitimacy” in a society that may otherwise look down on games as being a waste of time.
Unconvinced that the Game Club’s members are playing for the same reasons he is, Keita refuses Karen’s invitation to join, saying that he prefers to simply play for fun rather than for competition or to prove anything. He immediately regrets his decision, but feels at this point he is unable to go back on his word, so walks away feeling rather guilty and dejected, feeling he has missed the opportunity to share his passion with others.
Parallel to Keita’s story is that of Tasuku, a classmate of Keita who was once a massive nerd back in middle school, but made a specific effort to become cool for his high school career. Presented as a stereotypical deep-voiced, mature-looking character, Tasuku is conflicted inside when he comes across Keita and starts to feel some old, familiar passions that he thought he had completely repressed starting to rise up to the surface.
Keita, meanwhile, finds himself similarly confused about the way he feels; even though he rejected Karen’s invitation on the grounds that he only wanted to play games by himself in order to enjoy them on his own terms, he finds himself experiencing a whole new world of enjoyment by playing multiplayer arcade machines with Tasuku.
Tasuku is also surprised to discover that his pink-haired girlfriend, whom he has been going out with for some time but still clearly hasn’t quite figured out his own feelings towards, was in love with him even during his nerdy phase back in middle school. This naturally throws Tasuku’s internal world into turmoil, as he starts to question whether or not he has done the right thing by denying his “true” self and constructing his new, cool, well-liked persona.
The nice thing about GAMERS! is that the things the characters struggle with, at least in these first two episodes, are things that are eminently relatable to those who have a passionate interest in anything, particularly if that pursuit is something of the nerdy variety.
Tasuku’s internal conflict over whether he should just let go, embrace his passions and enjoy himself as he did in middle school is reminiscent of the choices many of us make over the course of our lives as we attempt to decide and discover which particular subcultures we feel accept us most readily, and the question as to whether or not we should “change” in order to attain the approval of our peers is a common one.
Likewise, Keita’s confused feelings over whether or not he wants to keep his hobby to himself or share it with others will doubtless be familiar to many of you reading this, particularly if you’ve ever been engrossed in a single-player game and received a message from a friend asking if you want to play a multiplayer session of something. On the one hand, it’s an opportunity to spend some time doing something you enjoy with a real person and develop your friendship in the process; on the other, wow, this last hour of game was really friggin’ great and you don’t want to stop now!
Besides the eminently relatable conflicts at the core of the core cast, GAMERS! demonstrates itself to have a pleasing knowledge of real-world gaming by featuring footage, posters and packaging from real games rather than the lookalikes and soundalikes we typically see in other anime. In the first episode, for example, we see a character playing Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator, while in the second, Keita and Tasuku bond over playing Persona 4 Arena Ultimax in the arcades.
Likewise, Keita’s bedroom is depicted with BlazBlue posters on the walls, and the background art for the Game Club’s room features numerous big-box PC releases including Fallout, Civilization and even Western budget re-releases of games on the replay label.
It’s easy enough to incorporate visual references with a bit of rudimentary research, of course, but what made GAMERS! such a delight for me is the combination of all the factors described above. The clear knowledge of and appreciation for gaming culture; the acknowledgement of the internal conflicts many gamers struggle with; the relatable characters; the real games.
Plus, of course, it doesn’t hurt that leading lady Karen is super-pretty, either.
GAMERS! is simulcast on Thursdays at 4:30pm BST on Crunchyroll.
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