A few days ago, I was watching an episode of Gintama. Episode 25, that is. I started that long-runner at the beginning of this year and have been watching it on and off when I feel like it. This particular episode was one of the best I’ve seen of that show, if you know Gintama, it’s the one where the gang try to show recaps of their first season but end up getting into a war of minds over who will get to eat their sukiyaki. As well as being very funny as Gintoki and Shinpachi outmatch each other, it also seemed to be a parody of shows like Death Note where characters one-up each other’s plans with amazing and sometimes unbelieving regularity. This was just one episode of Gintama and an unusual one as far as I’ve seen, it does a ton of stuff as any long-runner does and is more often comfortable with spicing up its comedy with shonen fights rather than full direct parody episodes like this. But that genre of getting inside characters minds and them executing unexpected twists is completely par for the course with Gamers.
I do tend to like anime when a situation is slowed down and the characters talk in their heads about what they are feeling, it makes the world feel more detailed. That is part of what’s happening with Gamers, but it isn’t the whole story. Gamers is a romantic comedy, that’s it’s genre, but it isn’t aimed at fans of romantic comedy or slice-of-life, though I’m sure those fans wouldn’t be put off by it. No, instead, it somehow come out of the creative process aimed at the very market it’s about, gamers, without even having much of its story about playing games at all. See, if I were to be stereotypical, I’d say that those who play lots of games are more drawn to thriller and action television, where the story is high-stakes and lots can happen. And the wonderful thing about Gamers is that despite it being a story about romance, it’s rooted in those same story beats that make up a lot of thrillers, twists, turns, characters going so far as to torment themselves with the knot that is the relationship web on this show. Everything is exciting, punctuated with a lot of hype over the decisions and shocked reactions, and absolutely nothing goes the way you’d narratively expect. This is a trait of thrillers, as opposed to most romantic comedies who aren’t constantly trying their hardest to keep you guessing, instead, they just tell their story.
Examples: The first episode has your normal boring protagonist getting an invite to a titular club, he tries it out, so you expect him to go join the club and set up new narrative possibilities from there, that’s where everything is leading, it would happen in any other anime, then he turns it down! Okay, that’s fine, they wanted a twist to delay the introduction of the gaming club, maybe he’ll join them later once he’s reconsidered, this seems like the story hook, they’ve got character designs and everything and even when this has happened in other shows, like in Mob Psycho 100, the main character ended up de facto joining and interacting with the club members anyway. Nope. Aside from a few scenes with Tendou at the club without the rest of the main cast, the other club members are never seen again and the club has no more impact on the story. Perhaps this will change in the final few episodes but I doubt there’s room at this point. The story found its narrative possibilities elsewhere, instead of from the obvious and there is so much to be praised about that.
More examples: The ridiculous chain of events at the end of the sixth episode, where three characters, all being aware of the complicated relationships being generated by no one talking to each other and communicating like normal humans that happens in so many romantic anime, go quite crazy trying to figure out each other’s motives from body language and such and the result is an intensifying riot as the series continues to outdo itself and then the anime (spoilers) doesn’t sodding end with the confession but continues going, and what’s more, the confession was totally out of place and accidental. Which just lets the anime make more narrative out of its confusion.
There’s also, in other things to recommend this anime, the plot about Keita and Chiaki being perfect mirrors of each other and unknowingly being friends and supporters in an online world, Aguri and Tasuku being a couple who don’t seem to spend any time together (although Aguri herself has been giving me major good feelings in recent episodes, see the part where she stood up for herself and defended the people she does hang out with in front of a ‘cool crowd’), there’s the good relationship between all of the characters once they do actually talk to each other, and then there’s a few good gaming references in there as well.
So Gamers ends up marketing itself towards the people it’s about, very effective and a good way to stand out in the anime market, which if I’d have to guess, is more made up of those kinds of people. Gamers, that is, the people, not the show. But the show’s existence should make romantic comedy fans rejoice, as it will stand as a high-quality fun anime that can easily be recommended to gamers as a gateway into the genre, and gateways, that get more people into a thing they weren’t into before, are something of great value to the entertainment industry. It’s for this, and other reasons, mostly a huge load of enjoyability, that has led me to brand Gamers, as my anime of the season (and not, as I thought it might be, Fate/Apocrypha, although I should really catch up with that and see how it’s going).