This story follows a group of students who all end up being connected through gaming and various relationship issues. The original set up is Amano, a fairly typical geeky gamer, is asked to join the school’s gamers club by the prettiest girl in school, but he turns her down.
I don’t even know how to review this show. I loved it. I had a great time laughing at some of the antics these characters got up to each week and I enjoyed that the narrative continued to veer sharply away from whatever path I thought it was about to take. I liked that this show managed to incorporate gamers who weren’t professionals or the best at whatever and just had high school kids who play games and enjoy gaming as a hobby as the centre piece. But that doesn’t change the fact that the narrative is decidedly disrupted by those surprising twists, the characters are all a little bit defective at dealing with human interactions leading to some frustrating misunderstandings that end up being the main focus of the show for a large chunk of its run time, and that gaming is often forgotten in some episodes save for the nostalgic 90’s game sound effects and the like that permeate most of the show.
After numerous attempts to put my thoughts into some sort of coherent form I decided the plus/minus approach was needed. Because there are some great things about this show and it is a lot of fun, but there are also some glaring issues that will probably be deal breakers for some viewers.
As I said earlier, the narrative isn’t predictable. In fact, it seems the writers took great delight in setting up what should be a standard or clichéd moment and then deliberately delivering something contrary to viewer expectations. It makes the otherwise pretty generic high school romantic comedy kind of refreshing to watch even as this approach creates its own problems in terms of cohesion or building to some sort of point. Still, given I usually pick the ends of Hollywood movies within the first twenty minutes (even those that supposedly have an amazing twist), I sometimes like shows that manage to surprise me and keep me guessing about where they are going even if where they end up going isn’t great.
As much as the narrative likes to be surprising, the characters do not. While Amano isn’t exactly your typical protagonist in that he doesn’t end up with a harem of girls (okay there are two girls interested in him but one of them gracefully bows out before the end leaving him with just the actual girlfriend), he isn’t particularly good at anything, he doesn’t seem to have any particular goal or dream, but he knows what he doesn’t want and does not allow himself to be swept along into someone elses plan. Tendou tries to get him to join the Gamers club and he turns her down because he doesn’t like how they play games. He wants to have fun. On this, and other points, Amano holds his ground firmly giving him a backbone not often seen in these sorts of characters. He may not have a grand plan or life goal, but he knows how he likes to play games and he isn’t about to bend or compromise on that.
However, this doesn’t actually make him any more interesting as a protagonist. Let’s be honest, average guy who does things for fun but gets heated over one minor detail, isn’t exactly going to drive a plot. Once you get used to him, Amano becomes like any other protagonist in these stories ever. Nice when needed, standing on his soap box when needed, and ridiculously dense when needed. The rest of the cast similarly have their set up personalities (which may not be as standard as you might normally see but aren’t exactly breaking new ground) but that’s where they stay and they react to the plot as needed rather than driving it in any particular direction. For a show that mostly ends up being a romantic comedy, the fairly flat characters are probably the part that hurts this show the most.
I wouldn’t normally list music and sound so high on a list for a show unless the show was pretty bad, but in this case the music and sound were a big part of the appeal because of nostalgia. I loved watching the opening to this every week and seeing the characters dragged through various old school game set ups. I loved the little bleeps and bloops throughout the episodes and at the mid-way point each episode. I would have liked a little bit more of this to be spread throughout the episodes to be honest, but it was great fun.
The setting and visuals of the entire final episode. As much as I tried, I just can’t think of a reason as to why they went to a hot springs for the final episode other than it is a thing that they do in anime. Even the characters remarked that the setting didn’t look like something for a high school trip but they brushed that aside by reminding us once again that Tendou is rich and off we went. Meanwhile, we get a fairly dynamic discussion about DLC carried throughout the whole episode while we watch the female cast bathing? Even then, it could have worked, except it wasn’t even done in an interesting way. These scenes were pretty stagnant and generic and even if you are into bathroom scenes, this one is boring to look at. Honestly, for such an interesting discussion topic they really needed to do more visually with this episode. Plus, as the viewer, it is your last impression of the show. The visuals throughout weren’t great, but they weren’t bad. But then this final episode highlights all the negatives for the visuals throughout the show and that’s the impression you are left with.
The comedy actually works. Now that is subjective and some people won’t find it funny, but for me, this hit the mark more often than not. Whether it was the thrown in game references, the weird tangents the characters sometimes took with their line of thinking, the oddly serious way characters would discuss something totally trivial, or the exaggerated reactions to various situations, I found this oddly amusing even as I found it a little frustrating. A lot of that situational humour relies on the characters being self-centred and not seeing the other characters’ viewpoints, and also being incredibly dense and unable to clearly communicate. That can get really frustrating after awhile and you just really wanted these characters to clearly talk and get all the misunderstandings sorted, but the show isn’t in a rush to resolve those issues until we get to the second last episode. For me though, this was a comedy that made me laugh and smile more than groan so I’ll take that win.
Other than being a romantic comedy, this show doesn’t do very much. At times it looks like it wants to do some sort of social commentary, particularly that final episode discussion on DLC in games, but it is almost as though the show can’t actually commit to that aspect of itself and so keeps dipping its toes into the pool without ever actually diving in. It means that a lot of discussions get derailed before they seem to make the point that you kind of feel is needed, and everything ends up being pretty shallow and meaningless. If there is a statement to be made by this show, I’m afraid it missed the mark because all I got from it was that people enjoy games different ways and teenagers are hopeless at communication. While that is fine enough, not every show needs to make a grand political statement, it just isn’t very satisfying and doesn’t leave an overly memorable impression.
All and all, this is a light piece of mostly nothing and your enjoyment will entirely come from whether you like either the characters or the type of humour being used here. If neither of these two click, then mostly this show will fall flat. For me though, I really liked watching Gamers. It isn’t brilliant, but it does have some surprises and I got enough of a laugh out of it to have enjoyed spending the season on it.
Thanks for reading.
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