GAMERS! Review - Press Start

Jared Popelar · August 2, 2017

Oh don’t look at me like that, reader. It’s been a really slow week for me. I’m currently in Colorado Springs and the wifi I’m using utterly refuses to cooperate with Crunchyroll for some dumb reason. And this especially irking seeing as how the summer season is currently upon us in full force, so saying that I’m prepared for it would be like tossing a bedsheet over my head and saying I’m prepared for thermonuclear warfare.

Still, between my recent play sessions of Darkest Dungeon and Stellaris I managed to sneak some viewings in, but there was an itch I had that just wasn’t being scratched this week. Sure, I’m still loving Hero Aca and everything that’s going on with it, but it’s been a long while since I’ve had a show that catered to my tastes exactly. That’s not especially hard to do, either, seeing as how my likes are almost perfectly contained in the fields anime, games, mystery novels… wait a second! There’s a show just like that already out!

And then I put on No Game No Life for a couple hours.


I almost coughed up a lung at this scene.

Or at least until I went to jump to the next episode when Crunchyroll shyly poked its head around my door and said, “Hello, SnYves. I heard you happen to be fond of games and anime series featuring said games!”

“Why, yes I am, Crunchy! What brings you here and also how did you get into my room?”

“Well, as it turns out, I have a brand new series here that I think is right up your alley!”

“Is that so? Well, it’s not like NGNL is going to disappear into the Aether anytime soon, so I guess I’m willing to give it a shot. What’s this show called?”

“It’s a show about video games called GAMERS! and…”

Okay, that’s already one strike there, Crunchy. I don’t like to judge things solely on their titles, but I’d be lying if I said they don’t leave you first impressions. A title like GAMERS! is so obviously cloying for attention from a fairly large subset of the anime community that it’s borders on obnoxious right out of the gate. And if you don’t happen to be in the overlap between the gaming and anime communities, well there goes your interest right out the window. This is like renaming One Piece to PIRATES! or Re:Zero to DYING! or My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute! to…actually, that one’s already there.


This line repeats in my head constantly when I type these reviews, by the way.

But whatever. GAMERS! is a new series brought to you this summer by Pine Jam, and if you haven’t heard of them, that’s because they’ve done a grand total of two shows before now: a horrible magical girls series from last year that somehow stretched two seasons, and a SoL show (if you can call it that) about well-endowed girls on subway trains, the expected shenanigans and literally nothing else. There’s not really a ton of substance Pine Jam’s productions up until now, but they do have another show broadcasting next season, so who knows, maybe this will be a good warm-up for that.

We’re in a high school setting for this one and our male protagonist, to absolutely nobody’s surprise, is a gamer named Keita Amano (Megumi Han, Hunter x Hunter, Ore Monogatari!!, Little Witch Academia and the second-worst installment of Yu-Gi-Oh!). He’s socially awkward, he doesn’t have a ton of friends, and he’s pretty much what you’d get if you typed “high school male gamer anime protagonist” into Google Images. Nevertheless, he’s still being crushed on by the school idol Karen Tendou (Hisako Kanemoto, Girls und Panzer, Shirobako, Kokoro Connect, and Maria the Virgin Witch), and coupled with his newly found friendship with classmate Tasuku Uehara (Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Tokyo Ghoul, Yuri!!! on Ice, and Durarara!!), the show’s primary goal is revealed.

GAMERS! isn’t a show exclusively about gaming and the culture surrounding it, but rather it’s a SoL bordering on romcom show with gaming as the primary hobby our central cast mutually enjoys. I walked into this series expecting a standard-issue club shenanigans show like Art Club, Hyouka, or more loosely Yuuki Yuna, and was genuinely surprised to see this series take off in a different direction.


Still, this a very well-funded gaming club!

The series needs a couple episodes to warm up, admittedly, but once it hits its stride, GAMERS! is an endearing, amusing show that uses its central premise for more than just making jokes and associating with an audience. The focus is less on the gaming motifs and more on the characters and their relationships, and doing this in a romcom style allows the show’s writing to effectively explore these relationships while also leaving plenty of room for the mostly gaming-themed humorous bits. And when it’s working, it works really well.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case all of the time, and although I got pretty invested in the series by Episode 3, the prelude to that point was not exactly high-grade material.

The show’s visuals and animation are okay if unremarkable and rigid at times, but it is a little disappointing that the more visually stunning moments are contained in the games the characters are playing instead of the show itself. GAMERS! got hold of a ton of licenses for games like Guilty Gear, BlazBlue and even Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, and footage of those games being played are regularly spliced into the show. And while I think that’s an interesting way to directly show how a game is going, the fact that those are the show’s highlights ultimately betray the show’s goals, as this is supposed to be an anime that uses games as its background elements and not the other way around.


Not to mention there are at least eighteen different game references in the OP alone.

GAMERS! also has a slew of pacing issues it encounters whenever it’s trying to both develop its characters and land its punchlines simultaneously. Generally, shows try to segregate their serious bits from their un-serious bits because otherwise the audience can’t really decipher the mood a scene is trying to set. In the case of GAMERS!, you can have the love interest trying to confess, getting rejected, solemnly walking away, then having her slip on a conveniently placed banana peel and seeing the show try to pitch it as a joke as opposed to a literal injury to insult.

Or a scene where two friends are arguing on a skybridge over a highway, one of them grabs the other and bends them over the railing, and the show tries to play it off lightheartedly, complete with the silly horn line in the background and everything.

Then there’s just a few plothole nitpicks that don’t make any sense to me either. Like how Keita at first refuses to join the school’s gaming club because he prefers single player experiences as opposed to multiplayer games. Is there something inherently wrong with you bringing your 3DS in and playing a Pokemon game? I regularly hang out with people who take gaming and mastery thereof way more seriously than I do, and they actually appreciate the fact I can get a kick out of solo games!


Don’t mind me! Just looking through the new PlayZtation 4 releases!

But despite the rocky start and multiple flaws in the show’s tone and presentation, it’s still on my watchlist. And I think most of the credit goes to the show’s writing in general, even though I was nitpicking it just one paragraph ago. Once the show introduces all five of our leads and the audience gets an idea of what we can expect from the show going forward, then GAMERS! starts finding ways to make up for the shortcomings in its first forty minutes. It starts to understand that comedy and gravitas don’t mix well in romcoms, so the next major development in the narrative is handled in a genuinely funny and lighthearted manner that feels like the ending to an episode of Sienfeld. Characters start to feel less like one-sentence summaries with rushed backstories and gain the proper depth necessary for its romcom angle to work.

This is to say nothing of the themes the show wants to work with, which really make the show stand out more outside of its premise. Uehara is ashamed of his middle-school incarnation as a stereotypical “geek” - complete with the thick glasses, awkward haircut and borderline antisocial personality - so much so that he went to great lengths to make himself more appealing to others in high school at the expense of his personality quirks and hobbies. He’s still a gamer, sure, but he doesn’t do it for the fun like his old self would have. He does it to impress his girlfriend and fit in with everyone else.

And watching him trying to mete out a compromise between his current and past personalities effectively hits the chord that shows like Tokyo Ghoul were straining to get to previously. That GAMERS! manages to come close to reaching there is admirable alone, but thinking back on Uehara’s arc in Episode 2, that episode might be one of the show’s most impactful moments so far, even if the show on the whole still feels like it’s warming up.


Even in a foreign language class, no teacher ever says this.

I might be getting a little too wrapped up in this one, but once GAMERS! gets going it’s a unique, engaging, and meaningful show with a bit more depth to it than it appears. It’s a flawed show, as evidenced heavily by the first couple of episodes, but if Episode 3 is any indicator of the direction the series is going, then I think I’m willing to forgive it. It’s an uphill hike to get to the good parts, and if sitting through forty minutes of static animation, rushed pacing and awkward jokes is too much of an ask, then you’ll probably won’t have as much fun. And you’ll also probably be a little disappointed if you were expecting a show about gaming exclusively without the romcom stuff getting in the way.

For those willing to put up with its many flaws, however, GAMERS! looks like it’s shaping up to be a pretty decent show overall with a good message or two on the side. It’s probably not going to wind up on my Best of 2017 list, but I’m still keeping my eye on this one as a fun little palette cleanser as I watch the rest of this season’s offerings.

It’s a series I’m enjoying, despite the bugs, glitches, and lack of an FOV slider.


It’s so fluffy!!!!

Next time: Redundant titles and sore backs.

comments powered by Disqus