And here we go again with the third of our Crunchyroll of the Dice 2018 semi-finals! Both these series stormed through their first round match=ups, with New Game! toppling Scorching Ping Pong Girls 8-2, and The Ancient Magus’ Bride walking to a 9-1 victory of Flowers Of Evil. I doubt either one will have such an easy time this time around though. So, let’s see who will take the win in … The battle of fantasy gaming vs fantasy reality.
Studio: Doga Kobo
• Short opening with a little flashback from Aoba. The opening actually captures the feel of the show pretty well, I think. It’s lighthearted, chirpy, and quite catchy. It looks like we’ll get a little bit about Aoba’s looking up to Yagami Ko this time around, with the sleepy designer popping up early.
• There are a few quick character intros, which is good, as the cast is large enough to make the names easy to forget without them. Random background skeleton around the seven minute mark surprised me.
• I like Hifumi’s hedgehog, Sojiro. She comes across as very self-conscious. That she sees similarities between Sojiro and Aoba too amused me.
• The in game footage is really well done. Because it’s CG, it looks and feels different to the main episode animation, and that works really well as a contrast.
• The dynamic between the co-workers is really quite charming. The characters are mostly focused on one trait right now with minimal growth, but there isn’t anyone that’s unlikable. I like Yagami’s embarrassed side. Given her sleeping arrangements, you’d think she was less sensitive around people.
• Wait, is that the bar from Bungo Stray Dogs that they end up in? The end credits remind me that we didn’t see all the characters this episode. That’s not a bad thing though as we wouldn’t want to overload on it all. The end theme is okay, but not as fun as the opening. Good episode though.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride OVA
Studio: With Studio
• We open with Chise in the library from the end of the last episode. The soundtrack is really good in this, leaping out right from the get-go. Riichi seems kind, and gives Chise a library card.
• Chise is very tired looking. And who can blame her. Between her foster parents arguing and the creatures she sees, life isn’t easy for her. Meanwhile, Riichi doesn’t appear to be doing so well either.
• Chise’s homelife is heartbreaking. You really feel for the girl. The half face woman is creepy too. I like the contrast between the creepy creatures outside and the ones that Riichi lets visit the library.
• Chise’s eyes are brightening the more time she spends in the library. That’s a really nice touch; subtle but effective. I can relate to the ignoring problems while reading too. Books were a solace for me as a kid.
• Riichi’s freak out was surprising. I wonder what happened there? He turned around again pretty quickly though. Back in the present, Ruth does appear to worry about Chise too, which is a nice contrast to her life in the past. The scene with Riichi ripping her card is a sad one though, especially as he states she’ll never come back again. That she manages to return surprises him, and she forgets the door rule too, leading to an infestation of rats, and more specifically the creature from the first episode. Riichi’s death was is really tragic.
Let the battle commence!
I will now compare each series on several different aspects. The winning series in each category gets two points, and both series get one point in the case of a draw. The battles will be:
1. Best Character: which character, whether leading or background, drew me in, or at worst annoyed me the least?
2. Best Individual Scene: which scene stands out the most in my mind?
3. Best Art And Animation: which show did the best job in terms of overall art quality?
4. Best Soundtrack: which show shone in the sound department?
5. Best Story progression: which show did a better job of pushing the story forward?
So, let’s see who excelled at what …
BEST CHARACTER: So, New Game! squeezes a lot more characters into its run time than its foe. The downside to that is that the cast get less screen time each. Despite this, Yagami Ko did manage to stand out here to me. She’s a fun character that is less straight forward than she likes to let on. Meanwhile, it’s all about Chise in The Ancient Magus’ Bride, and she is a really wonderful lead. You really feel for her throughout, so much so that, when you consider the focus on her, she edges ahead of the split time characters of New Game! That means … THE WINNER IS: Chise (The Ancient Magus’ Bride)
BEST INDIVIDUAL SCENE: Both shows are very different in both style, and in what emotions they want to evoke. The Ancient Magus’ Bride is full of lovely moments, but it’s when we deal with the tragic moments that it shines the most this time around. As much as I want to say that Riichi’s death stood out, it was actually something smaller that stuck with me: when Chise’s foster brother pushes her away for how he perceives her par tin his parents arguing. That was powerful. Meanwhile New Game! did a good job of bringing some mild laughs here, but Hifumi picturing Aoba as her et hedgehog Sojiro made me chuckle the most. Both are very different scenes, but both stayed with me afterwards, so … THE WINNER IS: Draw – Hedgehog Pals (New Game!) and Placing The Blame (The Ancient Magus’ Bride)
BEST ART AND ANIMATION: This was an interesting one to judge. Technically speaking, I prefer the style of The Ancient Magus’ Bride. The smoothness of the animation and the sheer quality of the design work when it comes to creepy creatures is really good. At the same time though, New Game! isn’t poor by any means, and I really like the contrast between the regular animation and the in-game stuff they showed. Normally, I dislike the CG animation scenes in things, largely because they’re placed over the top of the regular animation and look out of place, but the way it was dealt with here worked. For that bit of cleverness … THE WINNER IS: Draw
BEST SOUNDTRACK: I really enjoyed the opening theme from New Game! The series also does a decent enough job with most ambient sounds, but it does drop the ball once in a while. Like there being no sound (or sign of a spillage after) when someone drops a glass of alcohol. Meanwhile, The Ancient Magus’ Bride lacks an opening theme but stamps its overall quality down immediately with a fantastic run of backing music. The show really captures the feel well here. So … THE WINNER IS: The Ancient Magus’ Bride
BEST STORY PROGRESSION: Now, The Ancient Magus’ Bride is the only one of the two with a major story arc to progress. Chise’s childhood and the disasters befalling her continue, but she finds that little piece of solace I the library of the forest. The brightening of her eyes and removal of the tired marks around them did a great job of illustrating this, and the ending helps brings things full circle but with her in a different place emotionally. New Game! does have the development of the game, but I get the feeling that it’s more about character progression than story progression. Judging it on that basis, we do learn a few new things about some of the characters, which helps keep them likable. So, they both do their job well. I do think that there’s a clear winner here though. So … THE WINNER IS: The Ancient Magus’ Bride
Final Scores: New Game! – 2 points, The Ancient Magus’ Bride – 8 points
I enjoyed both these episodes a lot, and I’ll likely dive back into New Game! when I have the time. As it was though, the result is fair, even if the score is a little misleading in terms of quality. Still, this does set up an interesting three-way final with The Ancient Magus’ Bride marching into battle against both Recovery Of An MMO Junkie and Tsuredure Children.
But what do you all think? Do you agree with the result? Let me know in the comments below.