Sunday, February 10, 2019

Now Loading...! fails to compile (Manga Review)

Takagi x Kaori
I am delighted with the boom in yuri manga, and delighted that we're getting some self-contained single volume releases in the US. I'm also pleased with the increased availability of yuri manga about adult women (see After Hours). However, "Now Loading...!" (Seven Seas) is about as boring and non-descript as you can get. So while it hearkens to a good overall trend, it is probably a volume worth skipping.

This self-contained five-chapter story is about a young woman, Takagi, who joins a video game company. She meets her boss and Senpai: Kaori. Kaori develops feelings for Takagi, kisses her, they finish their game successfully, and they get together. That's it. Not really a spoiler because it's a self-contained yuri so of course they would get together. With stories like these, it's the journey that matters.

Sadly, that's where "Now Loading...!" fails completely. No characters are explored in any depth. There is no real emotional arc for anyone. There is no real insight into why the characters fall for each other. They are incredibly bland characters with no rich lives, feelings, thoughts, or actions. The story itself, about a game design and launch is both superficial and somewhat insincere in its depiction of how the industry works.

So let's be honest. This story reads like some editor said: "'New Game!' was amazing. What if we made it into a yuri? Who would be interested in doing that?" And they found some mangaka to just spit it out. In fact, their understanding of the game industry seems like it came exclusively from watching "New Game!" in that so much of it mirrors that anime/manga exactly but doesn't even have that series' minimal level of industry complexity or understanding (as simplistic as even that series is).

Further, while "New Game!" was funny, cute, charming, etc..."Now Loading...!" (notice the similarity of the title presentation - likely an artifact of US marketing?) is just so bland. The art is really really mediocre. It's neither cute nor realistic. I think it's trying to be cute-ish, but it fails. It's also very simple with minimal backgrounds, no real screen tones (other than for basic shades of gray), etc...

The writing isn't funny either even though it tries to be. The pacing is strange, chunky, and fast. The setups for jokes fail when they are even there. And the romance, what little there is, is so random and not at all how real people work, that it fails to inspire any emotional resonance. It's just a very, very mediocre endeavor.

I was excited by an adult yuri self-contained story. I'm so glad it's out there and I hope it portends to more to come. But, "Now Loading...!" was a disappointment. It gets a 5/10 because while there is nothing really problematic, there is nothing to recommend it either. The romance is underwhelming, the art and writing are very bland, the story is superficial and not interesting. Just watch "New Game!" and ship Aoba and Ko in your head instead.


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