Episode 3 of 16Bit Sensation: Another Layer was released on October 19th and continued to follow the young Konoha Akisato and her time-traveling shenanigans. The second episode left us wondering about Konoha’s ability to travel between the 1990s and 2023. Although this episode doesn’t provide a definite answer, it introduces us to an intriguing new character and sheds some light on the mysterious Mamoru Rokuta.
“I Wanted to See All of You Again!”
Konoha, who has just returned to 2023, is feeling disheartened about going back to her job where she only creates illustrations for uninteresting background characters in mundane video games. She keeps reflecting on her time in 1992 and yearns to return by any means necessary. Konoha feels that she was getting used to working with Alcohol Soft, despite her short time there. Konoha, a character filled with ambition, aspires to become a celebrated illustrator for a flourishing game. She caught a glimpse of that very hope back in 1992. She spends nearly a week researching bishoujo games of the 1990s and wishes to return to that time.
After asking various game shop employees if they know anything about Alcohol Soft, Konoha decides to try and retrace the steps she took on the day she first time-traveled. She mentions how the broken microwave at her work lead her to go to the convenience store, pray at the shrine, and visit a local hole-in-the-wall video game shop in Akihabara. The shop she had previously visited now stood closed, with a “For Lease” sign prominently displayed – a stark contrast to her experience just a week ago. Konoha remembers the old woman who kindly lent an ear to her venting and the games that she picked up there.
As Konoha takes these games out of her bag to reflect on them, a passing street dog snags a game right out of her hands. The dog drops the game box in a nearby park, and the frustrated Konoha picks up the case to reveal a golden light – a light that immediately transports her back in time! The mystery of this time-traveling trigger is still left unsolved.
Unfortunately, this time travel journey transports Konoha above a swimming pool where she splashes down in front of some very mortified swimmers who tell her the year is 1996 – meaning four years have passed since she was last at Alcohol Soft. Konoha is able to make her way to Akihabara in search of Alcohol Soft’s studio. Once there, she sees Mamoru, who was only a middle school student four years ago. Mamoru barely acknowledges Konoha’s existence and storms down the street in anger. Konoha, while confused, embraces Meiko and Kaori. While it had only been about a week since Konoha had seen them, it had been four years since they had seen Konoha. Meiko, Kaori, and the rest of the employees at Alcohol Soft share their confusion regarding Konoha’s unexpected vanishing four years ago. However, to everyone’s surprise, Konoha now pleads with the team to rehire her, disregarding her baffling disappearance.
This is the part of the episode where the show likes to display the blatant differences between the 1990s and 2020s. Meiko explains that a lot has changed at the company in the last four years. The studio has shifted its focus towards creating games specifically designed for the “cutting-edge” Windows operating system (presumably Windows 95), leaving behind the era of PC-98, which held dominion in the early 90s in Japan. This information elates Konoha as she explains she works with Windows 10 every day, which of course triggers confusion in the Alcohol Soft team. This juxtaposition of the 90s and 2020s is appropriately shown in the episode, which makes it all the more engaging.
Kaori explains that they will consider Konoha for rehire if she agrees to look for Mamoru, who threatened to quit programming for the studio if he was forced to move on from PC-98 to work on Windows games. While agitated at first, Konoha accepts this and hurries to find Mamoru.
During her search for Mamoru, Konoha meets a young woman named Touya who is interested in bishoujo games but is too embarrassed to walk into a store to buy one. Konoha is puzzled by this, and almost even suggests buying games online, something not commonly or easily done in 1996. Viewers might be able to connect Touya’s uneasiness to the stereotype that claims that girls don’t play video games. Although I was just three years old in 1996, I can somewhat grasp the concept that girls showing an interest in video games at that time were considered quite unconventional despite being a gamer myself around that era. It was clear to me that Touya felt embarrassed about going into a game store because it is often mostly occupied by men. We see that when Touya and Konoha enter the store, male gamers are quite shocked to see women walking in. While the time we spent with Touya in this episode was short, I’m really looking forward to seeing more about this character in future 16Bit Sensation episodes.
Konoha parts ways with Touya and suddenly finds Mamoru walking into an old computer shop. When alone in the shop, Mamoru’s demeanor changes completely as he shows a childlike admiration for the computers, which is in stark contrast to his usual unfriendly and cold attitude. Konoha finds this passion fascinating and walks in to greet Mamoru who quickly returns to his hostile self. It’s here that we discover Mamoru found Konoha’s disappearance four years ago frustrating and speaks about it as if it were a painful event. Konoha pleads with Mamoru to return to the studio where he is so badly needed. This leads to Mamoru explaining how he could never betray the PC-98, a device which he seems inseparable from. Instead of scolding Mamoru for this narrow-mindedness, Konoha is struck with admiration for Mamoru’s passion and love for the PC-98. This attitude from Konoha has only increased my love for her.
The episode ends quite suddenly with Mamoru reiterating that he refuses to make games for anything other than the PC-98. Finally, 16Bit Sensation presents us with an episode that doesn’t abruptly end in Konoha time traveling. Hopefully, this means that the wait for episode four won’t feel as painfully long. However, I am curious to see the clash between Mamoru and the rest of Alcohol Soft on the future of their gaming production. We’ll find out more when episode four airs on October 26th. Meanwhile, take a look at my recent write-up featuring Girlfriend, Girlfriend.
Images via Crunchyroll
© Tamiki Wakagi / Misato Mitsumi / Kanroki (Aqua Plus) / 16bit Sensation AL PROJECT