Anime Review from the Vault: No Game No Life

(Posted to my Facebook page on June 5, 2015)

I was suggested No Game No Life by some friends, so I decided to check it out. Having seen a few anime about video games now (Including BTOOOM! and Sword Art Online), I wasn’t sure which direction this anime was going to go. The answer is… both? Sort of? Maybe I should start from the beginning.

No Game No Life follows the lives of Sora and Shiro, step-siblings who spend all their days online playing video games. Despite their young age (Shiro being 11 and Sora being 18), the two are utter masters. Going by the online alias of ” ” (While they call themselves “Blank”, they just use a series of spaces for their online names) they are famous as being completely undefeatable, even when the opponents cheat. One day they’re challenged to a game of chess by a stranger online that has somehow discovered their true identities. After a hard fought battle, they manage to win. The stranger then offers an invitation to a world where everything is decided by games. The two, thinking it’s a joke, accept and are transported to the world. There they are greeted by the stranger, who introduces himself as Tet, the god of this world and gives them ten rules which govern this world and bind everyone to various games which decide all conflicts. Shiro and Sora now seek to find meaning in their previously empty lives and conquer this world with their gaming prowess.

Very quickly I found myself rolling my eyes at this series because it seemed like it would be similar to Kill La Kill. That is to say, oversexualization of women to the point that which it’s almost disgusting. In fact, Sora and Tet are pretty much the only major male characters in the show, and there is a great deal of fanservice from the remaining characters (including the underaged Shiro, which is more than a little discomforting). However, then I noticed something strange. I was laughing. Hard. You see, this series doesn’t use nudity and asses shaking in your face to try and make you get off on it, it’s primarily used for comedy, and their jokes hit spot on. Good god, this is exactly what Kill La Kill missed! Their constant ass shots and nudity just seemed to be there in that show, and the writers seemed to think that just having those shots furthered their show. If you have those elements, you need to use them, and with how frequently I found myself laughing at the jokes that these situations set up, I have no trouble giving No Game No Life a pass on this. More than a pass really; genuine praise! It’s not shallow, it’s clever! I can’t say that enough, well done!

Ahem, well, moving on from that, the show has some very colorful animation that helps keep your attention where it needs to be even when watching the subbed version. You see, I generally try to watch the dubbed version because I frequently miss some part of the animation while focusing on the subtitles, but the animation did a very good job of keeping my eyes on the action. There were still some parts where I was flooded with subtitles and needed to rewind to catch them all, but I didn’t mind.

The characters are all interesting, funny, and keep you immersed in the story. Like I said, they tend to oversexualize the females, but they’re not just brainless boob-bots, and I generally like them enough to overlook this, and the show can even use it for some hilarious fake-outs. This is really a story about the brother-sister relationship between Shiro and Sora, and you really do get the feeling that the two care a great deal about each other (as much as you’d expect two people who had shut themselves in a room together for most of their lives) even to the point where they’ll damn near fall to pieces if they get too far away from each other. It’s a cast that seems lop-sided at a glance, but you end up feeling something for everyone, which is a tough thing for any series to do.

Really, it’s clear that every single part of this show was crafted with great care. It’s a very smart show, and is very good about helping the viewer keep up so as to not overcomplicate things (Looking at you, Big O). It usually gets a little choppy when Shiro and Sora are executing one of their plans, but they’re always sure to break it down by the end so that it’s easy to understand how exactly they blew your mind. It’s also a show stuffed to the brim with plenty of gaming references. Phoenix Wright, YuGiOh!, Civilization, and even more. Each is worth a good laugh and the writers clearly had fun putting these parts in.

The plot is surprisingly slow, which is a problem for a series that has only 12 episodes. I expect a second season eventually, but the fact that so little real progress was made in those twelve episodes is slightly concerning. Still, it manages to keep you entertained with varied games, crazy logic, some fantastic comedy, and a brilliantly realized setting and cast. If you’re up for something off the wall, thoughtful, and hilarious, give this a shot.

I give No Game No Life a 4 out of 5.

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