What’s that? You wanted a seasonal anime review? You didn’t want me to talk about one of the bigger anime from 2014? Relevancy? Whoops, guess I missed that memo. Instead let’s talk about No Game No Life.
Final Score: 8
No Game No Life is a 12 episode anime from 2014 that follows brother and sister pair, Sora (18) and Shiro (11). The two spend all their time at home playing video games under the name [ ], or Blank. Known across the internet as undefeatable, they have sworn to never lose a game and this holds true even when they are strangely challenged to a chess match. After defeating their unknown opponent they are brought to a different world, one where everything, and I mean literally everything, can and is decided by games.
So I went into NGNL with very little knowledge of the series. I’ve seen my fair share of screenshots as well as cosplays of the central siblings and I remember people talking about the series when it originally aired; honestly, I’d never even read a summary of the show. But as we all know I’m one to take advantage of situations and since the NGNL movie is coming to a theater near me, I want to do my duty and support not only the industry but the idea that people want anime movies in theaters. But to do that, I’d have to actually watch NGNL.
NGNL is a really interesting take on the “person in a different world” concept we see so much of nowadays. So different in fact that from the beginning Sora and Shiro never even want to leave their new world. A world where everything is decided by games? This is their dream. But how does a place like that manage to work? Well, the world of Disboard is held together by a series of 10 pledge that do everything from forbidding murder and thievery to setting up the rules for the games and how challenges work. The pledges are enforced by magic and the ruling god, Tet.
Personally, the idea that war is done on a chessboard rather than through bloodshed, is fascinating as hell. I mean, can you imagine a world without murder? Pretty impossible, right? Half our TV shows focus on murder. But in Disboard all that is left to games. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t solve every problem. The Elves still rely on slavery and prejudice is common but hey, less death is always a good thing, right?
Oh hey, by the way, there are elves. You see Disboard is made up of beings known as the Exceed, which is just a fancy way of ordering Disbaord’s sixteen species. The ranking assigned to each race has to do with their affinity for magic and at dead last is Imanity (the Disboard name for humans). One of my biggest complaints with NGNL is that it lacks pretty much any world building. I mean, they bring us to this incredibly interesting world that is comprised of 16 different races each with vastly different powers and then we meet four races in the entire 12 episodes. Realistically the show was more concerned with story than world building and the fact that Sora and Shiro read pretty much every book they could get their hands on means they know all about the different races. But we, the viewers, are pretty much left in the dark. I feel like it wouldn’t have been that hard to add a little bit more of the world, especially since Sora and Shiro are attempting to conquer Disboard.
That said I am going to heavily praise NGNL in other areas. The music is pretty fantastic. I enjoyed both the opening and ending, though probably the ending more and I was really happy when they changed the ending one episode to highlight an important change featured in the episode. The art and animation were also well done. The colors used in NGNL were wonderful. Disboard is an utterly vibrant world, one we don’t get to see enough of, especially when we catch glimpses of Elven Guard or Eastern Federation.
But perhaps my favorite part of the show was the comedy. NGNL made me laugh countless times and it has been quite a while since I’ve watched such a ridiculous show. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of all the fanservice they had but even with it there the comedy continued to lift the show above the worthless fanservice and create a pleasant watching experience. I’m not sure how the comedy is in the Japanese version but the English version had a number of great quotable lines that I enjoyed.
The story is a more conflicting thing. You see, I didn’t really love any of the characters of the show. Sora is a pervert whose only redeeming qualities are his belief in his sister and his ability to play games. Shiro just didn’t have enough personality to capture me most of the time but is a badass when it comes to calculations which helps her dominate games like chess as well as first person shooters. Out of the other characters, Steph was annoying fanservice most of the time, Jibril was at least entertaining, while Kurami and Fil were mostly just there for plots sake. So I didn’t really fall in love with the characters but thankfully the show did have more than just comedy to keep me interested.
I’ve always loved intricate schemes like the ones [ ] pulls off and having these ridiculous ideas put into games is one of the best parts about the show. Really, overly elaborate schemes is why I enjoy Code Geass so much and to have that level of thinking put into a shooter? It was fantastic. That’s why I think that everyone should give No Game No Life a shot. It’s an utterly original show and despite its flaws it ends up being both strangely amusing and ultimately really gratifying.