KiraKira Treasure Box

Review: No Game No Life (Anime)

Well, just one. But she’s worth thousands. 

STUDIO: Madhouse
ORIGINAL RUN: April 9, 2014 – June 25, 2014
GENRES & THEMES: Adventure, Comedy, Ecchi; Fantasy; Supernatural; Siblings; Games; Alternate world; Harem
SOURCE: Light Novel to anime adaptation
Have you ever heard the legend of ‘the Blank’? A mysterious group of undefeated online gamers who have never lost. Ever. Their nickname comes from the fact that their name slot is left completely blank. This urban legend is known and admired by all gamers worldwide, but little do they know that the Blank’s only two members are actually not so heroic in real life: Older brother Sora and younger sister Shiro, two hikikomori NEETs, who consider the real world to be just another crappy game. This undefeatable pair gets whisked into an alternative world by a boy who affirms to be “God”—by his decree, here there is no war, violence, or theft, and everything from borderlines to nobility titles gets decided through games. Humanity, as the weakest race, has been reduced to barely anything, and it’ll be up to these two to rebuild the lost confidence and territory. Let the game begin! 

Feel welcome to express your thoughts and disagree (politely) in the comment section (discussion is always fun!!), but no opinion bashing will be allowed! Do remember the final verdict is my own opinion, which may differ from yours! 

Oh, how I love it when an anime surprises you. From an expectation of absolute failure to great success—this anime turned out to be a true treasure find.
I don’t know what it is but there seems to have been a very evident increase in animes that involve characters playing videogames that are more than just simple games. Accel World, Sword Art Online, Log Horizon, and even shows like Btooom! use videogames as foundation. With all these animes slowly rising to popularity it’s starting to get hard to think that any of the future ones will ever provide something fresh and new. Fortunately No Game No Life has avoided the pit of doom where most animes that have been trapped by the “rinse-and-repeat what’s been done before” pattern end in, and is quite a long way away from falling.

The Story&Themes

No Game No Life is funny, audacious, and deliciously twisted! Shiro and Sora, which find reality to be a senseless game with undefined rules and no set genre, get challenged to a game of chess by a mysterious online player, that they, of course, win. But as a result they get inexplicably dragged into an unknown other world where violence doesn’t exist and everything gets settled through games. Even the very position of being God can be susceptible to change through a game. In this world sixteen races play against each other for territory and have an established hierarchy, with humanity (or ‘Imainty’, as they call it here) coming in last.
Within how endless the possibilities are with a story such as this one, this show is actually quite limited for a very simple reason: you know the main characters won’t lose. Why? Because that’s who they are, that’s how it’s been established. No struggle to the top, no crawling in the mud, no utter despair in the face of defeat. Whilst this is a rather fresh plot point, it’s quite tricky—you’re risking the loss of any sort of excitement. After all, you know the outcome of every game. So, how does No Game No Life compensate this? With quirky strategies to win over your enemies. They might not be mind-blowing or life-changing, but they certainly prove why the Blank always wins before the game even starts.

The weak are often stronger than the strong

“The strong sharpen their fangs, whilst the weak polish their wits.” If there’s anything common between fantasy settings other than the fantasy itself, it’s the demonstration of the strength that those who are weak poses. And this role is (almost) always bestowed on the same race: humans. Though No Game No Life does little to change that pattern, it manages to knit it out damn well excellently for a series that holds comedy as its core.
In this new world, humans have 0 magic ability and are at great disadvantage when fighting other species, who sagaciously use their powers to cheat in a way the human eye can’t detect. Humans don’t have magic, are not immortal, and have no special skills—they are weak. And this is where our mains, Sora and Shiro, come to the rescue in a very curious way. They have been most likely tortured mentally for being who they are, bullied for their strange ways, and have tasted the bitterness of being shut out by society for being different, for being prodigies. They know what it’s like to be weak, and know better than anybody that, though current society sells itself as equal and fair, the world’s an unfair shit hole that hammers down any nails that stand out. But unlike the humans in this new world, they have come to accept this weakness and search for different ways to overcome it. And their biggest weapon is nothing other than knowledge.

Luck is an illusion. Knowledge is power.

I’d like to refer to something a teacher of mine always used to say to us when preparing us for our final exams: If you haven’t put in the work, luck is useless; and if you’ve done the work, well, you won't be needing luck. Meaning, “study your asses off if you want to get good grades and get into good universities, you lazy shits.” Though we’re not talking about exams here, the same idea is repeated over and over throughout No Game No Life, and it’s the main reason why the Sora&Shiro combo manage to own everybody at any game they play. To win you need knowledge; you must be open-minded; you must think out of the box; and above all, you must consider all possibilities and be prepared for anything. There’s no such thing as ‘luck’, only infinite possibilities. And being aware of all of these is what gives you a bigger chance at winning—or in the case of the Blank, a certain one.
This is something I very much enjoyed in the series, because I also support the idea that nothing comes free in life and that there’s no such thing as luck: we fabricate the possibilities ourselves through hard work. On top of this, No Game No Life reminds us that knowledge is power, and those who know are the ones in control on the world (or in this case, the game).

The Characters

Fun games involve fun characters!
Which is why Sora and Shiro are so terribly dysfunctional you can’t help loving them. They live their life as if it were an endless mathematical equation. They find logic within the surreal and thus manage to find a way out of every situation. They enjoy games so much that it’s hard not to get dragged along with them as you watch them win and beat their opponents in the most unthinkable ways.
But the higher they aim, the more they bet and the more they risk. Essentially, they’re a pair of very twisted kids who’d bet the lives of thousands of people in a game, precisely because it’s just a game. This is nothing but proof that they view this new world they’re in as just another videogame to clear (pretty much like Tet the God), not realizing that for those who live here losing games could be equal to losing your life depending on what you bet. This is why they’re very hard to place on a character-type chart and what makes them pretty unique in a sense—they’re a hilarious combo that prove to have a very logical, organized view of the world and an impressive opinion on what the weak a capable of doing with wits, but every now and then they lose they’re humanity and go overboard. So, is it right to like them? It’s quite hard to decide.
Sora plays the role of the obnoxious expert player who tends to ridicule others for making mistakes he considers could have obviously been avoided. We’ve all met these kinds of players as we start out in ANY sort of game that requires strategy and knowledge you can only build up through trial-and-error, and we’ve all become them at some point or another. As a result, his character can be slightly dislikeable, especially in his treatment of Steph and her innocent tries to make Elkia, the human kingdom, a better place. That said, it’s impossible to not enjoy any scene he’s in. He’s a terribly perverted 18 year old virgin and, like any other boy his age, there’s only one thing on his mind: boobies. And look, I might not be a fan of ecchi and fanservice, but when it gets this funny… well, what can I say? It’s amazeballs.
He is also, by the by, pretty much the only male character in the entiiiiiiiiireeeeeeee anime (if you don’t count the odd side characters or Stephanie’s Grandfather, but he dies before the anime starts and doesn't even have a face to show so no, he doesn't count). Then there’s Shiro, the other member of the Blank. Whilst Sora’s forte is his intuition and his strategy skills, Shiro’s strength lies in her intellect that goes beyond being genius. But even though she’s supposed to be co-protagonist with her brother, she’s not a particularly well defined character. Whilst Sora is very clearly pompous, exaggerated, and likes to display his skill, Shiro seems to be simply playing the role of the cute loli girl in the series. She doesn't get much of a chance to shine personality-wise in the series. Then again, she is only eleven, and giving her a set character would more likely than not fall into stereotypes.
That said, the Sora&Shiro combo was overly adorable, what with them unable to live even a few meters away from each other, and being an older sister myself I just can’t help feel a deep connexion with any storyline about siblings. The hand unwavering, unquestionable, undying trust in each other, and they are so used to this that they are incapable of understanding why anybody would doubt them, thus inadvertedly excluding others and bringing about misunderstandings.
Stephanie (Steph) is perhaps the hardest to place of the three. She’s the main source of comedy (and fanservice), but other than that she’s pretty much useless. She plays the role of the character to whom everything gets explained to so in turn we, as viewers, get to understand it too. She’s an idiot, but every now and then does seem to understand what’s going on. My biggest problem with her is her wavering opinion of Sora and Shiro—one moment she’ll be utterly convinced that they’re the best choice humanity has at getting back it’s lost territory, and the next she’ll be dead sure she has made the biggest mistake in her lifetime by trusting them. Though I understand that Sora’s and Shiro’s actions do seem questionable at times, her character tended to swap sides too easily for my liking.
Aside from these three mains, the rest of the characters seem to be a display of every fetish in recent anime fanservice: Long eared elves, cute fox girls, cute cat girls, cute big boobed girls, cute long eared, cat, big boobed, wearing glasses girls… you know how the story goes. It’s not precisely a very creative cast, especially because, so far, the races we get to see seem to look pretty human to me other than the odd fetishistic feature ( ̄□ ̄;).

The Animation&Sound

Aaaahhh, I just love it when everything comes together nicely. The animation is PLAGUED with vivid, strong colours that point out how much fun this world of games is, enhancing the general feeling you get of this being some type of videogame. It contrasts quite a lot with the initial sequences where we see Sora and Shiro trapped in their dark hikikomori room—in this new world, even isolated places are animated with a lively colour pallet.
The soundtrack isn't particularly extraordinary, but there was this one track that played during epic moments where our protagonists stated their opinions on weakness and strength that I absolutely loved. Most of the rest of the pieces are a combination of what you’d expect to hear in modern videogames or very melodic tracks that suit the fantasy setting of the series. I must also mention the opening song, This game by Konomi Suzuki, and the ending song, Oracion by Ai Kayano, which are currently both playing on my MP3 player because they are just so addictive.
Last but not least, the voice actors—oh yeah baby. They did an amazing job. I liked the ups and downs in humorous moments and the hilarious quirks they each added to every character that helped define them perfectly. Matsuoka Yoshitsugu in particular, who plays Sora (and also happens to be Kirito in SAO) and is the main reason why I burst out laughing in many moments. Have a sticker! :D


No Game No Life was perhaps one of the most enjoyable animes this season simply because it manages to balance comedy and deep emotion so well at the same time. Whilst some comedy animes fail to find this balance and look ridiculous when trying to add a sentimental touch to the storyline, No Game No Life actually manages to pull it off very convincingly. Also, did I mention the countless references in this anime? Laputa Castle in the Sky, Doraemon, Evangelion… they were such a treat. It gets a few extra points for that.
UNFORTUNATELY. No Game No Life is a Light Novel to anime adaptation that suffers from what 99.99% of adaptations of this sort suffer: an inconclusive ending that forces us to either sit and wait for a second season that will most likely never happen or rush to read the source material. I don’t tend to mind this most of the time, as lately there have been little animes that I have been hooked on so badly I just NEED to know what’s going on. But excuse me, this shit balls hilarious anime needs a continuation or I’ll be murdering someone soon. Like, right nao (ノಠ ∩ಠ)ノ彡( \o°o)\


‘Tis good stuff, methinks.

Watch it for the LOLis (see what I did there? ey? ey? did you? :D)

I dare you to not watch it after seeing this cute little face. 
Come on. You know you have to.

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1 comment:

  1. moe is love, moe is life (remember that episode of the chess game? lol)


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