No Game No Life

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Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Ecchi, Fantasy, Supernatural
Episodes: 12
Studio: Madhouse
Personal Rating: 8/10

One question that a lot of anime fans ask themselves and other people might be “Why do you watch anime in the first place?”. If the answer is “For the enjoyment factor”, then it’s time to watch No Game No Life!

When the Spring season started, the hype for NGNL wasn’t that much, especially compared to a few other shows that were airing. After a few episodes, the show started getting more and more popular, until it got to where it is currently. A lot of people are calling it “overrated”, and it became one of the most hyped anime of the year so far after it ended. Is it worthy of such hype?

It’s an adaptation by Madhouse of the famous Light Novel of the same name, and this adaptation in particular covers three volumes, about one for each four episodes. “How did an anime with these genres get so high in the list?” might be your next question. Let’s get to it:

The story (7/10)

The story is actually pretty simple: Sora and Shiro, our protagonists, are a pair of shut-in siblings. All they do is play online games, and as all shut-ins, they are afraid to go out. Online, their team is known as “Blank” by other players, and according to them, “Blank” never loses a game. One day the siblings are dragged into a second world by a God, a world that’s made of… games. Perfect for the people in question. In this new world, all discussions and political matters are settled by games, and whoever loses the game has no saying on the matter. However, a few rules known as “The 10 pledges” have to be followed, rules that are explained right at the start of the show.

The world in question is separated into sixteen nations, and the one Sora and Shiro belong to, Elkia, is the weakest and smallest of them, as the previous king had lost a large portion of territory. The siblings, being expert gamers, want to explore this world, and thus begins their journey to conquer this new world, a journey filled with emotions, decisions, games and new people. They learn about a tournament to become the new king of Elkia, and start to make their move.

So, right away the concept reminds you of another show that aired in the Winter 2013 season “Mondaiji-tachi”. While the plot is indeed extremely similar, the way both shows develop are completely different, even if they have common stuff like the fan-service and the main character being extremely confident on his abilities. Indeed, what keeps the plot of NGNL going is that both siblings are SURE they will never lose a game, confident enough to bet the most important things to them at times. A lot of people see this as a flaw, and it’s understandable why: after all, if the main cast can’t lose, it takes away a lot of the suspense and emotions that one might feel whilst watching the games. However, the point of NGNL isn’t about winning or losing: it’s the path to victory, or rather, the “cheap tricks” that can be used to win a game. After all, if the person isn’t caught cheating, they aren’t disqualified.

The fanservice in this show isn’t as annoying as in others, since it’s more of an inside joke than actual ecchi, and it’s used for a lot of references and comedy, and sometimes even part of the plot, as hard as it is to believe it. It shouldn’t be enough to bother the common anime fan, but give it around 3 episodes and it should be clear.

The fact that the world has sixteen nations, fifteen of which are enemies, there is definitely no lack of challenges for the protagonists, as they plan on going through with the game until the bitter end. The world building in the first episodes is actually quite good, as we’re immediately given a lot of information about how the games work, and with that information, guess the true way to win in that world. While the story isn’t separated into arcs, it also doesn’t feel episodic, which is great, as a lot of people are put off by both, it’s something in the middle. Taking into account that the story isn’t really the most original, but the development is there, One can say that NGNL really stands out among its “Fantasy Adventure” brethren.

The Art (7/10)

Something that may really bother the audience at first is the artwork for the anime. It’s not horrible, but it’s too “pink” and colorful, at least that’s the way it feels at first, but it was surprisingly easy to adapt to this, and after about 4 episodes it didn’t even make a difference anymore. Being an adaptation by Madhouse, the expectations were high, and it sure delivered here, the only complaint I have is the “first impressions” that some people might have after watching images or videos of the show.

The animation is very decent, not anything to brag about, but its fluid and smooth, and it’s consistent throughout, as the budget seems to have been equally spread. There are obvious exceptions to this, as the animation was especially good in episode 6, but that’s one of the few episodes where that happens.  As far as character designs go, the problem isn’t the variety, because that’s there, but rather the “Loli with big boobs” archetype. Now this is present in SO many shows that it’s barely a problem for someone who’s been watching anime for a long time, and it’s a minor complaint, as the details on some characters are magnificently done, and they really fit their personalities.

The background are great, and very fantasy-like, which fits the concept of the anime, the world where the story takes place seems to be extremely varied in terms of places, since so many different places were shown, and the same variety applies to the backgrounds used. The overall artwork is good once you get used to it, which shouldn’t take that much time as long as you give it a chance.

The Sound (9/10)

“WHERE IS THE OST FOR THIS ANIME???”

This was going through my mind after episode 6. Not only are the soundtracks extremely epic and varied, but they also set the mood extremely well for the games. Unfortunately, the soundtrack list isn’t released at the time of this review, nor is there a release date yet, but it’s something to look forward to in the near future, though some remakes can be found online.

The OP theme is “This Game”, and it’s great, and fitting for an Adventure anime, and it’s also very addicting. The ED theme on the other hand (Oracion) sounds more “emotional” and calm, which really fits the mood some of the fans were when each episode ended and they had to wait one more week for the next one.

The sound effects were really good, especially when games were taking place. Explosions, shots, you name it. Finally the voice actors did a great job most of the time, especially when either Sora or Shiro were explaining their thought process about something. The V.As are definitely a big part of a show, and the ones that participated in this project were great, especially Matsuoka Yoshitsugu, who voiced Sora, and had voiced other popular characters such as Kirito from Sword Art Online.

The Characters (9/10)

As stated previously, Sora and Shiro are the main characters of the show. An interesting thing to note is that we never learn their surnames. Sora is a laidback individual who loves games, and seems to know what to say in every situation. He’s also extremely perverted, but doesn’t seem to target Shiro, his sister, that many times, except when he’s joking. Speaking of Shiro, she’s the other half of Blank. While she doesn’t seem as smart and confident as Sora, she is actually quite reliable, and can stand up for herself most of the time, being able to carefully analyze a situation and act based on the best option. She’s also a pro in FPS games, more so than Sora, who stated that “Shiro can cover his weaknesses, whereas he can cover her weaknesses, and that’s what Blank is all about”. The relationship between the siblings is the highlight of the show, and the trust they have in each other is brilliant, sometimes to the point of being emotional. Another thing about them is that they can’t stay apart from each other for too long. If Sora is separated from Shiro, they both can’t even seem to stand up until they check the other’s safety. Mostly used for comedy purposes, it also shows the strength of the bond they share.

As for the two other characters that team up with the siblings, Stephanie Dola is their first companion. Being the granddaughter of the late king, known as the “Foolish King”, she feels the responsibility of looking after the country and people that the previous king loved. Because of this, she participates in the tournament held with the purpose of electing a new king for Elkia. She is used mostly as fan service material or comedy-relief, but she did have her moments, even if short ones, where she was really brilliant. The other one is Jibril, a Flugel that eventually joins the team. She is extremely smart and seems to be curious of things she doesn’t know about, always striving to learn more about the world.

With the help of these two, the siblings Sora and Shiro will challenge this world, never stopping at anything to get what they want. Having a great cast of characters is something that helps a show a lot. Not only do they need to be fun, but also have a “depth” to them, and space for development, which might seem impossible in NGNL at first, because Blank never loses, according to the siblings. However, on a second glance, you will find a lot of opportunities for development, such opportunities that the show cleverly takes advantage of, including the backstory of the characters, their ideals regarding the world they live in, and their goals and reasons for fighting.

The Enjoyment (10/10)

I can easily say this show is one of the most enjoyable shows I have ever seen. Being the only subjective part of the review, it really depends if the viewer managed to get used to the artwork and the fan service or not. If they did, they might have enjoyed this show as much as the majority. If they didn’t, then there’s no way around it. While this show really stands out from the other ones in a sense, other parts of it might put some people off, which is understandable, and if that happens, it just means the genre isn’t for them.

The anime doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither should you. The games have NO rules as long as the people cheating know what they’re doing, and many times that fact is used as comedy relief, and the fact that the rules barely matter might be considered a flaw, though I wouldn’t go that far. It’s just part of the anime. As bad as it may sound, NGNL is self-aware of its own flaws, something that a lot of shows that are supposed to be taken seriously aren’t, and while that alone doesn’t  completely delete such flaws, it makes it so they’re not as noticeable, especially if you’re having fun watching it.

In conclusion (8/10)

There are some shows that are difficult to rate objectively, and this is one of those. While NGNL does have a lot of problems if deeply analyzed, the enjoyment it provides with the funny characters and engaging plot is more than enough to make up for them, at least to some people. It’s rare for a show to be so consistently enjoyable throughout 12 episodes, and it really left a void after it ended. With no second season announced as of yet, all we can do is have faith and wait.

The bottom line is: IF someone watches anime purely for the enjoyment it provides, then NGNL is definitely a good choice. It’s a show that isn’t meant to be deeply analyzed and criticized. It’s main goal is to keep the audience entertained for its duration, and if you can understand that, then I definitely recommend the show. Overall, the show deserves an 8/10, an extremely good work by Madhouse once again.

Thanks for reading!

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One response to “No Game No Life

  1. I really enjoyed NGNL too, it may not be the deepest or most complex story but it knows exactly what it’s going for and I feel it did a pretty good job with its execution for the most part. NGNL was consistently entertaining and pretty clever, and while it may not be the most intelligent battle of wits story out there, it has a lot of creativity in its favor and it does a great job establishing this type of series in a fantasy setting. I’d definitely like to see more of the series, I really enjoyed this season but I imagine it could do even more with other installments.

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