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No Game No Life

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Genre: Action/Comedy
Company: Madhouse
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 4/09/2014 – 06/25/2014

“We’ll start by conquering the world.”

Nobody knows that the online gaming team, four players referred to as “The Blanks” for their habit of not using user names at all, are really just two people: reclusive 18 year old Sora and his 11 year old sister Shiro. What everyone does know is that “The Blanks” are impossibly unbeatable. One day, The Blanks are challenged to a simple game of chess, and win, of course. Whoever was playing the other side poses the intriguing proposition of living in a world which is ruled entirely by games . . . and pulls them into an alternate reality which revolves around gaming! Now, they must play the game of their lives . . . they have a world to win.
summary by Papa-san

 

Reviewed: 10/01/2016 by

Grade: 75%  av-Gendo

Highs: very positive & upbeat; excellent artwork & animation; intriguing story; good character depth, good laughs

Lows: loli-ero; some very annoying & silly bits towards the beginning

Right off the bat, let’s accept that this is a Madhouse production, and we should not be too terribly surprised to get hit with a full-on cameltoe panty shot of an 11 year old girl just three minutes in. This rather sets the tone for the whole series: some very intriguing, engaging, and serious sequences interrupted with rather unsettling loli fan service.

The premise of a deeper reality behind a video game is not new, and has been explored in books (Ender’s Game), movies (The Last Starfighter), and TV (Digimon). No Game No Life is an excellent exploration of the motif. Here, a pair of dedicated and unbeatable gamers find themselves recruited to live in an alternate universe which is dedicated to, and governed by, games: the world Disboard. Ruled by self-proclaimed god Tet, and governed by Tet’s Ten Commandents.

Soro and Shiro have fallen into the middle of some political intrigue: the king has died, and his legacy decrees that his successor shall be chosen — how else?– by a poker game. Stephanie Dola, his granddaughter, otherwise the rightful heir to the throne, is determined to win the throne, despite her terrible card skills, but Sora and Shiro decide to come to her aid. Shiro also decides that she should be his first romance. As the penalty to a bet they have made, Shiro jokingly orders her to fall in love with him, and is astounded when he discovers that this world’s laws demanding that gambling debts be paid are not just rote regulations, they seem to be forces of nature! The two lend their gaming skills to Stephanie’s quest, and the story goes on to tell of Disboard’s 16 different races, and how mankind (“Imanity”) is the lowest ranked of all, that Imanity is restricted to the very small kingdom of Elkia, and in danger of extinction. Soro, who with Shiro has won the throne, resolves to take on the rest of the world, starting of course with the neighboring Werebeast kingdom. Naturally, that’s where all the cute catgirls live. Along the way, Soro expounds on several theories and strategies of gaming, and taunts his opponents with the refrain that he and Shiro win their games before they have even begun. On a grander scale, that of Imanity’s precarious position in this world, he rallies a dejected and fearful populace with the assurance that mankind’s weakness is, Zen-like, its greatest strength.

Artwork in backdrops is pretty stunning, and the title sequences are quite good. Character art has some excellent work. Clothing and costumes are quite imaginative and varied; at one point Soro remarks he feels like he’s cosplaying! A lot of CGI, but blends extremely well.

Opening and closing themes are adequate. Incidental music is never overpowering but adds a lot of energy to the action sequences in particular.

Overall, a winner. Soro’s discussions of game strategy, noted above, are really quite interesting. There are any number of twists, surprises, and cliffhangers which never seem contrived or corny. Be sure to watch to the very end, as important bits are revealed in some of the “Next Episode” sequences after the closing. This seems to promise a number of sequels, following the original manga. Some points off the final grade for the ero/ecchi content. Not that I have anything against it per se, just that most of it is purely gratuitous and takes away from the core story in a rather short series, time which I think could have been better spent on the actual story.

 

No Game No Life can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.

 

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