Tentacle-Free Anime: "No Game No Life" (2014) Review
- by Kazekun, 11 May 2015
Video games, board games, mobile games, and quiz games – these are all different aspects of the gaming world, a world many people dedicate their lives to. Few go on to become professionals at it, being so good that they actually get paid, but most of us really just play games in our spare time. I love games myself, so any story about games has a good chance of catching my eye. Thus was the tale behind "No Game No Life".
I'm just gonna get it out the way now: I absolutely adored this series. From episode one, all the way till the end. At 12 episodes, the series isn't too long. But it never feels too quick, or too draggy either. I would say the closest it gets to the latter is during a chess scene, straight out of Harry Potter (admittedly, with some major differences when it came to the execution). Telling the story of two siblings, who are whisked away by a grand God known as Tet, in order to work their way up in his world and ultimately challenge him and become God themselves. The story has a very unique premise, that is fast to draw one in.
To make things even more interesting, there are 16 different species in this world and each species is classified in “ranks” by how strong they are and how close they are to magic. Humanity being the farthest from magic, and the highest you can go is being God himself. Based off the rules of this world, if you were to beat God, you could then become God, but you must also be able to outsmart the higher-up races and be stronger than their magic.
It's a long, and incredibly dangerous road, but Sora and Shiro are just cocky enough to do it. Which is what makes most of this show so fun - these two know they can win, they're geniuses when it comes to games, but their opponents aren't easy ones. So the way the show usually plays out isn't trying to guess whether these two will win, but how will they win. And that's where the genius of this show really lies, in the execution of its games. These are not your standard rock-paper-scissors (although one episode does have an epic portrayal of that). Magic is involved in every game, making a game such as shiritori truly come to life on the screen.
When they're not playing games, Shiro and Sora are being humorous little perverts, which is where a lot of the comedy comes into play. These two, especially Sora, love to poke fun at sex and ecchi things. This can lead the show down some unnecessary risque scenes, and at times it can get a little overwhelming, but at least it's thrown in because it is established that these two are perverts, instead of just being there for the sake of being there.
There are also some underlying incestuous tones when it comes to the two siblings, but that's because Shiro is more in love with her big bro, Sora, than he is with her. Sora is the character in episode two, who flat out tells the viewer that he will not, and can not love his littler sister in that way, and he sticks to it all the way to the end. That doesn't mean we don't get jokes later on, alluding to other intentions, but that's all they are - jokes.
The animation is incredibly colorful. This is one of the most color-heavy shows I have ever seen in my life. There is no “everything's so dark, so dreary looking”. No, it's all “it's so blinding! Look at all the color!” And I like that a lot. There aren't a lot of fun-but-serious and colorful shows out right now. So this really stands out. I wish the show could have been longer, especially considering that it does end on, well, not really a cliffhanger, but an “oh shit” moment that leaves you wanting so much more.
So far, though, I haven't heard of any plans for a second season, although the original light novels that the series is based on are still going. There are also 6 three minute long specials, just comedic side-stories that really like to play up the ecchi more than the original show did. Now, I would like to say this series is 100% tentacle-free, buuut thanks to those little specials there is one short where one of the main characters, Stephanie, is given the near tentacle-rape treatment. If you take in just the main series, it's all fun and no tentacles, but if you watch the specials, well, things get a tad slimy.
Overall I think the best part about this show was just how interesting and smart it made out regular, everyday games to be. Rock-Paper-Scissors turns into a festive 5-minute psychological evaluation, shiritori (the game of saying a word, and then someone else says another word using the last letter of the previous word) becomes a game where planet Earth implodes upon itself, and that chess game... oh man, that chess game. There’s one game in the series that, while enjoyable, wasn't the greatest representation this show has to offer, but it was still pretty damn epic. If anything, watch episode 6 and it will get you hooked without spoilers. That shiritori game is a pure blast.
There's also many, many references to other well-known games and game-centric anime series, such as Gun Gal and Yu-Gi-Oh.
Oh, and before I forget, I must mention the soundtrack to this show. Something I like to do when I feel that the music is worth mentioning. Oh dear God, that soundtrack. Full of pumping dubstep and chiptune beats, that really lend themselevs to the pumped-up atmoshpere of this world. Even normal conversations can be made epic and dancy thanks to the many great tracks on the OST. It serves to get you pumped up for (and during) the games, and man, does it ever. Even if you decide not to check this show out, at least check out the music. I promise it will get stuck in your head, in a good way.
Final Score: 4.5 Clever Ways to win a Duel out of 5
Have you seen "No Game No Life"? How did you like it?