No Game No Life!
No Game No Life was recommended to me by a friend several months ago. When she described it to me (fairly poorly, to be fair) it sounded pretty generic to me. “Two main characters’ worlds are turned upside down and are literally transported to a different world, having to survive by winning games etc. etc.” But I have to say, this one really took me by surprise with how good it was. Nice surprises always make stuff so much better, don’t they? No Game No Life is the perfect anime to sit down and just chill out to or even watch with friends: it’s entertaining, funny and doesn’t ever try and get particularly serious. That isn’t to say it is an anime without flaws – far from it, actually.
So NGNL is an anime about two insanely socially anxious siblings who are so afraid of the real world and all of its unpredictability and danger that they instead spend their entire lives playing video games. They also, rather fortunately, are both extremely intelligent and great at playing video games. However, one day, they are challenged by a mysterious individual for a game of over-the-internet chess. So anyway, it turns out to be the god of a game world in another universe who ropes our unsuspecting protagonists into joining this game world for a new and different life there, where all conflicts must be solved by playing a game and making a fair wager. For example if your neighbours make too much noise late at night, you play them at a game and promise to not bother them if you lose, but demand that if you win, they shut up and give you some peace; similarly, if you want to take over a country, the same rules apply. This world is called Disboard.
We have our main characters, Sora and Shiro, who are so scared of people they have lived most of their lives being hikikomori and staying in a dark room playing video games. However I do find it ironic that they essentially do a ‘kings speech’ speech on us not long after the story begins, i.e. literally giving a speech in front of a whole city of people. So, that aside, what we have is Sora, a confident and arrogant 17 year old who always knows how to get out of a sticky situation in the game world. A fun and entertaining character, this guy is actually pretty cool and easy to attach to. Then we have Shiro, the super quiet twelve year old who is Sora’s little sister and also partner in their gaming duo which they call ‘blank’. Together, and with the help of their trusty smart phones that were blessed with unlimited battery life, they take on opponents in their new world aiming to defeat everyone and eventually challenge Tet, the god of Disboard.
To add to the trio, Stephanie Dola enters the series as the kind friend/ normal person character who helps Sora and Shiro live and rule the country of humanity. Stephanie is that necessary character in all films that require more than your average amount of brainpower that asks all the questions about ‘what just happened’, and ‘what did you just do’ and ‘how the hell did you see that coming’. She was quite relatable because, as much as Sora and Shiro tease her for being ‘stupid’, she actually isn’t. Stephanie is actually a normal, fairly competent character who just can’t quite make the jumps that our main protagonists do throughout the action scenes.
NGNL did well with its pacing. It introduced us to the world of Disboard and all of its mythology fairly quickly at the start and then drip-fed me more with little nuggets of lore to deepen the setting bit by bit as the show progressed. Even the action scenes were well-paced, showing crazy all-out battles between Blank and various opponents whilst explaning what was actually going on so I could keep up – part from the infamous rock-paper-scissors scene of course (II still have no idea what happened back there).
Talking of action scenes, this is where NGNL really shines and really shows its true nature as a TV show. Each action or game scene will have our protagonists face off against all odds to defeat their opponents, and even though it becomes pretty clear that they are going to win, they still manage to be thoroughly entertaining, simply because it was so much fun to see Blank play against and outsmart their opponents. The games they play are entertaining as well, often taking a cool twist on classic games like chess.
The animation and colour palette stood out to me right from the start. The series takes a really summery colour palette that is bight and full of pinks and yellows – warm colours which I have always found pleasing to the eye. The animation is fluid and makes use of the bright colours to really jump out with its special effects. As for the soundtrack, it was fun to listen to and had a really gamey feel to it, and completed the epicness of all of the cool scenes in the series. Having said that, it wasn’t necessarily something I found particularly memorable about the series because it blended in so well with everything else that was happening. I wouldn’t consider this such a downside though, because it accompanied each scene nicely and completed the atmosphere for each scene.
NGNL keeps to an upbeat and simplistic tone and storyline as well, which is a relief now that I think about it because it allowed the anime to focus on its fight scenes and light-hearted humour and didn’t try and get all thought-provoking on me. Because of this, the anime did a stellar job of delivering on what it was clearly always supposed to – that is, a fun, and action-packed series that I could just sit back, relax and enjoy.
I’m giving NGNL a:
7/10 for characters
7/10 for story
9/10 for animation and art
8/10 for soundtrack
9/10 for personal enjoyment – sure, it wasn’t perfect, but I found myself caring less and less about these imperfections as the show went on.
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