Man I procrastinated on this review for a while. Don’t get me wrong, No Game No Life was a hell of a blast to watch, but sometimes a person’s gotta life. Either way, I remember when this anime came out and the hype train was CHOO-CHOOing all over the place. This alongside Kill La Kill (which I’m also watching by the way). No Game No LIfe is a short 12 episodes, but it was an enjoyable 12 episodes. While fun to watch, I feel like it suffers from somewhat of an identity crisis. While I usually enjoy changes in atmosphere to accentuate ups and downs, No Game No Life tries to be a lot of different genres at once, causing it to spread itself a bit too thin.
== The Game World, Disboard ==
There is no doubt that the driving force of No Game No Life is its setting. The Ten Pledges that govern the world, Disboard, is complete, absolute, and most importantly completely fair. Let’s look at them in their entirety (from the No Game No Life wikia):
- All murder, war, and robbery is forbidden in this world.
- All conflict in this world will be resolved through games.
- In games, each player will bet something that they agree is of equal value.
- As long as it doesn’t violate pledge three, anything may be bet, and any game may be played.
- The challenged party has the right to decide the rules of the game.
- Any bets made in accordance with the pledges must be upheld.
- Conflicts between groups will be conducted by designated representatives with absolute authority.
- Being caught cheating during a game is grounds for an instant loss.
- In the name of God, the previous rules may never be changed.
- Let’s all have fun and play together!
Rule number 1 and 2 honestly say the same thing: Games decides everything. Rule number 3 is an agreement clause; a game can never be binding if both parties do not agree to it. The key word, is “agree.” It matters not what is bet, as long as an agreement is agreed upon, leading to rule 4.
Rule 6 makes the agreement a binding contract. Rule 9 just says that you cannot change these rules with games. Rule 10 is a glhf (good luck have fun).
The most interesting rules are rule 5 and rule 8. First let’s start with rule 5. “The challenged party has the right to decide the rules of the game.” By being able to decide the rules, the challenged has a severe advantage over the challenger. Therefore, the challenger must have a strong reason for challenging somebody on his or her battle grounds. It’s easy to forget this rule, but it is a rule that is very important to the main characters, especially Sora. In the anime, Sora and Shiro (collectively calling themselves Blank) never back down from a game challenge on the basis that “Blank never loses.” But half the time, Blank wins because of this one rule. When they are challenged, they choose the game that is played and have such an advantage that anyone foolish enough to challenge them is sure to lose. Unfortunately, these games are rarely entertaining because the challenged (usually Sora) outright destroys the challenger (usually Steph).
The most interesting, and luckily the more important, games are when Sora and Shiro challenge others, play by another’s rules, and emerge victorious them. I’m a huge fan of powerful, proactive main characters and Sora fits this bill perfectly.
Rule 8 is the other aspect of Disboard that makes all the games very interesting. While at first, it seems to discourage cheating, Sora figures out early on that this rule actually encourages it! Just don’t get caught! This provides an interesting predicament for our Imanity (aka human) protagonists that live in a fantasy world where the other races can perform magic of unimaginable power that is undetectable by humans.
From the get go, things are skewed against our hero and heroines (yes it’s a harem, more on that later), but that’s the way Sora likes it. He’s a bit of a masochist that way.
M-jokes aside, the games follow a pretty predictable pattern. First, Sora looks like he’s prepared for everything. But then, there’s more to the game than Sora expects or there’s cheating involved. Finally Sora emerges victorious because he and Shiro figure out a solution while winging it. Luckily, the twelve episode season isn’t truly long enough for this pattern to repeat too much. I only really noticed the pattern near episode 10 or so, which was far enough in to have already hooked my attention.
Side note, I think Sora’s more of an S than an M to be honest. Wow. So cunning. Much devious.
== How Lewd ==
The perverted nature of No Game No Life is probably what bothered me the most. Fan service is meant to be an undertone. No Game No Life just throws the fan service at your face and screams “Look at it! Isn’t this great?!” No, anime, it’s not great. It’s annoying and bothersome. Don’t get me wrong, pretty anime girls are nice to look at, but I don’t want it put so bluntly.
To clarify, here’s an analogy. For me, fan service should be something like a waiter at a restaurant slipping you an extra ice cream because it’s your birthday. What No Game No Life does is the entire restaurant staff screams at your face “Happy Birthday” while presenting you the ice cream. It’s over the top and excessive.
==Final Verdict ==
To summarize No Game No LIfe, it’s a very smart anime that is very dumb. The characters are vivid and interesting on their own, but their interactions with each other is very one-dimensional with little character development. Yet the cleverly designed world and games create interesting scenarios and, more importantly, ingenious solutions to these obstacles. I can’t get enough of Sora’s arrogance and attitude.
NGNL is subpar as a whole, but if you consider it’s only 12 episodes, it’s pretty good. Like Jibril, I’m just drooling for more with high anticipation. Unfortunately, I can see the show being awful just as easily as being amazing.