Sora and Shiro are a pair of gamers that collectively go by the name Blank, and Blank never loses. Because of this they have become quite bored and are slightly interested when they are challenged to a game of chess. On winning the game they get asked it they want to go to a world where games decide everything. They answer yet and then find themselves literally hurtling toward Disboard, the world of games, and Tet, the god of this world, is explaining the rules (or ten pledges) to them. From there, they set themsleves the goal of winning every game and being able to challenge Tet again.
I recently watched No Game No Life again because I managed to convince someone it was an anime worth watching (they have a fairly long list of deal breakers when it comes to anime including anything with a high-school setting so it’s always refreshing to find an anime they’ll watch). The first time I watched this series I absolutely loved every minute of it. So how did it survive the rewatch?
The answer is pretty well, but the flaws of the series become far more glaringly obvious when the pretty and wow factor have faded and you already know the outcome of the games (though you kind of new the outcome in the first place it was more how they were going to pull it off). Breaking No Game No Life down.
Are characters are complete and over-the-top parodies of human beings (even though the vast majority aren’t human). And while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does make it hard to feel sympathy, empathy, or anything else for the characters.
And just when you think Sora and Shiro aren’t so bad afterall, Shiro’s outright lack of human emotion will punch you in the gut or Sora will follow up a truly brilliant dialogue with a panty joke or something equally jarring from the flow of the show.
That said, there is something amazing about these characters. My personal favourite is Izuna, who unfortunately doesn’t come along until close to the end but is actually the character I found the most sympathetic.
Jibril has some shining moments (anyone who values libraries and knowledge automatically gets some brownie points) and her adaptability is something to behold. But, those moments are contrasted with their attempts at using Jibril for comedic purposes that mostly fall flat. She was at her funniest when recalling the previous was when she apparently single-handedly wiped out man elves and that was pretty dark humour being thrown around in that scene.
So are the characters good or bad? That is entirely going to depend on whether you find them all smug beyond redemption or if they start to grow on you. I’ll leave each individual to make that call.
They play games. They win games. They tell us early on that Blank will NEVER lose. Seriously, they weren’t joking. Doesn’t matter what the situation or odds, these two are going to find a way to win. Whether you find the incessant rationalisation and explanations for how they managed to win charming and amusing or just pretentious will really determine how much you enjoy the story here. More importantly, it kind of cuts off just as it’s getting interesting. They are progressing toward their stated goal but still have a long journey ahead of them and that’s it. Game over. Or, anime over.
There isn’t really anything resembling a subplot in this. There are supporting characters and something about a potential rebellion in Elven Garde but mostly this just serves as more fodder for explanations about how Sora manipulated the situation to win. What back story there is revolves around the previous King who lost a lot of Imanity’s (Humanity’s) territory to the War Beasts, and again, it isn’t a subplot so much as another piece of a long and convoluted explanation of victory.
Is this worth watching for the story? I don’t mind the excessive exposition but I’m sure there are others out there who find it irritating. The stated goal of the protagonists is clear and they systematically cut through all their obstacles. Pretty straight forward adventure really.
Even on a rewatch, Disboard is beautiful.
Okay, the colour palette is a little on the insane scale but it is supposed to be a fantasy world ruled by a god who thinks games are the best way to solve conflicts so we can probably let that go.
The music works but is reasonably forgettable and the voice acting is neither particularly good or bad. Shiro’s voice annoys me because it feels like everything she says has been put through a filter and is just that little bit too high and whisper like. Maybe this was supposed to make her sound cute but it drove me crazy by the end of the series. fortunately, Shiro doesn’t talk anywhere near as often as Sora.
There are an excessive number of bathroom sequences and scenes where characters lose clothing for some of the most contrived reasons ever heard (even in anime). While bathroom scenes aren’t by themselves a problem their lack of purpose in this case is. It seems at times the entire plot just screeches to a halt while they chatter about random things while covered in suds. Could they at least talk strategy while showering?
While it might seem like I’m running this series down, I would definitely go for a third watch. I like the set up and enjoy the games that are played. I like that the characters aren’t just proclaimed to be smart but then never act smart (yes, I am looking at you Devil and Realist). Even knowing the outcome of the games I still felt a sense of tension at times and I found myself feeling for the losers in each round because there was never any way for them to win. They weren’t the protagonists.
All and all, this is worth giving a shot. Maybe it won’t be your thing but there’s plenty to enjoy. No Game No Life is available on Crunchyroll and, as always, I’d love to know your thoughts on this series.