I really enjoyed the anime of No Game No Life so while I’ve been trying to avoid too many books of anime I watched (Grimgar being the notable exception), I decided I wouldn’t mind trying this series to see if I could find out what happens next given the anime just leaves us hanging. So what is this book about? Sora and Shiro are brother and sister who play games under the name ‘blank’ and they never lose. However, they are summoned by a boy calling himself god into an alternate world where war is forbidden and all conflicts are determined via games.
I’ll apologise in advance because this review is relying heavily on comparisons to the anime series and it also contains spoilers.
As I said in the overview, I really kind of enjoyed the anime of this series. It has its over the top fan-service moments and the main characters are protected by the absolute plot armour that is ‘blank never loses’, but the fantastic build ups in each game, the sheer craziness of some of the set ups and just the overall feel of the show kind of carried us through the less than stellar story moments. So what happens when you read the same events?
Honestly, not much. If I was brutally honest, I was kind of bored while reading this. Possibly if I hadn’t seen the anime and hadn’t known exactly what to expect from the plot it might have had a bit more impact, but the writing here is pretty straight forward with an over-reliance on dialogue at times and it never managed to wow factor that accompanied so many of the scenes in the anime. And stripped of its colourful dressings, fantastic music and just the sheer strength of the voice acting, this story is not exactly compelling. And while it might be mean to compare it to the anime, even forgetting how it presented the situations, the bottom line was I didn’t have a lot of fun reading this.
The ever problematic Stephanie in the series comes off even worse in the book. There’s no dismissing the way her character is treated or pushing it aside. Reading the scenes actually made me a little uncomfortable. Particularly when Sora and Shiro were essentially playing dress up with her. And while it is not any worse than what is presented in the anime, there’s something a little more disturbing about reading a description of someone being treated in such a manner. That might be a really biased view on my part but I was not a fan.
This volume takes us through Sora and Shiro’s set up as brother and sister and unbeatable gaming duo, their summoning into the world of Disboard, finding their way to the last kingdom of Imanity and then game their way to becoming the new King of the country before declaring war on the rest of the world. There are a few changes from how some of these events play out in the anime, but basically the story is much the same. And it is a decent enough set up into a series of fantastical gaming matches against the other races, and yet I don’t really feel compelled to read any further. Watching the series, I really wanted to know what they would do next, but here I’m kind of happy to leave Sora and Shiro go about their next steps all on their own.
One thing I did notice specifically with the writing, and it was quite a distraction, was a heavy reliance on dashes. Dashes used at the start of paragraphs, and usually they seemed to indicate the narrator was directly addressing the reader, are scattered liberally through the entire book. The end result is a tone and flow that doesn’t really feel consistent and continues to knock the reader out of the immersion they are probably seeking. It keeps the reader at arm’s length from the characters and makes it difficult for us to really care what is about to happen. The dialogue also relies heavily on the use of ellipses and while I get that they are trying to show us that these characters are awkward in social situations, again it just disrupts the flow of reading when used with such abundance.
Anyway, between distracting punctuation, characters that are not exactly likeable and an absence of distractions from some of their more negative moments, and a story line that does what it needs to but not a lot more, there just doesn’t seem to be any reason to continue with this series. Other than the whole anime not finishing thing and leaving us hanging. Even then, there are many other series that didn’t get a second season that might be more interesting to read and so I’ll probably continue to seek those out.
I was definitely disappointed by this one as I was looking forward to it. That said, it isn’t unreadable. It didn’t work for me and I definitely preferred viewing the anime, but this series is quite popular so clearly other people find something to enjoy in them. Feel free to share your views in the comments below if you’ve read the series.
If you’re interested in reading No Game No Life Volume 1 it is available on the Book Depository.