Something happened at Nobuaki’s old school and all of his classmates are dead. Starting over at a new school he is understandably reserved but slowly gets drawn into friendship with many of his new classmates. Then they all receive a text message informing them that the King’s Game has started and they cannot stop playing.
This show more or less took a shopping list approach to cheesy horror and then delivered an unevenly paced, poorly gore censored, poorly characterised approach giving us what could possibly be described as the best of what B Grade horror has to offer. You want over the top deaths and reactions to those deaths? Check. You want a totally implausible and inescapable villain? Check. You want a large cast of characters to serve as cannon fodder? Check and check given we get to see the current class bite the dust as well as the previous class Nobuaki was a member of through flash backs.
There is literally nothing good about this show. The plot, the characters, the execution are all sub-standard at best (okay, the opening theme is pretty cool). Yet, it is undeniably fun viewing for people who are fans of movies along the lines of Scream, Urban Legend, Disturbing Behaviour, etc, etc. While I might have liked less of the flash backs to the previous class, the current class to be more fleshed out, and better animation and visuals (particularly on some of the deaths), this is more or less exactly what I want when I say I want to watch bad horror. It hit the spot exactly and I had a blast watching it (though enjoying watching something and actually recommending it to others are entirely different things).
For those who didn’t watch it during its airing, I should probably be more specific about what the story does and does not do.
Probably the biggest flaw this show has is you won’t ever get an answer as to what the King’s Game is and why it exists and how it does what it does. It just does. Deal with it or watch something else. In a show like Juni Taisen where it was heavily implied that there was a purpose to the fight and then we just never got any detail, this sort of thing bothers me. In King’s Game, it didn’t really matter. A killer text message will still kill you even if you know its exact origin. What little explanation we got was mostly conjecture by the characters and unconfirmed conjecture at that (and that’s probably a good thing because it was insane). Basically, don’t expect a satisfactory motive for any of the game by the end.
That said, even character motives get murky at times. While there are some clear ones for the survivalists in the group, other characters’ have very confused motives and at times you can’t really see the sense in their actions. You can dismiss most of this because of the extreme situation they find themselves in and because they are young, but after awhile you have to wonder if this class was full of students who were all just a little bit stupid. Also, the absence of reasonable responses from the school, parents or the community to the deaths certainly makes you wonder just what the context for this story is because unless they all got transported to another dimension at the start of the game where no other humans existed outside of the class, it just makes no sense that nobody seems to care that these students are literally dropping like flies.
Nobuaki (the main character) is brilliant and dreadful all at the same time. Outside of the context of this show, he is a dreadful character. He’s inconsistent, whiny, defeatist (except when he decides he can’t give in), stands on the corpses of his friends but insists cooperation is the key to survival without a shred of evidence. He’s brilliant to watch in the insanity that his very nature brings to the story. A walking contradiction. A survivalist who seems to genuinely believe in the protection of the herd yet somehow always comes out on top.
By himself, he may have become unbearable, but when countered by Natsuko (also a previous game survivor) who is an undisguised survivalist and will openly trample on anyone and anything, he becomes much more interesting. The two clash over and over and yet they both desire to live. And again, Natsuko is an individually unbearable character and if you removed her from the context here and just examined her actions and motives, you would wonder why she wasn’t edited out of existence. But she works here. She stirs the class and adds tension where it is needed and provides a human face to the horror that might otherwise only be conveyed through blacked out smudges of blood and dismemberment or text messages.
The story also deals with the large cast by very quickly whittling it down with a large number of deaths upfront and the group splitting until very close to the end so that you could spend more time with handfuls of characters. Unfortunately most of the support cast aren’t up to the task of being interesting, but at least you remember their name when they finally bite the dust.
I do want to address the King’s commands though. From the flash backs it is clear that not every punishment is death, yet in the current game the punishments are almost always death. The challenges themselves escalate, super fast. Going from confessing, to sleeping with someone, to smashing your own hand with a rock and worse, very quickly with no steps back where an easy task is given. I feel this is one element of the show that should have been played with more with easy tasks being given and more tension building when a punishment was coming because you wouldn’t know if the punishment would involve death, injury, or maybe just embarrassment. There’s certainly a lot that could have been done with this story element that really didn’t get developed.
Still, I stand by the title of this posts. If you like bad horror, this will be a treat. Otherwise, this isn’t the show for you.
I’d love to know your thoughts on King’s Game if you watched it.
- Episode 1: This Could Get Interesting
- Episode 2: Meaningless Flashback
- Episodes 3 + 4: These Kids Will Need So Much Therapy – Assuming They Live
- Episode 5: Can We Start Over With New Writers?
- Episode 6: There’s Suspension of Disbelief and Then There is This
- Episode 7: Were These Deaths Supposed To Be Touching?
- Episode 8: Individual Desires vs Collective Survival
- Episode 9: Emotional Tension Despite a Lack of Logic
- Episode 10: Questions and Motivations
- Episode 11: There Is No Winning
- Episode 12: The Dramatic Conclusion (Or Maybe Not)
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