No Game No Life Series Review: It’s Not Just a Game

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in June 2016 and can be found here.

This review was initially written in a style I very quickly dumped and that was separating out the characters, plot and setting under heading and discussing them in isolation. While I haven’t really changed my view on this anime, I have restructured the review quite significantly.

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This is a series I’d rewatched even before my first review and I noted that while the show remained ridiculously fun, the flaws of the series become far more glaringly obvious when the pretty shining colours and wow factor are less distracting 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).

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It is worth noting that realism is not what this anime was going for. All of the 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. This problem was actually made worse when I finally got around to reading the first light novel hoping it would perhaps shed some light on some of the character’s back stories (note, it doesn’t at least not in volume 1).

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 wars when she apparently single-handedly wiped out many elves. That was some pretty dark humour being thrown around in that scene, though that’s fairly consistent within No Game No Life. A lot of what you will be amused by within the context of the anime is actually quite dark and problematic when taken out of that context.

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The plot here is really where some people will start to drift away. 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. Perhaps we’ll eventually get a follow up, but for now, we’re left with Blank ready to start on their journey to challenge Tet (the god of Disboard) and yet we don’t get to see that journey.

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.

However, where the characters might be questionable in how they are presented and the plot will only work provided you enjoy watching how they win rather than feeling any tension about whether they will win, the visuals are distinct, to say the least. Even on a rewatch, Disboard reamined beautiful.

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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’s fanservice here. Lots of it. Bathroom sequences and female characters losing their clothes for some fairly flimsy plot points. 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? And seeing Sora using his phone to try to get photos of Stephanie in the bathroom is just all kinds of creepy.

Despite all the problems this series has that keep it from being a must 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 they actually are planning ahead and have a vision of what they are trying to accomplish. The value of knowledge in this anime is expressed over and over again and that is something to be celebrated. That and the whole thing is so over the top and fun. While it won’t be for everyone, you can do a lot worse than No Game No Life.


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Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Bookworms

As an avid bookworm myself I definitely appreciate seeing characters who read, who talk about books, and who generally respect stories and it is no surprise that some of my favourite characters ever are bookworms (though there are plenty of book reading characters who are neither here nor there really). Today I’m counting down my top 5 anime bookworms and why I enjoy them so much (though those who have been following the blog for awhile will already know who number one is sure to be).

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mention: Sunako from Shiki and Makashima from Psycho Pass. Okay, I seriously want to add Makashima onto the list and I just can’t fit him so here’s a picture anyway.

Number 5: Jibril (No Game No Life)

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Jibril loves knowledge. As a member of the Flugel race she craves it and after defeating the King of Imanity in a game she claimed the library as her own. There’s something really special about a character who is powerful enough to have more or less anything and she picks the library and while her reaction to a tablet full of books from a world she didn’t know may have been a bit over the top, you have to appreciate the enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge.

Number 4: Kaneki Ken (Tokyo Ghoul)

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While I haven’t much liked much of Tokyo Ghoul since season one, it is undeniable that I quite liked Kaneki’s character way back when. The shy book loving boy who just wanted the pretty girl to notice him and discuss books with him was adorable and the tragedy that befell him suitably heart wrenching. If only they’d continued to evolve his character sensibly from that point I probably would still love Kaneki as a character. Still, any guy who thinks of a bookshop for a date is definitely going to get a spot on my list.

Number 3: Nagato Yuki (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya)

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The only member of the literature club who then is forcibly joined into the SOS brigade, Nagato is very seldom seen without a book. She even passes message to Kyon about meeting by lending him a book (a failed strategy when he at first just forgets to read the book and it isn’t until the second night he gets the message). Still, she’s persistent. It is hard to figure out whether Nagato actually enjoys reading or whether it is just a habit, but she’s one bookworm you do not want to mess with, or apparently try to verse at any kind of computer strategy game.

Number 2: Chito (Girls’ Last Tour)

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Chito’s genuine joy and love at finding a book and her genuine horror at Yuu’s callous destruction of a book, is something that really drew me to her character during Girls’ Last Tour’s run. There’s a lot to like about the quieter and more contemplative of the pair, and I definitely think that anyone who wants to save books even at the end of the world deserves to be mentioned on this list with love.

Number 1: Maka Albarn (Soul Eater)

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In fairness, I think Maka loves studying more than she actually likes books, and yet she’s a badass character who takes time to read, to learn, and to genuinely bury herself in words. Although, she isn’t above using a book as a weapon of mass destruction should the person near her annoy her enough. Honestly though, Maka and books are more or less inseparable in my mind and they are a part of what made her character so incredibly relatable and memorable to me all those years ago. I love Maka as a character and she well and truly deserves the number one spot on this list.

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So I’m dying to know who your favourite anime bookworm is. Be sure to let me know in the comments.


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Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: The Power of Clichés, Archetypes, and Being Predictable

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord - Episode 1 - Diablo

We all know about anime clichés, archetypes and tropes and we’ve all kind of come to accept that there are certain characters and events that we’re going to run into again and again. However, for some people, the existence of clichés and archetype characters who don’t break the mould are enough for them to scorn a show and turn away from it. They label it unoriginal or boring and might claim it offers nothing. And yet there are a lot of good reasons for stories not to go off script or venture into new waters.

That isn’t to say that it wouldn’t be nice occasionally for things to be changed up a bit or presented in a new way, nor is it excusing the lazy use of clichés for laughs in exchange for actually writing a story or considering the purpose of the characters but it does mean that just because something is entirely cliché does not mean it is bad just because it is. I think we need to consider the context and the execution (as well as which cliché it is because there are some clichés that individuals will accept more readily than others) before making up our minds.

It is kind of timely to visit this topic with so many new shows starting for the season. It is inevitable that first episodes will be riddled with clichés. And for those who consider that a death sentence on a story that is something you will have to accept.

Why?

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First episodes need to get their point across, set up what their tone is going to be, introduce characters and give the audience some impression of who they are, as well as do some basic world-building. And they need to grab the audience’s attention so there are going to be some bells and whistles thrown in. All of this in some twenty minutes. It is a lot to ask and while some shows put off some of these attributes for later episodes and choose to either focus on world building, tone, or characters rather than all of them in one episode, with the short attention span of viewers these days that’s a pretty risky move. That’s where clichés and archetypes come in.

Archetypes are recognisable and memorable. They also cut through a lot of explanations because people already know what is on offer. In a first episode a female character might come across as the ‘manic pixie girl’ and a male character might be ‘generic self-insert isekai protagonist’ but it instantly establishes where this character is starting and the tone the audience can expect. Depending on which character archetypes we have on display the audience can begin making predictions about the kind of narrative path we’re about to walk and what is on offer. They may have seen it before, but they haven’t seen this version, so as long as the quality of how things are being executed is there, or there is some reason to believe that things are going to get shaken up in future episodes, there’s no reason to dismiss something just because it seems like it might be similar to about a thousand other stories.

Cliche events and actions such as first meetings, finding a secret power, some sort of misunderstanding, and so on serve much the same purpose in these first episodes. They may not be terribly original but as long as they are presented with integrity, that isn’t a huge problem. The issue isn’t from the archetypes and clichés themselves, the issue comes from the lazy way these are sometimes rolled out.

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If we take a look at the current anime season on offer we might look at something like How Not To Summon a Demon Lord and begin with the take down criticism of it being horrendously unoriginal, derivative, and the same as about a million other stories. And certainly it isn’t exactly ground breaking as we’ve seen a player trapped in his in game character that is some sort of demon in Overlord, we’ve seen transported to another world about a million times, and a world based on a game fairly recently in Death March to a Parallel World Rhapsody. We’ve certainly seen ordinary socially awkward guy instantly surrounded by bunch of girls of various types who for whatever reason all end up in love with him (more times than I can count).

The set up is incredibly generic, and then the events in the first episode are incredibly cliche. We have more fan-service moments then I’d care to recount right at the moment, an obnoxious jerk who wants to teach the protagonist a lesson and consequently gets beaten down, and the cute girl who eats a lot. Then the main character who is so incredibly recognisable as a gamer with no social skills or ability to talk to other people without assuming some sort of in game role (No Game No Life and about a million others).

All of this might be enough reason for some anime viewers to pass on this show entirely and I’ve certainly seen a fair number of reviewers who have thrown all isekai offerings this season into a basket and if that basket had been more than just metaphorical they’d have set it on fire (much the same to how I feel about idol anime really). However, not all isekai anime are created equal and while episode 1 of How Not To Summon A Demon Lord certainly didn’t blow my socks off, it did a decent job of setting up a potential story of interest with characters that have most definitely started out as cookie cutter archetypes that we’ve seen before but they all have growth potential.

This is where it gets tricky. The anime now has a short window of time to convert viewers like me from ‘maybe’ into definitely following the show. While generic cliches and archetypes work well enough in first episodes to establish ideas, if the show doesn’t demonstrate a willingness to do anything more than walk the well tread path of other stories, or worse, it has established the characters and then it leaves them exactly where they are, then the show becomes utterly deserving of the criticism of being unoriginal, derivative and not worth the time. But a first episode isn’t enough to make that judgement.

Though episode 2’s opening act with Diablo waking up with his hands on the boobs of both of his female companions probably indicates where this show sees character development.

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While comparing first episodes I’m really looking at How Not To Summon a Demon Lord or The Master of Ragnarok and Blesser of Einherjar to add to this season’s watch list (but not both because even I draw the line on isekai at some point). At the moment How Not To Summon a Demon Lord is slightly edging out The Master of Ragnarok for the simple reason that I had more fun with the first episode and the potential story set up looks like it will have a better pay off. Also, cool explosion (sorry, deep down I’m six years old and I know it) and the reference was cool even though I never watched the anime being referenced (memes do wonders for filling in context sometimes). The Master of Ragnarok didn’t get an immediate skip though because despite the overly harem qualities, the overt sex jokes, and every other poor generic idea this genre likes to throw at us, it does have the slight intrigue of not being another world but potential the past earth and the protagonist isn’t just arriving, he’s already there and established. It gives it just enough points of interest to earn a second episode consideration despite all the flaws with the first episode.

Regardless of which isekai I end up watching, the point that clichés and archetypes aren’t all bad can be made pretty clearly through an anime that also aired recently, Cells at Work. Outside of the concept that the characters are all anthropomorphic cells doing jobs within the body, there’s really nothing particularly original about the first episode. While AE3803 might be a truly adorable red blood cell, she’s your stereotypical naive and shy girl on her first day at work. She’s confused, she gets lost, after a chance encounter with a guy who saves her she literally clings on to him as he shows her around before he saves her again. If we took out the fact that they are blood cells, it is pretty much the script of any romantic comedy anywhere or even an action flick (actually, take out first day on the job and we’ve more or less got Temple of Doom working here).

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Yet most viewers would agree that Cells at Work presents itself in such a way that it feels original, fresh and entertaining. The change in setting and the clever way that is integrated into plot and character development allows them to execute a fairly ordinary and familiar story in a way that people appreciated and enjoyed. Something isekai stories might start doing if every ‘other world’ wasn’t generic fantasy land type B (why are no other worlds ever technologically advanced or just completely different from anything we’re familiar with – pseudo-medieval settings have been done to death, move on).

As a reviewer, I’m not above calling something cliche or generic, but at the same time, that isn’t reason enough for me to condemn a story and stop watching. As a fantasy/horror/action/sci-fi fan (in movies) I am well used to seeing very familiar characters and plots time and time again. What I want isn’t something that reinvents the wheel or revolutionises story telling; what I want is a quality story with a purpose and passion behind it that lends integrity to the work. Though that also might be asking too much sometimes and maybe I should just stick to wanting to be entertained for twenty minutes because that is something I’m more likely to achieve.

Alright, over to the readers. What do you think about the use of generic plots, tropes, cliches and archetypes and what do you think about the start of the Summer anime season? Be sure to leave me a comment letting me know.


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Karandi James

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No Game No Life Volume 1 Light Novel Review

Overview:

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.

Review:

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.

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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.


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Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Isekai Stories

With my current light novel fixation and the majority of these being isekai stories I decided to look at some of my favourite isekai anime. Now this list started with just being set in another world and then clearly made a distinction of stories where someone starts in one world and crosses to another (which ruled out huge numbers straight away and that was probably a good thing). The other self-imposed rule I made was that there needed to be some element of being stuck in the new world, which unfortunately took GATE out of my list so it is going in the honourable mentions.

As always, this list is my opinion and my favourites, feel free to add yours in the comments below. I’m certain there will be some Re:Zero fans out there.

Please Note: There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions in this list go to GATE and Drifters.

Number 5: The Familiar of Zero

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I don’t really know why I like this over the top, harem comedy anime, particularly with the initial interactions between Louise (the titular Zero) and Saito (ordinary guy from Earth who gets summoned as Louise’s familiar during a high school magic exam gone wrong). She literally treats him like a dog or a slave at first and it isn’t great (and there is some highly excessive fan service throughout), however somewhere along the line an actual story begins to develop and the world Saito has been summoned to ends up being quite interesting. All and all, by the end of the first season of this I was pretty hooked even if it is incredibly bad at times.

Number 4: No Game No Life

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Again, this one has some appalling fan service moments going on in it, but once again the world itself is really interesting. A world where there is no war and literally everything is decided by the outcome of games seems really fascinating, particularly when the participants of the games set and agree to the rules so it isn’t as though you have to be good at one particular game. Shiro and Sora are siblings who play as Blank online in the real world when they get invited to play another game and end up being transported to Disboard. While some people find the predictability of the victor a bit of a let down, I really enjoyed this anime and my only real complaint is the anime ends just as the story seems to really get going.

Number 3: The Devil is a Part Timer

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This one is kind of the reverse situation to so many other isekai stories. Instead of some normal everyman from earth finding themselves in a magic world, here a hero and a devil find themselves stuck on Earth where magic is pretty hard to come by. While they do find various ways in the end to travel home, for some reason, they never seem to go and Maou finds more and more reasons to stay. This one is funny and if you ever believed that corporate culture was evil you will probably find the devil’s aspirations to take over the world by working his way up the food chain at a knock off McDonald’s hilarious. Again, the story feels unfinished, but it is a fairly entertaining ride.

Number 2: Sword Art Online

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Yes, I like Sword Art Online. This one is also a bit different from others on this list in that it is a game world and not some sort of magic world the characters are in, and they voluntarily entered it even if they didn’t know they couldn’t leave, and by the end of the first arc they aren’t trapped anymore, but I love this show. I’m putting it here. It is great fun and Kirito is awesome. If you like boss fights, some random questing and levelling, and seeing characters getting on with ‘life’ when removed from the real world, this show is great fun.

Number 1: Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

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It is no surprise when I decided to dip my toes into the pool of Light Novels that I started with Grimgar. I loved this anime so much and fell in love with the world and the characters and desperately wanted more. Now that I’m reading the light novels I really want to know why there is no second season of this anime. Certainly it is a much slower pace and not as comedy heavy as some on this list, but I think that is for the better in this case as it provides a darker view of normal guy being transported to a world where he’s suddenly expected to know how to fight and survive. Well worth watching but you may need some tissues mid-season. One major difference in this story is the anime never confirms where the characters came from before they woke up in Grimgar so we know nothing of who they were before they encounter this world.

So that is my list of top 5 isekai anime. Please add your own favourites in the comments below because I would love to know what is on your list.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Brothers

We all know there are some terrible anime families out there, but every now and then a show finds a way to remind us that not every blood relative wants to abandon you, use you to destroy the world, or is on a vendetta to kill and destroy you. I’m dedicating this list to all the very cool brothers out there in the anime world and my criteria was simply that they had to actually look out for their sibling/s in some way.

Please Note: There will be some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week to Byakuya from Bleach (admittedly, it took him awhile to warm up to the idea of saving Rukia but after that point he was a pretty good brother).

Number 5: Sora from No Game No Life

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Sora is an incredibly confident gamer who is absolutely certain of victory, but only so long as his sister, Shiro, is by his side. More importantly, he prioritizes her happiness and well-being at every turn and absolutely trusts in her abilities. While there relationship may be unhealthy in some respects, separating them leading to the both of them all but shutting down emotionally, you can’t doubt the love these siblings have for one another and how much Sora is willing to do to give Shiro exactly what she wants.

Number 4: Edward and Alphonse from Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

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Oh, they are so cute. Seriously, these two are adorable as brothers even after one of them ends up as a soul attached to a suit of armour. Realistically these two could be put at number one on the list given everything they do is initially driven by Edward’s desire to ‘fix’ Alphonse but to be honest they get caught up in a lot of other stuff and even while the two will forever help each other out, both are aware there is more at stake. Still, utterly adorable.

Number 3: Lelouch from Code Geass

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I’ll be the first to admit that Lelouch’s family situation is complicated and not exactly nice, however his genuine love for his little sister Nunnally remains one of the touching cornerstones of Code Geass and is pretty much the only reason Lelouch shouldn’t just be written off as another egomaniacal character wanting to show off how smart he is. While I’m not entirely convinced that Lelouch ever really succeeded at ‘saving’ Nunnally, his determination to give her a better life was pretty admirable and he did end up shouldering an end that really shouldn’t have befallen him in order to spare her from having to take the responsibility.

Number 2: Touya from Cardcaptors

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Best big brother ever. Okay, maybe not given I put him in the second spot on the list, but he would still be an awesome brother to have. He doesn’t fall into the sickly sweet category as he certainly teases his little sister, as any self-respecting big brother would, but he never crosses the line into being mean and he most definitely always has his sister’s back even when she doesn’t know what he’s given up for her. This also carries over into Tsubasa Chronicles, though Touya has a much briefer role there.

Number 1: Komui Lee from D Gray Man

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While most of the time Komui acts like such an idiot it is hard to take him seriously as a character, it is important to remember that he gave up everything in his life to be with his sister and be her support. She was taken by the Dark Order because she could use Innocence and then she was pretty much on a self-destructive path and perfectly happy to die until Komui gave up whatever future he’d been heading towards to work for the Order to be with her. While casual observers think he’s the sister obsessed one, it is more that he knows how important his presence is for his sister and it really is the case that she’s the one who is a bit obsessed. Whenever you remember those scenes where we see Komui join the order to care for her, it makes so much of his character more tolerable and makes him my very favourite anime brother.

Over to you, who would you have included on your list of anime brothers?


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No Game No Life – Series Review

Overview:

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.

Review:

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?

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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.

Characters:

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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.

Plot:

They play games. They win games. They tell us early on that Blank  will tumblr_nyi81nxn5v1u3pr5ao1_1280NEVER 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.

Setting:

Even on a rewatch, Disboard is beautiful.

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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.

Everything Else:

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?

Verdict:

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.

Friday’s Feature – Journey To Another World

This week I’d like to open a discussion about anime worlds. One of the great things about anime is its ability to transport the characters to literally anywhere that can be imagined and because of that we have a field of vibrant and amazing worlds, planes, realities, planets, dimensions, time periods, and so on to travel through.

When done well, you can be completely absorbed by the world constructed by an anime. I’m only going to explore a few worlds that I’ve encountered through anime, but I’d love to hear about your favourite anime world in the comments.

When I started thinking about the worlds anime had taken me to, I realised I remembered the ones that were visually striking, seemed to have a rich history and political world, and seemed more than just a gimmick for the story (meaning that it felt like life was happening there anyway and we just happened to be seeing one story that took place in amongst a whole range of stories that could have been told).

1. Disboard (No Game No Life)

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For the moment, let’s ignore the over-the-top and slightly psychedelic colour scheme, and the fact that the name of the world feels like the creators just gave up arguing about what to actually call it. What I like about Disboard is that everything in the world is decided through games and there are clear and known rules that everyone must abide by. Imagining a world where everything follows a very clear logic and all conflict has an established method of being solved opens up all sorts of possibilities. Now our protagonists, collectively known as Blank, set about ruling the world. Not so much because they really want to rule but more because they like to win and they thought it looked like a great game. But what else could someone do if they were transported into this world? Suddenly that scrabble game has a lot more riding on it than just pride.

2. Everywhere in Tsubasa Chronicles

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I’ve been told, by someone who could not stand this series, that this is worth watching just for the travel through multiple dimensions. Every few episodes we’re hitching a ride to a new world with its own rules and logic, but beautiful even while uncovering its host of problems. The biggest problem with the worlds in this series is you never get to stay long enough and you feel like you’ve really only scratched the tip of the iceberg when you are whisked away to another location. That, and after awhile you have to wonder where are the worlds where things aren’t all coming to an end right when the protagonists show up (very much like the Sliders TV series way back when). Still, if you are after some truly gorgeous fantasy worlds (and some sci-fi ones as well), Tsubasa isn’t going to disappoint.

3. The world of Hitsugi no Chaika

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It may be pretty standard fantasy fair when it comes to appearance, a quasi medieval setting overlaid with a bit of magic and steampunk inventions, but the world Chaika travels through is fascinating (even if inconsistent). The magical creatures are varied and dangerous. An array of magical powers are being used and magic power itself can be drawn from memories and remains, which has a whole extra layer of creepiness when you think about it. The world is recovering from a war but hardly at peace leaving an intriguing political situation to learn about and the landscape has enough variety to certainly keep you from getting bored. Honestly, I have no idea what this world is called as I don’t recall it being mentioned in the anime (specific locations are named but I don’t know about the world), but of all the similar fantasy worlds out there, this would be my pick in terms of interest.

Other anime worlds I’d love to see include Soul Society (Bleach), anywhere in Full Metal Alchemist, the world in Sunday Without God, and as long as I had a lot of protection, the world from The Irregular at Magic High School.

So what about you? What anime worlds caught your eye?