Just what is a gamer to do when they feel more comfortable in virtual reality than actual reality? The problem isn’t exactly a rare one. What is rare is this once in a lifetime solution: to live inside your virtual world! No Game No Life allows shut-ins, gamers and computer geeks all over the world to experience a life ruled by game mechanics and mathematical equations. What’s that? Sounds like a dream come true? Then read on!
No Game No Life follows the antics of a genius sibling pair: Shiro and Sora. They live the life of a recluse, both being thoroughly antisocial and terrified of the outside world. They find solace in each other and their shared love of video games. They are addicted to the online world, and indeed their presence on the web has earned them a legendary standing among players. The pair’s incredible intelligence means they are able to work out seeming impossible equations, predict infinite moves on a chessboard and beat every MMO, FPS, visual novel, romance and adventure game ever created! They feel they have been born into the wrong world, and so an adorable god named Tet appears to transport them into the world of their dreams.
There are many animes that incorporate video games and virtual reality, with prominent examples including Sword Art Online, Log Horizon and Accel World. No Game No Life, however, provides its own unique input on this highly popular, well-established genre. In No Game No Life there are no evil Game Master’s that have trapped them inside an MMO, no mysterious NPC’s to discover or guild’s to assemble and train. Shiro’s and Sora’s new world, named Disboard, is fully comprised of real people who have lived there all their lives. A spell known as the Ten Pledges prevents the inhabitants from inflicting harm upon each other. The only way to resolve disputes is through games, of which the rules and rewards are magically enforced. Games always have a few bugs and glitches, of course. Cheating is difficult but very much exploitable, and indeed it is a method that Shiro and Sora regularly use. It is a rather realistic element that distinguishes our protagonists’ from the valiant heroes found in other gaming anime.
If cheating had been a constant feature in this anime, then I may have been disappointed in the creators shoving this ‘uniqueness’ down our throats. Happily, this does not happen. To do so would have made the pairs’ intelligence pointless, although that is not to say you cannot cheat smartly. There is also a lot of humour packed into No Game No Life. Scenes that include Sora changing a chess match into an otome game, by which he convinces the opponent’s queen that he has fallen in love and begs her to join his chess pieces instead, is just one creative example. I will admit some scenes seem a tad too far-fetched and possibly based more on luck than skill, but such scenes are forgivable.
There are moments that viewers may find less forgivable, however. Incest is a theme that is hinted at throughout the anime. Although Shiro and Sora never actually engage in the act (indeed Sora seems firmly against it), the suggestive content between the two is nonetheless there. This may make some viewers feel uncomfortable. Certain characters are also treated appallingly. Stephanie Dola, a teenage girl whose late grandfather once ruled the human kingdom, is a prime example. She is kind, hardworking and, despite being constantly mocked by the sibling pair for her ‘stupidity’, is very intelligent and holds a degree. Nonetheless, Sora and Shiro find great joy in tormenting this poor girl by dragging her around in public, naked and with a dog collar. In one episode they summon a monster to chase a eat her. They then literally kill her by throwing her into space. She is portrayed as a butt for the pair’s jokes, a character whose only purpose is to be degraded and tortured. To say it is off-putting would be an understatement.
Some people have expressed their dislike for No Game No Life’s art style, but I can honestly say that I love this anime’s saturated colour palette. It certainly helps to distinguish it from other anime’s, but more than that I just love how it looks. It’s like a softly glowing rainbow. How can you not like glowing rainbows? I also believe it highlights the idea of an alternate, somewhat digital reality and the fact that Shiro and Sora are mismatched with their original reality. It certainly has an air of blue light about it. The music is equally beautiful, with the opening song This Game sung by Suzuki Konomi and composed by Wakabayashi Mitsuru.
Overall my feelings over No Game No Life are rather mixed. Although I love its audio and visuals and find the concept itself intriguing, I feel that some of the characters are lacking in concept. The content can bring a good dose of humour and lots of enjoyable gaming references, but without good, meaningful characterisation, the anime falls slightly short. It is also worth noting that this anime has a lot of fanservice, which takes up quite a bit of the female characters’ time. The anime also has no conclusion and ends with Shiro and Sora in the very midst of their adventures.
A film adaption of No Game No Life is currently in production. Interested in watching the anime yourself? MVM Entertainment has already released No Game No Life earlier this year on Blu-Ray and DVD. A collector’s edition is also now available!
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