No Game No Life lives up to its name. It has no game or life, strung together by a series of poor sexual jokes, a thin story, uneventful games and one-dimensional characters.
Maybe it’s my fault for having high expectations, but the general consensus for NGNL has been so positive and I love games-based anime, so I thought this would be a perfect fit – it even has the main two voice actors from The Pet Girl of Sakurasou! But even though the fantastic VA’s for Sorata and Mashiro from Sakurasou are present in NGNL as main characters Sora and Shiro, their performances aren’t enough to save the lack of creativity that is NGNL.
So, the NEET (not in education, employment or training) sibling duo of Sora and Shiro are taken into a new world after admitting that they have no place in the real world – after a crotch shot of 11 year old Shiro, of course – we’re quickly taken away to Elkia, a poor society inhabited by humans whereas the other lands are inhabited by other creatures. The only way to win back land is through playing games, so Sora and Shiro decide to win back Elkia with the hopes of making it a respected and brilliant land.
Considering how online famous Sora and Shiro are, I expected some complex, enjoyable battles across a variety of games and whilst it failed on that front, it’s partially due to how flat the characters are. Sora is cocky and the pushing force of the show, but his constant crude humour and idolising his sister is cringeworthy at best, and Shiro is mostly silent and just looks up to Sora; Shiro hardly does a single thing during the show. Steph, the granddaughter of the previous king of Elkia, is mostly present for fan-service and spents most of her time with her boobs as the focus, but she’s also usually shouting and complaining about something or other, which is usually followed by her hitting her head against a wall. Jibril is the final main character, and I’m certain that it’s a play on the word dribble as all she does is drool over new technology and information and flirt with Sora. NGNL isn’t winning any points on the character front.
Part of the appeal of NGNL are the games played, but each and every one is a huge letdown. Shiro becomes a background character and Sora tends to unravel the games trick quickly, meaning that any chance of actually playing the game is killed almost from the start, and so the rest of it is exposition where Sora explains the games and how he’s able to beat it – it’s usually fairly simple, too. Being known as BLANK in the real world, a duo of unbeatable gamers, it makes sense that they don’t struggle much but it doesn’t make for enjoyable entertainment; games are supposed to be fun, and I’m unable to find where the fun has gone to because it certainly isn’t here. The games could’ve been so thrilling but it feels as if a convenient deus ex machina appears for them, and so they lack any real suspense throughout the entire match.
The visuals are the strongest point of the show, although they would’ve been much nicer without the intrusive pink tinge creeping in constantly; I assume it’s supposed to help create the feeling of a fantasy world, but I personally didn’t like it and felt it took away from the shows otherwise brilliant visuals. Madhouse animate it, and they’ve produced many great works including Wolf Children, Perfect Blue, Summer Wars and Highschool of the Dead so it was entrusted to good hands, but I felt that those were all animated better and a huge part of that was because it didn’t have an all-encompassing, overwhelming pink tinge applied to anything and everything, creating uncomfortable saturation; it’s as if they shot themselves in the foot, even if they didn’t make that creative choice themselves, along with whoever made the poor choice to sexualise Shiro way too often.
The voice-acting is fortunately easy on the ears with some notable talent involved, and there’s little to fault here where their performances are concerned, although the voice director seemed to have too much fun making Steph shout constantly. The OP and ED are excellent, and they’re some of the more creative aspects of NGNL with good music and they’re visually appealing; there’s a cool little change to them later in the series after something happens, so don’t always skip them! The OST as a whole has been pretty well composed, with one of my favourite parts being multiple references to Ace Attorney in episode 3; sadly, this is the show at its funniest and it’s on another series’ merits.
If someone could explain to me what I’ve missed, I’d appreciate it as what I ended up watching was a sub-par anime brimming with mostly poor humour, a thin story and even thinner, generic characters who seemingly all had one trait exaggerated, and a series of cop-outs to win games rather than genuinely well thought-out and complex solutions; the entire series seemed to build up to a whole lot of nothing in its 12 dragging episodes. If I wanted to watch a show which handles games well then anime is flooding with them right now, and from the ones I’ve seen, No Game No Life hasn’t been able to recreate the same level of success of shows such as Sword Art Online and it’s easy to see why. The writing and pacing is poor and no amount of fantastic animation and audio is going to save it and with the author, Yuu Kamiya, at the center of a tracing scandal, there’s a chance that No Game No Life may not even continue. I can only speak for me, but I won’t miss it, and I really, really wanted to like it.
“They say people can change, but is that really true? If they decide they want to fly, will they grow wings? I don’t think so. You don’t change yourself. You change how you do things. You have to make your own way. You have to create a way to fly, even while you stay the same. “
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