I have this system that allows me to recommend anime even if they have this “read the manga” bull-sh*t ending. After all, it’s usually the ride that counts for me. No Game No Life is a quizzical anime adaptation based on Yuu Kamiya’s light novel series, and its lack of an animated ending hurts the series the more I think about it.
Bro and sis Sora and Shiro are gifted NEETs who form the notorious “blank” across the gaming world. Together they are an unstoppable force: pulling all-nighters, eating junk food, and learning all of the ins and outs of various games just to achieve victory – but they never cheat. They both find the real world to be harsh and even crappy, donning it as just another game. When challenged to a complex game of chess supposedly designed by God himself, Tet emerges upon their triumph, and the two are warped to another world.
In this world, God has outlawed war and violence, so instead of physical brawls, everything is decided by games. Want all the money from a bank? Beat its owner. What about living in a castle? Simply defeat the king – and that is exactly what “blank” does. With the humans or “Imanity” chased to the board’s edge by other races, is it up to Sora and Shiro to save the Imanity and conquer the gaming world – but in real life this time.
No Game No Life’s basic premise can be carried out in many ways, yet “beat the boss, next floor” format doesn’t flow in this anime, and that can be appreciated – to a certain degree. While you know Sora and Shiro will win all of exciting and intriguing games (cause if they lose there wouldn’t be a show), it’s the ride to that final draw that make 12-episode anime worth it. The games are wacky and chalked full of weird rules, however, that makes them so much fun to watch!
On the other hand, the slight lack of explanation in each challenge often results in seemingly impossible feats. The games can be confusing and drawn out to two episodes at a time. As such this show is a binge watch – you’ll lose track if you try to space your viewings out.
Sora overwhelmingly takes the lead as the perverted-older-brother-mad-hatter type of character. He’s clever and brainy, desiring to win a library for knowledge of the world that he and his adorable sister were thrown into. Logging it in their phone, Sora immediately makes it his top priority to challenge the God of this world. Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Kirito from SAO, Arata from TRINITY SEVEN) performs with such strong lust in his voice acting that makes for quirky dialogue. He certainly plays the role well!
For a female lead, Shiro is not that interesting. She’s cute, quiet, and relies on her onii-san. There is a much more intellectual side to her, unlike her brother, that makes for quick-witted comebacks and in contrast respectful monologues. While Shiro gets a couple of great episodes to herself – literally by herself – there isn’t really much else to say.
The only other mention is Stephanie Dora, an emotional young Imanity girl who is the daughter of the recently dead king. She is stubborn, whiny, and expressive, yet has an intelligent side regarding the Imanity. Because she flips from being a genius to a dimwitted casual – just to make Shiro and Sora seem smarter, might I add – she was poorly treated by the writer(s). Stephanie is easily likable, but only when she has her dignity intact.
NGNL’s animation by Madhouse is rather . . . how’s to say, bright? The effective use of reds, blues and other vibrant colors as outlines instead of the usual black adds to more eye-appeal. Everything else is also energetic in color; these upbeat hues help to bring the world of games alive! It’s fun J and not like your average anime!
Sound-wise, I wasn’t too impressed. There are a few “Aha!” tracks for the intense gaming climaxes, but the more emotional bits are supported, yet without memorability. I can recall the epic challenges that Sora and Shiro surpass, but I can’t remember any of the characters spewing out their passion, and part of that is because the actual-game-sounding music just wasn’t on-par with the anime. Besides “Predawn,” it’s not bad by any means, but could have been more.
The show gives off this foreboding vibe, as if Tet foreshadowing the darkness behind the gaming world is where the series would end, however, we never get down to the heart of things. That disappointed me most. A perfect reflection of my thoughts are in the opening, “This game” by Konomi Suzuki. The piano introduces us to a mysterious and devious land, yet past this rich piano solo, the song turns into your average anime opening, revealing its sense of playful trickery.
I have troubles recommending No Game No Life particularly because it just ends with another game. Upon release of a second season, which is most likely, then I will 100% recommend this anime to anyone, despite the mild nudity. The characters can drag the anime down a little bit with their ecchi playing, but when the boobs are put away, No Game No Life functions as a great piece of entertainment, and I enjoyed its cleverness thoroughly.
“’Checkmate’ doesn’t mean you’ve simply cornered the enemy king. It’s a declaration that the enemy king is yours. That’s why I said it the first time I met you. ‘Checkmate.’” – Sora
The anime has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks, so we can expect a dub release sometime soon hopefully. Thanks so much for reading my review over this fun gaming anime! If you had similar thoughts, hit that like button and follow me for more material like this. Until next time, this has been
– Takuto, your host