Usually, after watching a serious anime, I try to relax by watching a more comedic, laid-back one. These reviews have recently gone in the order I’ve watched them. After Akame Ga Kill, today is a look at No Game, No Life.
Welcome to Disboard, a magical world divided into 16 countries ruled by 16 races, including Elves, “warbeasts”, and the lmanity – humans. This world, while not as technologically advanced as our own, runs on magic. Furthermore, it is governed by 10 rules.
1. All forms of killing and theft are prohibited
2. All conflicts shall be settled by a game
3. Both parties shall bet something they agree is of equal worth
4. Anything can be bet and any game may be played, so long as it does not violate rule 3.
5. The challenged party may decide the game and the rules.
6. All bets made must be upheld, regardless of their nature.
7. Conflicts between groups shall be settled by representatives with absolute authority.
8. Cheating is grounds for an instant loss
9. These pledges shall not be changed
10. Let’s all have fun.
This is the world that siblings Sora and Shiro, Tokyo NEETs (not in education, employment, and training) find themselves. Their goal: Defeat the 16 races in Disboard and challenge God himself to one last game.
NGNL has direction. In the short amount of time, it follows a clear, well-planned story from the beginning. Because it’s only 13 episodes long, that level of organization helps mitigate the pacing issues. I never felt like the show was rushed, something that I’ve had issues with in other short animes. However, at its core, the show is about having fun, and it shows in the underlying concept. Episodes involve games that are way more badass then they should be, culminating in dramatic climaxes. Think Yu-Gi-Oh on a smaller, faster scale. While NGNL is about games, it never spends too much time on a particular match, thus helping its organization.
But storytelling aside, again, this show is supposed to be fun. Even the most serious segments have a level of humor to them. If nothing else, NGNL entertains, and it does so without losing a sense of purpose. If you can get over the high levels of fanservice.
The Characters: In such a short show, NGNL boasts incredible characters. At the very least, its main two are outstanding. I’ve heard conflicting views about some of the other mains, and, to be fair, there wasn’t much room for their development. But I can certainly see why some characters weren’t as liked.
Sora and Shiro: I’m putting Sora and Shiro together because I can’t talk about one without mentioning the other. The central dynamic here is their relationship and how the two work together to overcome their challenges. I would normally have a problem with them because both are extremely overpowered, but their appeal doesn’t lie in whether or not they’ll win. It’s in how they do it. You watch their matches to find out how they’re going to win, not whether or not they will.
Sora seems to be the more heavily featured of the pair, explaining all the pairs’ strategies and moves. Shiro tends to get overlooked in the story. However, Shiro’s the smarter of the two, and despite Sora getting more attention, they two are constantly referred to as one entity.
Steph is an interesting character. On one hand, she serves as our link to the show and comic relief, asking the questions and looking like an idiot when Sora and Shiro are in complete control. At the same time, she’s also quite smart, though that’s not seen as often. I would’ve liked to see her featured more as a character, not as an idiot.
Final Verdict: NGNL is not going to offer a story like Kill La Kill or Sword Art Online, but that’s not its point. It’s meant to be fun, and it does that job well. But I think it could’ve offered a good story and better characters, but due to its lack of closure and time constraints, it lost that ability. Watch the show if you want to have fun, not if you want to really connect with the world.
References: NGNL is filled with references to other anime and games. As best I can, I will show you what I recognize. Minor spoilers may occur.