No Game No Life Review

NLNGOh, give me a home where the game theory roams and where everything is decided through play. If that isn’t a dreadful, yet intended parody of “Home on the Range”, it does at least lend an abstract ideal to the whimsy and focus of No Game No Life.

Information

Title: No Life No Game
Studio: Madhouse
Episodes: 12
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy,

Synopsis

The story of No Game, No Life centers around Sora and Shiro, a brother and sister whose reputations as brilliant NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) hikikomori (shut-in) gamers have spawned urban legends all over the Internet. These two gamers even consider the real world as just another “crappy game.” One day, they are summoned by a boy named “God” to an alternate world. There, God has prohibited war and declared this to be a world where “everything is decided by games”—even national borders. Humanity has been driven back into one remaining city by the other races. Will Sora and Shiro, the good-for-nothing brother and sister, become the “Saviors of Humanity” on this alternate world? “Well, let’s start playing.

Review

Without fail, every season there is one title or another that somehow gains enough social clout (or purely hype) to be claimed the undisputed best. For Spring 2014, No Life No Game besieges the spot with no rival. Arguably, while are other titles more deserving of that honor (Ping Pong The Animation or Nanana’s Buried Treasure, perhaps), No Life No Game (NLNG) with its clever maneuvers, spontaneous nature, and overall sturdy world-building does make for very a concrete case. And although most of those attributes carry with them unwarranted annoyances, it is nothing that the series doesn’t manage to discard, if only to bring it back later. So in a lot ways, yes, it a series worth some of the praises sung, but still holds on to a few deficiencies that keep it from becoming truly remarkable as many claim.

If anything, the series really does represent the epitome of wish-fulfillment as far as gamers are concerned as it takes two master gamers and siblings: Sora and Shiro to be transported to the fantasy world of Disboard. With Sora’s analytical (albeit, perverted) mind and Shiro’s impeccable genius, the two become the rulers of Elkia, home to the weakest race, the Imanity (Humanity, get it?) Their goal: Defeat the other 15 races and ultimately Tet, the one that brought to Disboard to rule it all. What makes NLNG different from the other “whisked away to another fantasy” stories, is much like Mondaiji, it does contains a semi well-constructed world. It’s not as robust or nearly as enticing, but does make for a more defined story and even rivals it in terms of humor. Where any other protagonist would lament their situation, Sora and Shiro relish it, wildly throwing themselves into trouble as they see fit or avoiding it all together. Like any other title that plays the comedy card, NLNG does love it references, so you will be seeing plenty – subtle or not that try to add to Sora and Shiro’s antics .

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Of course, when the siblings aren’t busy acting like puerile twits or harassing Stephanie (granddaugther of the previous king), they usual have theirs eyes on the prize, plotting against and playing opponents with absurd abilities or tactics. The writing itself is quite rudimentary and flows from event-to-event without issue, but when comes to the delving into the play, it shines the brightest. With the series focusing on many aspects of games and stratagems commonly employed in them, the use of game theory it weaves into the narrative is very intriguing. A majority of the siblings gambits are overemphasized (I.E: Chess game), but are sort of nice to watch when they don’t overboard and illustrate the concept smoothly. Comedy, usually not to be outdone by the desirable part of the series, often injects itself in the middle of it all breaking up the flow. As much as I like comedic relief, it is just poorly implemented most of the time during the matches. There is plenty of it outside like Sora acting like raving pervert or Jibril jovially reminiscing on her murderous past – so would like to not see it as much as overblown as it is.

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Another issue is that for all the vastly skilled opponents the siblings face, they win – all the time. Everything, down to the Warbeast memory wiping tacit to the Othello existence wager, it all is explained via game theory and nothing the two can’t overcome or met with adversity. To this end, it does squelch some the enjoyment out the series, since it seems to be no real risk or deep dilemmas needing to be resolved. Even with the episodes of the siblings carefully scheming and calculating, much of it, for all the one-sided victories that happen, appear to be a waste. The stakes that the Imanity faces are ridiculously high, but astronomically, ludicrous compared to the siblings triumphs. Again, the series tries to add humor to gloss it over and the pure foolishness to hype it, but really does nothing for it.

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Personally, I can’t say that I’m big fan of NLNG’s animation via Madhouse, but will admit that for the fantasy enveloped world the series wants to generate, it works very well. Comprised of a lot of multicolored, vibrant shades and warm hues, it looks nice, but at the same time, dull .The character designs aren’t much better: Sora and Shiro look generic as they do like psychopaths about to kick a puppy, and other races like Flügel look like any other supernatural creature lifted from a work of fiction. The soundtrack ranks slightly better, containing a lot of modern touches such as synthesizers and incorporating styles like techno, pop, and a little of orchestral. The composition team, SuperSweep is relativity new, but do like a few tracks from the series such as Now Loading and the infamous The King’s Plan. 

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In the end, NLNG is certainly a fine series, but does come with its fair share of glaring imperfections. By no means are they dire enough to erase the good, but really doesn’t do it any favors of making it more appealing. It’s wild ride with various rewards and your experience just comes down to if you can endure the insanity and look pass the superficial cruft .Certainly not the exceptional megahit it is hailed as, but without question, one very much appreciated for a season lacking some vitality.

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Pros: Nice world-building, soundtrack, well-written scenario, humor often tactfully used

Cons: humor sometimes goes overboard, lacks any frictional excitement

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6 thoughts on “No Game No Life Review

  1. You are really brave for writing bad things about this series. I am doing that for some time now and I am hated by many. For me, this series looked promising on its first episode, but it completely lost me after the 3rd one. It never made me laugh of the unnecessary H jokes and over-the-top reactions. The references were as random and awkward as “Meet the Spartans” and most of the time, it felt like the siblings adversaries needed to suddenly be dumbed-down in order for the protagonists to look smarter, and this is a huge sign of bad writing, because it means the author is not nearly as intelligent as the characters he is trying to create. Therefore, I failed to see the “fights with intelligence” that this series was suppose to have, and since the billions of cute little girls spread across the series were not enough to keep me watching, I had to drop it…

    • If I am ostracize for it, let it happen. There very few positives things I liked about it, so no reason to stretch the truth. While I can agree on the dumbed-down part, it really just seem like the author didn’t put any thought into the opponents at all for them to be so easily beaten. Too many Deus ex machina moments for my taste. Only thing I did like was how the games were examined, but that too got old after awhile, especially with the uninvolved victories. As for the humor, yeah, a large majority of it is over-the-top and blatantly adding references for the sake of it, but I did like one or two of them used. Overall, it isn’t worth all the hype people mindlessly poured into it. That, or I fail to see something others don’t. I won’t mind seeing the rest of the story, yet if continues like this it will be hard to set through. And that is me being generously forgiving compared to the score I gave it on MAL.

  2. I heard a lot of good stuff about this anime and since I like GIFs this anime always appears to have some interesting one that just makes me laugh sometimes in Tumblr. I’m putting this one in my watching list, since it’s just 12 episodes long, pretty sure I could do it in a day or two once I have time to watch it. Looking forward to it. Good review.

    • It’s an easy enough series to digest, I’ll give it that, but I wouldn’t expect to much from it since in context, most of it (comedy) is exaggerated. After seeing it, you might think otherwise.

  3. While I enjoyed this show, I agree that some of the comedy distracts from the series, especially when it goes to the perverted jokes and such. It sort of bothers me somewhat since the show has an interesting premise. But of course, I think the problem can lie with the protagonist starting that they will never lose as it will eventually lead to, well Deus ex machina, thus cheapens their victories. Even so, I’m quite curious on how the rest of the story will go.

    • I am still willing to see what direction the series veers into, if a 2nd season is in the cards. Just weary that their won’t be much significant conflict, if winning is the only thing the siblings do. They don’t necessarily need to lose (would be nice), yet the complacent victories are given so little consideration. The comedy does need work, but I don’t see it changing much when or if we get a follow-up.

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