“Whether we’re up against elves or gods, Blank never loses.”
No Game No Life follows Sora and his younger stepsister Shiro, two hikikomori who make up the identity of Blank, an undefeated group of gamers. One day, they are challenged by the god of games to chess and are victorious. As a result, the god summons them to Disboard, a reality that revolves around games. Intent on maintaining their reputation as the undefeated gamers, Sora and Shiro plan to conquer the sixteen ruling species and to usurp the god of games.
Review: / 5
Somewhere, there must exist a graveyard of series I was excited to watch based off of viewer support. but ultimately let me down. No Game No Life might just take the cake for this one.
I’m not saying it’s bad, but I am saying it’s not good. At best, it strikes a mediocre tone. It’s tepid. Lukewarm. Overrated. The series has a good idea to work from, one which definitely provides just-cause for a second season. The show is, in a word, over-saturated. In color and content, with fuchsia-tones and fan service, the series drips with over-extension. It drips with a high-contrast neon palette, and provides a consistent backbone of eccentric settings and animation. This is a bit tiring to watch, and the tropes are exhausted to the point of audience boredom.
Our characters too, are boring. Who wants to watch a series where the protagonists only win? No one. And frankly, it’s something you’re taught day one in creative writing courses. Character progressions often travel from weakness to strength, though some journey in the reverse. There was a real opportunity here for the later. If these are two who never lose, never offered a challenge, never experience even a taste of defeat, and then suddenly they’re cast into a world which has different constraints and finally face true opposition and failure that they must overcome— isn’t that more interesting? Isn’t that more exciting and realistic?
By having them exclusively win from start to finish, we trap our protagonists in a situation which suppresses and stagnates growth, smothering any chance of development. These two characters are also pitted into a relationship that is borderline incestuous portrayal, resulting in some disturbing moments. Their vulnerabilities and motivations are either nonexistent or so shallow that we’re left unconvinced and frustrated.
Our other main character, Stephanie, is treated with as much delicacy as a four-year-old’s crayon box. She’s stripped–literally and metaphorically, reduced to a boob-exposing, IQ lacking, hot mess. A lot of supporters argue that she has a deeper role in motivating Sora, but I don’t think that argument holds water. Her sobbing for her grandfather, inner struggle to trust the siblings are half-baked little fetuses in the grand world of characterization. This is supposed to be the relateable normie, but no one wants to relate to her.
Games aren’t a challenge in this anime, clearly. The chess match is reduced to some charismatic showdown lacking in any real logic or planning. Sure, soldier moral is a big part of winning battles, but these episodes do nothing to convey strategy that is the scaffolding of board games. The back half of the series is more gripping than the front half, certainly. Starting with the disappearance of Sora and the separation of siblings, the show begins to pick up speed and becomes more interesting. I would have liked to see this last a bit longer than it did. This pacing, was ineffective, and the supposed villain was given practically no screen time to do anything meaningful.
A series which relies more heavily on fan service than plot or characterization, apart from select slice of life series where plot can be taken less seriously than others, is one which is destined for failure or at best, shallow success. The series is watchable, and perhaps I’m saying more bad things than good because I had such high expectations. If there ever is a second season, we can hope the writers offer us a bit more substance we can sink our teeth into.
That’s all for today!
Watch on, annieme-niac!