Imagine, if you will, a world in which two shut-in NEETs could save all of humanity by playing games. Take that premise, add some fantasty-esque elements like magic—possibly a little sister complex—and you’ve got No Game No Life’s take on the Isekai subgenre.
The popular anime adaptation covers the first three volumes of the light novel series with the same name. It follows brother-sister duo Sora and Shiro, who are individually rather pathetic, but together form Blank—an undefeated team of gamers. The two are transported to a fantasy world in which warfare has been outlawed by the gods; every dispute, whether personal or international, is resolved through a game of some kind.
The show is animated by Madhouse, and directed by Atsuko Ishizuka with Jukki Hanada offering series composition support, and Jin Aketagawa providing sound design. If you feel like you’ve heard/read those names here before, it’s because Ishizuka, Hanada, and Aketagawa went on to be director, series composer, and sound designer for A Place Further Than the Universe. Hanada is also series composer and script writer for Steins;Gate and Steins;Gate 0. They’re joined by chief animation director Koji Odate (Chihayafuru), and four different music producers.
As expected of Madhouse, overall production quality is quite good. The soundtrack consists of a contemporary-sounding mix of electronica with some additional piano and percussion elements. The art style is very colorful, and the backgrounds and landscapes appear very dreamlike—fitting for the fantastical feel the crew was trying to create.
The narrative itself is fine. I don’t know how faithful the anime ending is to what occurs in the light novel series, but it tells a complete enough story in 12 episodes, and the writers left it open for continuation. The whole series feels pretty fun, which I guess we should hope for since it’s about games. There are a few moments that take on more ominous tone. I would have liked for that feeling to persist a little longer than it did, but that’s more so just personal preference.
Our characters are fun and, for the most part, likable. That said, much of the show’s humor is sexual in nature, and there are some scenes that emphasize the sibling relationship in a pseudo-incestuous manner. I think of Sora and Shiro more like a brother-sister figure skating or dance duo, but Shawn found some of the interactions a tad uncomfortable.
While we’re on the topic of Sora and Shiro, though, one of the biggest issues with the story is that Blank can seemingly do no wrong. I understand that they’re supposed to be geniuses, but they end up having a perfect plan for just about every game regardless of who they’re playing against, and often times before they even play it. This is to say that nearly every conclusion is written in a way that highlights how Blank predicted the outcome from the very beginning. It was fun seeing the genius minds at work the first couple of times, but that explanation of conflict resolution starts to come off as a little lazy after a while.
Still, the animation, music, sound design, and story are enough to make No Game No Life a “good” series—qualifier being that you don’t hold a strong aversion to ecchi and/or incest-type humor. Even if you do, though, Shawn has some words of encouragement; he initially almost dropped the show, but ended up really liking it.
No Game No Life is available for legal streaming on VRV/CrunchyRoll
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