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No Game, No Life - Reviewed by GaileOxstain
Posted on Wednesday, June 15th 2016 by Crawen

No Game, No Life Cover


In many ways, life is nothing but a game. And for the longest time was one I felt that I could never win at simply because the rules are skewed against my “play style”. Sure I could alter how I play, but that takes all the fun out of it. Turns out all I had to do was just find the game I was good at, just as Sora and Shiro have in “No Game No Life”. And the series brought victory to all as a result.


Plot:

No Game, No Life Screenshot 1 On the internet, there is rumor of a pair of gamers that always win no matter what game they are challenged to even if you cheat. They are known as “Blank” because they always leave their username empty. Though revered as legends online, in reality they are actually just a pair of shut-in siblings named Sora and Shiro that have cast off the real world entirely. One day after defeating a supposed god in an online chess match, said god then ends up transporting them to a world where everything is decided through games and wagers from politics and economics to life and death. Delighted to finally live in a world well suited to their skills, the brother and sister decide to use their talent at gaming to take control of this fantastical world and one day even play a rematch against the very god that sent them there. Are you ready to play?

No Game, No Life Screenshot 2 On paper, the idea of an entire world where everything is determined by games and gambling sounds like something out of a cheap shounen novel, but the way “No Game No Life” delivers on this premise is nothing sort of incredible, and much like the games themselves, that was certainly not decided by chance.

First off, I found the series use of the 10 Pledges that binds denizens of the fantasy world to the rules and rewards of the gambling system to be very intuitive, creative, and open to boundless possibilities. Murder and theft are not possible because of these decrees, but inversely almost anything can be ordered of the losing party of a game from physical possessions to even loyalties, thoughts, and memories, which just feeds the strategic and political moves made by ally and foe alike creating a tight dynamic between the games, players, and world as a whole. What’s more, these are more than just simple card games and often transcend what you would even think possible, where even a game as pedestrian as shiratori can become an intense life or death struggle. The risk and tension can be felt especially as the matches get underway.

No Game, No Life Screenshot 3 No Game, No Life Screenshot 4

Not that it matters much to our dual protagonists Sora and Shiro who possess such a wide range of genius and strategy that it outright boggles the mind and makes viewer’s heads explode. And this is one of the strongest story advantages “No Game No Life” has to offer over other series, it’s intelligent. Sora and Shiro don’t just play things by ear, but instead plan ahead for everything as well as any x-factors that may arise with a strong combination of wit, skill, intuition, and reading the opponent. This allows them to stay not just three steps ahead of their opponent, but three dozen steps ahead of them. Just watching everything fall in line even against impossible odds is incredible and awe-inspiring. Light Yagami and Lelouch would be proud.

Despite all the heavy emphasis on gameplay, tactics, and how the dynamic duo intend to conquer the world, the series does not forget to include a lot of humorous cream in between the crunchy cookie story. Even with all the serious risks and consequences on the horizon, the story never quite takes itself too seriously and has a lot of fun at the cast members expense such as Stephanie’s unfortunate mishaps during the games, Sora and Shiro’s awkward codependence with each other, or even just Sora’s perverted mind what with the constant bath scenes that pop up. Heck, when you get down to it, the whole universe of this series is pretty outlandish, and that’s just what makes it so fun to play in.

Characters:

What I really loved about the characters of “No Game No Life” was that they all had some unique little facet of their personalities that you just can’t help but like. Granted, one of the faults was that a lot of the character’s pasts are not properly expanded upon past general information.

No Game, No Life Screenshot 5 Sora and Shiro form an inseparable bond, so much so that they practically fall apart if they are not within viewing distance of each other. At first I saw their hikikomori lifestyles as an indication that they just failed at life, but after seeing them kick ass with IQ’s that make Einstein look like average Joe, it became apparent that they did not fail at life, but rather that life failed at them. But in the world of Disboard the two of them finally found a place where they belong and can utilize their talents to the fullest. Sora may be a pervert and Shiro may have jealously issues, but their trust in each other is amazing and I have no doubts that nothing could stand against them when they are together.

No Game, No Life Screenshot 6 However, Sora and Shiro are still slackers and slobs when you get down to it, hence the need for their life support aid in Stephanie Dola. She is the granddaughter of the former King of Elkia and later the administrative leader when it becomes apparent that Sora and Shiro have no interest in the red tape of politics. She’s gullible and easily taken for a ride by most of the cast, but she still possesses a wide array of knowledge and intelligence herself in spite of what Sora and Shiro think of her. Though riddled with doubts over their impact in her world, she has faith in the two of them and strives to protect her country as her grandfather did.

No Game, No Life Screenshot 7 Expanding beyond the human race we have Jibril from the angel-like but destructive Flugel race. Despite possessing a penchant for razing entire cities to the ground, the 10 Pledges pretty much shut down her war capabilities and instead found solace in collecting knowledge. She is equal parts ruthless sadist and shameless scholar but knows how to give respect when someone has earned it.

No Game, No Life Screenshot 8 Waiting in the roster we have Kurami and Fil. While Kurami is another human player, her friend and ally Fil is actually from the magically adept elf race. Kurami is cold and rather closed-hearted while Fil is more affectionate and caring. Though initially seen as obstacles in Sora and Shiro’s plans, their objectives are more pure than they come across and aim to fight for peace and survival in their own way.

Setting/Art:

No Game, No Life Screenshot 9 In addition to the smart story, “No Game No Life” has another crowning achievement in its art, setting, and world building. Not only are the characters unique and well designed, but the world of Disboard is in of itself a truly amazing piece of art that provides such an expansive universe waiting to be explored. From curving mountains, to urban Shinto cities, to towers that are literally chess pieces, each land of the 16 races has something wonderful and visually captivating. What’s more, in the 12 episodes of the series, only 25% of the lands were shown, meaning we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg with where this series can take us, making me all the more hopeful for a second season.

Music/Openings Endings:

Exceptional kudos as well to the series choice of soundtrack for both the opening and ending which each has lasting memory. The opening is fast paced and dynamic to match the speed and exhilaration of the games themselves, meanwhile the ending is soft, delicate, and full of heart-warming and heart-felt appreciation.

Final Analysis:

“No Game No Life” has a lot more going for it than being a mere series of games. The story is incredibly intelligent and engaging, the characters are likable and amusing, the art is a fantasy lover’s dream come true, and the music perfectly caters to what the series is all about. The series took a lot of risk with its odd premise that a world can be entirely determined by a simple game, but “No Game No Life” hit the jackpot and the payout was huge. And regardless of whether or not we can keep up with the King and Queen of Games is irrelevant, because from where I’m standing, we’re all winners here. No Game, No Life Screenshot 10

That’s why I’m giving “No Game No Life” 9 chess pieces out of 10.

Are you Game?

No Game, No Life Screenshot 11

- GaileOxstain


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