|Entertaining story, good comedy, distinctive visual style
|Sometimes the jokes at Steph's expense can go too far
There really are some shows that you go into not expecting a lot, that still end up surprising you. Sometimes you just don’t need to tell the greatest story ever or full of mind games that leave you spending hours just piecing it all together. No Game No Life, basically was was show that was pure fun from start to finish. The characters were enjoyable and the story was entertaining. The main characters didn’t dramatically change over the course of the story, but rather had an impact on the world they encountered and helped other characters develop. Almost every week I was excited to watch the next episode of this show and being able to keep a series constantly entertaining almost the entire way through is a pretty nice accomplishment.
The setting is one that is pretty easy to get behind. The first episode itself pretty well lays down the ground rules for that world, though as the show reveals there is plenty of flexibility in how you can abuse those rules. A world where games decide everything. The instant comparison that comes to mind is the “Mondaiji-tachi” anime. But it sets itself apart just fine. The background and history of that world is one that it makes perfect sense why everything is decided by games there. You have a world with a wide variety of races with their own strengths and weaknesses all adapting to the new rules in their own way.
The story itself is pretty enjoyable from start to finish. It is the adaptation of a light novel so at 12 episodes it just isn’t going to cover the entire material. But it does show the main characters introduction to this world and show them having a major impact on it. The story is less about the main characters changing after coming to this world, but rather the world changing because of this new element that has been introduced. The different characters we see introduced from this world certainly do change. The show at least gives us a good picture of where the overall plot is likely going although the path itself is of course not as clear.
At the core the show is pure entertainment. The games themselves aren’t the most complicated or deep. You won’t be spending hours contemplating the next move by one of the characters and how they’ll turn the tables. But you will have a lot of fun. You get to see the main characters have to push themselves to figure out how to win and take advantage of the rules of the game and the world itself. There is a good variety to the games and the way the main characters tackle them is usually pretty entertaining.
I think what really helps make this series have its own feel is the main characters. Sora and Shiro are certainly human without a doubt. They may be amazing at games and have incredible skills, but they aren’t magicians or espers or anything like that. They are very much people who didn’t fit into the world they came from and are perfect for the world they were dropped into. Their skills and abilities lead to them having to really use their heads and just outwit their opponent because they don’t have the magical gifts that the variety of races in that world have.
The key really is their identity as “Blank.” Neither of them are perfect and both have their weaknesses as individuals. Both could lose against the other in a game. But together they have a strength that is pretty well unrivaled. If one can’t handle something the other will find a way to. It’s that sibling bond that really drives the series. You really do understand how much Sora and Shiro mean to each other and it’s the kind of family connection that isn’t always that big a focus for a show.
Of course to talk about the characters one needs to talk about Sora and Shiro. Sora is the most main of the main characters. He’s the older brother and often takes charge in many of the games we see through the series. Sora is an entertaining guy with confidence that is often a bluff. He is pretty good at reading people which seemed to tie into the problems he had in his past. Not surprisingly he’s pretty girl obsessed, but you can see there is a lot of uncertainty under the surface. He’s someone who truly cares about his little sister and has an incredible amount of faith in her. And the reason for that faith is at the core of his character.
Shiro of course is still a pretty major character. She does get her rare moment to shine in the series and I appreciate that. She is much more analytical. More likely to act based on calculations rather than a gut feeling. Certainly a genius in every sense of the word with the kind of potential that could lead to greatness in anything she chooses. She is very attached to her brother which is expected. Understandably she is worried that all those girls out there might end up stealing her brother away. This kind of attachment makes perfect sense when you see these two alone. There is a good reason they are practically joined at the hip and won’t get too far away unless absolutely necessary.
The rest of the cast is entertaining though. Steph is a pretty key part of the cast. Though she’s often treated like the comedic foil. The kind of girl who in normal circumstances would actually be pretty successful and popular. But in a world where games rule she’s not as effective as she could be. While not the most deceitful of people, Steph is a good person who cares a lot about the things that are precious to her. She’s a reminder for Sora and Shiro about the kind of goodness that can exist in humanity.
If Steph represents goodness then I think Kurami represents the skepticism of humanity. Her backstory is touched on through the series, but she starts off as someone who really doesn’t have faith in the ability of humans to compete against the incredible races that exist in that world. Kurami does grow through the show as much if not more than anyone else. Maybe one of my favorite characters just from seeing how she changes and grows through the events of the anime.
And another key character is certainly Jibril. Jibril certainly gives the points of view of another race who has witnessed a lot and has less optimism about the abilities of humanity as a whole. She has plenty of reason to start out that way, but also grows a certain amount throughout the show. She’s probably one of the most pure fun characters because she just has such incredible curiosity and obsession with the unknown. She and the other characters help make the show entertaining to follow. Not the only important characters, but a group that helps reflect the kind of cast the show has.
One standout aspect to the show is the art style. Honestly I can see why people could either love it or not enjoy it. I don’t think it’s the style for everyone, but if it did anything it allowed No Game No Life (NGNL) to stand out from the crowd. The style itself is clear through the screenshots throughout this review.
Within that style the animation felt very consistent throughout. If there were times when the quality dropped I honestly didn’t spot them. While this show is about games there is a fair amount of action and spectacle. Some pretty incredible things happen in some of these games and they really looked great. Of course the characters themselves looked good and this show wasn’t against throwing in some fanservice along the way. It actually made sure to have quite a bit of fun with the fanservice so you could still laugh.
The music for the show was pretty solid. The strong moments had some nice musical accompaniment and accented the skills of the voice acting. I will say here that the OP/ED for this show were great and I’d highly recommend watching them for every episode. You might get a surprise at some points XD. In general though the music was good and they never took away from a scene which I appreciated.
I thought all the voice acting for this show was well done. Sora had a entertaining voice that really was made clear during the moments when he had to speak up. Shiro was pure cuteness and the voice acting brought that through. Really just about every character had a great choice in voice actor in my opinion.
A key thing you will see through this show is some comedic references. Even if you aren’t the biggest anime viewer or gamer there should be some you can pick up. The comedy is a big point to the show. There are often high stakes with these games, but you can still just downright laugh at some of the things Sora and Shiro pull off. This show just understands that anime is a form of entertainment. You can derive that from many kinds of series, but this one just made sure to be fun all the way through. We got some reasonably serious backstories here and there, but the show still knew how to laugh at itself. If you want to watch a series that just focuses on the fun side of games with an entertaining cast then this is the show for you. For what NGNL tries to be, it succeeds with top marks. Definitely an “A” series in my mind.
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