No Game No Life Review

This is review number two hundred and eighty one. This anime is part of the Spring 2014 lineup. This anime is also one of the most talked about show of the lineup for some reason. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called No Game No Life. It’s a twelve episode anime about a bunch of unbeatable players trying to conquer the world. It also has some cat girls in it so that’s pretty cool, right? Yeah, it’s pretty awesome but I do have some complaints. Let’s read on.

Story

This anime is about a brother and sister duo that is so good at games that they can’t be defeated. They leave their name blank when they play games and they can basically defeat 1,200 players with only four mid-level characters. That’s how scary good they are. One day, they receive an email that challenges them to a chess game. They won. The next thing they knew, both of them were falling from the sky and a boy who calls himself “god” introducing him to his world. In this world, games are the center of everything. Conflicts are resolved by gaming and disputes are settled through game. The Blank duo found themselves lost but soon realized that their reputation as unbeatable monsters work in their favor in a world literally built on games. With their skill, they might rule this new world in no time.

Taking the Pants Off

This was the anime that garnered a lot of votes when the Spring poll was opened. I gotta admit that the title sounded epic. No Game No Life sounded like an epic anime about the cyber world or something cool like that. A lot of people love this anime. I never bothered to ask “why?” because I will inevitably watch it. My curiosity does peak and I’ve been meaning to try this show out for a long time now. It opened like I hope it would. It’s about an MMORPG game where four unnamed people were able to kill 1,200 while being only level 30 players. The idea that a bunch of untouchable anonymous is the main focus of the show excited me. Then the anime did a back flip and dumped a ton of cliché on us. People transported to another world, unique modern day theme weaved into the plot, a bunch of subtle references, a harem, magic creatures, cat girls and a perverted main character soon became the focus of the show. Basically, it’s the same light novel adapted crap I’ve personally experienced over my short time as TPAB. I kid you not. I’ve seen this anime before because I’ve watched “Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo?”, “Outbreak Company” and “Log Horizon” already. These four anime basically play in the same pool. A bunch of ordinary people transported to another world using their modern day knowledge to beat people from this primitive world while unconsciously making a harem is basically the core premise of each show. Apparently, light novels like to recycle stuff. The thing I don’t understand is why people hyped up No Game No Life as if it’s as cool as Sword Art Online which isn’t all that f*cking amazing either. This anime is nothing special in terms of theme or overall first impression. The characters also feel familiar if you’ve indulged in a lot of light novel adapted anime. Geez, if they aren’t moving to Japan then someone in Japan is transported in their world. Anime needs to adapt a new medium because this sh*t is no longer funny. Now I’ll be fair. No Game No Life does excel at something the other three shows don’t have. It’s execution. I guess you can tell that Madhouse is that damn good of a studio if they can release a cliché heavy anime that shares themes from other light novel adapted shows and still make it one of the most hyped anime of Spring 2014. Seriously, it’s pretty mind boggling.

Right off the bat, the show does present an interesting concept. The idea that our main characters are so good at games makes for a fun story. It’s not that impressive at first but it does offer some interesting ideas if handled properly. I thought the show was going to be about a bunch of people trying to uncover the identities of Blank but it turns out that the show is actually about them. They’re a team consisting of a brother and a sister. They’re so good at games that they even believe that they don’t belong in this world. They felt that they were meant to be somewhere else. So at the end of the first episode, after all the weird NEET talk and uncomfortable sibling related teasing, our characters are actually transported to a new world. It’s a place where games are the most important thing in the world. It’s bound by ten rules that a god created. Basically, you can’t kill people and disputes can only be settled through games. The term “games” is pretty widespread though. From card games to people gambling to even coin tosses to something more familiar like chess, games can mean anything as long as two people agree to play it. I mean, yeah, the premise is pretty smart. You take two people who basically can’t lose and then throw them in a world built around games. The anime has a really smart approach to the plot that makes you want to tune in to every game. I think the plot is pretty solid. I was personally interest just how big this concept can become and it does gradually build into something exciting as it progresses. I understand while people are drawn to it and I would be as well if it wasn’t so damn clichéd.

Let’s get this out of the way. Normally, I don’t mind cliché. I actually like cliché because it’s not the mere presence of it that’s bad, it’s how it’s utilized. I’ve seen countless Ecchi anime have a scene where a guy walks into a bathroom with a naked girl in it and I never complain. I don’t mind because the show does more than relying on that cliché. In fact, I’m scared of shows that lack cliché like the Summer 2013 gem Watamote. That show had no cliché and I did not feel comfortable that a show can be so bold. Cliché can only be dangerous if the people using it are dangerous people as well. For No Game No Life, it had an interesting idea but it relied on a few cliché to carry it through. First of all, the whole idea of people being transported to another magical world is like light novel 101. I guess I’ve seen too many and it is something that is just overly done to be considered anything else. What is so fascinating with the backwater civilization that some light novels seem to use as canvas to spread modern culture into? The angle has always been the same. The main character enters the new world possessing normal everyday knowledge like internet stuff or video games while the world he was dumped in is in the era of castles and witches. Then the main character applies his knowledge to help people from this world or use it as a weapon when facing stupid enemies. This will, in turn, make them very important people. I’ve seen the same approach done to three other shows and I guess I just no longer find it fascinating. Another cliché I personally hate is the whole creature mixing in light novels like this. There is always a f*cking elf in every f*cking light novel adapted show I’ve seen. If it’s not an elf, it’d be someone with pointy ears like a cute demon or a half elf character. It’s not just elves. There’d be magic users and beasts as well. The whole point of the “transported into a new world” angle is that it’s leaning more on fantasy to justify the main character’s incredible hi-tech knowledge. It does make the show interesting to a degree but these anime often has complicated backstories and social hierarchy that the audience needs to be familiar with. It’s full exposition dump that often makes it hard to appreciate the anime. It does make sense because light novels should have a lot of info dumping in it but I never really thought that the same theme would be used over and over.

Perhaps the one cliché that I’m probably fed up with is the harem angle. A lot of light novel shows do this. All their cast is a bunch of sexy females that eventually gather around the main character. I’ll be fair, they have an important role in the show but the female cast is also an excuse to form a harem. It’s funny because harem never really went away, it just transformed into an exposition heavy monster waiting for a chance to let girls loose at the right time. Every f*cking time a main character meets a new character that person has to be a female character. There are male characters in the world he was transported to but he mostly talks to girls. It becomes a bit grating after you see it happen again and again. A lot of light novel rely on sexy female characters for some reason and it’s required for them to perv it up from time to time. It’s useless clutter for me. I was drawn in by the interesting premise not the boobs. If I want boobs, I can watch boobs somewhere else. Anyways, No Game No Life didn’t impress me immediately. The concept was nice but I immediately saw the clichés and I was just turned off. I do understand that the cliché in this show was a huge part of the story but I just don’t like the fact that it’s similar to other shows I’ve already seen. That means I’m re-watching a show and I don’t do that. Seriously, I don’t re-watch an anime and I never will (unless it’s hentai). That’s why No Game No Life was a bit of a hard sell for me. I was able to keep watching though and that’s mostly because I found the story really intriguing. As the show wallow in cliché, the characters would explain to us how to win a game by understanding the factors involved. They laid the theory out and then proceeded to apply it to the game to win. They don’t just win a game because they’re awesome. They actually lay out a very intricate plan first and they use it to win. I was drawn in by the interesting mental chess game the show had going.

This show only had one plot point. It’s a pretty straight forward show. It just focused on the duo of Blank trying to become rulers of the world. After being transported to a new world, the immediately found themselves involve with the future of the human race. It’s called Imanity in this world. They realized that Imanity ranks 16th out of the hierarchy of the sixteen races. Yeah, they’re dead last. Blank has a strong belief that humans are capable beings that can outmatch God so they plan on helping Imanity out. This is a world where games rule everything and they’re insanely good at games so they wanted to prove to the rest of this new world that Imanity doesn’t deserve to be at the bottom. They don’t deserve to be cornered in a small kingdom waiting for another race to wipe them out. Anyways, the previous king died and his will indicates that the new king must be crowned via a game. Blank doesn’t really want to but they soon set their sights on the throne after knowing the rest of the world cheats at the games they play. Blank likes the challenge though and Imanity is now part of the fun.

This anime had a pretty rocky start. I’ll admit the cliché bothered me but it also felt a bit disjointed. During the first half, you’re watching characters just make fool of themselves. Blank is a weird duo who acts like happy go lucky idiots while suddenly turning into serious geniuses with no forewarning. It was a bit hard to follow the anime that way. It was comedy and Ecchi one moment with how the main character talks about complete nonsense but then it’ll suddenly turn serious. They’ll bare their fangs and they’ll act cool completely opposite of the idiots you were watching before. This is a huge part of the charm of the show actually but it didn’t sit right with me at first. The story was intentionally being glossed over at times just to indulge the weirdness of the characters. Some important explanation on how they won the game is barely explained and you’re just asked to be convinced that they won because they had this plan. They won’t tell the intricate details though. They’ll just show you bits and pieces but that’s OK because the plan worked and it’s awesome. Sometimes, their plan doesn’t even make sense. I remember the chess game at the first half completely turning idiotic for no reason. I understand that it’s not an ordinary chess game but I felt like the characters were making random sh*t up just to win the game. To be fair, it’s cool to watch. I’ll admit that seeing Blank act all cool and smart despite being fluffy idiots is entertaining to see. I personally want to see a more detailed explanation of their plan though rather than the shallow explanations they put out. That’s all OK though. Seeing Blank dominate for no reason is still a wonderful part of the show. I guess I’m a bit torn. I wanted things to make more sense so I can justify the fact that our main characters doesn’t lose because there is one nagging problem I don’t like about the anime.

Mary Sue.

Our characters never lose. Even if they spin it any way they can, they still won’t lose. Even if the opponent cheats a bunch of times, they’ll still win. The idea that Blank never loses is both annoying and amazing in terms of the story. It’s annoying because some of the amazing plans they come up with is a bit too convenient. Since the show doesn’t explain it that deeply, I find most of their wins bullsh*t. It’s as if the show is intentionally bending everything just so they can win. I might find it more amazing if the show was able to convince us that they’re truly unbeatable. I know it sounds weird but the anime just let Blank do near impossible stuff to win. It’s often a bit infuriating to know that they’ll still win despite the solid plan the enemy has conjured up. It’s not as fun to watch a climactic scene because you know our main characters will still win. Referring to the chess game in the first half, rules felt like they were made up on the spot and they all seem to favor our main character. I do understand that they were intentionally meant to be Mary Sue characters but it’s like playing a game with an invincibility cheat. It loses its appeal fairly quickly. The idea that Blank never loses is still pretty amazing though because the show has already established that they’re Mary Sues. At the second half, Blank started playing games with higher stakes and more difficult players. There was a smart buildup for every game that tells us how strong the enemy is and how screwed Blank is. Basically, the show is doing its best to stack the odds against our characters. They made every game more difficult for Blank to win and give every odds of winning to the enemy. While they are still destined to win, seeing them pull victory out of the jaws of defeat is actually what makes this anime a worthwhile experience. They still struggle and squirm while under the enemy’s thumb but the idea that they’ll get out of it somehow is actually pretty exciting to watch. Especially in the second half where the games are much more easier to follow and the characters are more rounded out. So I guess I hate that they’re Mary Sues but I like how the show was able to use that glaring flaw to their advantage.

As I said before, this anime is remarkable because of its execution. Despite all the negative aspects, it was still a very entertaining show. It was able to present a really fascinating story that I personally kept on watching while it go about laying the groundwork with its cliché and Mary Sue characters. As the show kept progressing, I was soon caught up in Blank’s plan for Imanity and the strength of the other fifteen races that they’ll challenge. I was still a bit lost about the magic and the overall state of the world because the show never explained it but the anime was smart enough to focus on its good things and keep building up on it. A story about two unbeatable players fighting strong opponents over simple to complicated games is a nice main focus for the anime. The pacing of the games is pretty smart as well. It takes into consideration the personalities of the opponent and then match it up against the two faced Blank team. Before a game starts, it’s always revealed that the opponent has the advantage. They’ll be cheating or using a special ability exclusive to their race or they’ll use magic. Sometimes, they’ll do all three. With that all set, Blank has nothing on them except their smart brains and their countless experience as seasoned gamers. Every match is like a David versus Goliath type thing where you simply wait to see how Blank will win it. Again, they’re Mary Sue and it bums me out but seeing them beat the odds after all the things their enemy is doing makes for a very worthwhile anime experience.

The one thing that really made this show great was the characters. They carried this anime and simply made it more special. The duo of Blank is an interesting character. Brother Sora and little sister Shino comprise the two unbeatable NEET team of Blank. They are hardcore NEETs who constantly poke at their sad lifestyle. They are massive eccentrics who enjoy fondling cat girls, saying awesome lines from mangas and appreciate the idea of going commando. The comedy of the show is mostly about the stupid things they do. They are in a very serious world with people backed in a corner but they still have time to point out how cute elf girls are just because they can. In the first half, it was also a bit of a distraction for me because I had a hard time grasping the story with the characters flailing around like idiots. For how stupid they are, they can also turn serious. When they play a game, they are like cute kitten youtube videos turning into wild animals chewing on a baby seal. They don’t show mercy when they play games. They use their stupidity as a façade for when they strike with their decisive move that was culminated after a careful planning made on the spot. It’s pretty freaking incredible. In the second half, we also discover just how close these two are and the strong bond they have after a long time of struggle. Sora is the talkative one and Shino is the silent imouto type. They have good chemistry together if you can block out the incest the anime had. It’s minimum but it’s in there.

Shockingly, every prominent side characters are female. The most important one is Stephanie Dora. She is the granddaughter of the former king of Imanity. She tried to regain the throne by winning the tournament her granddad held but eventually met Blank when she was in dire need. She is basically the comic relief of the show. She is often abused by the two main characters and looked down upon. She is pretty honest but her inexperience is often mocked by other characters. I like her though because her desire to keep the Kingdom under control is pretty endearing. Her flaws actually make her relatable and it’s easy to identify with her. I’m actually surprised that she is able to stomach all the mocking Blank does. She is pretty important for Blank though even if they don’t admit it. Her strong faith in her grandfather’s kingdom is often a strong motivation for Blank to be better.

The rest of the characters are all girls from different races. During Blank’s plan to rule the world, they come across these girls and eventually fight them. These girls often have things that Blank need to get closer to their goal. Imanity is the lowest in the ranking because they don’t possess any stand out traits. The ten rules of the world actually works against Imanity’s favor so Blank needed to seek out help from strong individuals. The girls mainly do two things. They provide support for Blank so they can gain leverage on some strong games they participate in or… they provide fan service for when they all take a bath together. Seriously. The girls all have their backstories though but they are one dimensional at best. They do offer some unique personality though so the group chemistry is pretty interesting. Still, it’s nothing remarkable. Cliché wise, there are tsunderes, kuuderes and all the other cliché type girls. I seriously do not understand why this show is big. Did I watch it wrong?

I like this show. I really do but I don’t understand why it was hyped the way it was. Some people call it a wish fulfillment over the fact that Blank is overly good at games but I don’t think it’s enough. I absolutely love the story of this show and the fact that games rule the world but it is packed with a lot of cliché and the Mary Sue characters is pretty double edged. It’s an easy to watch show since you get into it pretty easily but it doesn’t really feel all that fulfilling. I was also hoping for something much better than this. Hype really kills an anime for me. That’s why I don’t watch shows updated. I let a season pass before I watch a show. I remember Madhouse did “Sunday without God” and it’s a pretty interesting light novel anime as well but it had a few flaws as well. I think Madhouse can’t do light novel anime that well. That’s OK. They excel in a lot of other places though so it’s all good. I bet a lot of people will hate this review. People really voted for this anime in the polls and it’s pretty insane how much fanfare it had. I’m sorry that I don’t find this anime that impressive. It had a few negative aspects that just didn’t really impress me and I’m a pretty easy guy to impress. Seriously, I’m fair. No Game No Life has a nice concept but the negative aspects really brought it down. Maybe if I haven’t seen three identical anime before this one, I might’ve been impressed. Sadly, I’m not.

Sight and Sound

Yu Kamiya’s character design is pretty generic. There really isn’t anything impressive with his designs. It’s the typical good looking characters with a tall build and a pretty sexy body. Female characters have nice build and great assets like curvy bodies and big breasts but design wise, it’s all pretty normal. His works stands out in posters and such. He uses a lot of shading and heavy black colors to put heavy details on characters. Some characters wear cool clothes but it’s overly emphasized by the heavy shades and dark colors on every corner of the dress. It makes them cool and very menacing in a very cool way. This is made all the more impressive with the cool colors he employ on the designs. He mostly uses strong purple colors of varying shade and some bright ones like green and pink to make them more appealing. This doesn’t translate well to anime. The colors are adapted but it’s just a strain to look at and the lack of heavy colors make the characters look generic. Despite being generic, they still look great so it’s all good. The designs on the different races are pretty decent as well. From the elves to the flying angel people, the designs were able to make each race unique. The outfits are pretty cool as well which are inspired by RPG games to a slight degree.

The animation is pretty decent. There were some insane animations in this show during the games. Something simple like chess or complex lie video games had some wonderful animation to them. It really captured the fantasy aspects of the story. The show employed some great camera angles and had some pretty complicated movements. A good example of it is the opening fight scene in the first episode. I had a great pace to it and the animation was able to give the scene justice. There are also some great effects employed in the anime. It had a faded look to the color palette but the animation is pretty great nonetheless. The chess game at the first half is also a great example of the animation in the show. It really elevated the show despite how cliché heavy it is. The show also had some reference jokes from time to time. I actually enjoyed them because of how random they appear. I enjoyed that scene where they slip in that Hyouka gag with one of the characters going “I’m curious”. The references are pretty specific though and some of them flew over my head. It’s a small part of the show anyways so not getting the jokes isn’t a bad thing.

nogame23

The anime’s OP is “This game” by Konomi Suzuki. It’s a pretty cool song. I love the lyrics as it pumps you up into watching the show. It’s about simply gearing up to a new exciting life. It is pretty close to the show though as it talks about a boring life changed by a God that gave him a chance to be something new. Konomi’s voice is pretty great as she sings the highly energized song. The OP sequence pretty much introduced the characters in a nice montage. There’s a bit of spoiler since meeting new characters is a huge part of the show and introducing them in the OP cuts the surprise away. It also had a very vague interpretation of the events of the anime. It feels more internal though than actually compiling all the big moments like other opening sequences.

The anime’s ED is “Oracion” by Shiro (CV: Ai Kayano). It’s a nice sentimental song about two people keeping faith that they will meet again after a sorrowful goodbye. It’s a really nice song especially with Shiro singing it. Ai’s voice is pretty decent but her gentle lyrics make the song more fun to listen to. The ED sequence features Sora and Shiro as they met. It was revealed in the story how they met so this sequence feels like a spoiler but without the context, it just feels random. I love the background. The stained white on Shiro and the stained black for Sora looks pretty good. It makes for a flashy sequence. It’s a bit leaning to incest though when they both met. I just don’t consider these two siblings when they’re together and they’re always together.

Overall Score

6/10 “It had a decent story but it was brought down by some unremarkable negative aspects.”

No Game No Life is a fun show. It lacks a lot of things though to make it really remarkable. The story was a bit lacking and the cliché really bothered me. The fact that the characters never lose is both good and bad. Ultimately though, it was entertaining but annoying at the same time. It’s easy to get caught in the moment though and seeing the characters succeed is pretty fun to watch. I hope there is another season. If you like smart paced shows then you’ll enjoy this anime. If you’ve seen Outbreak Company or Mondai-taichi then you should check this one out. If you’re a fan of games and crazy people playing them then you’ll like this show as well. Ultimately though, it could’ve been better but it still had a fulfilling anime experience to present.

6 thoughts on “No Game No Life Review

  1. I think one of the main reasons that this anime & the series in general is so hyped is because it is a fun & clever show despite being so cliché & a harem show. That’s impressive you got to give him that.

    Did you see the light novel covers of this series? I am a huge light novel fan & I pass on this series until the anime started airing because of just how “harem-hentai” their covers looked.

    http://www.baka-tsuki.org/project/index.php?title=No_Game_No_Life

    (Fun-fact: I later realize that the novelist is the artist for his own books too, now that’s a talented moe-ecchi artist)

    Reading the novel makes you realize just how good a storyteller this guy is, & its just become more insane when you saw all his awesome although very hentai-ish artworks. At points you’ll started wondering if he can go all serious or not. Then you’ll wonder if he’s this good because of the moe & ecchi & hentai.

    (Spoiler: He actually can, the vol.6 of the novel is a re-cap story by Tet about the world BEFORE the gaming god takes over, & that volume is so dark & serious is insane.)

    Another thing that impress me is that harems only work if the guy/girl didn’t pork any of his/her harem. & I (& probably a lot of people) always find that totally stupid. This particular harem however manage to go on because not all of the girls want to pork the lead, & the reasons why the two (three?) girls that are willing didn’t are logical.

    I mean, Sora seems very much keen of doing this & that & would have pork the living hell if he can, unlike those other harem leads that are clearly have no balls &/or in reality homosexual.

    • It’s easy to say that the “light novel is good” and I’ll admit that it is. I haven’t seen it but I know it is good. I, however, watched the anime that adapted the light novel. So the question of “is the anime that adapted the light novel good?” I believe the answer is “no”. The adaptation was decent but not really all that good. Maybe the light novel did the cliche justice and I’m not surprised if it did but it just didn’t work well for the anime.
      I appreciate that you’re a fan of the light novel but the anime was really just decent at best. It’s both good and bad if that makes any sense.

  2. While I did enjoy No Game no Life at first and thought it was absolutely amazing, the more I thought about it, it was okay…I agree with you about all the hype that it gets I’m starting to really wonder why. The ecchi really bothered me while watching it since I am not a fan of that at all and I thought the characters and story line was rather generic.

    Sorry for rambling, I tend to get carried away sometimes. What I wanted to say was that I have been following your reviews for a while but I never wrote a comment before and that I really enjoy reading your reviews. I’m also happy to find out that you are also a fan of the slice-of-life genre. You are honestly one of the only guys I know who watches it, every guy friend of mine, except for one, finds slice-of-life to be boring, girly and gay to watch if you are a guy (I’m a girl by the way). Can you recommend me some more?

  3. In addition, the real reason this show was oh so hyped was because of a “Mary Sue” kind of character. Honestly, despite the fact that people always love to rag on that type of character, it’s not as prevalent as you might think. There is actually only a few sets of anime containing truly overpowered characters, and only a few that adapt such a scenario where the main character isn’t completely either spineless, or seems to be growing into a power that improbably exists.

    Nice review though!

    It’s funny about slice of life though; I’ve always tended to not like those as much simply because if you want slice of life, you can literally go out and hang out with other people!

    • The reason Mary Sue characters are minimal is because they are a bad kind of character most avoid because it cheapens the story. Such as the things that happened here.

Thoughts~

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