2015 Anime Secret Santa – No Game No Life

For the first year, Anime B&B is participating in Reverse Thieves’ Anime Secret Santa project. Traditionally, each participant receives another member’s name, Twitter/blog link, and full anime list, and must recommend three different single-cours shows, specials, or movies to be watched and reviewed by Christmas Eve. Once you receive your own Secret Santa picks, you must watch at least one of them—you need not apply yourself to all three. Then when Christmas Day rolls around, you find out the name of your Santa.

My gifts this year were all wonderful choices, and particularly well thought out due to my already heavy schedule. The only series was a short twelve episodes, while the other two were movies. All were works I had already had my eyes on, but for some reason or another had not yet begun. Given my attraction to all three and the ease of adding them into my line-up, I’ll be reviewing each of them in separate posts.

  • No Game No Life
  • Omoide no Marnie
  • Tamako Love Story

No Game No Life

I believe I may have actually tried the first episode of this anime when it first aired, but dropped it for some reason that I can no longer recall. Knowing myself, I probably turned away from the incestuous vibes put out by Sora and Shiro. The concept of the show itself isn’t so bad considering my tastes—it’s something of a cross between Kami Nomi zu Shiru Sekai and Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle.

Siblings Sora and Shiro are legendary in the online gaming community under their joint name which is nothing more than a Blank (­_). They live and breathe games of all kinds, and never step foot into the real world. They are then given the opportunity of entrance into a world where games decide everything from simple disagreements between individuals to wars between nations. For the first time in a very long time, they walk freely outside of the four walls of their home and take on challenges both worthy and thrilling.

My major issue with the series stemmed from the characters, all of whom I found flat and uninspired. It would be an improvement to say that some were plain annoying. The protagonists are ridiculously overpowered with their intelligence and capability. There’s never a question in my mind that each game encountered will result in their win. And while they are usually considered a unit where one completes the other, one’s weakness is the other’s strength, they each tweak at my tolerance in their unique ways. Sora’s confidence is well founded, but shoving it in my face each episode only makes him unlikable as a person. Shiro would have been bearable if not for her mental and physical fawning on her own brother. The unbalance of the gifted shut-ins with tragic pasts is greatly romanticized and needs a great deal of work to set right. I was disgusted by the way the two of them treated Stephanie Dola, the person responsible for their position and placement in Disboard. While she isn’t the most sensible of people, and is more apt to panic than success, she is a sweet soul who deserves much kinder conduct than the sexual objectification forced upon her. Don’t even get me started on Jibril and Kurami, who are both forgettable, textbook anime archetypes.

Then there was the mystery of Shiro and Sora’s pasts–we receive brief flashes of memory from each of them touching on their individual social traumas, but specific examples are not given. The most detail we receive involves their meeting with one another after Shiro has already grown into her school age years. We don’t know much of why she was isolated until that point, or why their parents are absent when we first meet them at the start of the show. Their extreme aversion to outdoor environments and most people makes for laughable situations at certain points of the series, but betrays a seriously persistent problem that I’m hoping a sequel will address.

When I first tweeted that I would be watching this series, one of the immediate replies (Crisu) warned me that “…the logic in that show gets crazy at times, but in a good way.” I encountered a perfect example of this around episode six where Sora battles the flugel, Jibril, in a game of materialization shiritori. Causality is thrown out the window in the face of magic. The audience does not have much of a choice other than to ignore the logic of our world and believe in that of Disboard. Doing so is easy, since that frame of mind is a given almost from the very beginning.

With the anime industry currently producing much shorter-run series, the one-cours length was not a surprise in the least. Sadly, that same expectation carried through for a likely cliffhanger and sequel. I would have much rather preferred this series to continue on in its conquest of the rest of Disboard for two seasons uninterrupted, but it is what it is. The good news is that there seems to be enough positive reaction and sales for No Game No Life to ensure a continuation in the not-too-distant future. If the pacing is as well handled as in this first installment, I see no reason why a single-cours second season can’t handily wrap up the story.

7 thoughts on “2015 Anime Secret Santa – No Game No Life

    • I really, truly did! I did not at all expect to like it as much as I did. Thank you for all the recommendations–feel free to let me know if you have any others (in addition to the ones mentioned on Twitter) you think I should see😉

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    • Sorry for the late response! Busy weeks🙂 I really am looking forward to a sequel where the siblings are forced to re-confront their home life, or at the very least, their fears from that time. I could see this going overly serious, but I’m hoping it’ll keep up the lighthearted nature that made me love the anime in the first place. Thanks for commenting!

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  1. Oh, haha, you name-dropped me, and I didn’t notice for months. I’m so sorry.😦

    I agree Stephanie deserved a little more dignity. Lots of moments were played for service rather than substance, and the art style was quite unique (and difficult to get reliable screenshots). But I enjoyed seeing the different games played and following their crazy logical explanations for things. Dropping causality was a hoot.

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