The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

No Game No Life

Title: No Game No Life
Genre: Action/Comedy
Company: Madhouse
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 09 Apr 2014 – 25 June 2014

Synopsis: Sora and Shiro are brother and sister with a reputation for being genius hikikomori (shut-in) gamers. To them, even real life is but another “crappy game.” Their legend on the internet becomes so great that one day they are summoned by a God to an alternate world where war is banned and everything is decided by games. Humanity in this world has lost everything but their last city. Can Sora and Shiro become the liberators of humanity in this alternate world?

The Highlights
Hikikomori: Disgustingly transparent and immature glorification of a poor lifestyle.
Main Characters: Unlikable and hypocritical.
Premise: Contradictory.
Games: No sensible mechanics or real intellect involved.
Visuals: Lively and vibrant.

Expectation of anything remotely intelligent from No Game No Life is utterly foolish. It is an absolutely preposterous parade of otaku cliché wrapped up in a nauseating wish fulfillment fantasy. This is not to say that wish fulfillment is an inherent flaw in storytelling, but the glorification of hikikomori in No Game No Life is not only nonsensical, but also infuriating. While it might be nice for such socially dysfunctional individuals to imagine themselves as the heroes of their own story, No Game No Life effectively only undermines itself and the people it tries to champion.

The key underlying issue here is that No Game No Life purports an immature world view through two poorly conceived main characters. Both Sora and Shiro profess to dislike the real world because reality does not conform to a set of clear cut rules hence their decision to flee to some fantasy world where everything is a game. Sora in particular speaks extensively throughout the show about the weakness and cruelty of humanity as if he if is a paragon of wisdom regarding human nature. Naturally this all raises the question of why Sora and Shiro act the way they do, but no adequate answer is ever given. Beyond the patronizing feelings this generates, it is hard to take the show at face value when the character espousing such ideas is just a shut-in who probably has not been through much of anything.

It is even doubtful whether Sora and Shiro truly reflect the behavior of social recluses in the first place. This is because it is difficult to believe that someone like Sora would ever encounter major difficulties in real life given his abilities. Besides a few scenes of unfunny comedy that pokes fun at his issues, Sora never encounters any serious problems in interacting with others. He is able to psychologically corner just about everyone he meets and has the charisma to make grandiose speeches to crowds that can move their hearts. No Game No Life attempts to sell its audience these two super intelligent NEET characters who are absolutely awesome in so many ways, but in the process it erodes its very premise.

Degrading the show’s credibility further is how hypocritical Sora and Shiro reveal themselves to be. Despite their preaching about the real world having no rules, they have zero qualms about exploiting and skirting around every rule imaginable in the alternate world. These underhanded tactics they employ to win in essence make them no different from the society they so loathe. Additionally, they act extremely mean spirited to anyone who does not see everything in the world like they do. Sora and Shiro are far away from being understandable, let alone sympathetic protagonists.

What might have provided No Game No Life any hope of salvation is if the games in the alternate world were actually engaging and witty. Certainly there is plenty of spectacle and one would have to hand it to director Atsuko Ishizuka for her abilities to create visually vibrant and lively anime,  but it is simply not enough to make up for the lack of substance in the game played. None of the so-called epic battles of wits ever operate on much logic, and if they do, reality is bent to allow Shiro and Sora to win. No Game No Life takes the usual “just as planned” writing typical of a Code Geass or Death Note to a whole other level of absurdity. Consequently, none of the games deliver compelling drama over the eventual winner since the result feels practically predetermined.

No Game No Life is the ultimate form of a self-insert fantasy story gone terribly wrong. It trivializes the condition of hikiomori individuals by crafting protagonists that are portrayed to be cool and amazing without any real exploration of what the label itself means for them as people.  Moreover, their dubious and outright distasteful characterization reflects poorly on any cause the show could have had as well. The worst offense, however, is not that No Game No Life failed to treat these subjects with any sense of intelligence or maturity, but that it is does not manage to be entertaining in spite of this. For that I cannot express anything but great disdain for this anime.

The Rating: 3

Reviewed by: Reckoner

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