- Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Comedy, Fanservice
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: Madhouse
Blank, a brother and sister team of super elite gamers, and my personal role models, spend their days and mostly their nights, conquering every game that comes their way because they assumedly have the world’s most understanding/neglectful parents (although there may be a canon explanation for that). As they idle their lives away in trivial pursuits, a pan-dimensional God of games named Tet whisks them away to another world where they can use their mega gaming powers for “good”. Raunchy good times and nerdgasms follow.
Back in the days of yore, when wild poodles roamed the earth, there was a little anime called .hack//Sign in which the real world melded with a mmorpg. I gotta admit, I don’t remember much of it apart from the fact that the MC was a low-grade Mononoke cosplayer but I do think I enjoyed it. What I do remember quite vividly was how excited I was that a series was finally bringing my twin loves of gaming and anime together. So I was delighted to see the trend reemerge with titles like Sword Art Online, ReZero and No Game No Life. Sadly, I just never managed to get into SAO and dropped it around episode 6. I really loved ReZero for a while there but it was really more of a fantasy ground hog day mashup that dropped the video game premise early on, and I hated that ending. I’ll tell you about it someday. So by the time I got around to No Game No Life, my expectations had been considerably lowered. I pity the next title on this theme since they are right back up there again.
Right off the bat I noticed were the visuals….Well of course first thing I noticed were the pretty pictures. What I mean is: the visuals were really striking. I tried to find a way to describe the colours used here and after determining that they were not exactly neon and not quite Technicolor, I coined the term “dark pastels”. Then I looked it up on the internet and it’s not that at all… The palette consists of these rich and vivid pinks, teals and blues with warm orange and yellow undertones. Everything is very bright and very pink. The idea may have been to give the impression of a bright old school rpg if you can imagine that – or, you know, just look at the pictures. Another unusual design element was the use of red/dark fuchsia for the outlines and rendering them in a slightly bolder line than usual. This particular device is still relatively seldom used and it instantly sets apart the otherwise nice but not very original character designs. I was instantly reminded of Bakemonogatari, which used the effect to similarly memorable ends. Combined with the colour palette and the traditional but well-crafted designs, the overall visuals become unmistakable and a definite asset to the series.
I guess you could say that the story itself isn’t really that remarkable. Similar tales have been told before many times. It’s a basic fish out of water story and one of those tales where a skill considered mundane in our world ends up making a seemingly everyman protagonist into a hero of legend in another universe. A few intriguing flashbacks though make it clear that there is much more than meets the eye and I wouldn’t be too surprised if we were being set up for an unreliable narrator plot twist. I love those. For the moment though, the plot progressed briskly to establish the rules of the new universe and introduce us to the players without going too deeply into any backgrounds or motivations. As far as I could tell, a clear nemesis has yet to be established as all rivals introduced in this season were quickly dealt with and repurposed as allies. I liked the consistent pace and story advancement but I think a good antagonist will really elevate the plot and give us something to root for – or against!
You should probably be warned right away that this show could be considered ecchi. The fanservice is frequent and quite conspicuous. No effort has been made to fly under the radar here, rather the show goes out of its way to gleefully point it out like a hormone fueled teenager. This said, unlike some other series, it’s presented in a joyful and ultimately harmless way. Sure, there is zero need to have this much T&A in the story. There is more than enough material to keep the viewers interested without having to throw in half-naked girls. The show even goes out of its way to frequently explain and apply game theory principles, proving that someone really did their homework. There is substance even without the flash. So why all the fanservice? I think the real question is Why Not? It’s all just good not so clean fun! The only thing I would have liked is a little more reciprocity as the eye candy is limited to lovely anime girls only but then again – no one is complaining about lovely anime girls.
Something that’s rather unusual for me is that although Sora and Shiro’s relationship is clearly unhealthy (I mean they collapse into useless heaps as soon as they are more than a few feet from each other…) I thought it was nevertheless super sweet. Maybe all this anime has finally broken my brain but I would kind of like to have a sibling like that.
Last thing I want to say is that the show also has a few scattered Easter eggs that were utterly delightful for a gamer like me. By gamer like me I mean a total noob so I figure I missed like 92% of the references. I did however get unreasonably excited to hear shout outs to Steins;Gate, Persona and Akiba’s Trip. The ever so obvious homage to Phoenix Wright in Episode 3 made me audibly squeal. I do wonder if they secured the rights to the IP since the judge was exactly the same. I liked the opening and loved the end credits. I loved how the closing sequence seemed to be telling a story all its own. I don’t know if I should give any credence to stylized outros as they don’t necessarily have to be an authentic reflection of the story but it does make me wonder what the heck is up with Shiro… She looks like she hasn’t aged at all in comparison to Sora. I also absolutely adored how they toyed with that ending in episode 8 to reflect what was happening in the story. It was a little touch that a lot of people will miss if they don’t sit through credits but for those of us who do, it felt like a special gift just for us and I was grateful.
On several occasions the story suggested something broader happening behind the curtain. It’s obvious that Shiro and Sora are not in fact simply very skilled but otherwise normal gamers, and their past remains shrouded in mystery. Moreover, it would not be unthinkable that everything is not exactly as portrayed. There are a lot of questions left to answer in season 2, which I still hope is not indefinably cancelled, and I will definitely be watching.
Favorite character: Sora
What this anime taught me: Everything is math
Reality is merely an illusion caused by a lack of alcohol
Suggested drink: Checkmate
Every time Steeph bashes her head – ake a drink
- if she bleeds – take another
- Every time the pledge is taken – take a drink
- Every time there is a chess or playing card motif – take a deep breath
- Every time the simblings suffer from separation anxiethy – take a drink
- Every time someone uses the word virgin – take a drink
- Every time Shiro or Sora use their smartphone – make sure yours is charged
- Every time we see the old king – spill a little
- Every time Shion gets jealous – take a drink
- Every time someone says “Don’t underestimate Imanity” – cheer
- Every time we get a panty shot – blush
- Every time “Steph” is used as an insult – laugh and drink
- Every time someone calls Sora insane – take a drink
- Every time Fiel and Kurami are **very friendly** – blush more