- Genre : Horror, psychological thriller, romance, confusion
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: Seven
Nobuaki (not as good a Nobu as Nobuchika) is going through the usual teenage struggles. Having just transferred to a new school he has to adjust to a new way of doing things and assimilate a whole new friends’ group. It’s a daunting task when you’re the new kid and everyone else already has a routine. It’s up to you to make all the adjustments and compromises. And when you’re a kid, it all seems so dramatic and important. And for Nobuaki in particular, it’s even tougher as he can’t rely on his old friends for support. Since they were all gruesomely murdered in a supernatural King’s Game. You know how these things go… High School! Am I right?
Let me give you a little context here. A while ago I decided to start watching Gurren Lagann. If you didn’t read my review for it, long story short, I fell in love. No hyperbole, actual love. And so, when I ended that series, I decided I needed a sort of anime sorbet to cleanse my palate. Something interesting, not too demanding that wouldn’t be too rough with my fragile emotions. All I can say is, King’s Game certainly was an anime….
The promo picture for this show is rather striking with its Edvard Munch sensibilities and high school goth palette. It tricked me into believing that this would be a visually unusual anime, if not necessarily pleasant. I guess in a way it was. The art style is fairly mundane but quite nice. Much better than I expected in fact. It’s very inconsistent with movement though but I’ve seen much worse. In short, it’s fairly nice-looking standard anime style, nicely detailed, except for one really weird aspect.
For some reason, beasts are kinda odd in this show. Not all breasts mind you, just the really big ones. Maybe the artists were super prudish and uncomfortable drawing them but it’s as if they were added in afterwards or something. Unlike everything else in the character designs, they are just disproportionate (not too big, more like not at the right place) often they aren’t shadowed like the rest of the image. It’s a bit as if someone just took the character model and added a big loopy W on top. I’m used to chests being given so much artistic attention as to be the only focal point in the image, so seeing the opposite was almost unsettling.
Have you noticed how often I go into tangents about character boobies? I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing.
I’m sure the rest of the production values were fine. I was too distracted to notice.
I’m starting to think that writing an engaging horror is simply very difficult. That’s why very few people have actually done it. On the one hand, if you develop your characters up to the point that the audience forms an attachment, then they will be sad when they die, and you’ll end up with a drama instead. However, if they don’t care about the cast, the story can become pretty boring. You absolutely need some shock value, that’s what differentiates it from a thriller but add too much and you’ll numb the public and it starts getting ridiculous. I don’t envy horror writers.
Because of all these constraints, there’s a few pitfalls horror tales often fall into. Your characters act in ridiculous, braindead, illogical way in order to manufacture a danger that would have otherwise been easily avoided. Either that or they overreact drastically to everything as a way of faking emotional development without having the audience get too attached. When you get the characters right, then your have to make sure your universe has consistent rules. Why do the ghosts only attack sometimes, why was this victim an exception… These details can really take someone out of the story and that’s a huge drawback for this type of tale. And you have to make your threat coherent. Our brains are wired in a certain way, if you want to make people scared, you have to make sure that your monster is logical and familiar enough for our brains to perceive it as such, otherwise it’s at best funny, at worse boring.
Point is horror stories have a lot to take into account in order to avoid these problems. So to that end, this show adopted a unique strategy. King’s Game decided to dive headfirst and just take all of those elements to an extreme. I’m afraid of everything. You could conceivably sell Sailor Moon as a horror show to me. But I came away from King’s Game only feeling tired, and occasionally grossed out.
It should be said though. As far as body horror goes, it was very successful at creating disturbing, difficult to watch visuals. But since you get a few of those scenes every episode and don’t care at all about the characters, you quickly start to simply ignore them (unless you’re really into that sort of stuff, in which case, you’ll love this show).
I got the feeling that King’s Game really wanted to be Another. The visual cues, especially the recurring class picture with crossed out students. The very graphic (even more so than Another) deaths. The slight mystery backstory with an ancient riddle to solve. It all played out as a poor man’s Another.
But you know what, I’m going to try to be positive. It’s possible that King’s Game simply went over my head. Like I said, I was in a fragile spot at the time, so I might not have been as alert as I needed to be. If you put enough effort into it, King’s Game could be viewed as a reminder of Thoreau’s guiding principles. A grim warning against encroaching technology and unnatural processes. As our advancements are what renders the game so effective and deadly. Possibly what caused it in the first place. The only way to guard against these unknown evils is the return to a pure and simple life. It’s also a wake-up call to blindly following authority and rendering power accountable. A King with absolute power is always bound to turn into a tyrant. And tyrants do not make for great societies.
All important lessons in our current troubled times!
Also, the last episode ends with a super optimistic “to be continued”, which I found hilarious!
Favorite character: Ria (It’s close to my name and our hair is similar – see header gif)
What this anime taught me: Apparently, I do not understand what viruses are
If you don’t drink, how will your friends know you love them at 2 a.m.?
Suggested drink: King’s Cup (sounds delicious)
- Every time anyone gets punished – breath in
- Every time the king’s orders seem very petty and/or pervy – take a sip
- Every time someone says it’s a prank– roll your eyes and take a sip
- Every time anyone’s personality drastically changes on a dime – take a sip
- Every time Nobuaki gets beat up – get some water
- Every time hormones are stronger than survival instinct – take a sip
- Every time Ria’s hair length changes from one scene to the next – take a sip
- Every time anyone cries – get a snack