NGNL Zero Key

  • Genre : Science Fiction, Fantasy, Action, Tragedy, Romance
  • Movie: 1 hour, 50 mins
  • Studio: MADHOUSE

A long long time ago. In days before imanity became an official race. The world was dark and barren. The ongoing war between the gods of each nation had poisoned the land and made constant ash fall from the sky. Among the ruins, the least and weakest of all the races, a race without a name and without a god, struggles simply to survive. But as hope dwindles could an impossible victory be the only way to avoid annihilation? Riku, a man who loves games and whose heart weighs heavy with the deaths of his brethren may have just discovered the key to everything. A sentient machine that looks like a young girl named Schwi.

I think for you to properly appreciate this review you might benefit from knowing a little of my history with No Game No Life. I really liked the show. There, you’re up to date! Seriously though, I enjoyed the first season of No Game No Life even more than the average viewer and have been eagerly awaiting a second season ever since.

When I first heard that there was a movie I was very excited. I assumed it would be a compromise to an actual second season, wrapping up the loose ends. The only reason I didn’t watch it right away is that I didn’t have access to it until a few months ago when I got HiDive. Still believing that this would finally bring some closure to the story, I was almost giddy at the idea of rejoining my sarcastic friends for a bit of comedy and playful naughty adventures…

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Shiro’s cyberpunk cosplay

If anything, we can agree that No Game No Life is a very visually arresting series. And the look of it is translated directly to the movie. Although not the same characters, they do retain the same designs with some minor adjustment and that is fully to their credit. One of the most expensive and most treasured figures I have is one of Shiro on a chess set. I was thrilled to see a new take on the design in Schwi.

And it really does look great. In fact, one of my first thoughts was – this probably would have been amazing in cinemas. The visuals seem suited to a giant screen and it goes with the grand scale of the environments. I don’t recommend watching this movie on your phone, you would be missing out.

However, for me, the colours of No Game No Life were always the most attractive feature. And it’s not so much that they’re not part of the movie, the colourful outlines for example are still featured and you can see in the scenes set alongside the series that the palette is perfectly preserved. It’s just that most of the movie takes place a long time ago, in dark dingy environments and the colours are therefore much darker and less vibrant in accordance. I mean you can see it form the screencaps. It’s still very pretty but that Candyland pastel dreamscape is only glimpsed at. And I missed it.

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you know, these colours!

The story itself is only tangentially related to the events of the series. Really the only link is that they happen in the same universe and the character models are repurposed. Otherwise, these are two very different stories with very different themes and tones. Some of my eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that I set the genres for No Game No Life Zero as Science Fiction, Action, Tragedy and Romance while I had the series as Fantasy, Adventure, Comedy and Fanservice.

That’s because the Zero is much much more dramatic and serious than the series. I don’t really recall any comedic moments at all. And when I say tragedy, I mean it. They pour on the despair pretty thick! The movie does play into the lollicon elements more, although it’s arguable since Schwi is an ageless robot and oddly there isn’t even much fanservice to speak of in the movie. Schwi is completely naked on a couple of occasions  but seeing as she’s a featureless doll I’m not sure it counts.

The story itself is a classic hero’s journey reminiscent of high fantasy and science fiction epics. It’s not bad for what it is. Many moments felt appropriately grand and there was enough built up to get swept into the action. Character development is close to zero and a lot of the attachment I felt was at least partly dues to the characters looking like characters I like and partly due to the fact that horrible things were happening to them. I really couldn’t tell you all that much about anyone’s personality.

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personalities are overrated

In a way, that’s also a constraint of the format. A lot of things happen in No Game No Life Zero and a whole lot more have to be set up and established. This is an odd universe with a centuries-long conflict that affects every aspect of the story. It has to be present to the audience in detail along with several competing races. Once you factor in the action, there simply isn’t that much time left over for character development. I still think there could have been a bit more though.

It should be said that the average rating of the movie is slightly higher than the series but I think that can be explained by the fact that mostly people who enjoyed the series saw the movie.

This said I won’t lie, this movie wasn’t for me. I actually couldn’t wait till it was over and had to struggle to keep my focus for the last half hour or so. Ironically, I also think it would have been better if it was longer. A multi-part OVA maybe. But this was way too much drama for means it took away a lot of the fun which I really enjoyed in the show.

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she was a serious respectable character…

I also found that although the stakes were very well established and you could feel just how desperate the situation was, the plan wasn’t explained well enough and most battles flew by so you couldn’t appreciate the little victories at all. It’s one thing when the characters lose hope but when the audience does, it gets harder to root for the happy ending.

The fact is, I didn’t enjoy No Game No Life Zero that much at the moment. I was disappointed that it wasn’t funny or colourful. I was sad that I couldn’t spend more time with the characters I had come to see and I rolled my eyes a whole lot. But I still teared up just a little at the end. Because there’s still something to be said about the triumph of the human spirit or whatever.

And what’s more… I’m writing this on Tuesday. I saw the movie this past Sunday. And already, I’m sort of liking it more in hindsight. I’m remembering how beautiful it was and some of those sweeping emotional moments and how they got me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m never going to watch it again but in only two days I’ve managed to soften my stance. Either there were a lot of good elements in the movie that are easier to appreciate without the melodrama in my face or I’m a big old softie that’s incapable of disliking any anime for long…

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nevermind loved it!

In the end, my review is this: If you like very dramatic tales of adventure and either fantasy or science fiction settings, and have no issues with a seemingly adult man falling in love with a character that looks like a child… then I would recommend this movie. It’s beautiful and well produced. It’s very epic. You can follow along very well even if you haven’t seen the series. If you are looking for a slightly pervy comedy and a good time on a Sunday afternoon then maybe watch something else.

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Favourite character: Jibril! Still, my favourite even if we hardly get to see her

What this anime taught me: Schwi sounds a lot like Chewi when pronounced in Japanese. As such, I kept picturing a mix of Shiro and Chewbacca.  learned that a mix of Shiro ad Chewbacca is both hilarious and amazing.

“I distrust camels, and anyone else who can go a week without a drink.” 

Suggested drink: Game Set Match

  • Every time you notice the CG – take a sip
  • Every time anyone says Aschiento – answer
  • Every time there’s voice-over narration – take a sip
  • Every time there’s a close up of Schwi’s eyes – forget to take a sip
  • Every time Schwi wants to play – take a sip
  • Every time Riku cries – noooo
  • Every time anyone restates the thesis of the story – take a sip
  • Every time Riku smiles – smile too
  • Every time someone is drawing a map – take a sip
  • Every time Riku wins at chess – Cheer!

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You can see all the very pretty screencaps over on Pinterest if you are interested. If the Board is no longer on the main page, it should be in “Anime Screenshots”

5 thoughts

  1. I actually quite enjoyed the movie. I would say thought that I’ve never watched a signle episode of the series, so I wonder if that has an affect on how I viewed it.

    1. I don’t think so. They are just two very different things. I didn’t like the movie less because it wasn’t the series, I just happen to prefer comedy to drama in general.

  2. I saw the show and the movie not too long ago and its such a shame it doesn’t have another season to it.

    1. It may get one eventually. I mean Irregulars and Higurashi are both getting new seasons right now…

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