No Game No Life is a surreal comedy that follows Sora and Shiro, shut-in NEET siblings and the online gamer duo behind the legendary username "Blank." They view the real world as just another lousy game; however, a strange e-mail challenging them to a chess match changes everything—the brother and sister are plunged into an otherworldly realm where they meet Tet, the God of Games.
The mysterious god welcomes Sora and Shiro to Disboard, a world where all forms of conflict—from petty squabbles to the fate of whole countries—are settled not through war, but by way of high-stake games. This system works thanks to a fundamental rule wherein each party must wager something they deem to be of equal value to the other party's wager. In this strange land where the very idea of humanity is reduced to child's play, the indifferent genius gamer duo of Sora and Shiro have finally found a real reason to keep playing games: to unite the sixteen races of Disboard, defeat Tet, and become the gods of this new, gaming-is-everything world.
"Give people bright colors and fan service and they go crazy and lose any logic"
No game No Life is a curious anime to me. I Consider myself to be a not so cruel scorer always giving anime a chance and always looking for positives but this is not the case for No Game No Life with me. Considered to be the next best thing since canned bread everybody seems to love this and I'm the only one who cant see what is so good about it. I will try to give my vision on the show in the next couple of sections so please bare
The story without giving away too much its about 2 overly intelligent pair of step brothers Sora and Shiro who are portrayed as neets. They are bored with normal life and just love to play videogames. One day they get the opportunity to join a game world where 16 races rule. In the game world extreme and weird games exist with rules varying per agreement of the players so everything is at stake. All seems peaches and cream for an interesting anime with some good story movement except that the story progression is really slow.
To sum it all up its really nice neon colors. Very fluid and detailed animation especially the background. I have to say that despite not enjoying the anime this is its strongest asset and its really pleasing to the eye. Madhouse really did a good job with the art and I think its top 2 of the season along with Bokura Wa mina Kawaisou.
I don't think it was over the top or memorable that you want to buy the OST's or anything. Nothing really negative else to say by my part except that it was solid.
Characters (Only will be covering 3)
a) Sora - Main character, 18 year old neet who lives with his loli stepsister Shiro. Overly intelligent and with many sexual needs (according to the show). Sora quickly became an apparent icon this season for best character this season and all I can say is why? One of Sora's biggest strengths is also his downfall as a character and this is his super intelligence. Nothing is ever a challenge in this supposed challenging game world to him and he always seems to have a plan for everything. He tries to be too cool for my liking. I never found any of his jokes or references to be funny or entertaining only just kinda corny.
b) Shiro - The other main character, 11 year old step sister of Sora. More intelligent than Sora apparently and has a brother complex. With Shiro its another case of overuse of Lolis for roles that can be fulfilled with normal characters along with Black Bullet. I don't get the semi naked scenes of Shiro which in this case is a minor throughout the show and it feels a bit disturbing. Shiro's downfall as a character to me is that she is just there to pull Sora back together and do some crazy deus ex machima to pull him out of the rare stuff that he cant (going according to plan if we follow the show's logic) do.
c) Stephanie Dola - The other main character who's purpose is nothing but be exposed half naked every 4 minutes and be mocked off because of her stupidity. I have gotten slander here on MAL because apparently her role is much deeper in motivating Sora and what not if you go all philosophical with the fan boys. In reality its not and her contribution to the progression of the plot is about 0.
Where is the enjoyment supposed to come from this show? If its the games it did a poor job. You never get the sensation that the games are a challenge for any of the main characters because everything goes according to plan and they are never really under any concern due to Sora and Shiro's super Einstein like intellect. There is always something that saves them from defeat or something which gets really annoying by episode 3 or 4.
Let me say that chess game in episode the span of episodes 4-5? (I maybe wrong) Is probably the worst thing you can ever watch since there is absolutely no logic behind it all and its just a complete out of thin air invention to win the game. The only game I really enjoyed where the last 2 episodes because the main characters where actually in a pinch it goes in the most predictable way of having the most useless character in the show do something. It all went according to the same generic running theme throughout the show that everything is going according to the super master plan that we won the game before we even start. How do people get any joy out of this is beyond me.
The core of the plot is really slow and its pretty much overshadowed by the fan service and stupidity of Stephanie who is pretty much just a guinea pig to try out stuff throughout the show.
In the end I was really disappointed since I was looking forward to the show and all I got was just a slap in the face of how overrated, flawed and boring this show is some weeks in. The fan service outshines the plot and that is already a red flag. The plot already weak to begin with and all you get is boobs and stupidity with slow progression its not really ideal.
【1】 All bloodshed, war, and pillage is forbidden throughout the world.
【2】 All disputes are to be resolved through the outcome of games.
【3】 In games, wagers will be made on what both parties decide to be of equal value.
【4】 Unless contrary to "Three", the game content and the things wagered do not matter.
【5】 The challenged party has the right to decide the contents of the game.
【6】 "As per the Oath", the wager will be unconditionally adhered to.
【7】 All matters for group conflicts will be decided by a representative.
【8】 If cheating is detected during a game, it will be regarded as a defeat.
【9】 The above rules are
unconditionally everlasting, upheld in the name of God.
【10】—— Everyone should get along while playing games.
So reads the Ten Commandments which make up the laws of the incredible world of No Game No Life.
If there is one anime that once and for all showcases that the end well and truly justifies the means when it comes to entertainment value, then it's got to be this one. Originally a light novel written by Kamiya Yuu, No Game No Life (or NGNL for short) is a series not quite like any other, mixing together numerous ordinary concepts into a not-so-ordinary and very refreshing story. It is not just about originality though, but the provided execution is absolutely fantastic as well, as this is one of the most addictive and over-the-top anime you'll ever come across.
How can anything seemingly so dumb be so damn smart?
In recent years there has been a fair share of anime following the concept of "being trapped inside a video game with no way to escape it", and it has been very successful. No Game No Life however takes the exact same idea and flips it upside down. This story is not about being trapped inside a game world, but rather instead it's about voluntarily being in a fantasy world which has its very foundation oriented around the concept of games. The only other anime I can think of that uses a somewhat similar idea is Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo, but NGNL takes it one or two steps further, and more importantly does it around nine or ten levels better.
There was a legendary player team in the online gaming community named "[ ]" (pronounced "Kūhaku", or "Blank" in English) which was known for never ever losing to anyone, no matter which game they were playing. Their real-life identities however were unknown to the world, but as it turned out it consisted of a pair of NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) gamer siblings: 18 year old Sora and his 11 year old little sister Shiro. These two geniuses were completely fed up with the real world and didn't think of it as anything more than a shitty game, and therefore spent all their time in their room owning others in online games. That is to say before they got challenged online by a mysterious chess player who brought them to the very limits of their abilities before they could eventually manage to win. As a result, they got contacted by someone named Tet; the God of another world called Disboard, the ultimate paradise for gamers of Sora's and Shiro's caliber and he therefore invited them to come live in his world instead. And thus, the games began.
In the world of Disboard, there are a total of sixteen different races that have been granted the protection of the Ten Commandments, and are therefore the only ones worth mentioning. These races are seeded in order of magical strength, and at the very bottom of the ranking we find the race of Imanity, which is Disboard's equivalent to the human race (clearly a spinoff of the word "humanity"). However as shameful as being at the bottom of the food chain might be, that ranking was made before Sora and Shiro arrived as reinforcements.
In a nutshell, the story of No Game No Life is about the siblings' long-term plans of conquering the world by challenging others at games and using the Ten Commandments' wagers as winnings while (hopefully) maintaining [ ]'s 100% win record. Sounds simple enough, right? Well it's not.
The catch is that since the Ten Commandments make up the very structure of the world itself, combined with the fact that it's a supernatural world containing magic to begin with; what the games are, how they are played and what their consequences are is *completely* limitless. This anime can and will do anything and everything as long as the author can think it up in his head beforehand, and let me tell you: what he has managed to cook up is nothing short of spectacular. Seriously, the amount of creativity and pure awesomeness poured into the various game sessions throughout this anime should most definitely *not* be understated, and as a result NGNL has some of the best single individual episodes I've ever seen in my anime career.
Of course that is not to say the grander, overarching story is any less impressive. Actually it manages to maintain the individual episode quality while still staying on track for the long-term plot in a very smooth manner of fashion, and as a result the anime never ever gets boring. It has a very high "lowest level” so to speak, but it does still get a bit spiky as some episodes are a lot better than others, however that is a jump ranging from "good" to "amazing" rather than ever dipping down very much. You'll constantly be starved for more.
Whoever would have thought NEETs would be so neat?
As the 2-man protagonist team of the series, undoubtedly the vast majority of the focus in the character department is on Sora and Shiro themselves, and they're certainly not disappointing.
Sora is extremely charismatic and cunning. He uses tons of deceitful tactics and strategies planned out way in advance in order to direct the flow of events much more so than meets the eye at first glance. As he likes to say, no matter how the game turns out, his victory is already assured from the very beginning. Of course this does not mean he's the second coming of Light or Lelouch, as Sora has no sinister ulterior motives (other than perverted ones every so often) and instead is really a very humorous and enthusiastic person that just likes to have fun.
Shiro on the other hand looks like nothing more than a moe fanservice loli at first glance, and to some extent I cannot say that part is wrong per se. In case you didn't realize it this is an ecchi anime in the end. We're talking about very light ecchi here and nothing that ever feels forced but rather used for comedy instead, however you still shouldn't be shocked if you find some nudity and boob groping every once in a while. Now as far as Shiro herself is concerned, that does however not change the fact that there is a hell of a lot more to her than that. For one she's quite fun to listen to with her almost completely expressionless voice, yet very blunt choice of words. Also, in reality her level of genius is way above that one of her brother, but in a very different way. Shiro's mind works sort of like a supercomputer, capable of unmatched amounts of logical thinking and data storage at any given point. On the other hand this makes her less adaptable than Sora, however what this means is that the pair of them perfectly complement each other's weaknesses. Thus even if they might be defeatable on their own, when they play together they are almost invulnerable, hence why [ ] is always together as one... actually whenever they are out of each other's line of sight they start panicking and get seizures and god knows what else.
The supporting cast primarily consists of Stephanie Dola (or Dora, either works) whom at first also looks like the obligatory fanservice character but before long you'll realize that she's much more of a comic relief character... or rather the butt of everyone else's jokes. Now normally I might be a bit skeptical to that idea but this girl fills that role absolutely *perfectly*. Huge props to her voice actress I also have to add, she really did an awesome job expressing Stephanie's impulsive behaviour. There is also the ever so popular Jibril who is just all around awesome in every way, but I'll avoid talking about her as she is introduced later on in the story.
No you're not on drugs, it actually looks like that
The word "colorful" doesn't even begin to scratch the surface on this one. Animated by Madhouse, NGNL probably has the most vivid color scheme I've yet to come across in an anime and it is hard to put into words just what exactly it looks like. It has tons of purple and red everywhere and tends to use colors even for distinguishing details like shadows, outlines and similar. It's really the kind of thing you need to see for yourself to understand but it sure as hell stands out from the crowd.
As always when it comes to artwork, it is entirely a subjective matter and whether you like it or not is up to every viewer individually. Personally I really liked it though, it somehow fit the over-the-top environments and atmosphere of the series very well, but I would still have to say that had it been for any other anime it would probably just have come off as being really weird.
Can you feel that beat? Beating everyone at everything that is
On its own this was definitely the part which I thought about the least while I was actually watching the series, but when looking at it in retroperspective it's actually really solid.
Here's the thing, the OP of NGNL never particularly blew me away but to be fair I mostly ended up skipping it all the time because I was so eager to get into the new episode every week so I could never really pay too much attention to it. The ED is better albeit still not amazing, although when the full version came out I found it a lot more enjoyable than I did during the anime itself.
That part asides though, the OST for the anime itself is one or two levels above that. Especially the music playing during some of the games themselves as well as the occasional epic speeches that occurs every once in a while during this anime have some very epic background tracks along with them.
As far as voice acting goes, many people will recognize the main seiyuu combi of Matsuoka Yoshitsugu and Kayano Ai making up Sora's and Shiro's respective roles. The first thing I noticed with this was that this is the exact same MC seiyuu coupling as that one of Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, and just like Shiina in said anime, Shiro's voice is insanely husky and is almost like a whisper most of the time... in an adorable way of course. As far as Sora goes, more people will probably familiarize him with the fact that he has the same voice actor as Kirito from Sword Art Online, which might give some people the impression that NGNL is yet another anime which goes down the same route SAO did... which is definitely not the case.
They both make an absolutely solid performance in this case anyway, however to me the best voice acting in No Game No Life is the one done by Hikasa Yoko in her role as Stephanie. The role she has as the character constantly getting abused by the two siblings simply for their enjoyment (combined with the tsukkomi character she has to play for whenever their inner NEETs surface) results in her having numerous different comedy roles at the same time, yet Yoko absolutely nails them all every single time in an absolutely hilarious fashion.
12x23 minutes never felt so short
I'm just going to straight-up say that this is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable anime I've seen to date. Normally I don't like to watch series while they're currently airing very much, however I did it with this one and let me tell you waiting a full week for every new episode of this anime was painful. Excruciatingly so. This is not due to aspects such as constant cliffhangers or anything (although that also happens a few times) but simply due to how much fun every single episode is to watch. The concept of the anime as a whole is extremely appealing and interesting to follow, and due to the unlimited potential of the games themselves, every episode is completely different from the last one despite following the same ideals.
There's just so much charisma poured into the characters' over-the-top settings and it never fails to keep you hooked. Every single character is likable yet drastically different from one another. On top of all that the actual comedy part of NGNL is brilliant as well, including countless references to other anime series. I'm not sure exactly how it manages but somehow no matter which side of the show is present at any given moment, it delivers flawlessly every single time.
So why aren't there any games like this in real life?
Ever since I first read the synopsis of this anime several months before it started airing, I immediately thought to myself: "Hey, this sounds pretty awesome, wincest plus video games?". Now as it turned out there wasn't very much in the way of wincest as this is solely sibling love, however what we got instead simply blew away pretty much all expectations I ever had. I did have a feeling that it would be something I would really like, but I don't think anyone who hadn't read the light novels ever imagined it to turn out this damn awesome.
I love pretty much everything about this show, and that's not something I can say very often. From start to finish I don't think there was a single moment which I didn't enjoy, and that is something almost unheard of in anime. It's so versatile in the way that it's funny, original, charismatic, intelligent and just plain epic and awesome, all working in tandem. As a result, everything ends up being immensely satisfying.
Now this first season covers up to the end of volume three of the original light novels, and at the current time (the anime just finished airing), there are six volumes released in Japan, so there's already plenty of content to adapt and hopefully season two won't be too far around the corner, although as always it will come down to sales numbers in the end.
Regardless, it sure as hell needs a second season sooner rather than later, as we're all going to suffer from abstinence until then.
Make no mistake, No Game No Life is built to be a blockbuster. Madhouse adapting "one of those" wildly successful isekai light novel series made sense considering their generally poor commercial performance as of late. And NGNL, a blitzkrieg of dastardly clever action and outrageous gags, as unsettling as it is original, certain delivers a worthy blockbuster, but not without significant shortcomings.
The anime centers around the Blank siblings - Sora and Shiro: brother and sister, two shut-in NEETs on Earth, but certain victors in a new absurdist world, whose ambitions and exploits, leave their adversaries confounded and awed at the same damn time. Ostensibly,
the pair could be written off as a simple gary stu/mary sue pairing. By technicality they are, but they’re far from boring or cliche characters like many that fit that designation due to how the series presents their NEET qualities. Both brother and sister come off as legitimately fun leads, with flashy traits that resemble iconic characters from other well-known anime, novels, or games without feeling like standard self-inserts.
In the first episode, our pair of gaming prodigies are whisked into a new isekai world, Disboard, by its enigmatic God, Tet and by the fourth, they are the rulers of Elkia, the last kingdom of Imanity, the human race. NGNL hits the ground running and doesn’t let up for a second. The worldbuilding and plot development resembles the progression of an RPG: minor games precede major ones with interludes in between. Nearly the entirely of the seasons’ 276 minute runtime can be neatly categorized into plotting, games, or "breaks in action" - which generally involve harassing Steph or all the females taking baths while Sora sits back on the partition as hilarity ensues. This oversexualization and fanservice is responsible for some of the funniest moments of the season and serves to enhance the over-the-top, volatile energy of the show.
NGNL’s framework makes it easy to overstate the otaku and gamer escapism and gratification, which itself is offputting for those who have anathema to the common isekai mainstays of "wish fulfillment" and "fanservice" while indiscriminately associating these to inherently tasteless anime without a second thought. This line of logic downplays not only downplays the consistent insanity of the action, but also the nuance of the overarching premise behind the parodical, ludicrous nature of the series.
There is a certain poetic justice captured by NGNL in its portrayal of how NEETs and hikikomori, who Japanese society would deem outcasts or losers regardless of their gaming talent, become monarchs, harem ringleaders, and ultimately winners. Much of NGNL’s charm is more readily appreciated by seasoned otaku, who embrace, and even long for, the taboos that could potentially come with an isekai power trip. After all, it’s a show for them. There are many NEET isekai series, some tone-deaf edgefests and others indiscernible carbon copies of each other, but NGNL separates itself with minutae that captures the essence of what it means to be a NEET. The jokes, including the hypersexual ones, border on gut-wrenchingly hilarious for them and uncomfortable for almost everyone else. The chemistry between cast members generates at least a few memorable one-liners and interactions every episode. The constant stream of clever allusions ranging from Skyrim to Laputa to Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei to ICO are bound to elicit grins when noticed.
Despite being an underdog story about NEETs in disguise, but from the beginning it’s evident that all Blank does is win (no DJ Khaled) in this new world - because after all, to beat a RPG you gotta win against every boss. Thus the goal of the series develops into a making the viewer hooked on HOW they win each and every game. While there are brilliant highs, towards the end of the season, the state of the games have gotten to the point where the constant victory really does begin to dull the suspense to the point where the result of the final game itself came of as anticlimactic, bordering on deus ex machina. Nonetheless, it would be ingenuous to not expect gaps of logic, plot armor, and minor plot holes, but none of them are particularly questionable or bothersome enough to reduce the quality of the series at large.
On the other side, the highlight is the sudden Shiratori game with Jibril, unsurprisingly the only character who can keep up with the Blank siblings' craziness, where the intensity and cleverness of each response ratcheting up to another level. It was the first and only moment where it felt like our heroes could actually LOSE while we watch hydrogen bombs and stars explode because of a fucking simple children's word game - all while laughing (hysterically, I might add) at the sheer preposterousness of it all. Blank’s other challengers haven’t had the same spark as Jibril (who, in classic RPG fashion, later becomes an ally) - and it makes one think they really could use an equally insane foil or antagonist to bring out their best.
The substance of NGNL itself is its style, and it works wonders thanks to its burlesque tone. The balance is extreme, but not much of a departure from Imaishi and Masaaki-directed works. What makes NGNL is different is how specific it is, how every stratagem is explained and everything happens for a reason. Which is why for NGNL to truly connect on an emotional level, it has to specifically dedicate time towards making the viewer care about the characters and the world they find themselves in. It struggles in this regard. Much of the direct characterization throughout these first twelve episodes of NGNL suffers from ubiquitous lack of meaningful development. To an extent, this was to be be expected due to the nature of the series, but some of the attempted subplots fall flat because of this.
Steph is the most prominent contributor, because she serves as a foil for Sora and Shiro and should be an easiest character to relate to on a basic level (basically she's a fucking normie). However, her sobbing about her grandfather, the disgraced former king of who gambled his land away in hopes of future prosperity, is sappy at best and annoying at worst. Her inner back-and-forth of whether to trust Sora as a leader or not was painfully half-baked, contrived, and thoughtless. Moreover, it’s difficult to care too much about Izuna’s inner struggle about her sense of duty or Fiel’s bond to Kurami when they’re explored for a few scenes and pass by like a floating piece of debris in a hurricane. This can even apply to NGNL's more compelling and fun characters: take Jibril for example, a deserved fan favorite who shifts between (literally) drooling over the prospect of gaining precious knowledge to reminiscing about the days where she could indulge in her psychopathic tendencies of slaughtering anyone in her way. Sora and Shiro themselves have a quirk where their usually badass, composed personalities become useless and complete wrecks when they’re away from each other.
This tendency to just throw schizoid personality traits out there and hope they stick is the most telling sign that thus far, NGNL has abandoned even barebones exposition. Random behavior is dismissed with the notion that every character acts with some form of inherent spontaneity instead of possessing a fluid train of thought. These developmental aspects are double-edged swords that inject off the wall personality to the series that adds to the fantasy, while also hinder the viewer from taking NGNL's actual narrative or the aforementioned subplots too seriously. We’re left in the dark about relationships, individual vulnerabilities, and motivations. By consequence, a lot of the details dull the quality for this individual season but set up for reveals and more backstory later on.
Much of the worldbuilding and characterization itself is represented through the heightened sense of verticality, with rapidfire cut changes. This, along with Madhouse’s high-contrast neon color palette and quirky artwork distinguishes Disboard as one of the most picturesque, eccentric, and effervescent isekai settings I've ever seen animated. Often, right after heavy action sequences full of zooming movements and aerial shots, the cinematography shifts to juxtapose our larger-than-life characters to an even more larger-than-life world. This imbalance creates a lingering sense that the characters are small and caged, giving the viewers the sense that someone (remember Tet?) is constantly watching, and there is much much more to the game that is yet to come. Furthermore, the voice acting especially for Sora, Shiro, and Jibril is bonkers and felt incredibly fitting for their characters. The BGM itself isn’t a highlight, but it’s solid throughout - playful or intense when it needs to be, whereas Konomi Suzuki’s opening, This Game, with twinkling pianos and soaring vocals sets the mood, and I’m definitely going to try to learn (and fail) how to play it.
It’s undeniable that NGNL has the scope and potential to be truly massive in every sense of the word. Seriously, the setup has every indication that this world-building could lead to a inordinately expansive and nuanced universe, much like other long-running light novel series such as Index, Spice and Wolf, or Mondaiji (similar premise also withstanding). Sora and Shiro are bent on challenging god, and you have every reason to believe they will. Still, it's disappointing that the season peaked at episode six, the shiratori match with Jibril and by the twelfth episode, much of the novelty has already begun wearing off. Yet despite the minor speed bump, the sense that there is so much potential with the world of Disboard never fizzles out and we’re reminded of that with how the first season ends - with a cliffhanger materializing from thin air. Zero fucking warning on that, by the way. With many more volumes to adapt, things can only get bigger; whether they get better has yet to be seen.
TL;DR: read the whole review pussy btw it’s a ostentatiously fun/bizzare show that’s probably not for everyone if they just don’t get the gratification/fanservice/always winning/self-parody/otaku power fantasy stuff. still, mostly it’s functionally a prologue and maybe the first few bosses of this bigger NGNL rpg that sets the script for following seasons/volumes so don't expect it to have any real juicy plot meat if you know what I'm sayin because it's served up undercooked here. but i can’t say this enough: the shiratori game with Jibril was fucking awesome.
I don't normally write reviews, mainly cause I don't think that many people will be interested in my totally subjective opinion, but this time I decided to make an exception. Mainly cause I can't stand to see so many people slamming this series with the same repeating arguments, completely ignoring the positives.
As I've said, I have very much subjective and in many ways probably biased love for the series. I assume it's mainly because it saved me from the rot of meaningless flashy series, where fan service replaces story and various "grabs" are there instead of plot twists. But isn't this virtually the
same? I have to strongly disagree.
Firstly, lets get the initial impressions out of the way. Art here has a nice modern touch, clean graphics, tight animations and it's nice to see designers using after processing to add a style, not to obscure shabby production quality. Although I think style overall suits modern day setting more than fantasy world, making opening scene and city battle at the end of season most visually impressive.
Character design is the only complaint I can rise here, mainly among humans. Not that it's bad, but somewhat samey. Good thing we have 15 more races to look at.
Now, regarding the setting itself, I kinda love it. On surface it looks uninspired: yet another parallel world where main character gets wisped away to, fantasy races, magic, dragons and villains. Oh and there's a princess also, who falls in love with main character, but she's kind of tsundere. Oh and they live in her castle.
But that's what makes this one of my favorite series: the ability to take the most overused and boring setting, so dull, that Le Blanc de La Vallière, Louise Françoise might confuse it for her homeworld, and twist it in to something crazy and interesting.
Yes, we had anime about games before, be it SAO, Log Horison, Ragnarok or //hack, but they all tried to bring real life in to game, while NGNL does the opposite: it brings the game back in to life. If anything, it's closer to Kaiji, just less depressing and unfair.
But what I really like about the subject, is that unlike majority of game related or themed anime, this one manages to appeal to gamers as a whole, instead of pandering to or focusing on Asian aspects of gaming, specifically their mmos and VNs. Yes, tehre's still influence, but it's not so absolute. I don't mind watching things like SAO and Log Horizon to better understand tropes and intricacies of Asian gaming, but for once I want something I can just enjoy and relate to.
It saddens me how few gamers I see around here, or at least it seems so, cause how else would one explain such widespread misunderstanding of setting and main focuses of the series. For me it's an amazing, impossible world, for once created by gamers, not just for gamers. It's as MCs said in the first episode: real world has no clearly defined rules or objectives and everyone makes whatever moves they want, i.e. just a shitty game.
It's a fantasy of any gamer to be unbeatable at everything, so it makes easy for me to relate to MCs. They also manage to avoid the oh so common trope that being transported in to a different world makes you slow and docile. MCs get right to business abusing the world for their own gain and enjoyment and it's a breath of fresh air from typical goody two shoes I will protect you OJSB of a MC that we have so often.
But the one thing that can make or break series for me is humor. Will it make me laugh or cringe? Will I be bored enough to check how much of an episode is left? Well, NGNL managed to do something anime has failed for me since Lucky Star: it made me literally laugh out loud every episode, to the point where my room mates would come over to check if I'm going insane or not.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly what made me like it so much, probably the combination of verbal humor with spot on body humor, references , selfish attitude and in-jokes between the siblings. That, combined with the general gaming theme made it easy to digest and relate.
If one would take the plot and development at face value, it would on impress much, a rather generic battle to save humanity and prove that they are not the weakest. But you need to move away from typical anime tropes to realize that it's not about humanity, beating the god or any other vague "greater good". This anime is really just about two siblings, gamers, who are having fun in a world they understand very well. Everything they do is to advance their own agenda.
Something I do have to mention though. Sound, overall, was serviceable, but what annoyed me the most was soundtrack. It felt... uninspired. Both in terms of opening/ending and music during the show itself. One would think that by this time directors understand the advantages of memorable music, but here it was mostly generic fantasy/fighting anime scores, completely alien to the nature of the show. I strongly feel that having some metal/electronic (or better both!) mash-ups would of suited gaming theme a lot more. Not to mention that they have quite a few gadgets along with them, yet they rarely use them for anything than taking notes or reading books.
One final thing I need to cover is fan service. To be completely honest here, first time I've watched the series, I did not notice it at all. Considering that I'm not a fan of it normally, it was rather strange. It took me a second viewing to realize what was different. It fitted, which happens never. Both MCs lived in a world exposed to ungodly amounts of it, to the point where it became somewhat of a background thing. As a result they were using it for their own entertainment, as opposed of ham-fisted"accidents" that plague anime nowadays. It was also employed by them for their own need, be it to tease or to distract, as well as a nice addition the their, honestly, rather unhealthy relationship. I can only wish that, if we have to have fan service, it would be done in similar, organic way.
And there you have it, this is why I don't normally write reviews, I tend to get carried away. As a conclusion, I would say that NGNL is often misunderstood for mediocre anime riding on populat tropes, but I see it as an amazing melding of Asian and western cultures. We learned to enjoy Asian quirks and their way of life, but this one hits it close to home, to a closer culture.
It's a must see anime for anyone, but you might not understand what it's trying to do, but that's normal with anime, isn't it? And if you consider yourself a gamer, it's a wonderful treat, something that rarely happens outside of youtube.
It doesn't matter where you look, you're bound to bump into a couple of anime elves. Some of them are mischievous, others are kind and a few of them are just magical. They come in all sizes and live in diverse worlds. Come on in, it's time to meet some interesting characters!