【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.
Game Over..... for now at least........ hopefully