Jun 27, 2014
BlueEldur (All reviews)
No Game No Life(NGNL) is a wish-fulfillment show in which the protagonists are given an entirely arbitrary world in which they are the best at what governs that world: games. Wish-fulfillment, you say? Yeah, I am grouping this one up there with SAO, and I don't think I'm in the wrong when doing so. I mean, Sora's backstory is literally him getting awful grades and not giving a shit about what his parents say. It's the classic angsty mentality "me vs. the world" or "nobody understands me" type of mentality that many adolescents feel they are driven into, and this show plays off of that.

It revels in its otaku culture, but what's interesting is that it's actually quite self-aware of what it's doing. The show constantly makes light-hearted jokes about otaku hikkimori NEET or whatever you want to call it culture, and so it is clearly very aware of the innate flaws these people face socially and mentally. HOWEVER, it fails to self reflect in every way possible. It clearly can identify problems in its vile nature, but it only wants to make a joke out of it. Sort of like "I don't care what society thinks, in fact, I don't even want to participate in your system." which is kind of what Sora's mentality towards his parents is anyways. What do I mean by self-reflect? Well, the only NEET/hikkimori show I even think is good is Welcome to the NHK, so that gives you an idea of what kind of catharsis I'm looking for.

Story-wise, it's supposed to grip you with intense games. It's supposedly even more exciting because you're allowed to cheat in these games. At first glance, this seems like it makes it even harder for our god-like protagonist, but when you think about it... not really. Because magic is allowed, many shortcuts can be taken in how exactly the author writes about how Sora/Shiro beat the enemy. The classic example is the chess game. That wasn't even about games. It looked to me like lazy writing. With magic, it becomes easier for the writer to come up with ways for the protagonists to win. The writer doesn't even have to know jack shit about game theory, as he can avoid the subject entirely. This show is the kind of show that actual manga/anime about game theory like Liar Game and Kaiji will laugh at and shit on. This links to another problem I had with his show...

Everything pans out too perfectly. Once again, at first glance, many of these games look as though they are won through wit, intellect, deduction, logic, etc. etc. etc. When you really think about it, there ARE actually quite a few loopsholes or unanswered explanations in this show when it comes to its games. However, the story always pans out to make Sora/Shiro look like gods. I have a problem with this but I can certainly see someone enjoying it.

Visually, I don't really have any complaints. I thought there was definitely too much fanservice, but it could differ. People will say things like "but every show some fanservice!". No, not really. Some shows don't need to use fanservice and moe to drive up their BD preorders. Some shows care about the story/characters alone. See: Mushishi, Tatami Galaxy, or Ping Pong, which aired in the same season as NGNL.

This show doesn't really put forward any clear themes, ok actually the only one it does is the angsty rebellious one I get from Sora/Shiro's backstory combined with the fact that this show is about how overpowered they are in this arbitrary world. It doesn't meaningfully resonate whatsoever, and normally the "dumb entertaining fun" shows get a 5, because they really are your average entertaining fun shows, but in this case the intrinsic problems I had with its setup and the fact that the games weren't all that great for me lead me to rate it a 4/10. I'll admit 2 or 3 episodes were decently entertaining, but other than that I'd much rather be watching a serious show just because that's more my taste.