Revenge is cute – anime critique: Shirobako

Shirobako_Promotional_PosterTitle: Shirobako
Format: tv anime
Genre: slice of life, satire, comedy, drama
Series Director: Tsutomu Mizushima
Studio: Warner Entertainment Japan P.A.Works
Series length: 24
Original Airing dates: October 9, 2014 – March 26, 2015
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

The story follows a group of five best friends, Aoi Miyamori, Ema Yasuhara, Shizuka Sakaki, Misa Todo, and Midori Imai, who all go into the anime industry after their experiences in the animation club of their high school. The series depicts the daily troubles and hardships the five experience in their respective jobs, as well as their efforts to overcome them, largely focusing on Aoi and her fellow staff at animation studio Musashino Animation as they work on two anime television series.


Critique:

Whoever wrote & created this series was doing three things:

1: show a fanciful yet realistic depiction of what goes into creating anime by showing the drama, tension & creative issues behind the scenes of an animation studio.

2: pack in as many references to their favourite series, creators, directors & artists as they could by altering their names & general depictions but still letting the audience know who & what they are talking about.

& 3: getting revenge on people by depicting various characters as incompetent idiots or selfish, lazy or generally scumbags. Truly, the people behind this series are taking the opportunity to put the boot into as many people as they feel fucked them over during the careers -from uncooperative authors to over-confident but useless P.A.s, artists who can’t meet deadlines & directors too wrapped up in themselves to be able to finish anything.

All three points are references heavily throughout the series & that just makes it an utter joy to watch -especially the depictions of people as feckless to get revenge on someone. Brilliant!

I truly adored this series, knowing nothing about it when I started watching it.

Like so many comedy-dramas, it’s about people finding their goals in life & working towards their dreams but unlike so many other series out there, Skirobako focusses not on teenagers overcoming the struggles of adolescence into maturity but rather on the daily struggles of young women -either at university or have graduated from it- as they try to realise what they want from life & deal with whatever obstacles may get in their way.
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Like so many protagonists in such series, Miyamori Aoi is indecisive about what she really wants to do with her life. Her love of anime lead her, along with most of her friends from her high school anime society, into a job in the animation industry but she’s unsure if she has the ability or passion to move beyond being a simple Production Assistant. This lack of confidence extends over to her 4 friends as well; with Ema questioning whether she has the talent for drawing animation; if Misa should stick with a secure job in 3D graphic design or take risk with an unsecure job; Midori wandering what it takes to be a writer; & Zuka fretting over if she should continue trying to be a voice actress after so many failed auditions.

The questions of confidence & ability extend into the extremely extensive supporting cast. With many characters questioning if they have the talent to be working in the animation industry whilst others, like the exceedingly & purposely annoying Takanashi, being over confident in their utter lack of ability or understand. Yet Takanashi, despite all his many many many annoying (many) traits, has a dream that he wants to achieve & sticks to his guns no matter how useless he is.

The recurring themes of confidence, talent & ability -whether natural or practised- is a constant within anime & manga. This is often depicted that those who have a natural talent for something as being inherently superior because they don’t have to work at anything, where in reality it is always the opposite. With those working hard to get better often being more talented than those for whom it comes naturally because they often get bored with the lack of challenge.

Upon the surface, Shirobako seems to fall into the former camp of praising the naturally talented but in fact the series goes on to show that those whom people proclaim to be “geniuses” or naturally talented in fact worked, struggled & fretted over their own abilities & talents to reach where they are. The use of the term -& characters whom embody- genius is used in the show to demonstrate how people can be dismissive of others &/or themselves for not fitting moulds that they don’t understand. More so if someone outside of the specific field judges everyone by the standards of whom they consider a genius yet are entirely ignorant of what goes into achieving any success in that field.
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Which is, in turn, another major conceit of the series. That is: exploring (almost) every facet of creating anime.

The series delves into the many roles & jobs that goes into making a TV anime series, even down to the most obscure & seemingly perfunctory ones. That is because, in the creator’s mind, every role in the series is important. Which the director Kinoshita keeps saying to every member of the production team; that they specifically are the most important part of the series they are creating. & to show the importance of pretty much every job in the animation industry, they feature an exceptionally large cast of characters; many of whom make a single appearance & then aren’t seen again until the final episode. Which is actually fine, because they exist to explain what their actual jobs are or to make references to past techniques, productions or figures involved in animation.

Complimenting this job are Aoi’s two imaginary figures -her goth loli doll Mimuji and her bear Roro (Lolo)- who act as Aoi’s subconscious. They’re function is to work through the dilemma or stress that Aoi has or explain to the audience the various tasks that Aoi is doing. The flashback to how they came about as figments of Aoi’s imagination is very cute, basically involving her older sister using them to talk to Aoi whenever she felt stressed or depressed.

In fact, the turns of imagination are some of the best parts, such as when Kinoshita envisions himself flying or enacting parts of one the two series he directs. Better yet is when the series forgets reality entirely & throws in one of the best Ryu from Street Fighter references that has ever been!
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The arc of the series encompasses Aoi’s life as she works at an animation studio, Musashino Animation, that is trying to regain it’s former glory after a string of failures. Likewise, the overweight & emotionally immature Kinoshita is trying to regain confidence after his last anime series Boing Boing Paradise (a reference to hypersexualised fan service mega-breasted anime like Eiken) but is constantly reminded of his failures & falls into slumps of laziness & depression. Similarly, most staff or external workers for the company all have their own issues that they are trying to overcome in order not to lose face. Or, like Takanashi, are completely lazy, over-confident or shirking their work to do other things.

It's not fan service if it's mocking fan service.
It’s not fan service if it’s mocking fan service.

The series begins with a perfect tribute to Initial D, as Aoi races to beat a rival animation studio PA from recruiting a freelance animator Segawa Misato. This is important because Musashino Animation are trying to regain their reputation with a new original anime, Exodus (a reference to Magical Girl idol anime stuff) & goes into details the struggles with writing, getting people onside & the daily grind of animation production; all whilst Aoi & her 4 friends try to figure out what they want to do.

The 2nd arc is Musashino Animation, having gotten kudos for their work on Exodus, managing to score the rights to adapt a highly sort after manga, The Third Girls Aerial Squad. This shows Aoi being promoted to the head of the Production Desk (basically, running all the day to day operations & managing the other Production Assistants as well as liaising with & recruiting other freelance workers). This arc goes into more depth of the politics involved when dealing with other creators, publishers & sponsors -all of whom want to control or add their own little bits or do what they want because it will make their companies look better. It really shows the struggle with trying to please everyone but stay true to your own artistic vision. Couple with individual characters personal struggles.
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The characters are truly what makes it work, even with such an extensive cast. They all have their distinct visual styles & personalities as well as little quirks.

This is very much a moé series with touches of hypersexualisation. Yet these are not for fan service but rather referencing how fan service is used. A few of the female characters are really sexy but they are not sexualised. They are not lingered upon or ogled by the camera. Their beauty is there as part of the moé experience. All of the characters are designed to be cute or interesting in some way; each with their own visual signature or clothing style but are dressed differently episode to episode -for the most part that is.

Over all, the quality of the animation is superb. With vibrant colours, clear lines & very well rendered action. It even throws back to more classic styles of animation when they flash back to a past series such as Anders Chucky (kinda like Kimba the White Lion or other similar cute animal series from the 70’s). It even through complete Gundam & Neon Genesis Evangelion reference in for good measure, even using their animation styles for the posters & back ground clips playing on things. A lot of love has gone into the designs & animation, making sure you know who is who & what is going on -even as they mix in the meta-series that they are working on (both with their own unique styles). The series even goes into detail about how CGI is used in modern anime series & how this can cause conflict with those who wish to be more traditional.
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In the end, this is a series with so very few faults. I utterly adored it. Finding it clever, touching & exceedingly funny. There are so many references & great moments buried within it that it bears watching again & again if you can. I do wish that I could talk about it more, but that would just spoil all the little things that you’ll pick up in it. Some characters are designed to really piss you off (Takanashi primarily but there are others too) but once you realise this was someone getting their revenge on people who had pissed them off, it makes the series all the more greater!

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I Couldn’t Think of an Ink Based Pun – Anime Critique: Barakamon

Barakamonv1Title: Barakamon
Format: TV series
Genre: comedy, slice of life
Series Creator: Satsuki Yoshino
Series Director: Masaki Tachibana
Studio: Kinema Citrus
Series length: 12
Original Airing dates: July 6 – September 27, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

Seishu Handa is a pro calligrapher, despite his young age. When the elderly curator of an exhibition criticizes his calligraphy for being too unoriginal (“like a copybook”), Handa gets angry and punches the curator. In the wake of this faux pas, his father sends him off for a retreat on Goto Island, near Kyushu. There, he meets the colourful villagers, interacts with them, and begins to learn.


Review:

Barakamon more or less follows the typical Japanese reaction comedy formula. You have one or two baka (idiot) style characters, saying or doing outrageous things whilst the straight man reacts, either with vocal outrage or a burst of slapstick violence. Barakamon doesn’t attempt to break this mould in terms of routine but it honestly doesn’t have to. This is because it’s also a situational comedy as well as a fish out of water story. Yet all of these cliched comedy tropes do nothing to detract from the actual humour within the series.

How I feel when trying to write reviews in public.
How I feel when trying to write reviews in public.

That is because the comedy is based in the location as well as the fairly unique characters or usurpation of trope. With Handa-sensei (called so because he’s master of a skill, not really a teacher) acting as both straight-man & foil to his own embarrassment created punchline. He’s an excellent dichotomy between the confident artist & the neurotic self-critic. Unable to control his impulses & always pushed to his limit by those around him -especially the tomboyish 6 year old Naru, one of the locals of the island he finds himself living on after his exile from Tokyo.

This form of comedy thrives on an ensemble cast, each existing to provide a contrast to the protagonists or set up punchlines for others to trip over -usually in the form of an outlandish reaction or over the top verbal outburst. The humour has to be fast paced & the reactions to extreme for the situation, so the series is filled with both quick punch jokes or slow boil scenarios -both of which work exceptionally well.

Naru: the face of fun.
Naru: the face of fun.

Yet, as mentioned in the first line of the previous paragraph, it is the characters that surround Handa-sensei. Primary to this group is Naru, the aforementioned little tomboy, who instantly latches onto Handa-sensei because he’s entirely new to the island. Most of her humour is derived from her either trying to get his attention or trying to cheer him up when he makes himself depressed over his lack of progress -both of which usually results in him getting physically injured or scared by her. Despite his outward antagonism towards the little girl, he shows genuine concern for her & plays along. Partially out of concern for her but mostly because he spend all of his childhood practising his calligraphy he never got to play like other children.

There are other characters too, who had to the humour or Handa-sensei’s frustration -like the mischievous girls Miwa & Tamako- or take on the role of straightman to the lunacy around them -such as Hiroshi & Tamako’s younger brother, Akihiko. Out of the four, Miwa & Tamako get the most screentime, since Handa-sensei’s house used to be where they secretly hung out & they are unwilling to let that go. Whilst Miwa does more on screen, I personally found Tamako a lot funnier as a character. She wants to become a manga artist, drawing brutal Shonen stories. She’s also drawn to BL/yaoi manga but denies this since she doesn’t want to be labelled as a fujoshi, or Rotten Woman, but is always imagining Handa-sensei being in love with Hiroshi because Hiroshi cooks for the calligrapher in exchange for some lessons. This usually leads to Tamako having huge outbursts at Handa-sensei whilst trying to subconsciously pair them up.

Fujoshi fury unleashed!
Fujoshi fury unleashed!

The series isn’t all frenetic sight gags & slapstick. In between the heavy paced comedy the series gets to show off some beautiful visuals, the ocean & landscapes of the island -all of which go to inspire Handa-sensei in finding his new unique style. Like so many other series this season, the visuals for so many incidental details are topnotch. The sparkle of the sun upon the sea, the dappled shade as light filters through the leaves. They’re not as great as in say Glasslips but they are pretty speccy to look at. Naru’s varied expressions are also adorable, even when they’re referencing some other obscure (in the West at least) works.

Kids sure do grow up quickly these days.
Kids sure do grow up quickly these days.

If I were to critique (which I am doing anyway) one major drawback of the series, it is that it doesn’t really break any new ground & a few themes & characters are introduced a touch late. Mainly Handa-sensei’s overprotective mother, Emi, who resorts to outbursts of physical violence (beating her fists up & down) whenever she gets frustrated. Her husband & son naturally are able to shrug these off but Handa-sensei’s best friend & manager, Kawafuji Takao, is unable to do so -copping a real & humorous beating from her when he makes fun of her overprotective nature. Kawafuji himself is a well rendered foil for Handa-sensei’s demanding ego & neurosis but similar finds himself out of his depth when he ventures to the island to see his friend. There was a lot of potential for more original humour & ideas there but it all fell back into basic ideas of community & belonging. With Handa-sensei coming to feel that the island is the only place that he can truly be happy because everyone accepts him for who he is, not because of his prodigious talent as a calligrapher.

In the end, this is a very fun, sweet & silly series that, despite not breaking any new ground, is definitely worth the time to watch. It has a playful sense of humour that uses good callbacks to earlier gags, especially in the post credit coda scenes. It is visual exceptionalness beats any drawbacks that the plot might have. Plus it doesn’t have many gags that are restricted to limited cultural & media references that only the most hardcore cultural otaku would get. A great series to watch when you want a sweet pick-me-up or just to laugh your manboobs off with.

Basking in work well done. Or he had a wank. One or the other.
Basking in work well done. Or he had a wank. One or the other.

Possibly the Funniest Thing All Year – Anime Critique: Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-kun

Title: Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-kun (Gekkan Shoijo Nozaki-kun, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun)
Format: TV series
Genre: comedy, satire, romance, 4koma adaption
Series Creator: Izumi Tsubaki
Series Director: Mitsue Yamazaki
Studio: Dogakobo
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 6 – September 21, 2014
Reviewed format: high def with fan subs

manga cover featuring Nozaki
manga cover featuring Nozaki

Synopsis:

“High school student Chiyo Sakura has a crush on schoolmate Umetaro Nozaki, but when she confesses her love to him, he mistakes her for a fan and gives her an autograph. When she says that she always wants to be with him, he invites her to his house and has her help on some drawings. Chiyo discovers that Nozaki is actually a renowned shojo manga artist named Sakiko Yumeno. She then agrees to be his assistant in order to get closer to him. As they work on his manga Let’s Fall in Love (Koi Shiyo lit Let’s Have a Romance) they encounter other schoolmates who assist them or serve as inspirations for characters in the stories.”


Review:

Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-kun was a manga that I had heard of but hadn’t read because of the sudden, sad demise of mangatraders.com (scumbag hackers!) & unfortunately the anime almost passed me by due to lack of support from more well known fansubber groups (leaving us with groan Horridsubs & one unknown & undersupported subber group who dropped it half way through). But I’m really glad that I gave it a chance because it is one of the funniest anime I’ve seen in the last few seasons.

Battle of the eyes
Battle of the eyes

As I’ve previously written about, I’m a monstrous fan of 4koma/azumanga adaptation because of their punchy, quick-fire jokes & excellent character construction (because they have to build them strongly within such a limited on page space).  Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-kun really slams hard into the top tier of 4koma adaptations. Not above Acchi Kocchi or Azumanga Daioh but on the same level as the two seasons of Seitokai Yakuindomo & Working!.

What makes this series truly brilliant is the subversion of tropes, genres & roles. Upon the surface many of the characters do seem stock: the male lead ignorant of the female lead’s love, the devoted female lead, the pretty boy, the popular one, et cetera but it plays around with them so sweetly that I was in pain laughing at times.

Nozaki's OP animation frame
Nozaki’s OP animation frame

The male lead is Nozaki Umetaro, who is not only ignorant of Chiyo’s affections but of pretty much everything around him. He has a cold, stoic demeanour. Performing every action in a serious, deadpan fashion so lots of people are unable to understand what he truly means. What makes that so funny & subversive is that Nozaki is actually a shojo mangaka (a creator of romantic manga for girls) who is said by fans to know the true depth of the female heart, in all its anguish, passion & devotion. & the fact that he’s a mangaka isn’t kept a secret for the sake of the plot. He’s very open about but no one believes him because he’s so tall & scary looking, with a bad reputation of fighting (injuries actually caused by rushing to meet deadlines & such). The fact that he’s truly ignorant about all aspects of romance is what drives a lot of the humour around him, as he goes through complicated plans to come up with idea scenarios to illustrate -often at the expensive of the ever devoted Chiyo.

The various moods of Sakura Chiyo
The various moods of Sakura Chiyo

In many ways, Chiyo is very much the same as Nozaki yet fundamentally different. Where he is stoic & impassive, she is overly expressive -almost to make up for his lack of physical displays of emotion. She is at first confused at Nozaki’s strange behaviour but through spending time with him, so comes to be able to read his subtle shifts in mood. Yet she so often over reactions to situations -such as thinking he might finally be reciprocating her feelings or she’s totally oblivious to the negative traits of those around her -especially her close friend Seo. Despite always wanting to be around Nozaki & get him to understand her feelings, she’s far from clingy & annoying as a character. When failing to express what she truly means in her affection to the dense Nozaki, she goes to work for him -helping with the beta (no idea what it’s supposed to be but she does the inking for him mainly) on his manga. This is done so she can learn what he’s like & see if her feelings for him are genuine. She prone to near fetishising many of Nozaki’s traits & habits, such as getting people to pose like his drawing sitting position or praising another shojo mangaka for creating a character who’s exactly like Nozaki. But she does so in the sweetest possible way. She’s also marked by her petite figure (basically half the size of the towering Nozaki) & polka dot bowed ribbons in her hair, yet is never sexualised in any way.

Such a happy Chiyo face!
Such a happy Chiyo face!

Also by working with Nozaki, she becomes a little disillusioned on how he creates his manga & whom he bases his characters on.

Which brings us into the great subversion of the series, which was always the best for laughs.

the cast, figure out the names yourself, you lazy pricks!
the cast, figure out the names yourself, you lazy pricks!

As Chiyo spends more time with Nozaki, she gets to see how he comes up with his ideas & characters. Naturally, she thinks that he has some innate understand of romance & women but that becomes apparent that it’s far from the truth when he asks her to help out in enacting possibly scenarios for his manga. The best example is the romantic bike scene & how he tries to depict it in a romantic yet entirely legal fashion (you’ll get it once you see it). He drags Chiyo into it at first but then she comes to accept it as perfectly normal, wanting to continue it with him because she finds it fun after a fashion (even though it’s totally embarrassing). Similar with the situation with him making half a dozen bento to gauge people’s reactions to getting them, with Chiyo initially thinks makes her special until he sees him sharing them out with their other friends.

The friends are what make up the rest of the humour as well as some of the inspiration of Nozaki’s manga characters.

Chiyo is not pleased by this situation.
Chiyo is not pleased by this situation.

& surprisingly enough, he doesn’t try to model any of them on Chiyo.

In fact, all of Nozaki’s female characters are based upon his male friends for their strangely feminine traits.

Chiyo's reaction to Mokirin's self-inflicted embarrassment.
Chiyo’s reaction to Mikorin’s self-inflicted embarrassment.

This is especially true for Mimiko’s (Nozaki’s ordinary yet wilful heroine), who is modelled after the charming yet easily embarrassed pretty boy, Mikoto AKA Mikorin. Who is popular because he’s handsome & saying the right things to make girls lose their minds but he gets so embarrassed about saying them because most of his experience dealing with women comes from playing dating sims & his is incredibly shy by nature -using brashness to hide it. His embarrassed state serves as the basis for Mimiko’s flustered nature as well as his constant need for praise & attention.

The other character who serves as inspiration for Nozaki’s manga is Chiyo’s close friend, Seo, who is, frankly, a bit of a bitch. She’s not intentionally mean but she’s entirely tactless, oblivious to others, slovenly, greedy, ignorant of her emotional & physical surroundings & a bit of a bully. When Nozaki asks why Chiyo admires Seo so much, she reveals Seo’s amazing singing voice, which has earnt her the nickname ‘the Lorelei of the Glee Club”. Despite her amazing vocal talents, Nozaki finds her fairly insufferable to be around but finds inspiration in her taunting of his former basketball kohai Wakamatsu, whom Seo calls Waka after a basic misunderstanding of him trying to challenge her to stop traumatising him (which is her childish way of showing an interest in her). For his part, Wakamatsu, becomes inspiration for another female character because of his over worked nature & gentle temperament yet Nozaki hates himself for putting his kohai in situations with Seo just so he can get inspiration for his manga. Seo is also the cause of Wakamatsu’s insomnia as well as he’s cure, which makes more great comedy & inspiration for Nozaki, much to his personal regret.

How harems begin.
How harems begin.

The other great characters in the series are Hori and Kashima from the drama club. Hori illustrated the scenery & backgrounds for Nozaki because he lacks the talent to do so, in exchange for Nozaki writing original scripts for the club. Kashima is the mega-popular prince-like figure of the drama club, who is always surrounded in adoring female fans despite being a woman herself. No one really seems to care about her masculine appearance & attitude, except it she costs them the chance to get female attention for themselves. Kashima also often vies for Hori’s attention, admiring his amazing acting skill (while he stays off stage because of his short height), but everything that she does just serves to piss him off -so he usually hits her for it. I don’t like the physical violence against a female character aspect much but it’s not done out of vicious anger, just old slapstick style comedy. Kashima & Mikoto are also close friends, with Kashima calling him her fated rival, despite the fact that she smashes him in every aspect of their school & personal lives.

What I wish I could do to those fans who demand hypersexualised anime all of the time.
What I wish I could do to those fans who demand hypersexualised anime all of the time.

The other great thing about the series is the incredibly beauty animation. Rich, colourful & smooth designs -even for the most mundane background details are sweetly rendered. The character animations are also top notch. Great use of expression, cartoon conceits & action -reminding me of a lot of older style fast paced cartoons that I watched as a kid (Merry Melodies mainly). Great little visual gags & reaction shots -especially Chiyo’s confused & love struck faces.

The other sweet thing about it is that you feel the genuine affection that Chiyo has for Nozaki -especially in the last episode. The reveal as to how she came to love him & why she made her confession to him is left until the end. Which serves the story really well, because it’s hinted at but not dwelled upon. Love & affection is the core of this series, something which I felt more then in the genuine shojo romantic series Ao Haru Ride that’s also been screening this season (& will be reviewed later, once I finish watching it).

In the end, this is a series that I enjoyed immensely & will probably watch over & over again (though not as much as I have Acchi Kocchi -which EVERYONE must watch). The lack of sexualisation, the great characters & fast paced jokes has put it at the top of my list for the season’s selection. I highly recommend it if you want a good laugh, like a good satire or just want something unexpected & clever.

Plus it feels good to write a review that it’s 5 paragraphs bitching about hypersexualisation for bloody once (although will be doing that with another upcoming review, so having put that stick away yet).

Also keep an eye out for the running tanuki gag.

My expression when I realised that there wouldn't be any more episodes to watch.
My expression when I realised that there wouldn’t be any more episodes to watch.

Not sure whether to be joyous or offended – Anime Critique: No Game No Life

no-game-no-life_oTitle: No Game No Life (NGNL, Noge Nora)
Format: TV series
Genre: fantasy, satire/parody, comedy, ecchi
Series Creator: Yu Kamiya
Series Director: Atsuko Ishizuka
Studio: Madhouse
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: April 9, 2014 – June 25, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fansubs

 

 


Synopsis:

“Siblings Sora and Shiro are inseparable, both in the real world and in the game world. Their individual skills combined make them an invincible team: Sora, with his astute intuition and penetrating insight; and Shiro, with her remarkable intellect that goes beyond prodigy-level genius. In the real world, they are hikikomori, reclusive and unsocial, but in the game world, the siblings together form [ ] (Blank), a mysterious group of undefeated online gamers who win every game they play with unbeatable scores. Because the account names of the players are always left empty, they become simply known as “Blank”. One fateful day, after beating a mysterious challenger in a game of online chess, the siblings receive an offer from their opponent to be reborn in his world, Disboard – a fantasy world where everything is determined by games. When they accept the proposal, Sora and Shiro are summoned to Disboard by that world’s God, Tet, who they discover to also be their former opponent. Together, Sora and Shiro begin their journey in redeeming the weak human race of Imanity and conquering the world to challenge Tet for his title of One True God.


Review:

There is a bad habit in many subcultures to lap up any mention from more mainstream forms -be it positive or negative- as well as lose one’s mind whenever a reference to something that we adore/worship/participate in is shown or mentioned within various media. Often such flashes are negatory in one’s favour yet one does love to have one’s passions & existence acknowledged by greater beings, do we not?

Visual media also loves throwing in as many references & acknowledgements as they can be they intentional or craftily snuck in & we consumers do love our little Easter egg hunts? Go on. Admit it. You look for them all of the time. As both a challenge & as a way to prove yourself superior in some petty fashion. There is no shame in such a thing –we all do it, after all.

Yet this is probably why, in the end, I felt myself a little ambivalent towards No Game No Life.

Because it praised us nerds, geeks & gamers with one hand -showing us as clever, resourceful & deep down well meaning people- & mocked us with the other -displaying us as socially dysfunctional perverts who cannot cope within a game in our hand or a pair of tits to stare all.

It attempts to pander too much to both sides, showering kudos & contempt equally.

Yet, it is not entirely without its merits.

Some reviewers have already praised it highly, even calling it “a must watch for any gamer” yet, as I said as a few lines above, it reeks to I more of pandering then any genuine affection for its greatest audience & consumers. Gamers & the socially inept have always been fair play for ridicule in media but at least NGNL attempts to be even handed.
No-Game-No-Life-Anime
This is done through the stepsiblings, Sora & Shiro -who are collectively known in the gaming & online worlds as Blank. The undefeatable team who can destroy even the most skilful hacker or cheater with seamingly the greatest of ease. That is because they believe themselves to be a single unit, with super genesis Shiro masters games like chess & FPSs & all that comes with such intelligent or tactical games whilst the older sibling Sora uses his masterful understanding of people to use bluff, cheat or know when others are cheating. But they are both broken by their talents, scorned & ridiculed by their peers, so they locked themselves up in their room to play games all day. That is before the god Tet takes them from our world to the land of Disboard, where games rule & murder can never be committed.
no-game-no-life
This is actually an interesting conceit because it establishes that Disboard is defined by 10 Commandments set forth by Tet that can’t be broken yet can be subverted. Such as the rule about cheating, where it doesn’t say you can’t cheat, just that you have to face the consequences if you’re caught doing it & it can proven. The Commandments hold everything in check & about Blank to push their plans forward by exploiting & obeying the rules as well as learning how others do the same.

Yet the trouble with this is that when they try to explain the rules for a wager or game & they flash by too fast or are stuck in a bunch of untranslated text (or the text is translated but that translation fucks with your video player something chronic!). It’s annoying that rules that are pretty bloody vital to the plot are rushed by; possibly so you don’t see any holes them or so you don’t try to guess how Blank will win.

My other major issue with the series is. . . Can you guess? Can ya? Can Ya? CAN YA?!

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEES! IT’S HYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYPERSEEEEEEEEEEEEXUALIIIIIIIIIISAAAAAATION!!!

This time perving on a fucking 11 year old (Shiro, who isn’t actually fucking but I can never go past a chance to swear. . . prick).

I honestly don’t mind that she’s rendered painfully cute, with a mouth too small & eyes too big even for anime standards but there must ALWAYS be a line drawn when you draw an 11 year old semi-naked (& fingers should be broken for drawing a naked 8 year old with a fluffy tail!). All the major female characters other than the one time antagonist Clammy are hypersexualised & the reason Clammy isn’t is because she’s mocked for having no breasts & using magic to make it seem otherwise during on of the many bath scenes.

Both Shiro & Sora share a perverted natured, as does the violent angel (Flügel) Jebril. Their usual victim is Steph, the granddaughter of the former king of all Imanity (Disboard’s name for humans) who is depicted as clever in terms of running the day to day functions of a kingdom but terrible at games, losing to Clammy before Blank take the crown away from her. The sight of Shiro wearing Steph’s panties on her head whilst making her act like a dog is monstrously disturbing, more so because Shiro acts so cute & innocent most of the time.
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I could beat the Hate Drum a bit longer, but I won’t.

Visually, this series is stunning. Incredible use of light, colour & fantasy settings as well as interesting (yet hypersexualised) designs on many of the characters. Because there are 16 races (equal to pieces on a chessboard), they each have to have very individual designs & they do stand out well. The elves are generic with blonde hair & pointed ears but the Flügel with their wings & halos are pretty awesome; whilst the werebeasts are your standard anthro-beings, which is played up for laughs with Sora -the virgin- wanting to conquer them so he can have a harem of cat & bunny girls.

The relationship between Shiro & Sora is also exceptionally well rendered. With each having absolute faith in the other & going catatonic if they are out of visual range for too long (which is actually genuinely funny). They also back each other up in games & contests when the other is lacking & transfer this knowledge to real life activities -such as running a country based on pacifist route in Civilisation. Even when they are backed into a corner by an opponent, they always rely on & trust each other utterly; drawing upon that the strength to win.
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The series also ends on a vexing note of noncompletion story-wise. Just leaves things open to a possible sequel series, which I’m not sure has been announced (unlike other 12 episode series from this season).

Despite how much this series gives with one hand & takes with the other, it was genuinely entertaining & fairly original in its story. There were some exceptionally clever bits as well as well done reference gags (even more than a few quick obscure ones). It is designed for nerds & gamers, especially in its sexual pandering, but it still mocks the culture that supports it. If you can forgive it that trait, you will probably take a lot of joy in the Easter Egg hunts as well as the clever solutions to the games through the series. Although if you enjoy the sexualisation of Shiro & Izuna, I’ve got a couple of bricks that I want to introduce you to!

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