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.
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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.
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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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Article: Steph’s life as a Gamer

This is the 1st part of a new feature to And The Geek Shall,  articles/interviews with people across various realms of Geekdom -be they gamers, writers, genre fans or just generalist nerds. If you are interested in contributing, either leave a comment or PM me at Twitter: @andthegeekshall (follow me there anyway!) or via the Tumblr link above.

Today’s contributor is Steph, an old friend of mine. She’s a consummate gamer, especially in the PC arena. If you are up to the challenge, her Battle Net ID squidularmy#1683 & her Steam handle is squidularmy (both online ID’s posted with personal permission, so be respectful when asking to add her & no, she won’t be your girlfriend so don’t even fucking ask, twat!).


Steph:

steph pic

Bio:

    My name is Steph, I’m a 27 year old female & I spend far too much of my time in front of a screen; during the day I build software, & as soon as I’m home I’m PC gaming exclusively. I could be doing other things, productive things no doubt, but after doing two degrees while working full time I think I’m entitled to spend my leisure time doing whatever I bloody well want.

What made you start gaming?

My first memory of gaming was when I was probably about six years old. During school holidays my father would stay home with me, which meant I would spend all day sitting on a piano stool watching him play Warlords II. It was a good deal for Daddy Dearest, & a great deal for me too – I couldn’t get enough of seeing more & more of the game tactics (or the ganking). This kicked off my interest in top down strategy gaming & probably catalysed my later obsession with the Sid Meier’s Civilization series.

What types characters do you most often play?

I love casters. Mages. Wizards. There’s just something about this tiny unarmoured person acing the everloving shit out of monsters without even touching them that I find appealing. I generally play female wizards too – even though I know I could play a lady paladin, or a warrior or whatever, I feel like being a caster allows me to express femininity, whatever that means, while being a totally destructive badass. Armchair psychologists are welcome to read into this however they like.

boris the wizard

What features do you most enjoy in games?

I definitely enjoy breaking games. I love setting myself obscure meta objectives just to see if something can be done. Yes, occasionally I muck around with cheat codes, but only to stabilise certain aspects of the game while I try & achieve something ludicrous. Whether it be trying to create the ultimate mage tank in World of Warcraft, or trying to balance a five-way polyamorous household in The Sims 3 – chances are I’ll be chasing after something dumb at any given point in time. I’ve started having fun with some Steam based software development kits lately to build my own ridiculous scenarios that don’t make any sense.

Following on from that, I can be a bit of an achievement junkie at times. I mean actual achievements, the ones the game designers actually want you to pursue, rather than the “Can Poland successfully invade Germany” style campaigns I design in Civ V. Following the main storyline of a game has never felt too appealing to me, & I like that the achievement system allows me to venture off & obsessively grind at whatever I feel like doing with some kind of arbitrary motivation.

What I don’t enjoy is games that are completely based around a clear storyline or objective chain – I need to have the flexibility to do other stuff & some kind of end game motivation. Game structures like the Mass Effect series have never appealed to me for this reason.

Also I don’t do PvP because I need to be able to beat you or I won’t come to the party.

What are your current gaming activities?

I’ve recently decided to up my game in World of Warcraft & get really good at playing my main, rather than just mashing my mage bomb macro & crossing my fingers. I’ve been researching & experimenting with build, spell rotation & stats balancing. I do a few raids with pick-up-groups each week, which is always a gamble in itself to find a group that doesn’t aggro the whole room for shits & giggles, but I will probably look to join a raiding guild soon, once I’m more confident in my DPS consistency.

I’m also levelling a hardcore character in Diablo III, & determined to get her to the max level without being mortally wounded. So far this is going rather smoothly, however I am noting it’s a funny balance between being super resistant to all kinds of damage & actually being able to kill a boss within an hour of engaging combat – one trades off the other to some extent. I’m quite excited about the upcoming patch to Reaper of Souls & am looking forward to running through the new tiered rifts with my friends during our Saturday night Diablo LANs.