Anime is primarily a business. This is a fact that those of us who care a lot about high quality artwork and innovative storyline often forget. The primary reason why we get such products is because people can make money that way -lots and lots of them. Therefore most of today’s titles are filled with over the top fanservice even in cases where it feels unnecessary to have it. I admire anime like “No Game No Life” that try to go beyond the panties and lolis featured in their story and provide the viewer with something more.
The main premise of “No Game No Life” is simply one of gamers’ most often dreams. There is an alternative world where the abstract and inconsistent rules of our universe aren’t given any attention. Instead, everything in this world, from politics to work and love revolves around games, especially winning games. You wish to rule a country? Well, start practising your FPS skills -or perhaps get more involved with chess or strategy games or who knows what else. It’s really a geek’s dreams, seconded only to achieving A+ grades at school by reading visual novels all night. A brother and a sister who are exceptionally smart and skilled are pulled into this world by a deity. The reason; mankind there is on the brink of extinction and needs a new savior.
Sounds simplistic? It is. What matters though is how the production team handled this premise. Thankfully I can tell you that they did a pretty good job. The first aspect of the series where this is evident are the games themselves. There was never a moment where I felt that the development lacked thought or that it lacked meaning. Every match has a role to play in showing us more of the characters, the pros and cons of their personalities, and this helps to increase overall interest. The game twists were often over the top but never enough to make me wince. As a gamer myself I found the video-game arc a bit too much, but it still fits the series’ mood very well. My point is that in most (ecchi) anime these qualities would be left aside and we’d most likely be focusing on Shiro’s loliness or some other sort of (male-oriented) fanservice.
The characters are not the story’s strongest point. Even though I liked Sora and Shiro as an example of a loving family, I really dislike how they handled their relationships with other people. The way Stephanie Dola was treated really made me dislike both protagonists and I think it degrades the series’ overall value because humiliating a character is, in my opinion, the cheapest kind of humor one can find. Light jokes on naivety or other personality traits can be funny but this goes to a whole different level, one I could only tolerate in a fetish hentai title. The moments where the two twins made up for their behavior only make this worse. You can’t act like a legendary asshole and then get everyone’s admiration, including that of your victims. It’s shallow, boring and feels totally out of place. The remaining cast is stereotypical so whether you’ll like them or not depends on how much you like each the clichés they represent.
One last comment on the story; I don’t know if I am the only one who thinks that way but I find that the world of “No Game No Life” would be better suited to horror or hentai rather than the ecchi genre. The idea that somehow a universe where you can gamble (and win) everything, even your own soul, would be a utopia without wars feels totally out of place to me. In my opinion it’d be much more realistic to find a world where horrible crimes, be them genocides, rapes, cannibalism, slavery and much more would probably be an everyday occurrence.
Visually the series does its work quite well. Harue Ono’s color scheme sets the series apart but it can be a tad difficult on the eyes with all these super vibrant colors and red outlines. The fact that the ED of episode 8 changed in monotone and was montaged to fit what was going on in the story is clever and pretty cool. The music is nice but nothing special perhaps with the exception of the catchy emblematic OP, even though again I am not the best of judges.
In conclusion, is “No Game no Life” a show that’s worth watching? In my opinion yes, under certain circumstances. If you are looking for a show with some comedy elements that has some decent context or for something to watch with a friend then it’s a good title to pick up. I watched it alongside Foxy Lady and I can definitely say that this made the whole experience much more interesting. Also make sure you have time to watch it marathon-style, otherwise I think you’ll get bored quickly. It’s not a must-see title but if you’ve nothing better in your check list it’ll do the work.