Genre(s): Isekai, Fantasy, Game, Ecchi
Age-Appropriateness: 15+ (Frequent Partial nudity, suggestive themes, crude humor, language)
Platforms: Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll
TheAwersome Rating: 7.1 / 10 (Decent, but brings all the bad of anime)
Premise: Sora and Shiro, shut-in NEET siblings are the online gamer duo behind the legendary username “Blank.” They view the real world as just another lousy game. A strange email challenging them to a chess match, however, changes everything—the brother and sister are plunged into an otherworldly realm where they meet Tet, the God of Games. In this world, all forms of conflict—from petty squabbles to the fate of whole countries—are settled not through war, but by way of high-stake games. This system works thanks to a fundamental rule wherein each party must wager something they deem to be of equal value to the other party’s wager. In this strange land where the very idea of humanity is reduced to child’s play, the indifferent genius gamer duo of Sora and Shiro have finally found a real reason to keep playing games: to unite the sixteen races of this world, defeat Tet, and become the gods of this new, gaming-is-everything world.
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: Yup. If you read that and rolled your eyes, I’m right there with you. Not only is this another fantasy in which playing games all day and being a shut-in makes you the most powerful person in the world, it’s filled to the brim with overtly classless and simple sexual humor. The story, world and scenarios are interesting enough, but I really grew out of the “Smartest Man in the Room” genre (House, Sherlock, often Dr. Who) back in 2015 and this was really a reprise of that with added objectification of women. Not to mention it pulls a Yu-Gi-Oh! and actual rules of the games aren’t clear and frequently bend to fit what the episode needs.
TLDR: Shows like this (and people who blindly love them without acknowledging the uglier bits) are why people hate anime fans.
There is a prequel movie, No Game No Life: Zero, which will be reviewed next week. There is no Season 2 yet, and there’s been large handful of conspiracy theories about why. Some say the author was accused of plagiarism, others that the author is/was terminally ill, or even that the author was in prison for child porn (honestly wouldn’t be too surprising given the amount of ecchi in this), etc. If you get really into the story (which admittedly is a great game/isekai story with lush worldbuilding and interesting political dynamics) you’ll have to read the Light Novels or manga to finish it, because it doesn’t seem like this one will get finished. I’m not particularly bummed out about it.
I did a good amount of ragging, but there are some things that I did enjoy about this. From a design perspective, the characters and art, including color pallet, are all done to evoke the feeling of playing cards. That’s why everything uses faded red for the linework outlines, and blue and yellow accents/colors abound. There’s also a ton of references/memes to other games and shows, so that was a fun bit. When the show isn’t relying on “Haha, what a stupid girl this sidekick character is” or “Time for another bath scene where Sora’s trying to sneak a peek” it does have some clever problem solving and trickiness in how they go about winning the games they play.
What bothers me is the same thing that bothers me with most “Smartest Man in the Room” shows in that that main character is a total jerk and does outlandishly irresponsible things because he’s so cocksure of himself, and then wins every single time. It’s these depictions of rude, uncaring, allegedly smart characters who face no consequences that empower people who think themselves smart to be an absolute ass to everyone because they fancy themselves Sherlock, Dr. House, Rick, or in this case, Sora.
It’s these kinds of characters that make people excuse these behaviors in other people, and even encourage it. They’ll see a charismatic prominent figure, be it an electric car company CEO or a washed-up businessman-turned-politician make bigoted comments and display an absolute disregard for humanity, and rather than think “Wow, what a lack of character,” they’ll say “Hey, that guy must be one of those smart people from my shows! They’re not being absolute fools in policy decisions, they’re playing 4D Chess to something greater!”
Anime isn’t real, kids. Sometimes people are just dumb, and not every person who does wrong has a redemption arc.