Wednesday, 9 April 2014

No Game No Life - Episode 1

Urban legend has it that there's a team of four gamers who can take on and beat absolutely anybody - a group so powerful that they can take on a team of 1,200 rival players and still emerge victorious, and a group so assured that they don't even need a name, leaving nothing but a blank space where their title should be in the games they play.

In truth, "Blank" are little more than a brother and sister shut-in team consisting of brother Sora and little sister Shiro.  There's no doubting their ability when it comes to playing games - even when it comes to a game of chess - but in contrast their life skills are simply non-existent.  Thus, when the pair are asked if they wished for a world where everything was decided by games, of course they liked the idea - little did they know that at that very moment they'd be whisked away into just such a world; a land known as Disboard.

Rather than Ten Commandments, the ruler of Disboard - a boy named Tet - has ten simple rules which effectively revolves around ensuring that robbery and murder and outlawed, and that everything in life must be decided by challenging others to games with rules and rewards which both parties deem fair.  There's also a rule about not cheating, namely that it's against the rules to be caught cheating while a game is in progress, meaning that cheating is fine as long as you don't get caught.  This is something that Sora is quick to catch on to, giving him an early leg-up in this dog-eat-dog world.

Although it occupies a clear space in the world of shows trying to piggy-back on the popularity of Sword Art Online, this first episode of No Game No Life at least feels like it occupies its own space in the "games and real life collide" genre.  Its lead characters have a certain charm to them and the world into which they're flung certainly has some potential... the trouble is that so much of what it does starts to unravel once you start thinking about it.  Sora and Shiro's successes should feel like an achievement in some shape or form, but instead they feel like arbitrary victories merely to advance the plot, while Sora's persuasive demeanour is at odds with his supposed social maladjustment.  Add it all up and he suddenly appears to be little more than a self-insert character "sticking it to the man" and the man's horrible world of 3D pain, which in turn makes the entire endeavour seem entirely less interesting.  Perhaps I'm being too cynical here, but from a series that seems to have potential and shows some nice flashes of humour and personality, I fear that it'll go off the rails sooner rather than later.

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