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Anime Review: No Game, No Life
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No Game, No Life
Directed by Atsuko Ishizuka
Based on the Light Novel Series by Yuu Kamiya
Produced by Madhouse, Media Factory
Voice cast: Ai Kayano, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Mamiko Noto, Mugihito, Naomi Shindo, Rie Kugimiya, Risa Taneda, Yoko Hikasa, Yuka Iguchi, Yukari Tamura.
Air dates: Streaming Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. CDT on Crunchyroll

Slacker. Ne’er-do-well. Non-conformist. Hippie. Hermit. Otaku. NEET. Hikikomori. Societies all around the world have come up with a wide range of names to describe people who have decided, for whatever reason, to drop out of the mainstream of society. Usually, there’s a lot of social stigma attached to the label, and the people who have to endure these labels seldom feel welcome in their respective cultures. Sometimes, the desire to get away from everyone and everything can be a very powerful thing. And that’s partly the motivation for a pair of gamer siblings in No Game, No Life, a series directed by Atsuko Ishizuka that is now streaming Wednesday mornings on Crunchyroll.

No Game, No Life tells the story of a brother-and-sister duo of gamers who have devoted so much of their lives to gaming together that they have become an urban legend, known only as [ ] (literally “kuhaku,” or “blank space”) with a reputation of never having lost a single game out of thousands of sessions across 280 or more different games. The pair is actually siblings Sora, 18, and his 11-year-old sister, Shiro, who are both NEETS (short for Not in Education, Employment, or Training) and are also Hikikomoris, or shut-ins.

One day, the pair receives a cryptic email from an unknown sender asking, “Have you two siblings ever felt that you were born into the wrong world?” Challenged to an online game of chess, the pair battle their unknown foe and win. The anonymous sender then begins to ask them, “What do you think about your world?” “Is it fun?” and “Is it easy to live in?” to which they reply, “This world is just one crappy game.” At this point their screens go blank and they are sucked out of this world into a completely different plane of existence, the world of Disboard, where all conflicts are decided by games and war and violence is forbidden.

The anonymous opponent, who is actually the world’s ruler, the god Tet, appears to Sora and Shiro in the form of a small boy, but he is also the single survivor of a long-settled war between various deities for control of Disboard, and has set himself up as the “one true god” of this game-oriented world.

Games, with stakes up to and including matters such as people’s lives and national borders, settle all conflicts in Disboard. Sora and Shiro find themselves in the lands of the race known as Imanity (the name for humans in this world), which have been out-gamed by Disboard’s other fifteen races into losing all of their lands, leaving only their capital city, Elkia, in which to call their own.

Even the king is chosen by game tournaments, as the siblings discover when they come upon the last king’s granddaughter, Stephanie Dola, attempting to play for her right to inherit the throne against Kurami Zell, a human who has allied with the elves to win the throne and allow them to run Elkia with herself as figurehead. Naturally, Sora and Shiro aren’t about to let that happen, but then, they’re not exactly going to tip their hand, either. They’re just too good for that. To see how it turns out, though, you’ll have to watch.

One of the marks of a really good anime series for me is when I lose track of time while watching it. I get so into the story and the aesthetics behind the animation that before I know it, twenty-four minutes have slipped by and I’m looking at the closing credits and thinking, “…more…”. I really get that from watching No Game, No Life. It’s pretty clear that Sora and Shiro are entirely in their element in Disboard, and unlike most protagonists who find themselves in another world and desperately seek to get back to their own, these two are perfectly fine spending the rest of their lives here.

I also love the character designs by Koji Odate, whose previous efforts include key animation in Btooom! and animation director in High School of the Dead. And finally, I love the idea that the protagonists have to win not by force of arms but by their wits alone.

Currently streaming on Crunchyroll on Wednesday mornings at 10:30 a.m. CDT, I highly recommend No Game, No Life. I hope that, like I have, you will lose yourself to this remarkably visual and intelligently written series.

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