No Game No Life – 07

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Following up the best outing of the show so far is no easy task, yet this episode succeeded admirably, in part by changing gears: No game this No Game. The Warbeasts continue to be built up as an exceedingly formidable enemy, so it wouldn’t have made sense for Sora and Shiro to rush headlong into battle without knowing anything about them. The Elves challenged them four times and lost all four, and even defeated Jibril’s Flugel. Worse still, when they lost the games they also lost all memories of said games.

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Sora and Shiro value information above all else, so the prospect of facing an opponent that has absolute control over it is immensely frustrating. When Jibril shows them that Dora’s grandfather inexplicably challenged them eight times and decimated Elkia’s territory, he grows even more irate: How could a king be so foolish? In the heat of the moment, he spews harsh things he shouldn’t have, causing Steph to flee in tears. Lest we forget, Sora and his sis aren’t the most sociable or tactful creatures.

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After much harmless teasing and messing with Steph, Sora’s crossing the line makes her question whether she should give him the “Key of Hope” her gramps entrusted to her, to give to the person who shows up later in her life to whom she can entrust Elkia. But how can she trusts someone who calls all humanity “crap?” Jibril rustles her from her brooding to return to the library, where Sora and Shiro are still hitting the books hard. There, without knowing Steph is listening, Sora gradually changes her mind.

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Once he calms down and tries to find a method to the old king’s seemingly foolish actions…he finds one: the king knew he couldn’t win all along, but fought the Warbeasts again and again anyway to gather information, wagering strategically marginal resources each time. Certain the king would never beat them, the Warbeasts didn’t bother wiping his memories, but made him pledge never to tell anyone as long as he lived. The king used that loophole to fill a journal with precious info on the Warbeast games, then locked it away with his porn stash in a hidden chamber, for a future king to use.

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It’s an awesome unraveling of a mystery and causes an immediate reversal in Sora’s opinion of Steph’s grandfather: he was a great man who created a legacy of foolishness so that his successors could defeat the enemies he couldn’t. And that will be Sora, because his moving speech—about the mankind’s potential and the rare “real deals” like Shiro (and Steph) who embody that potential and propel all humanity—convinces Steph to give him the key. I’ll tell you what else was the real deal: this episode.

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Stray Observations:

  • Jibril is a great addition to the cast. Steph can be a bit much in too-large quantities, but Jibril’s presense naturally breaks those quantities up.
  • We also like how her arrogant consdescention of humanity is softening in Sora and Shiro’s presence, and how she realizes Steph likes Sora, even though her love spell wore off.
  • Lots of anime references in this one, including Sora as that finger-tenting bastard Ikari Gendo; the Giant Warriors of Nausicaä, and Sora as Mr. Despair. The king’s secret room also resembled Nausicaä’s. 
  • We enjoyed the brief time when Steph thought the key was to her gramps’ porn stash after all, thus rendering her life a mistake!
  • When Sora first met Shiro when she was three, her first words to him were “You really are empty”, a play on his name “sky” and the fact he was fake-smiling. Sharp gal.
  • As you can tell from the shots above, this was yet another sumptuous-colored episode in a sumptuously-colored show. The environments are consistently gorgeous and imaginative.
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No Game No Life – 06

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In preparation for the next NGNL, I reassessed my perceptions of the show by watching a couple of episodes of SKET Dance. That’s not meant as an affront; SKET Dance is one of my favorite comedies, because when it was on, it was really ON, even if it wasn’t necessarily doing comedy that week. SKET and NGNL are alike in possessing vast stores of thematic material to draw upon, their ability to cultivate the belief that in any given episode, anything could happen, and that they’re not afraid to get really silly.

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This week, pretty much everything does happen, as the Flugel Jibril agrees to wager not just her library, but literally “everything she has”, so confident is she that she’ll win. If she wins, she gets an iPad containing 40,000 e-books’ worth of knowledge from another world. The game she picks is a kind of Shiritori not possible in our world: “Materialization Shiritori”, in which every word spoken affects their environs. This is a very cool concept with near-limitless potential.

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With such a wide-reaching game, one would expect things to go off the rails pretty soon. They do, when the first word Sora utters is “hydrogen bomb.” If he can kill Jibril before she can respond, he wins, even if he dies. Yes, this means when the game ends everything that happens is reset, but this is one of those rare instances where that knowledge doesn’t lessen the peril or suspense in the slightest. After all, Sora and Shiro are risking their iPad; the only iPad extant in Disboard! (I’ll set aside the matter of how they’re charging it).

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After that H-bomb, the competition remains fierce, and the words are exchanged at a fine quick pace, interspersed with a back-and-forth regarding Jibril’s unapologetic arrogance. As a Level 6 Exceed, she’s used to looking down on Imanity as ants, which is why she’s so convinced she’ll emerge victorious. But inspecting Sora’s erogenous zone (his armpit) should have tipped her off: she’s not dealing with run-of-the-mill humans.

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Much of the game is also played with Jibril, Dora, and Shiro relieved of their clothing thanks to Sora, but because their privates are gone thanks to another word he used previously, it’s a PG-Rated affair. What makes this kind of Shiritori so devilishly awesome is that the players must keep track of every word not just so they won’t repeat it, but to keep track of what’s gone and what isn’t. This results in Sora vanishing away the Mantle, Crust, and Lithosphere from the planet.

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Things escalate from there into a war of attrition with various gasses being removed, along with the ability to speak. The back and forth reaches an apex when Jibril throws the term Sora used to describe her—”Empty-headed Academic”—back in his face (writing in the air) as a coup-de-grace. But Sora was counting on that, and already has his pre-written, decisive response: Coulomb’s Force, the removal of which causes a hypernova.

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What had started with the vanishing of some candles and the ladies’ clothes ended up with the rearrangement of the cosmos. Back in the library they’ve won, Jibril graciously concedes defeat. When Sora allows her access to the iPad and library anyway, she admits she’s finally found someone worthy to serve as her master; someone who can overturn everything she knows. And since Jibril knows pretty much everything, that’s saying something!

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No Game No Life – 05

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When it comes to games, say Blank, “They’re always serious.” The same, ironically, can not be said of the show they’re in. NGNL showed a glimpse of its serious side in reiterating the importance of—and difficulty in—saving mankind from subjugation at the hands of the Exceed, and even though there’s no war, the pledges have done plenty of damage all the same, to the point where the three million people of Elkia are scared and anxious about the future.

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But like I said; only a glimpse of seriousness, and just a teensy one. The majority of the episode is devoted to Steph challenging, losing, and being humiliated over and over by Blank, in an intermittently humorous effort to make Sora a decent person. But it’s unnecessary because despite looking like they’ve done nothing but eat, sleep and play games (as NEETs are wont to do), Sora and Shiro have been working furiously for their new kingdom. Their only problem is, they’re not sure how to proceed.

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While Steph’s string of consecutive losses to Blank in supposed games of chance forces her to act the goat (or rather, the dog)—and a very skimpily-clad one at that—it’s revealed she’s not as much of an idiot (or a “steph”) as Sora and Shiro thought. Before they arrived on the scene and after when they researched in seclusion, she was ruling Elkia, gathering support for their reforms and neutralizing the opposition. When it comes to Imanity (the ones not being supported by outside nations), she’s done pretty well.

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What she hasn’t been able to do is regain any of her country’s lost territory, and that’s where Sora and Shiro come in. Sora first targets the Warbeasts (or “Animal Girls”, even though there are guys) for conquest; a gutsy move considering their vast land holdings and ability to read minds, nullifying strategy and bluffs in any games. However, Steph happens to have a “Flugel” up her sleeve (convenient, that) who could help them in the coming fight, which will most likely be seasoned with more rapid-fire, spaghetti-on-the-wall comedy.

Oh, one more thing: the Castle In the Sky reference was most appreciated.

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No Game No Life – 04

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With the proper wisdom, the weakest can defeat the strongest—that’s the credo of King Blank; the newly-risen combo of Sora and Shiro, having beaten Zell fair and square at one of the most ludicrous games of “chess” I’ve ever witnessed. Even her massive and egregious amount of cheating with Elven magic couldn’t topple the formidable wisdom Blank possesses. The One True God Tet plucked them from a world where they were only kings of a small room into a world seemingly designed to be ruled by them.

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After dipping into his expertise in dating sims to win the crown, Sora uses his experience playing Civ to iron out the domestic problems with Elkia, then delivers a long and stirring (and long) motivational speech to its demoralized populace. He tells them Imanity had the monopoly on weakness and wisdom before war was banned, and the first step to regaining their old stature is to acknowledge and embrace it’s position as the weakest race in Disboard. Dora is dazzled by their proficiency in matters of state and knack for igniting a crowd.

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Lounging in their new royal chambers, the siblings are visited by Tet once more, who asks them how they like the place. Sora cuts to the heart of matters: when Tet lost to them at chess, it may well have been the first time Tet lost at anything. Therefore, Tet brought them to Disboard as a challenge, the first stage of which was to become King of Elkia. The next step is to conquer the world—commanding all sixteen races like sixteen chess pieces. Then they’ll be ready to take Tet on.

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After that tough battle in which their opponent brazenly cheated, Blank’s victory and rise to the throne was satisfying (and Zell bursting into tears was an amusing surprise), but I’m curious to see where the show is going. If Sora and Shiro really aren’t ever going to lose a game, the show’s success will hinge on how craftily and awesomely they win (and the opponents not always being pushovers). Delivering a show in which winning is a forgone conclusion will be tough to pull off, but despite their recent success Blank still feel like underdogs, so we look forward to the endeavor.

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Suisei no Gargantia – 10

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Ledo returns to base, and Pinion’s crew starts bringing up ancient treasure. Pininon sends a wide-range communique to other fleets announcing the annihilation of the whalesquid nest and their discovery, and warning them to stay away. The word reaches Gargantia, where Ridgett, Bellows, Saya and Amy express their disappointment and distress. Pirates attack Pinion’s fleet but surrender when they fire the ancient weapon, and Pinion gets the idea to expand the fleet. Ledo can’t celebrate with the others, as he struggles with guilt over slaughtering the Hideauze. He doubts the cause he always fought for, but Chamber assures him from independent analysis that mankind and the Hideauze have fundamentally opposing survival strategies, and their conflict will always be zero-sum. While discussing this, Chamber detects an allied mech which Ledo identifies as Commander Kugel’s.

While last week was all about putting a human face on the Hideauze, this week balances the issue, by showing that there are no easy answers in the conflict between humans and Hideauze. Both groups are extremes locked in an existential fight. Humans embrace civilization and build tools and machines to exceed the limits of their individual bodies; Chamber considers himself the “crystallization of human intellect”, something essential to fight the Hideauze in their current state. Part of humanity broke off into Hideauze, the group began to abandon civilization, and one could argue they returned to being animals, concerned only with survival and reproduction. If humanity threaten either, they must be fought and destroyed.

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In this regard, Chamber dispenses with Alliance propaganda and simply looks at the facts and the history laid out in front of him, and his conclusions make a lot of sense. Except when you realize that the Hideauze were the result of civilization advancing so far, they could escape their human bodies altogether. Humanity is in just as “extreme” a situation in that they developed a subset of themselves that threatens their own existence. One would not exist without the advancement of the other, so to fight to preserve the level of civilization Chamber and Ledo came from, is to preserve that self-destructive endgame. Compare this to the world of Gargantia before Ledo and Chamber arrived. Because humans lack the technology to obliterate the whalesquid, they simply keep their distance.

It’s a steady truce that must have worked for centuries; a truce Ledo breaks with his reckless pursuit of duty, perhaps to the doom of all. One could argue that the primitive level of civilization mankind endure is a waste of the human potential, but when we know that potential led to the creation of their existential enemy, a maritime steampunk world with a few pirates doesn’t sound too bad. This is the world Amy loves, the world where somehow, humanity and its self-made nemesis co-exist. It’s not perfect, but it’s not constantly the apocalypse. It’s the ultimate expression of “be happy with what you have,” and Pinion apparently never will be. Will Ledo ignore Chamber’s insistence that war is inevitable and come round to Amy’s thinking?

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Want to really drive home the point that a character is incredibly lonely and depressed? Have her say and do virtually nothing for two whole episodes, which is what this series has done with Amy, and effectively. She even snaps at Saya! Who snaps at Saya?
  • We were waiting to see Ledo throw up, as throwing up in situations like that always makes you feel better. If he does it, it isn’t shown on-camera. But throwing up is a decision, and his failure to overtly do so mirrors the ethical/philosophical crossroads he finds himself on.
  • Pinion’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric, but not unrealistic. After all, he’s gotten results and found success in every venture he’s undertaken, and he’s made the fleet into a formidable power.
  • The episode made good use of Melty in showing us that Flange decries Pinion’s ruthless methods. He’d rather share their bounty with others, but Pinion prefers to make enemies, and soon he’ll have enough that they’ll unite against him and then he’ll be sorry!
  • We particularly liked how Chamber made it clear he wasn’t just a mindless Alliance mouthpiece, but lacking emotion, he still isn’t capable of understanding that fighting the Hideauze is pointless. Ledo has, he just doesn’t know what to do with that realization.
  • The power output of Pinion’s new EM weapons is ~76 times greater than the whole fleet, but only 1/50th the output of Chamber. That means, boys and girls, that Chamber’s power output is a cool 3800 times greater than the fleet. That’s some serious…civilization.
  • Lightbugs are humanity’s primary source of electricity. Hideauze skin is made from lightbugs. That’s what you call a symbiotic relationship. You don’t destroy your own symbiont…ask any Trill.
  • Kugel? Holy shit, that guy’s back? He was badass. Ledo may not have the luxury of making his own choice anymore, unless he resigns his commission. Chamber will certainly follow Kugel’s orders over Ledo’s.