No Game No Life – Specials

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Like every other popular series, NGNL has released a handful of short-form special episodes. I’ve seen four of them so far, and I must sadly report that they fall way short of what we’ve come to expect from the [Blank] twins.

In a nutshell, each min special exists to remove Steph’s clothes again and plays with anime and gaming conventions as an excuse for not animating anything. Yes! I get text boxes and un-moving sprites are common in JRPGs but THEY DO NOT WORK IN ANIMATION.

You know, animation, the moving art form!

ngnls2Don’t be fooled! This is a still image with spoken dialogue – not animation!

Are they worth watching? No. No they are not.

However, a glimmer of hope for NGNL’s second season shines through as, despite being mostly empty, lazy unanimations, fragments of NGNL’s humor and social commentary creep through.

Still though, NGNL’s specials are a perfect example of phoning it in. Woof.

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No Game No Life – 12 (Fin)

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As I’ve said in past reviews, NGNL was never really about whether Blank would win—they were always going to win—but rather how they win; and how they manage to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat, which in their final game of the series are the adorable jaws of a Warbeast girl with Limit Break.

For me, the show didn’t even always have to make perfect, airtight logical sense in delivering its wins, as long as they were complex, fun, and entertaining, which they have always been; in particular this week. I’ll admit, I’m not much of a gamer (I prefer cooking), so just as Izuna ultimately had fun even though she lost, I had a lot of fun jumping through the shows hoops even when I got lost.

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Events in the show’s past were always enough to build a good case for Sora and Shiro’s victories, and this week was no different. It’s no accident that Sora Steph, who was a complete non-factor last week, is the complete opposite this week, being the one to fire the decisive shot. Even better, she wasn’t even aware of how many spells and equations she was a variable in; indeed, that’s why she was effective.

With Izuna beaten and all Eastern Federation lands on the continent returned to Elkian control, Sora’s gang then meets Miko, the elegant leader of the Warbeasts. A bespectacled golden fox shrine maiden with two gigantic, fluffy tails (Miles’ sister?), she’s the latest of the show’s wealth of stylized, whimsical character designs. She immediately challenges them again, ostensibly for revenge, but also because she fears Warbeast subjugation.

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That’s because she believes Kurami and Fil transmitted the particulars of the game just played to the Elves, and that Jibril will bring the might of the Flugel to bear in alliance with Imanity and the Elves. But because she makes the challenge, Sora gets to pick the game, and he picks the simplest game of all: a coin toss. Quite anti-climactic for the final game of the show, no? Well, not quite.

First of all, there’s a nice symmetry for the show to start with rock-paper-scissors (a game that’s more about the relationship of the players than anything else) and end with something even purer. Miko calculates the coin will land on tails (a side I thought she’d pick anyway, because she has tails and is thus partial to them), but at the last second Sora moves a flagstone and the coin lands upright in the crack. A draw.

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Whether you believe Miko could have seen him move the stone with her limit break senses, or could accuse him of cheating to cause a draw is irrelevant; Miko accepts the draw, and Sora makes her decide whether they both win or lose, with both winning meaning a cooperative alliance in which the Warbeasts would maintain the right to self-rule. To quell her concerns about Elven aggression, Sora reveals that he altered Fil’s memory (the ability he won when he beat Kurami) so she gave the Elves false intel.

Again, even if you had a problem with him gaining control of the mind of a character who didn’t participate in that past game, the fact remains Fil might’ve delivered that false info anyway, maintaining Miko’s paranoia about Elven aggression for the very specific time it needs to be maintained. Once the game is over, he came clean, and it’s another example of how Sora treats this world like the world it is, a world without true death and suffering. It’s all just a game.

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Gaining the Warbeasts as geopolitical partners is the first step to beating that game, which means a seat at the table with Tet The One True God, and to take him on personally. While the sixteen races of Disboard have always fought amongst each other, Sora sees the key to getting to Tet: following the tenth pledge: “Let’s all have fun and play together!” A bit trite, but honest: if games aren’t fun, why play them?

If all the races are united, their race pieces will populate the opposing sie of Tet’s chess board. Then it’s just a matter of Shiro playing chess against him…and she beat him once before! And that takes us back to inevitability: even if we never see it actually happen in a second season, Shiro will surely win that chess match. What will matter is how Blank united the races to get there. It’s all about the process; the journey…which was occasionally flawed, but never boring.

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Final Cumulative Score: 8.08
MAL Score: 8.84 (Yikes…that’s a bit high!)

No Game No Life – 11

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Last week ended with Sora and Shiro totally unable to function, but that cliffhanger is resolved rather quickly, as it’s merely a simulation of Tokyo where they’re playing, which turns out to be just fine with them. Of course, that realization came after a very random title sequence for the game they’re in, entitled Living or Dead Series Side Story: Love or Loved 2: Hit Her With Your Bullet of Love!

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As random as all that sounds, the title is a nice send up of…this kind of stuff, and ends up making more and more sense as details of game—essentially a gussied-up FPS—comes into focus. The hair dryer-like pistols assigned to everyone are used to reject NPCs (which charges “love power”) turn into “love slaves” and have them fight for you, and make allies fall in love too. This leads to combat that’s patently ridiculous (e.g. shounen-style analysis of pantsu thickness), but also exciting and lots of fun. The game moves at a nice brisk clip, too.

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What also becomes apparent to Blank as the game rolls on is that despite their early dominance thanks in large part to Shiro’s literally otherworldly FPC skills, Izuna is able to evade every attack they throw at her, which means she’s cheating. They need proof to accuse her, but have none, so Blank finds themselves in the rare position of underdog, with an opponent that doesn’t have to play by the same rules.

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This isn’t a game where they’ve already thought sixty-four moves ahead; they can’t, because they’re not sure what’s coming. So they have to resort to winging it. They may not know everything they need to about the game and Izuna’s abilities, but they do know and trust each other. Sora trusted Shiro to “find him” in his game with Kurami; this time Shiro returns the favor, getting shot by Izuna and trusting he’ll handle the rest.

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He does, by realizing it was her clothes, not her body, that got hit by Izuna’s bullet, and that she conserved her energy by not running (like he told her earlier) so she’d still have attack power when she reunited with Sora. This time, however, Sora and Shiro depended on more than just themselves to get this far: Kurami and Fil are still outside, looking out for evidence of cheating, while Jibril stalls Izuna at a crucial juncture. Steph, alas, is useless throughout.

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Blank may not have defeated Izuna by the end of this episode, their exemplary play and convivial attitude is making Izuna actually enjoy playing games again. Blank isn’t desperately fighting like their race is on the line; they’re having a blast. This is something she hasn’t done for some time, since gaming has been more about duty to her country than leisure. And the more they corner the she-warbeast, the fiercer—and, seemingly, happier—she becomes.

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No Game No Life – 08

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Last week revealed the means by which Sora and Shiro could study the Warbeasts in preparation for their challenge, and this week shows their strategy in motion, but there’s no in between. I think that was a very gutsy but shrewed decision. It’s been clear for some time now that this is a show that’s not so concerned with whether Blank will prevail, but how.

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That the show can belt out an episode that remains entertaining throughout while withholding even that “how” is an accomplishment in and of itself. Because the fact of the matter is, we’re as stumped as the Warbeasts about what exactly Sora has planned. All we know is that he enters their embassy and entreats with the adorable Hatsuse Izuna (Sawashiro Miyuki in Full Chibi Mode) as a mere formality.

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By forgoing the precise manner in which Sora aims to defeat the Warbeasts, the show is asking us to have faith and trust it will show us, and it’s earned that trust these last seven weeks. That doesn’t mean this episode is bereft of juicy logical deconstruction. Clearly, Sora has carefully studied the old king’s notes and devised an intricate plan. We only see the opening moves of that plan, but as I said, that’s sufficient to build up enticement.

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Even in the way he informally invites himself to the embassy—using his smartphone’s camera zoom to locate Hatsuse’s gramps and gesture his intention to visit—provides Sora with ammunition to fuel his case that the Warbeasts aren’t as implacable as Imanity believes. He even proves that they can’t read minds, by acting in ways they’d surely have responded to if they truly could.

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He also deduces that the Warbeasts have been defeating their adversaries with video games, a medium at which Blank excels. When he stakes the Imanity Race Piece against all of the Warbeasts’ territory, Dora thinks him mad, and many of his people protest. But neither he nor Shiro care what they think: they’re not going to lose at video games.

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But even Shiro doesn’t see all of what Sora has planned when the episode’s transitions grow more distorted and Sora vanishes from her sight. Do you usually skip the ending sequence? If so, you missed the fact that Sora was totally erased from it; a very nice touch that raps against the fourth wall. In the cold close, Shiro is curled up in a fretful ball, and Dora has no idea who Sora is. I thought I knew, but he keeps surprising me.

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