Net-juu no Susume – 02

Well, first of all, NJS has a solid OP. Great vocals, orchestration, and visuals. Really gets you pumped for the episode!

While exploring a dungeon deep into the night, Hayashi’s fellow guild member Lilac notices she’s always online, and guesses that she’s 21 and a university student, like her. That leads to the guildmaster Kanbe having to pay out for losing the bet on Hayashi’s real age.

Moriko feels bad for lying about her age, but is also relieved it won’t come up anymore. Meanwhile, Lily is pretty upfront about being older than Hayashi, and calls him “serious and kindhearted.” Moriko wants to tell Lily more, and wants to learn more about her, so they make a promise to do just that.

Fate strikes both Moriko and Lily’s player once again when he elbows Moriko (out to get cold medicine) while rounding a corner on his way to work (ironically, because he stayed up playing a netoge with Moriko!)

While out cold, Moriko meets an angel (perhaps her online friend from the previous MMO she played) and also enters a Brazil-style distopia in which endless columns of identitcal salarymen enter the Tower of Bebel only to jump into an abyss. Grim!

Moriko awakens in hospital, with a handsome young man with blond hair  sitting beside her bed. He’s Sakurai Yuuta, and he wants to make amends for accidentaly elbowing her. He leaves her his contact info and assures her she can text or call anytime, for any reason.

Moriko returns to FdM, where his comrades are ready and willing to hear what’s eating Hayashi. When he tells them, Lilac and Himeralda think it sounds like the intro to a romance manga and, thinking Hayashi’s player is a guy, urge him to ask her out…he may even get lucky!

Guildmaster Kanbe is more down-to-earth; nothing need be done except for what must: she should send a text thanking him at the very least and telling him she’s all good; as it would do no good to make him worry. Moriko agrees, and jumps offline to text Sakurai. She’s shocked to get an immediate reply asking if she’d let him take her out to eat as an apology.

Morioka likes this guy, but thinks he’s too good and too “blinding” for her, and a look in the mirror doesn’t help her confidence (though character design-wise, she’s hardly unattractive). Ironically, then it’s another encounter with Lily (i.e. Sakurai) that convinces her to send him a proper reply—which she sends at two in the morning!—though we’ll have to wait and see the contents of said reply.

Lily makes Morioka’s chest feel warm, reminding her that no matter how perfect someone may seem, everyone has problems and doubts, and she need not fear how someone who has already been so kind to her will regard her. The only way to know for sure is to move forward. Even eyebrow-plucking isn’t mandatory!

Net-juu no Susume – 01 (First Impressions)

After a super-catchy OP, we meet 30-year-old corporate dropout and “elite NEET” Morioka Moriko. Being a NEET, she has a lot of time on her hands, but her old go-to MMO, Nanter SG, is no longer available. She checks out a new one, Fruits de Mer, which she choses to play with a male avatar, Hayashi. When she fails again and again to defeat a rodent boss in a dungeon, a cute mage Lily comes to Hayashi’s aid, and Moriko is instantly smitten.

Moriko’s inexperience with interpersonal relationships (particularly romantic ones) is exposed in her dealings with Lily, who takes a liking to Hayashi as well, but Moriko starts avoiding her in order to collect a rare item to give her for Christmas—inadvertently making Lily feel alone and like she did something to make Hayashi avoid her.

Lily confides in Hime, a fellow guild member, and the guildmaster manages to discuss the issue with Hayashi, who never meant to hurt Lily. They meet in a tree and arrange a Christmas Eve date. In the real world, Moriko is out of food, and must venture out to the convenience store at the worst possible time: when it’s full of happy couples.

In that very same store, we meet the player who controls the Lily avatar, and like Moriko, he chose to play as the opposite sex. They both ask for the store’s last piece of Christmas chicken, but the guy yields it to Moriko after hearing her stomach’s “jingle bells.”

Aside from seeing from the in-game cash card she’s buying that she’s also a player of Fruits de Mer, neither the guy nor Moriko know they just cross paths with each other in real life, but when they meet as Hayashi and Lily, you couldn’t ask for a lovelier, more mirthful scene as they exchange gifts.

Having come so close to meeting once, I can’t help but hope Hayashi and Lily meet in the real world in earnest. After all, while both seem content spending their free time playing an MMO and meeting virtual friends, there’s an overarching sense of profound loneliness wafting off the two of them.

Moriko claims to have chosen to be a NEET, and was clearly put off by the couples in the store. But couples tend to be most annoying until you actually find yourself in one. I for one am glad to see an MMO-themed anime that actually spends time in both worlds, rather than just the fantasy one.

ReLIFE – 05

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Last week’s cliffhanger portended a rough road ahead for all parties involved, and a galaxy of possibilities in terms of if, and how, the conflicts would be resolved. But judging from the first four episodes, I was confident ReLife would resolve everything relatively quickly, but in the most narratively and emotionally satisfying way. The right way: no shortcuts, no lies, and no running away.

As it turns out, both Kaizaki and Kariu were knocked out by their fall down the stairs, so there was no immediate confrontation between them and Hishino. Instead, Kaizaki wakes up in the infirmary. Hoshino and her bag are gone, so the mystery of where she went and how she feels about what she saw is always hanging in the background, adding tension to an already tense scene.

Before Kariu comes to, Kaizaki pieces together what happened, and he remembers back when he was training at his job. When the woman training him started out-performing the men, they turned on her and started working to knock her down, sullying all the hard work they’d done to get to where they are.

Kaizaki remembers his trainer saying she wasn’t mad, but sad that they had given up trying to fight fair. Now we know one reason Kaizaki quit his job; rivals had twisted into vindictive enemies. It happens all the time.

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Kaizaki knows this, because he’s 27. He’s lived ten years more life than Kariu or any of his other classmates. And so, without even thinking, when Kariu comes to he lectures her the way a 27-year-old would lecture a 17-year-old.

His own baggage comes into play, as he makes the connection between what the “filthy adults” stooped to at his workplace and what Kariu is doing; telling her he’s not mad, but “very, very sad”, and that she’s too young to be acting like this. Kariu blows up at him, caling him too self-righteous and too self-assured, considering they’re the same age. But much of what he said still hit home, even if it was delivered with a bit too much, shall we say, adult authority.

Kaizaki tells her what she’s overlooked: sure, she hasn’t been able to beat Hishiro or Honoka, but she’s still bettered herself. Her hard work wasn’t for nothing, and she shouldn’t give up. Not only that, she has the wrong idea about Hishiro, because they’ve barely ever spoken. Kaizaki delivers this advice knowing full well he himself gave up, but like both Hishiro and Kariu, he’s trying to change. And he is!

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That wonderful exchange (with more baller work from Tomatsu Haruka) would be about all we could reasonably expect from a good episode…but this is a great episode, which means Hishiro is waiting at the gate when Kaizaki, and later Kariu, leave the infirmary.

Kaizaki initially lies about Kariu taking the bag because it was “dangerous to have it in the hall”, but changes his mind and tells the truth, remembering Yoake telling him not to clear all the thorns. Hishiro reacts as one would expect: with calm, cool logic. She doesn’t know the right answer, so she’ll ask Kariu upfront. (There’s also the matter of her heart panging when she saw Kaizaki hugging Kariu, but she wisely tables that issue for now).

Kaizaki may be hiding in the bushes to watch how it goes (with Yoake), but both of them stay out of it when Kariu comes out and sees Hishiro. Kariu doesn’t run, nor does she try to lie and say she doesn’t hate Hishiro, because at the moment, she kinda does.

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The source of that hate had been cultivated each time Hishiro flashed her one of her scary mocking smiles, so when Hishiro assures her she never meant to mock her, and Kariu talkes Kaizaki’s advice and asks her to smile on demand, it dawns on her that she misunderstood; Hishiro is simply very socially awkward.

It was Kariu’s own issues with her than caused her to interpret it as mocking. Also, well, it really does look like she’s mocking her, but hey, that’s why you talk things out with people!

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When Hishiro tells her all those smiles were meant to help them become friends, Kariu lets out a hearty laugh; part in relief, part in amazement. She also realizes Hishiro wasn’t ignoring her handshake, and when Hishiro puts out her hand this time, Kariu takes it and agrees to be friends…as long as it’s clear they’re also academic rivals.

That’s fine with Hishiro, who is so happy to have made a new friend, she smiles for real, surprising and dazzling Kariu in the process.

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So, all’s well that ends well in the Kariu/Hishino Conflict! The operative word there being end, as the show had the guts to lay all the cards on the table and hash everything out in this one episode. Dragging out the misunderstanding would have only kept us from what are sure to be other great stories involving, say An.

I really enjoyed Kaizaki and Yoake celebrating like adults with beer and cigarettes, as Kaizaki gets a thank you from Kariu for ratting her out to Hishiro, realizing it was in her best interest. Kaizaki still isn’t sure he didn’t spare her the ugly truth about life, the truth he saw firsthand and drove him from the workplace.

But Yoake assures him he didn’t lie, either. There’s a happy median between blatant sugarcoating and outright nihilism. And even though Kariu won’t remember Kaizaki in a year, she’ll remember what he said to her if and when she runs into the same obstacles he did later in life. The episode closes with a triumphant shot of Kari sitting with Hishiro at lunch, the rest of the group happy and relieved. On to the next high school crisis!

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ReLIFE – 04

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ReLIFE takes things to the next level by delving deeper than ever before into a character other than Kaizaki, namely Kariu Rena. We’ve been able to infer since we met her that she considered her silver pin more than just a mark of status, with all of its perks and privileges, but a symbol that she was “good enough” to stand beside Oga.

It’s the kind of subject no one dare even bring up in her presence, but we’re privy to it because we’re in her head. She can’t hide how she feels there. But now Hishiro has the silver pin, and Hishiro is beside Oga and calling him “Kazu-kun,” while casting sneering, haughty, and/or victorious smirks at Kariu, as if to rub salt in the wound.

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Obviously, it’s not Hishiro’s intent to antagonize Kariu—quite the contrary; she thinks she’s on the cusp of starting a friendship with her—but all that matters is how Kariu is interpreting Hishiro’s faces and overall behavior, and because Hishiro isn’t aware she’s doing any harm, she can’t stop the vicious cycle that builds and builds like a knot in Kariu’s stomach.

It’s not just Hishiro, either: Kariu would at least have a release valve in athletic greatness, but her friend Honoka beats her on the volleyball court as easily as Hishiro beats her in test scores. To make matters worse, it doesn’t seem like either girl exerted the slightest effort to best Kariu. They just did it.

When Oga, who is totally tone-deaf when it comes to matters of the heart, tries to invite Hoshino to eat with them, Kaizaki and An read the room and realize what a bad idea that is, since Kariu is right there, already staring daggers into Hoshino.

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While Kaizaki handled that lunch situation about as well as he could, it doesn’t change the fundamental problem of Hishiro not wanting to be a loner but still eating totally alone. Kaizaki has to balance his desire to help Hishiro live a happier high school life while trying to stave off all-out war between Kariu and Hishiro.

All this is to say that Kaizaki cares. These “kids” he shares his life with day to day have become important to him; and thus his life starts to revolve around them. Yoake advises caution—sometimes kids need to fall and feel pain sometimes so they learn something—but welcomes Kaizaki’s newfound concern for his fellow man, something he didn’t really have as a NEET.

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But all of Kaizaki’s progress is put into jeopardy when the tinderbox that is Kariu finally catches. In a moment when Hishiro is simply trying to reach out to her, Kariu storms off, but immediately afterwards sees Hishiro with Oga again, and wonders if she smiles at him like she smiles at Kaizaki.

Kariu’s frustration builds late at night while practicing in the gym, after Honoka leaves with her childhood friends and there’s no one around but herself and her thoughts. When she returns the gym key and finds Hishiro’s bag outside the lounge, she decides to steal it, just to try to get back some semblance of control; to, for once, hurt Hishiro, rather than the other way ’round.

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Her caper doesn’t go so well, because Kaizaki happens to cross paths with her on the way to dropping off the study room key. Kariu tries to lie, but Kaizaki sees and recognizes Hishiro’s bag; the jig is up. Kariu tries to run, Kaizaki tries to stop her, and Kariu starts to fall down the stairs…

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Just when I thought some weird looks from Hishiro were going to end up landing Kariu in the hospital or worse, Kaizaki puts his creaky old body on the line and makes a shoestring catch, only to end up falling with her the rest of the way.

Hishiro hears the crash and goes to investigate, and finds Kaizaki and Kariu huddled together on the bottom of the steps, with her bag in Kariu’s arm. Roll Credits.

While I’d like to think Kaizaki can call a time out and explain all of this, the fact of the matter is, the most logical explanation for what Hishiro sees is that Kaizaki and Kairu conspired to steal her bag together, which means they’ve got it out for her, which means Kaizaki never wanted to be her friend, putting all of his interactions with her in a new light. Hishiro is a bright kid but inexperienced in social skills, and may well believe the worst.

I still hope they can sort it out somehow, but it doesn’t look good. What started out as a sight gag (Hishiro’s funny faces) has turned quite dark and serious. But hey, I’m not complaining: this is some damn good high school drama, de-aging pill or no. Kariu’s seiyu Tomatsu Haruka deserves particular praise for her sympathetic performance.

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ReLIFE – 03

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Kaizaki may be Yoake’s project, but Kaizaki has made Hishiro his, with entertaining results. Her manner of returning 1,000 yen to him is nothing short of inspired, while her attempts to smile at Kariu end up giving the redhead the mistaken impression that Hishiro is looking down on her (figuratively).

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The growing disconnect between Hishiro’s intentions and Kariu’s interpretations ends up being the primary driving force for an episode that’s otherwise pretty light. It goes without saying that despite his youthful looks, Kaizaki’s body is still every bit 27 years old, and his lack of warming up for a ball throw results in a paltry one-meter toss and lots of shoulder pain.

We also meet the childhood friend trio of Tamarai (Kariu’s athletic rival, but also friend), Inukai, and Asaji.

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When trying to be friendly with Kariu, Hishiro only manages to add fuel to the fire that she somehow has it out for Kariu, not remembering her name and failing to shake hands properly, along with that creepy smile that is the envy of anime villains everywhere.

Kaizaki actually gets off to a great start in the 50m dash, but trips and falls hard, prompting health rep Asaji to princess carry him to the nurse; a demoralizing new low for Kaizaki, but thankfully school isn’t all about sports!

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Things look up when Kaizaki learns Hishiro shares his route to school. When they arrive together, Kariu spots Hishiro smiling naturally (because she’s not consciously trying to smile), confirming her belief Hishiro is the type of girl who is mean to other girls but nice to the guys.

All the while, Kaizaki seems resigned to the fact no one will remember him in a year, so it’s not like he’s trying to start a romance with anyone. At home during his log entry, Yoake is glad Kaizaki is making faster progress than “Sample 001” in his first month of his ReLIFE.

At the moment, Yoake is more concerned about the cumulative emotional damage being done to Kariu, for which Kaizaki is indirectly responsible via his suggesting Hishiro smile more. Judging from those dead eyes, it doesn’t look like Kariu’s going to put up with Hishiro’s faces much longer.

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ReLIFE – 02

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The test scores are in, and a great many things become known. In ten years, Kaizaki forgot between 75% and 96% of everything he learned in high school the first time around. Kariu is mad about losing the class rep job to Hishiro not because she can’t get free lunches, but because she has feelings for Ooga. Finally, Onoya has even worse test scores than Kaizaki…and she’s a real high schooler!

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These two need tutoring, and Ooga is happy to serve the role as tutor, but gets more than he bargained for when Kaizaki and An start digging into his relationship with Kariu, including their matching earrings. I’m liking how quickly yet naturally the circle of friends is coming together.

I also liked Kaizaki’s outsize reaction to An whipping out her cell phone; once a capital crime in his day, now students use them with impunity (outside of class, that is). Or how he takes Hishiro’s reaction to his lending her 1000 yen (that he’s like a grown-up) literally; worried the brainy girl is on to him.

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Hishiro comes to dominate the latter half of the episode as Kaizaki makes it his mission to get her to come out of her shell a little more. The fact her forced smiles are so disconcerting is proof of how genuine and straightforward she is; the only smiles she can make are real ones, all of which were triggered by Kaizaki being nice to her.

At the beginning of the episode, Hishiro has no friends; now she has one, and of her own choosing, boldly asking for Kaizaki’s phone number. Hishiro really shines in this episode, greatly aided by her adorable character design…and Kayano Ai’s adorable voice.

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Ryou, who was skulking around corners the whole episode, observing Kaizaki from a distance, not only suggests he try to quit smoking (the smell lingers, plus no one will sell to someone with his new babyface), but also not to get too attached to anyone. Apparently, when the year-long experiment is over, everyone young Kaizaki interacted with will forget him, because he’ll be back to being 27.

Not like that’s something he’ll be able to explain if they every learned, but this still seems like a downer, especially considering Kaizaki will remember them, and will likely not feel so great as a result. When Hishiro told Kaizaki she had to rush things, that this was her last chance, it reminded him how confident he was that his future would go the way he thought it would.

It didn’t, and ReLIFE is ostensibly the path to getting somewhere closer to his ideal future (or even creating a new one). But having to sever all his new bonds at the end of the year seems like a steep price to pay for that future. As I watch the next eleven episodes (at my own pace), it will be interesting to see if he ever tries to haggle over that price. Hishiro—callsign “Sorry Cat”—is someone worth knowing. Could she also be a bond worth preserving, even if it breaks Ryou’s rules?

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ReLIFE – 01 (First Impressions)

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27-year-old NEET Kaizaki Arata meets Yoake Ryou of the ReLIFE Laboratory, and agrees to participate in an experiment aimed at rehabilitating NEETs. Arata takes a pill that makes him look ten years younger and endures a taxing first day as a third-year high school student, with Ryou as his observer.

Anime in which the MC re-lives their life in one form or another are nothing new—ERASED being a recent example—so a new take on it requires good execution. ReLIFE largely succeeds by keeping things light (aside from a couple of dark-ish moments).

The science of Arata’s transformation is thankfully not explained; suffice it to say the pill is a means to an end: a second chance at having a successful adulthood (as measured by Japanese society). Arata has a healthy skepticism initially, but as he’s just been cut off by his parents, he can’t very well turn down job that guarantees a year of living expenses.

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The veneer of seediness inherent in a secretly 27-year-old hanging out with high schoolers is quickly washed away by the exhilaration inherent in an adult being plunged back into the crucible of youth with no manual. Young people don’t just look different, they talk and act different as well, and while settling back into long-forgotten patterns is no cakewalk for Arata, it’s engrossing to watch.

This show has a nice even core of six main characters, including Arata and Ryou, and we get a quick intro of the other four in short order. Three are girls: the aloof brainiac Hishiro, the prickly-yet-kind Kairu, and the peppy Onoya, who takes an instant liking to her fellow transfer student.

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Like I said, the first day doesn’t go so well, with Arata constantly drawing attention to himself and the fact he has no idea what he’s doing yet. This culminates in the teacher, Amatsu Kokoro, finding a pack of cigs in his bag and calling him to the teacher’s lounge after school.

Arata has to write an apology letter, but when he applies his 27-year-old charm and perspective on Amatsu (who in reality is two years younger than him), her initial harsh manner softens considerably. It comes as no surprise the person at school he’s able to interact with most successfully is the one closest to his real age!

Of course, he’ll have to learn how to interact (again) with teenagers and start acting like one himself (at least a very mature teenager). Ryou intends to give him a wide berth in terms of how he’ll spend the year, be it keeping his head down in the background or making a big “Springtime of Life” splash.

But Ryou wants Arata to remember the purpose of the experiment is to reform NEETs (a label Arata dislikes); ending up right back where he started in the beginning of the episode would mean the experiment failed.

Arata’s year will likely fall somewhere in between the two extremes of high school life and exposure, and the credits indicate he’ll befriend all the other four core students one way or another. I for one am excited to see how this experiment shakes out.

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P.S. I am aware the entire 13-episode run is available all at once, Netflix-style, but I won’t be marathoning. That being said, I may well finish reviewing it faster than if it aired once a week. Think Prison School pace.

No Game No Life – 10

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After its most exciting, mind-pretzeling game to date, NGNL backs off a bit, giving its characters a respite in preparation for what’s looking like the closing battle of the series. A couple of those characters, namely Kurami (I don’t like spelling her name Clammy) and Fil (or Feel, however you feel you need to spell it is fine); now solid allies of Team Blank.

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Some restless viewers could be forgiven for saying “Hey…Let’s get on with [the Warbeast battle] already!”, but I happen to be in a patient mood at this stage of No Game, and the leisurely contents of 9/10ths of this episode served a key purpose: exploring the very new bond between Sora and Kurami, as well as exploring more about what her deal is with Fil (turns out, her family is basically “owned” by the Nilvalens, of which Fil is presently the de facto ruler).

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We were less interested in Elven sociology and more intrigued by the new, far less confrontational attitudes between Sora and Kurami. With his memories still clear in her head—and his in hers—they’re now essentially at a level of trust and intimacy normally reserved for lifelong fiends. That intrigues us, because coming from a NEET/hikikomori background, Sora (and Shiro) aren’t good at making friends…like, at all, back home.

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But here in Disboard, they’ve made friends essentially by defeating them at games, something they’d neither be willing or able to do as shut-ins with the anonymous [-blank-] handle. Kurami and Sora had some nice moments, moments that might not have been possible had the show jumped straight into the Warbeast game. And now, as the next game begins, Kurami and Fil are on the sidelines, making sure the Warbeasts don’t cheat Imanity, whose potential they now believe in.

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“Dissapointment”, then, is what we’re sure marks Kurami’s face in reaction to Blank’s arrival in the game world, which happens to be Tokyo, the world they came from, where their potential was only good for topping Hi-Score lists while staying out of the sunlight. This makes me suspect the Warbeasts read their minds and found the venue where they’d be least effective. Will they be able to snap out of the dural ectasia brought by their surprise “return” home, or will Steph and Jibril have to step up to the plate?

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truckP.S. We’re sure most of you are aware, but there are trucks like this all over Tokyo. IMO, there aren’t enough trucks like that in America!

No Game No Life – 09

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It’s rare for me to be as royally stumped as I was at the beginning of this episode, with regards to how things were going to sort themselves out. Sure, I had an inkling some kind of game was being played, but the manner and result of the game escaped me completely, disoriented as I was, like Shiro, by the sudden upheaval of reality.

Steph and Jibril quite reasonably assume Shiro lost and had her memories altered. But there was a very good reason why Sora spoke so clearly and deliberately to Shiro before vanishing into thin air a day and a half ago: he was providing her—and me—all the clues we would need to figure out what was going on and how to proceed. Slowly, but surely, we piece this impeccably-structured mystery back together.

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“I believe in you.” Upon first meeting him, the young Shiro told the young Sora how “empty” he was. She didn’t mean it with malice, but because she made connections no one else could (or would). But there also happened to be some truth to it: there was indeed an emptiness in Sora’s existence, one that was filled upon meeting his sister.

“The two of us are always one.” But that void-filling went both ways: just as Sora’s name suggests an empty sky, Shiro’s denotes a similarly vast expanse of whiteness. Upon meeting each other, everything turns to the vivid color we’re used to when this show is in normal operations. What they have is beyond trust; beyond faith. So Sora knows he’ll be able to count on her not to let Steph and Jibril cut the game short with another.

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“We’re bound by a promise.” Shiro thinks hard, even if she “blows out”, for while the pledges of Disboard are almost infinitely interpretative, there’s a canny inexpungibility to her bond with Sora, one the pledges can never completely overcome. Shiro searches her vast repository of memory, and recovers the knowledge that a day and a half ago, Sora challenged Kurami Zell to a perilous game of “Existence Othello.” Yikes!

“We’re not the heroes of a shounen manga.” In another memory Shiro recalls, Sora tells her “you don’t change yourself. You change how you do things.” This conundrum won’t be solved with brute force, or yelling, or by changing herself, but by looking things differently, which she achieves by having Jibril scan her room for magic and finding…lots.

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“We always win a game before we start.” The game is still in progress, in that very room; Sora’s existence hasn’t disappeared. And it’s a game he would not have started had defeat been possible. Even when he’s on the cusp of defeat, he has faith Shiro will take over, using the last three white (=Shiro) stones he left her to turn the tide and soundly beat Kurami, returning Sora into physical being and ending the illusion.

“I’m going to get the last piece we need to bring over the Eastern Federation.” What’s most amazing about this whole epic ordeal is that it didn’t involve the Warbeasts at all, nor was the primary purpose of winning to defeat the adversary (again, this isn’t shounen). The “piece” he spoke of was Kurami Zell, along with her elf associate Feel.

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She would never trust him the way Shiro did unless he could unpack the entire width ad breadth of his existence, which he did by intentionally losing right up until the end. The two demands of his choice he asked for as the reward for victory gives him his piece: restoring each others’ memories, but keeping copies of the ones they took from one another. I’m very much looking forward to the new Kurami he made.

When the “sky walk” is over and the dust settles, Sora and Shiro and Kurami and Feel collapse into two bawling heaps of exhaustion. The extreme nature of this game served to underline how important a united front against the Warbeasts was to Sora, and how seriously he takes them as an opponent. And all of this was hidden in his monologue last week.

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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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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.

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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Love Lab – 10

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The other council members try to give Sayo a makeover. Sayo’s boyfriend Yamazaki Yuu narrates the story of how he met her in elementary school, where her aloof personality and strength won him over. Suzu tells the story of why her siblings are wearing dog ears in an old photo taken with her. Later we follow Suzu on a typical school day, offering commentary on Sayo, Eno, Maki and Riko.

After the last two weeks focused on a single main story, this was a bit of a tuna noodle casserole of an episode; by that we mean it was made up of many smaller disparate parts that, if served separately, wouldn’t quite be enough for a whole meal. Unlike a casserole, we’re not sure the whole is worth the sum of the parts, as some parts outperformed others, and there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to their ordering.

Eno’s interactions with her NEET brother weren’t that interesting, and the “Suzu’s Day”, while admirable for trying to show us things from her perspective, didn’t really show us anything new. On the other hand her flashback with her doting brother and sister was surprisingly charming. But the star ingredient in this dish was Sayo’s flashback as told by Yuu, in which we get to see a pint-size Sayo who is no less tough, resolute, and shrewd as her present-day self.


Rating: 6 (Good)