Hanebado! – 06 – Not Just One More Match

Prelims are upon us this week, and it’s Izumi Riko’s turn to be angsty. It’s her last year and last prelims, and she wants to win. The only problem is, her first opponent is her childhood friend Nozomi, who also happens to be one of last year’s final four. Riko is not confident she can hang with the likes of Nozomi, and even though Nagisa tries her best to fire her up, Riko ends up frustrated and the two part ways for the evening on a bad note.

The day of the matches arrives, and Riko and Nozomi are cordial but cool, as imminent opponents must be. The team rocks their slick new one-piece uniforms, and Riko’s four cute siblings are in attendance, but she still manages to stink up the joint in the first half of the first set overwhelmed by her own lack of confidence as well as Nozomi’s unbeatable aura.

When the interval comes, Riko knows she has to do something…so she goes over the shots of the match so far, analyzes them, and finds that Nozomi is avoiding her backhand. Riko goes on the offensive and gets a point or two before Nozomi re-adjusts. It’s a beautifully-animated, fast-paced story told through the smooth, graceful, yet powerful motions of the players; a chess match of adjustments and counter-adjustments.

Riko still loses, but she makes Nozomi work for her win, going against her opponent’s strict coache’s insistence she conserve her stamina. It was just another match for Nozomi; a stepping stone to the next round. But for Riko, it was the match; the only match left in her high school career. And as her coach directed, she had fun out there.

Whither Ayano? Well, for most of the episode she seems to be putting up a strong front of Everything’s Okay, and may even believe she’s past worrying about her mother or Connie. But these prelims are uniquely equipped to not let Ayano escape her troubles so easily. Not only is she facing Serigaya Kaoruko in the next round, but her mother will be in attendance to watch their rematch. That should be interesting…

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Hanebado! – 05 – The Discarded Daughter

Ayano lived her childhood absolutely idolizing her mother and soaking up every bit of badminton know-how she could. Other than Elena, there was virtually no one else in her life she cared about. In other words, her mom was her family…until she took off, and Ayano has felt alone ever since (sorry, Elena).

Or, at least she had felt alone. Now that she’s been welcomed and embraced by her team, she feels like she can keep playing with their support. Riko offers as much at the end of their first game which they lost to Connie, 21-12. Kentarou resets the defense so Ayano has the run of the back 2/3rds of the court for the second game.

By throwing her out of the frying pan and into the fire, Ayano eventually picks up her game, returning shots that she’d previously let drop. Her sly persistence starts to frustrate Connie, who in turn steps up her game, and all of a sudden their respective teammates are treated to one hell of a grudge match, with neither Ayano nor Connie believing defeat to be an option.

Connie draws from her own childhood, which looks as lonely as Ayano’s post-mom time, while Ayano gets all Sadako-y like she did when she beat Nagisa in the nationals. The two competitors are so focused on each other, Connie ends up getting a cramp in her leg, and her partner leaps in to score the winning point, catching Ayano and Connie alike off guard and leading them to declare the result of the match corrupted.

Both go off skulking, only to be picked back up by the very people she felt were unnecessary (in Connie’s case) or the people whom she felt she’d let down (in Ayano’s). Sora, who’d been pretty quiet up to this point, confesses that she hated Ayano for seeming not to care despite being so talented, but has revised her feelings about her after seeing how far she went in that match. The two girls end up spending the evening having fun with their teammates.

The next morning when both teams are set to return home, Ayano confronts Connie, who tells her what I (and probably everyone else watching) had suspected last week: Connie is the girl Ayano’s mother replaced her with as daughter. Connie’s goal is to prove to her “mama” that she’s the better player by beating Ayano.

As I mentioned last week, one would assume the question of “who is best” had already long been settled by the fact Ayano’s mother f-ing abandoned her biological daughter for Connie. I guess Connie just isn’t satisfied with her mom’s decision, but wants to be sure she’s better than Ayano. As for Ayano, on the bus ride home she breaks out her crazy face once more, declaring that she “doesn’t need” her mother any more.

While that’s a depressing sentiment, somewhat creepily delivered, I can hardly blame her for wanting to give up on the person who gave up on her. But I still feel there’s a reconciliation story brewing here. Simply stating she’s done seeking her mom’s approval doesn’t magically make it so…right?

Hanebado! – 04 – A New Challenger Approaches

After her playground epiphany, Ayano joins the badminton club, and before she knows it she’s on a bus with the rest of the club to a summer practice facility. While on the ride, the classically alone Ayano has her hair tended to by Yu, resulting in a photo and a warm feeling of belonging; of finally not being alone, but part of something bigger: a team.

But wouldn’t you know it, the facility is already occupied by another badminton team, and not just any team, but the “FreGirls” of Frederica, one of the country’s top teams. One of their players wanted very much to play Ayano’s school. Ayano heads out to a konbini to buy water, but ends up lost thanks to Nagisa’s kiddy, nigh worthless map.

While lost, she meets a foreigner who’s also lost: a blonde from Denmark who offers her a lolly when they make progress with the map.

Things are going swimmingly until the foreigner learns the identity of the cute little girl she’s walked with. The moment she hears the name “Hanesaki” she freezes and drops her change, then accuses Ayano of playing mind games with her by “pretending to be friendly.”

The next they meet, the tall blonde, Connie C, is one half of Ayano and Riko’s doubles opponents, and promises to show her how “meaningless” Ayano’s “team” is. She warns her partner not to interfere and let her play alone. Clearly, what she really wants is a one-on-one match against Ayano.

When her partner does interfere, Connie quits in a huff, letting the other girl struggle alone in a two-on-one match until she basically taps out. Connie doesn’t believe in teams, after all; she’s a team of one, and gets what she wants. As for why her captain and coach do nothing to stop her selfish behavior, who knows?

Connie takes over, effortlessly turning a 10-3 deficit into an 11-10 lead with mammoth vertical leaps and a smash that even the guys doubt they could return. Neither Ayano or Izumi can do anything. It’s Serigaya Kaoruko all over again.

Only…it’s actually worse than Kaoruko. “Connie C” Is Connie Christensen, a Danish prodigy who has already won the world championship in her age group. In every physical measure pertinent to badminton, she’s Ayano’s superior, and wants to make it clear she’s superior in every other aspect of the game as well. Tachibana knows her, and doubts Ayano will be able to hang.

Connie is also the blonde girl in the magazine article in which Ayano learned her mother had basically replaced her as daughter, which makes this even more fucked up. Connie even ties back her hair the same way as Ayano’s mother, adding insult to injury.

Apparently not satisfied with everything she’s already taken from Ayano, Connie now seems to want to crush Ayano’s spirit, such that even being in a fun high school team won’t give her joy or relief. That said, she relied on an awful lot of coincidences to end up in the match. Among them:

  • She knew Ayano had joined the badminton club, even when Ayano herself wasn’t sure until very recently;
  • Her school’s team ended up at the same facility as Ayano’s club;
  • Ayano ended up going out for water, and ended up meeting Connie first;
  • They ended up playing against each other.

Coincidences aside, one has to wonder what Connie’s true motive is, and why she is so intent on psychologically crippling a stranger. I mean, isn’t the fact that Ayano’s mom abandoned Ayano for Connie enough proof for Connie that’s she’s better? Did she really travel all the way to Japan just to beat someone who had already ‘lost” to her? Apparently! And that makes Connie a garbage person…until further notice.

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!

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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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Music: “Sora’s Folktale” from Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaea

2000’s Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaea was not particularly great movie, straying too far from and failing to capture the same magic as the superior 1996 anime series. but one thing it did have going for it was this trip-hop remix of the song “Sora’s Folktale”, written and sung in a made-up language by the incomparable Yoko Kanno.

This particular version is only an incidental song sung in a nightclub by Eriya and Naria during their brief cameo appearance in the movie. But it still manages to pack a lot of beautiful, bittersweet, transcendent FEELS in its less than two minutes of run time.

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 – 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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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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