No Game No Life – Specials

ngnls1

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.

4_ogk

No Game No Life – 12 (Fin)

ngnl121

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.

ngnl122

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.

ngnl123

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.

ngnl124

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.

ngnl125

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.

9_ses

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

No Game No Life – 06

ngnl61

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.

ngnl62a

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.

ngnl63

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).

ngnl64

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.

ngnl65

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.

ngnl66

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.

ngnl7

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!

9_ses

 

No Game No Life – 05

game51

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.

game52

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.

game53

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.

game54

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.

7_ses

No Game No Life – 04

game41

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

game42

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

game43

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

game44

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

7_ses