This may be the single most infamous example of an anime that needs and is perfectly set up for a second season, but will never get one, short of some miracle. One may be able to give the studio who made it some slack in that regard, as the manga on which it is based may have been left unfinished as well, but it is still quite a shame.
No Game, No Life follows the brother-sister duo of Sora and Shiro, who together are the gaming master identified as “Blank.” Their combined skills are so formidable that they have achieved the status of an urban legend, the nameless player or players which never cheat but always win, no matter the long odds. They’re so good, in fact, that they attract the attention of a god of games from another world, and even defeat him in a chess match. Thus vetted, and with the god wanting a rematch, they are whisked away from Japan into Disboard, a world where games, instead of violence, are how people settle every dispute. Thus begins their greatest challenge in a world they are perfectly suited for.
By and large, it’s a fun and funny series, filled with intrigue, excitement, and thrilling matches of every sort. There’s a reason fans have long bemoaned the lack of a second season, especially with how the first one concludes! The premise is interesting and unique, the characters are lovable and hilarious, the animation is smooth and fluid, the soundtrack is perfectly suited to the story, the story itself is fun, and the overall theme is explored with a suitable amount of tact. All in all, a very high-quality piece of work.
There are only a couple of small alterations I would make, and they all involve what makes this anime not entirely wholesome, meaning not appropriate for sharing with the kids.
Part of me will always absolutely rejoice at any instance of the censors being outsmarted in any way, let alone with such self-aware wit and panache. But, on the other hand, I yearn ever more for entertainment which doesn’t need to outwit any censors, and doesn’t shove such needless, explicit fan service into my face. Tact and tastefulness are not anathema to wit. Quite the opposite, in fact.
More pointedly, even if one can swallow the awkward and irrelevant showing-off of the more mature and shapely females of the cast, the younger girls ought to be strictly off limits. Shiro is still a child, for goodness’ sake! And she very much looks it! We neither want nor need to see either her bare form or her private parts! She’s “cute” in the way that puppies and teddy bears are cute, not in the way that a blushing woman is cute!
And finally, the overwhelming dependence that Shiro and Sora, brother and sister, have on each other is so ridiculous that it ventures into creepy! They can’t even be in separate rooms, not even for a moment, without completely breaking down? She can’t tolerate the idea of her brother having romantic prospects because “he won’t need her anymore?” He doesn’t hesitate, per the inappropriate fan service, to strip his sister alongside the along girls? She doesn’t hesitate to shoot him, in a VR game, with a gun that makes people temporarily fall in love with the people who shoot them?
That is all… very, very disturbing, if I am honest. They make it easier to swallow with over-the-top hilarious antics, but it’s still disquieting.
I have to wonder if this is somehow just some warped interpretation of exactly how close Sora and Shiro would have to be in order to work together almost as if they were one being, which they often do. They have their respective strengths and weaknesses, and they complement each other so smoothly and perfectly, with their overwhelming intelligence and instincts, that the two of them together are practically like a singular god in whatever game they play. And yet, they are presented in such a manner that one can suspend one’s disbelief just enough, due to the slight differences between them and the limits that each one has, to simply sit back and enjoy the ride as they zoom from one thrilling victory the next. And “thrilling” because, despite all of their skills, no victory comes too easily. …well, none except the games against Stephanie, at least! 😉
Which brings me to the rest of the characters and the story they drive. The cast is surprisingly small, considering that the fate of nations and peoples, the direction of the entire world, and the course of the future is being determined by them. Even the many colliding schemes of all the races in this world amount to nothing more, ultimately, than just another game that is being played, which is where our characters excel! …all except Stephanie, that is!
Stephanie Dola is, or was, the princess of the human race, or what three million or so free souls are left of it. The granddaughter of the previous king, the “foolish king,” she inherited his love for their people as well as his faith in humanity’s revival. Unfortunately, he was terrible at games, and Stephanie seems to be even worse, not least because their respective opponents either cheat or are simply too formidable. However, the king was more clever than he let on, and he left behind a legacy that is of critical importance to Sora and Shiro’s endeavors. In similar fashion, Stephanie is more clever than she is often given credit for, and she knows the ins and outs of the system she has to work in. If she weren’t saddled with having to keep an eye on Sora and Shiro, she’d make a fine queen or minister herself. As is, she is never really underestimated, per se, but she is often dismissed a bit too lightly by both friend and foe alike.
As Sora and Shiro go about their eventual scheme to unite all the peoples of the world and challenge the god of games, Stephanie is the first to get wrangled into their cause, but she is not the last. There is the angel-like Jibril, who is both a lover of knowledge and was once a mighty destroyer, back before violence became impossible. The elf-human duo of Fil Nilvalen and Kurami Zell are initially antagonists attempting to both conquer and safeguard humans by the only means they think is possible, but after a couple bouts against Blank, they are converted and join the cause. Lastly – at least, in the anime’s one-season run – are the warbeasts, which are beast-human people of great physical power and technology so advanced it is on par or even better than some of ours. Little Izuna is adorable, her grandfather is hilarious, and the shrine priestess who rules them is quite the powerful, alluring woman!
And then there’s the god of games himself: Tet. He is the mastermind who found the perfect vessels to help convey what he has been trying to teach the stubborn, violent people of Disboard for centuries: just live in peace and have fun together, already!
This comes after the backstory, the premise, of the show, wherein all the old gods of Disboard led their followers in a most terrible war, each one trying to become the one true God of Disboard. They all annihilated each other, and took quite a few mortals with them, leaving Tet, the one god who did not fight, as the winner by default. Thus empowered, he created the Ten Pledges, ending all the violence absolutely, and threw down a challenge of unity and peace that they didn’t even understand, so greatly were they focused on defeating each other, as they have been in all the centuries since.
If they should rise to his challenge, though, if they should prove that they have any wisdom at all, enough to work together as one instead of tearing each other apart, then… well, then, the game can be played with Tet himself, for the title of One True God of Disboard.
Now that’s high stakes, right there!
I say again: there is a reason why fans have wanted more, from the moment the first season ended!
In that spirit, acknowledging all the skill that clearly went into making this anime, but also taking into account the more disturbing content as well as the incompleteness of it, I want to give No Game, No Life fairly high marks, but they won’t be as high as they could have been.
Rating: 7 stars out of 10.