Arleigh has pointed something very important out to me. I have been drinking a lot, and the end of the year is nearing. (EDIT- I started this post on December 28th, and proceeded to get too drunk to continue. Then I forgot I had started it, got drunk several more times, and now on January 5th, I remembered it and am proceeding to get drunk again, so perfect time to actually finish this) Pretty much the best time I can think of to make one of my few posts this year. Again, one thing I should point out is that this year there were 149 series released, and I only watched 44 series. Basically, no one other than the biggest loser on earth could have possibly watched every single series released each year. If you know of anyone going by the name of Ryan Saotome, he’s one of those losers. Punch him one for me. But, I like to think that I have pretty good taste, and those 44 I watched were the cream of the crop. So of those best of the best, the best that I’ve watched was easily a series that came out this spring, a title by the name of No Game, No Life.
This show is pretty much an otaku dream. The basic premise is that “siblings” (I’m not 100% sure that they actually are related) Shiro and Sora are a couple of hikikomori, which are basically shut ins who don’t associate with other people, and they are the best gamers out there going by the nickname Blank. Blank is infamous in the online community because no matter what, they never lose. One day they get an invitation to play a game of chess. Naturally they win, although they have to struggle to actually do so. Upon winning, they are warped to the land of Disboard, where the God of that world, Tet, has decreed that all war is abolished and all conflicts between the races will be resolved via games. They quickly become rulers of the weakest faction in the world, humans, and set about to challenge all the races and eventually challenge God himself.
This is based on an ongoing light novel series, incidentally written by a native born Brazilian/Japanese, Yuu Kamiya real name Thiago Furukawa Lucas. Generally speaking, non-native Japanese do not find a lot of success in the Japanese light novel/manga/anime scene, so the fact that this has been highly popular speaks volumes about how well written it is. The anime sticks quite closely to the light novel, which works great for this first season, since there’s enough source material to cover it. Perhaps this means that any future anime adaptations will have to wait, or won’t be as good, but since most anime these days are basically just advertisements for the light novels/manga, I suspect that they won’t be in a rush to adapt more until either there’s more source material, or the light novel’s sales start to slip. Still, with it moving on average over 6,000 BDs per volume (and unlike in the US and other countries, Japan tends to only have 2 episodes per volume even with BDs so an average 13 episode series will still have 6 volumes) that’s showing there’s enough money out there to support a second season easily. I don’t follow light novel releases in Japan, because I can’t read Japanese, so I’m not sure what the sales were like prior to the anime showing, but I do know that for the year the releases averaged over 140,000 per volume, for 6 volumes, which is a pretty decent amount of sales. Combine that with the BD sales, and it’s pretty likely that the light novels got a decent boost, and so a second season is highly likely.
But what about this series makes it work? Well, first off, it’s insanely cute. We all know that Japan does cute better than anyone, but this just strikes a chord with even me, who has seen more cute than you can shake a stick full of kittens at. How cute is cute? Well, in a scene near the end, when the duo is panicking over thinking they’ve been transported to the real world (something hikikomori dread more than anything) Shiro is at her most adorable. No one can tell me that isn’t super adorable. You can try, you are wrong.
It also has one of the catchiest ending themes of the year.
Some of my favorite moments in the series come at the expense of Stephanie Dola. Prior to Shiro and Sora’s arrival in Disboard, she is attempting to be the representative of humanity, but she is inexperienced in the way of games and can’t see when an opponent is cheating, nor can she overcome that. Her naivety leads Shiro to basically begin using her name as an insult, calling her “Such a Steph”. She is constantly being somewhat humiliated by Shiro and Sora, but it never really and truly comes across as malicious. They do embarrass her often, but it seems more like they’re doing it to try and cure her of her naivety and teach her how to become a better ruler of humanity for when they either inevitably become the gods of the world, or return to their world.
Even though you know that Shiro and Sora are going to win (the heroes almost always win, especially in shows like this) the suspense and intrigue isn’t with the if, but the how. Their fight against the Werebeasts showed that even if they’re going to win, it was going to be tough, and most importantly, it wasn’t a bullshit type of win. It was certainly a come from behind, wow I didn’t see that coming, kind of win, but once it was explained, it makes good sense. The fact that the series ends on a major cliffhanger, to me all but assures there being a second season, but since I’m not currently in charge of Japan, and me and Japan don’t always agree upon what makes perfect sense, we shall see.
In all actuality, this was another good year for anime. Anyone saying that anime was better in the 90’s is a crazy person. It only seemed that way because anime was fairly new here, and so licensors were cherry picking titles. These days we get damn near everything, either through streaming, or through physical releases, so naturally there’s gonna be a lot more average titles, and a lot more stinkers. There has never been a better time to be an anime fan than now, and for 2o14, I say the best thing you could do is sit down and watch No Game No Life. Here’s to looking forward to what 2015 brings us, and I hope that I have a ton of must watch anime to think about writing about (but ultimately never do) in the coming year!