Many fantasy series follow a similar plot, such as a character from the real world suddenly being dragged into a fantasy world full of strange monsters, magic and so on, and trying to figure out a way back home. This series has a different take on this idea: real-world characters dragged into a fantasy world, and really liking their new home.
No Game No Life started off as a series of novels written by Yu Kamiya, starting in 2012, the first three of eight were adapted as an anime between April and June 2014. The series combines fantasy, comedy, and the “harem” genre of one character being surrounded by lots of characters of the opposite gender, but is also noted for its unusual artwork.
The story follows two siblings, 18-year-old Sora and his 11-year-old stepsister Shiro. The duo have one passion in life which is games of all kinds. In the world of online gaming they are completely unstoppable, never losing at all, but go under no name and are thus referred to by other players as “Blank”. In reality, Sora and Shiro spend all their time in their bedroom, never venturing outdoors, finding the outside world both boring and scary.
One day they get an interesting email from someone who challenges them to a game of chess, with Sora and Shiro win. The loser offers them the chance to escape their dull lives for something more exciting, and soon they find themselves transported to a completely different world – to be precise, Disboard, a world controlled by games.
A long time ago, a war between the gods and 16 sentient races on Disboard ended with a stalemate between those fighting, so the one god who did not take part decided to take control of the world. This was Tet, the god of games and play. Tet set out the “Ten Pledges” which resulted in not just all war, murder and robbery being forbidden, but making everything on Disboard decided by people playing games with each other, from trivial matters right up to the control of countries and species.
With their skill at games, Sora and Shiro find themselves at home in Disboard, with soon are able to win their way to positions of importance and power. For example, Sora wins a game against a girl named Stephanie Dola, the granddaughter of the late king of the human nation of Elkia, and thus Sora makes Stephanie love him. Later Sora and Shiro use their skills to win the throne of Elkia itself, and become leaders of Disboard’s human race, known as “Imanity”, the weakest race in the world. After this, they decide to make it their mission to conquer the other fifteen races on Disboard and ultimate to play and defeat Tet again in order to become the new gods of Disboard.
The most striking aspect of No Game No Life is the artwork. It combines grand fantasy landscapes with a bright and colourful character design. It is hard to compare the style of the series with any other anime around. Also there is the clever idea of having the two lead characters moved to a world which they like. The joy in the series is not about whether or not Sora and Shiro will win or not, because as they say themselves, they ALWAYS win, it is how they cunningly go about winning, how they formulate their strategies, and how they interpret the rules in their favour.
However, there is plenty of controversy with this series, mainly with the romantic, harem aspect. Sora is always looking for cute girls to chase up, spy on, etc., and there are plenty of female characters that fill these roles, including Shiro. However, there are two issues that come out of this: one is the fact they are already related, and two is the fact that Shiro is only 11. There are several scenes in which Shiro and other female characters are naked, although the rude bits are always censored in some way, like steam in a bath covering up her nipples for example.
However, personally the problem with No Game No Life in my view is that the series is too short. Less than half the original novels have been adapted, so it would be nice to see another series being commissioned.
No Game No Life is released currently as a collector’s edition, complete with, Blu-Ray, DVD and soundtrack by MVM Films. Separate Blu-Ray and DVD editions are released at the end of March.