Anime

Review: No Game No Life Episode 1: The Undefeated Gamers and a Whole New World

Quick Summary

In No Game No Life episode 1, “Beginner,” Shiro and Sora made up the online gaming team of Blank. They were so good that more than a thousand players in one tournament swarmed against them — some of them even using elaborate cheats — and those challengers still lost! What the losing players didn’t know is that there were only two humans in Blank, because they routinely played with four simultaneous players. After the tournament, Sora was surprised to get an e-mail. After all, neither he nor Shiro had any friends. What they learned from that e-mail and its link would not only validate their deepest observations about their world. It would turn their world upside down.

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: Sora Complains Loudly; Accepts Challenge

Shiro has the power to give her brother an injection of raw courage just with here little diamond-shaped smile. They make a great pair! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

It’s important, at the beginning of a series, to show us just what kind of people our main characters are. Are they people I want to root for? Will I cheer them on — or cheer their antagonists?

No Game No Life wastes absolutely no time introducing us to the core of who Shiro and Sora are. And they are exactly the kind of characters I want to see win.

The Blank siblings have been gaming for give days straight. We know this because of Shiro’s stack of food containers — whose height the shot translated as enough for five days. Now, she’s understandably tired, and she settled down for a nap. After all, it’s not only been five days, but the two of them just wrapped up a massive campaign where they demolished 1200 other players. That’s gotta wear one down!

According to the archaeological evidence, the two had been playing for two days straight — even for young ‘uns in their prime, that’s a long time! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Unfortunately, they were already playing another game, and Sora was very, very concerned that he’d die without her medical support. Shiro’s response?

She woke up long enough to push her two controllers into the grip of Sora’s feet. Yes, his feet. Astonished, incredulous, he asked her to confirm she was really asking him to control four characters with his hands and feet. All at once. Alone.

“Fight!” she said, smiling in encouragement (04:16).

He tried to complain some more, but he saw she was sound asleep. Faced with the choice of giving up or going into battle by himself, controlling four characters all alone, what does Sora do?

“Fine, I’ll do it!”

That, right there, is pretty much everything you need to know about Sora’s resolve.

Moment 2: Shiro Reacts to an Unusual Chess Maneuver

Once Sora realized they were up against a real opponent, the two of them adjusted their strategy accordingly. Just look at the look of determination in their faces! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

After my first favorite moment, we knew that Sora is utterly willing to embrace a challenge. That’s all inspirational and stuff, but that’s not all I want to know about a character. In this case, I also want to know if he’s reckless when he jumps into battle, or if he knows what he’s doing. We got hints that he and Shiro together are pretty dangerous given how they handled 1200 opponents by themselves, but was that just hyperbole?

Let’s consider another bit of evidence, shall we?

Sora opened an e-mail from an unknown sender. It included a link to a website, which he clicked on. Now, as a computer security professional, I feel compelled to mention that Sora just engaged in risky behavior. Always be vigilant about clicking links! But this is just fiction, so I’ll let it slip.

The site showed them a simple chessboard. Sora turned the battle over to Shiro. Between the two of them, she was the best chess player.

The game went as she expected until their opponent made a curious move. Whoever it was moved a piece that blocked its own next move. Both of them were immediately concerned.

Shiro was immediately concerned when her opponent made a nonsensical move. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Saying that a computer program will always pick the best move, Sora reasoned that Shiro wasn’t played against a computer program, as they had initially thought. Looking at the screen, he realized that their opponent was trying to lure Shiro into making a mistake.

Reassuring her that she could not possibly lose in a game of pure skill, he offered to help her out.

“The two of us, Sora and Shiro, form Blank together,” he told her (07:15). “Let’s see if there’s somebody who can beat us.”

So now we know that Shiro is as skilled as Sora, and their skills together are more formidable than either alone. Even better, we know they are both bold and cautious, according to what the situation demands. And they depend one each other as need demands.

I like these characters!

Moment 3: Shiro and Sora against the World

Sora’s ready to get this show on the road. You know what? So am I! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

After their terrifying entry into Tet’s world (seriously — Sora’s reaction was hilarious!), Shiro and Sora were understandably anxious. The world looked wildly different than what they were used to. Would they be able to live? Were the Ten Pledges (that Tet told them about as they plummeted towards the planet’s surface) real? They sounded so fanciful — and alluring!

By the time they reached the capital city, Shiro and Sora had won several games — decisively. They had taken the clothes off the backs of three men who thought they’d found two easy marks. They’d taken all of the gold from a woman who thought they were just country hicks. And they had seen through the cheating trick that Kurami Zell and her elfen friend Fil Nilvaren used against the good-hearted but hopelessly naive Stephanie Dola. They had proven to themselves that yes, this world ran on games. And yes, they were as capable here as they had been on Earth.

Using the gold they’d won in their last encounter, Sora haggled a decent price out of the inn keeper, and he and his sister had a bed to sleep in. Tired after a long day (despite her ridiculous capabilities, she’s only an 11 year old kid, after all), Shiro experienced a moment of doubt. She thought of the elf she’d seen helping Kurami, and in a small voice, she asked (20:36), “Brother, can you beat that?”

Tired from her journey, still adjusting to a completely new world, and faced with the elf’s silent and unknown power, Shiro experienced a moment of doubt. It didn’t last long. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

His silent smile only took a few seconds to completely restore her confidence. Reassured, she lay down to sleep while Sora started out the window.

This is one of those moments that, looking back from the end of the series, set the tone for the rest of the season.

The setting sun’s light glowing on his face, Sora said (20:47), “Hey, Shiro. Usually, in a story, when the protagonists end up in another world, they try their best to find a way home, right?” He paused. “Why would they try to go back to a world like that?”

He didn’t expect an answer. She seemed asleep. As he pulled the covers up over her shoulders, though, she murmured, “I think so, too.”

They had the temperament. They had the skills, And now, they had fully committed. They would stay in this would, and they would dominate it.

“Now, let the game begin,” Sora said.

I know this is a a throw-back review. I know I’ve watched this series again and again and again. But you know what?

This moment still gives me chills.

Like the Soundtrack?

You can get it from CD Japan!

Thoughts

I think it’s awesome that Kadokawa still maintains the redirect from disboard-the-boardtop-world.info to their site, even after 5 or 6 years! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Did you noticed that the e-mail Tet sent to Sora and Shiro contained a URL? That URL was:

http://www.disboad-the-boardtop-world.info

After checking it for safety (using http://google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=), I found that even to this day, it redirects to:

https://www.kadokawa.co.jp/

How cool is that?

Did you know that Tet’s world is called Disboard? I didn’t! I’ve watched this show at least a dozen times, and that detail always eluded me. That’s one of the reasons I so enjoy reviewing older series that I love. It helps me pay closer attention to the details that make me enjoy the series even more.

Tet clearly says the world’s name is Disboard. How the heck did I miss that before? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

And speaking of additional details…

I had missed another detail — a very important detail. Multiple details, actually, that added up to the well-crafted reason that Blank was able to embrace Disboard. It was ridiculously obvious, but the sheer coolness of the opening and the subsequent blindly beautiful art distracted me.

And just in case I haven’t made the point: I think this series is visually stunning. The colors, the shot composition, the camera’s movements, everything. It’s an indulgent feast for the eyes.

And don’t get me started on the soundtrack…

What I missed was just how much Shiro and Sora detested our world. When Tet’s e-mail asked what they thought about the world, Sora summed it up by saying (08:26), “The world is just a crappy game.”

Taken together with my third favorite moment, and we have a very different situation than most isekai series. Here, Blank does not want to return. They’ve found a world in which their skills can make a difference. They can take control of their own destiny. They can contribute to whatever extent they wish, and they don’t have to apologize for their skills. Or life style.

The art is spectacular. This world looks more like a fantasy world than anything I’ve seen in quite a while. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Or personalities.

Going from a world that looked down and ridiculed them and people like them, could you blame them for wanting to stay in Disboard? I certainly can’t. Heck, I can completely sympathize with them!

That little detail of theme — of Shiro and Sora embracing the new world for solid, personal reasons, cements Tet’s role as good guy. He pulled them into place where they can thrive, simply for the joy of it. What’s more, it means they are fully willing participants. There’s no coercion. They’re all in. I really like the stage this sets!

What do you think of the visuals? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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5 thoughts on “Review: No Game No Life Episode 1: The Undefeated Gamers and a Whole New World

  1. I cringe reading my early reviews. I had no idea what the hell I was doing.

    Actually, I don’t think I do now either…

    Thanks for linking it though, much appreciated!

    1. Looks like we both have a tendency to judge our own works the harshest!

      Because I enjoy reading your reviews. I was glad to see you had reviewed NGNL so I could link to it!

  2. You know, I remember seeing that url but never thought to check it. Pretty neat.
    Cool that you learned about Disboard, although I’m surprised you missed that detail the last time you watched NGNL because I think it’s mentioned often enough. Maybe I’m wrong on that though.

    1. “because I think it’s mentioned often enough”

      I’m pretty sure they mentioned it plenty of times! I think I was just so caught up in the spectacle that I dismissed it as the name of a game or something.

      It’s still surprising to me how much more I see when I’m watching to review.

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