Anime

Review: No Game No Life Episode 2: A Harsh Lesson and a New Goal

Quick Summary

In No Game No Life episode 2, “Challenger,” Stephanie Dola, having literally lost the shirt off her back in a card game against Kurami Zell, tried to blame Shiro and Sora for her loss — because they wouldn’t tell her how Kurami had cheated. But the Blank siblings were having none of it. They offered to settle things the way any upstanding inhabitant of Disboard would — with a game. Will the deceased King’s granddaughter do any better against Sora than she had done against Kurami — even if Sora doesn’t cheat? Just what is Kurami up to, anyway? And what does it have to do with our heroes?

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

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: Don’t Separate the Siblings

The Blank siblings are a super power online and in the gaming world of Disboard. But a good character has to have at least one flaw, and now we know at least one of theirs! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

After winning the game of Rock-Paper-Scissors (see the Thoughts section for more details!), Sora asked Stephanie for the “small favor” which was his prize. And what did he ask for? For Stephanie to fall in love with him.

Shiro was coldly furious, and it unnerved Sora so much he threw himself to the ground to apologize. Stephanie fought it hard, but this is Disboard — the 10 Pledges are absolute (mostly!). She screamed her defiance out the open window. But she found that she couldn’t even look at him without seeing an idealized view (hilariously called “Steph-a-scope” in a caption). The resulting turmoil was an amazing display of voice acting talent on the part of Youko Hikasa — I almost felt bad about laughing so hard.

But that’s not my favorite part.

Shiro did more than just accept Sora’s apology. She became enthusiastic about Sora’s chances to have a girlfriend. So much so that she kicked him in the back to propel him onto Stephanie. Of course, this is anime, so one of his hands landed on one of her breasts. And this is No Game No Life. It’s never content with a mere trope. Stephanie didn’t try to stop his grope because she was still fighting the game-induced feeling of love. Sora was busy trying to justify himself by saying the situation was beyond his control (given Shiro’s kick, he’s not wrong). But then Shiro started snapping pictures, and Stephanie wanted to protect her panties, so she kicked Sora through the doors and into the hall. The doors closed.

Not surprisingly, Stephanie is not a fan of Steph-a-scope. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

She rushed through the door to apologize and see if he was okay — only to find him in a crumpled heap at the end of the corridor. In a shrill voice, he just kept repeating “I’m sorry” and trying to explain why he was so desparate to touch breasts. Startled, Stephanie turned back to ask Shiro if this was normal, only to find that she was in even worse condition. She was shivering and was completely white — clothes and all!

Stephanie immediately understood: This is what happens when they’re separated. She opened the door wide so they could see each other. Shiro’s color snapped back and Sora bounded back into the room. It almost seemed he hit light speed — in one instant, he was running. In the next, they were desperately hugging each other (11:45).

The scene was played for laughs, but the undercurrent was clear: These two cannot be separated. They are so emotionally interdependent that even being out of sight for too long is debilitating. I thought it was funny and poignant and tragic all at the same time.

Moment 2: Shiro and Sora in a New Light

You could say this is Shiro and Sora in their native state. I wonder if they were ever at peace like this back on Earth? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

After they arrived at the palace, Stephanie found that she was still fighting the Steph-a-scope scourge. She managed to keep it at bay by finding some of her old clothes for Shiro. However, her illusion of control vanished when Sora showed up wearing a formal butler’s uniform (which he likened to cosplay, so he was cool with it). She nearly swooned. In an attempt to shake off the effect, she smashed her forehead into the wall, but it only helped a little (and again, Youko Hikasa’s voice work was just fantastic — did you know she also voiced Emi Yusa from The Devil is a Part Timer?). Desparate to put some distance between herself and Sora, she rushed off — to bake cookies and make tea.

The maids in the kitchen were very, very confused.

When she came back, she breezed into the room, ready to feed the siblings cookies and tea. She was mildly surprised that they weren’t there. She saw them on the balcony and started towards them.

She stopped in her tracks.

Stephanie almost seemed like she didn’t know how to interpret what she was seeing. It was so different than what she thought she knew about Blank. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Shiro was sitting on a chair, her legs folded to the side. She was reading a book. Sora stood behind her, absently stroking her hair, his gazed fixed somewhere on the horizon. His face wore the slightest smile (14:36).

Stephanie seemed to stop breathing for a moment. There was in their posture a profound trust. Whatever she thought of them based on what she had seen in my first favorite moment, what she witnessed now was two people completely at peace with each other, simply enjoying each other’s company, without any expectations or pressures or conflict.

It takes mastery of the form to go from the first to second favorite moments with style and grace. This show has both in abundance.

Moment 3: Stephanie’s New Hope

Stephanie almost seemed scared to hope Shiro and Sora could help her people. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

After Stephanie told Shiro and Sora about the sixteen sentient races, and after she told them that Imanity, the name for humans in Disboard, were incapable of using magic, Sora seemed to come to a realization. He asks if there’s a library.

He was bitterly disappointed to find he can’t read a thing. It was all written in Imanity! Fortunately, his sister is a genius, and she learned the language within minutes. Sora was so proud that he heaped praise on her.

In the meantime, Stephanie’s incredulity exploded. She couldn’t believe Shiro had learned a written language that quickly. Shiro’s excuse that it was easy because the written language was the same as the spoken language only seemed to shock Stephanie more.

Shiro said learning a written language was no big deal because it was identical to the spoken language. Though she did go out of her way to tell Sora he was hadn’t learned it already because he was just slow. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Then she paused. She remembered how easily Sora had destroyed her in Rock-Paper-Scissors. She looked on their “genius level intelligence” (17:23). She recalled their complete trust and faith in each other. And for the first time in who knows how long, Stephanie felt hope.

“Is it possible that these two could save” Imanity, she wondered?

The moment hope is rekindled is such a beautiful thing! And between the voice actor’s continued exemplary performance and the colorful yet emotionally subtle animation, this moment was an especially beautiful example!

Thoughts

The first few (okay, dozen) times I watched this, I could not for the life of me understand why Sora promised to only use paper, then used rock. Well, rewatching it this time, I think it made sense, and I’d like to credit James from Chikorita157 Anime Blog for helping me understand. Check out the link to the post under Other Anime Sites, below. The explanation in the review and the comments was very helpful!

I mentioned Stephanie’s voice actor, Youko Hikasa, a couple of times. Her performance impressed me so much I had to look up if there was such a thing as voice actor awards. And there is! It’s called the Seiyu Awards. Her work perfectly captured what Stephanie was going through.

I couldn’t find any indication she’d won one, though. That’s a shame! I’m inches away from declaring shenanigans

This moment could have been played solely for slapstick comedy. But the voice actor’s skill elevated it. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Do you know what I liked about this episode? Between its humor and its poignancy, there was something that struck me. Something for which I felt great relief. And before I tell you what it is, I want to stress that I’m a fairly opened minded individual. I’m not a prude. If I were, I doubt I would have lasted this long as an anime fan! I even enjoyed the series Oreimo (you can take that admission as a sign of how much I trust you!).

But there are times I long for an emotionally satisfying relationship based on respect, mutual trust, and admiration. And a sister who’s not a brocon. And a brother who’s not a siscon.

That’s what we’re getting with Shiro and Sora.

Just look at them in my second favorite moment. They’re completely at peace with each other. It’s based on experience, too. Who knows how many on-line campaigns they’ve fought side by side?

When Sora was trying to explain the favor he asked of Stephanie (after he’d won Rock-Paper-Scissors), he exclaimed (09:20), “I mean, I can’t go after my sister!”

Sora said he was so aggressive with Stephanie because there was no way he’d go after his sister. Come to think of it, Sora’s voice actor, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, also did a fantastic job. And did you know he also does the voice of Kirito from Sword Art Online? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Remember when they Stephanie was giving Shiro a bath? Sora wanted a picture of a naked Stephanie — without Shiro being in the shot!

Now, to be clear, if that’s something you enjoy, you won’t catch any grief from me. In this case, I just want to celebrate the kind of relationship that Shiro and Sora share. It’s endearing and it’s mutually beneficial.

Sometimes, I like to celebrate the little things!

What did you think of Sora’s confrontation with Kurami Zell? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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