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Review: No Game No Life Episode 4: The Foretold Tactic and a Chat with God

Quick Summary

In No Game No Life episode 4, “Grandmaster,” Shiro and Sora continued their chess battle against Kurami Zell. Sora had turned the enemy queen to their side, but the king stood strong, surrounded by the pieces under Kurami’s command. With a particularly deft move, Sora unleashed his ultimate tactic, which caught Stephanie Dola completely by surprise. It was the tactic her grandfather had told her would be the sign of Imanity’s champions! But now that Sora had pushed Kurami’s back to the wall, she threw aside all pretense and unleashed all the elven magic at her disposal. Can Blank withstand her magical fury? Will this be Blank’s first loss?

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

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: Sora Returns Stephanie’s Dress

Seeing Stephanie so enthusiastically happy did my heart good. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Remember near the end of episode 2, when Kurami tried to make Stephanie grovel to reclaim the dress? The dress that had been her grandfather’s gift? Kurami threw it on the ground as she pretended to hand it to Stephanie. Stephanie so treasured that link to her grandfather that she fell to her knees and hesitantly reached for it.

Sora snatched it up and handed it back to Kurami. He didn’t want to see Stephanie humiliated. Plus, for Sora, it was the principle: Kurami had won the dress during a game, and according to the challenges, it was hers. Sora didn’t want her charity.

He wanted to win the dress back.

Near the end of the chess game, Sora intentionally backed Kurami into a metaphorical corner. He knew how she’d react. He knew she’d tighten her tyrannical grip, since she had never seen Princess Leia’s advice to Grand Moff Tarkin. Sora almost said as much when he saw Kurami reacting the way he anticipated. “Sorry,” he said (06:02). “Our world isn’t as nice a place as yours. When it comes to war and killing, we have far more expertise than you do.”

When Sora said he was sorry to Kurami for so completely defeating her, I believe him. He seems like the type who’s magnanimous in victory. He and Shiro have had plenty of practice at it, after all! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

That almost qualified for my first favorite moment. Sora’s voice actor, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, did such a fantastic job sounding both menacing and sorrowful at the same time.

After Kurami fell to her knees (an interesting parallel with Stephanie’s posture in episode 2!), Stephanie got lost for a moment recalling her grandfather’s words. He had shared his dream with her — a dream where someone who knew how to win without violence would show up and make Imanity thrive. He told her whoever that was would be the “hope and potential” of Imanity. Then he told her the dress looked nice on her.

Lost in that memory, she felt cloth across her shoulders. Sora had gently placed the dress on her back (06:50). “Your grandfather was right to believe in Imanity,” Sora told her. “No one will call him a fool.”

The dress was just the physical representation of Stephanie’s hopes beginning to come true. I think it’s great that Sora and Shiro’s second action after winning (their first was to give each other a high five) was to do something nice for Stephanie. She’s had a rough few years!

Moment 2: Sora’s Majesty and Ineptitude

Handling murderous self-aware chess pieces bent on destroying him? No problem. Sora had that covered! But a crying young woman? Sora didn’t stand a chance… TBH, I just wanted to give her a hug. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

When Kurami learned that Sora and Shiro did not have the backing of another powerful nation, she couldn’t believe it. He told her he didn’t think her idea of working with the elves was in itself a bad thing, but he cut off her objection by saying that he did not like the way she thought. He chided her for thinking Imanity needed the elves’ help to survive. He spoke as if he felt personally affronted.

She protested that there was absolutely no way Imanity, the weakest of the races, could defeat elvish magic. Invoking his most sinister role playing, Sora said (08:15), “I’ll tell you something: Whether we’re up against elves or gods, Blank never loses.”

His presence was positively menacing. He tore off her veil, tilted her chin up so she was looking him straight in the eyes, and said that she should not underestimate humanity.

Kurami had no idea how to deal with Sora. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

It was Sora at his most majestic.

Unfortunately, majestic Sora cannot exist for very long in the world because it’s an unbalanced half — even in Disboard. For a long moment, Kurami held his gaze. Then she exploded into tears.

Majestic Sora vanished instantly. He couldn’t even speak clearly as Kurami’s anguish gushed forth. Between ragged breaths, she explained how hard she’d worked to get the elves to help her and protested that she hadn’t underestimated anyone. She was so miserable that Shiro patted her on the head and said accusingly (08:55), “Brother, you made a girl cry.”

Balance was once restored to the world.

Moment 3: Taunting Tet for Fun and Profit

I think Tet’s really pleased that he brought Shiro and Sora to Disboard! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Sora and Shiro were kicked back doing some research for the conquests they planned. Suddenly, the world went all cosmic-y. Which is to say, the color muted and everything looked like a universal projector was casting pictures of astronomical phenomena over everything. A happy, smiling Tet popped around the corner and said hey.

Shiro said (19:54), “It’s the kid who calls himself god!” Tet’s response was awesome: “Oh, please! I don’t call myself God! I am God!”

After he transported them to the roof where they could talk in private, Tet asked if they liked his world, and of course they did. In fact, it seemed like Shiro and Sora both feel like they were born to be in Disboard.

Then Sora said something that showed even in the presence of a god, his mind still kept churning away. Sora suggested that Shiro’s victory over Tet in a game of chess (episode 1) was his first ever loss. “The god of play was so very, very upset at his first loss, he just had to bring us here. Am I wrong?” Sora asked (21:51).

Tet’s expression spoke volumes. He asked why Sora thought so, and Sora answered that he and Shiro felt the same way. They’d never, ever lost — except to each other. So they shared an innate understanding. Tet could only laugh.

The camaraderie between Tet and Blank is one of the things that keeps this series so captivating. I mean, how often do you hear a main character talk like that to a god? That’s good stuff.

Thoughts

Blank refuses to lose — even to themselves! They’d been playing so long that Stephanie thought she could see butterflies. She even wanted wings for herself! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Did you see the scene after Shiro and Sora started arguing about who would hold the crown if only one of them could? They declared that they’d decide using games. In the next scene, an exhausted and dehydrated Shiro and Sora tried to finish another round of cards as Stephanie hallucinated. A caption gave their stats:

Sora vs Shiro [ Blank ] Total Lifetime Score 3526744 Rounds, 117080 Wins, 117080 Losses, 1186584 Ties.

Those two don’t mess around, do they? Glad they were able to find a way to hold the crown jointly, or the series might have ended right there and then! Or become really, really dull…

I’m delighted at how this show takes already interesting tropes and gives them new twists. In this episode, they started with the standard The Chosen One trope. It’s a good one! It can drive you forward in a story by setting expectations and building anticipation. I think the best implementation I’ve ever seen was in Frank Herbert’s Dune (which you can buy from Amazon!). The fictional order named the Bene Gesserit weaponized the idea with their Missionaria Protectiva. Basically, they’d go around to underdeveloped planets and plant the seeds of a messianic prophecy. If a Bene Gesserit were ever in trouble on one of those planets, she could pick up the threads of the prophecy and begin fulfilling them — thus giving herself a measure of protection and a willing body of supporters.

Stephanie’s grandfather had a very different idea of the Chosen One(s) than the Bene Gesserit had. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

No Game No Life started to implement that trope. Remember how Stephanie got excited as she watched Blank use a non-fighting strategy to defeat Kurami and her elvish supporters? Stephanie began reliving her grandfather saying that someday, someone with that philosophy would arrive. “There must be someone out there with that wisdom. Someone who knows that strength because they are weaker than anyone,” he said (03:41).

To Stephanie, it looked like her grandfather had given her a prophecy, and she was watching it play out before her eyes. She experienced an almost religious feeling of euphoria. The prophecy had it slightly wrong. It wasn’t “someone;” it was someones. But the idea was still the same.

What I thought was even better was the twist No Game No Life put on the prophecy itself. Usually, salvation comes through strength. In Dune, the Lady Jessica had to tailor the prophecy to the Fremen, and it took a terribly violent form. The next several books in the series dealt with the bloody aftermath, in fact.

But in this series, it went in the opposite direction. The savior wouldn’t come wielding great power. The savior’s power would come through weakness — through Imanity’s last place position in the hierarchy of strength. Whatever comes after, it won’t be the ever widening circles of violence begetting more violence. It’ll be something very, very different. Something worth exploring — something to set the series apart.

Even among my favorite shows, I can feel interest waning after the 10th or 15th rewatch. Not this series. Every time I watch it, I like and respect it even more. Details like not presenting the same tropes in the same trappings contribute to that enjoyment.

What did you think of the coronation in this episode? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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