Anime

Review: No Game No Life Episode 5: Blank’s Ultimate Weapon Unveiled and the Angel of Death-ish

Quick Summary

In No Game No Life episode 5, “Weak Square,” Stephanie Dola was at her wit’s end. Despite all the work she had invested in keeping the kingdom’s political apparatus running, all Shiro and Sora seemed do do all day was laze around reading. To teach them a lesson, she challenged Sora to a game of Blackjack. She even secretly prepared a cheat! If she won, she said he would have to become a decent person. But of course she didn’t win, and she continued her losing streak until she learned the harsh truth. Not that she couldn’t beat them; she should already have known that! No, she learned what they’d really been doing with their time — and just how close Imanity was to utter disaster.

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

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: Stephanie’s Cheat, Sora’s Easier Victory

Stephanie could not believe that even with her carefully practiced cheat, she couldn’t beat Blank. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Stephanie was all pumped up with righteous anger. She had thought that Shiro and Sora were just lazing around all day. She had thought they had betrayed not only her trust, but her newly awakened hope. So she barged into their room with the intention of teaching them a lesson.

Stephanie had a plan. She would challenge Sora, then play on his sympathies by saying he’s so good there was no way he’d choose a game to give him an advantage — knowing that he’d likely let her choose the game. So, she practiced a cheat that she thought would give her an advantage in Blackjack. And if she won, she demanded that Sora become a decent person.

Things seemed to be going her way. He did let her choose the game. She won the first few hands and her confidence swelled. Finally, they were nearly tied, and it was the last hand. He didn’t even look at his cards when he said he’s stay (meaning he kept the two cards she had dealt). Stephanie felt triumphant. She thought that he’d give up and her cheat was going to carry her to victory. She turned her cards over, showing a King and a 10. Her score was 20.

Stephanie was bound and determined to force Sora to be a decent person — and rule the kingdom like she thought he should. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

You can imagine how she felt when he turned his cards to reveal a King and the Ace of Spades: 21. Blackjack, in fact (07:31). It earned him 2.5x his bet, and it put him over the top.

Of course, she was crushed. She demanded to know how he’d beaten her, and his explanation was the first introduction to an idea that developed through the episode (and that I’ll discuss in the Thoughts section, below): There is no such thing as luck. Though some will claim Blackjack is a game of chance, card counting turns it into a game of skill. And her attempt to cheat — which Sora easily saw? It just made card counting that much easier.

This scene drove home the idea that Blank’s skills are more than just impressive. I mean, from the on-line match, the chess game, and the card game in episode 1, to the more robust role-playing version of chess in the previous episode, we knew that Blank was good in a variety of games. But now we see that their skills extends to more mundane games like Blackjack. I say “they” because Shiro was so bored with the Blackjack game that she stopped paying attention — it was too far beneath her!

Moment 2: Sora’s Selfless Dedication to Liberating the War Beasts

I have to give Sora credit for knowing himself. And Sora loves himself some animal girls! The jury’s out on how they’re respond to his affection! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

When Stephanie lost at Blackjack, Shiro and Sora didn’t extract any price. In fact, the game was so inconsequential to them that they forgot! But then Stephanie made the mistake of trying to defend her record of keeping the kingdom running by mentioning she’d graduated at the top of her class. That means she had graduated high school. And had a lot of friends. “And she had big boobs,” Shiro lamented (10:42). So of course they had to punish her. They made her their dog for a day — complete with ears and a cute fluffy tail.

But this is No Game No Life, so something like that can’t just be a joke. It has to feed the plot. So Shiro and Sora noticed that everyone was looking at them strangely. And they weren’t just paranoid because of their obvious terror at being in public. Stephanie replied that of course people were looking at them strangely. They had made her wear a tail and floppy ears. Stephanie looked a lot like a War Beast, and humans were terrified of War Beasts! And in that moment, Sora made the connection.

Wait — the Eastern Federation is filled with girls who have animal ears? I hesitate to use the word epiphany in this situation, but it really does seem to fit… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

But he wasn’t ready to commit to the idea yet. He brought up his research on this smart phone to show the history of the War Beasts. He enumerated their strengths, including the ability to almost read minds. He read over the description and drew his final conclusion.

“The Eastern Federation,” he said (12:15), “is an Eden composed entirely of hot girls with animal ears!”

When Stephanie tried to reason with him, he simply asserted that “The anime girl kingdom is waiting for me!” It took Shiro reminding him of their mission — something they had to do before he could go charging into the animal girl kingdom, to break the spell.

I have to admire how honest Sora is with himself. And I have to admire Shiro for being able to make him see reason from time to time. Okay, she makes him see reason all the time. He does seem susceptible to the urge to flying off on a tangent!

Moment 3: The Descent of the God Killer

I’m not sure what a god-killer would look like. But if I push my imagination, this might just be it. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

To understand why I adored this moment — it’s in my top 3 favorite moments for the whole series — you have to understand that I love the very concept of the Flügel. And after watching the movie No Game No Life Zero, my respect for them went even higher (and no lie — I could only watch the movie once; it broke my heart, and I’m waiting for a regeneration cycle or two before I try to watch it again). The scene in this series that introduces the Flügel for the first time is going to attract my attention. And they executed it flawlessly.

When Shiro and Sora learned that a Flügel had won the local library, they recognized this was their chance. They needed information about the world. Between the library and the god-killer within, there was no better source of that previous information. She they intended to challenge the Flügel to a game.

Most of the scene takes place after the ED. Our three heroes entered the library, and at first, it seemed empty. Then, from the heights of the library, they see the figure descending. As it nears their level, the wings attached to the small of her back extended wall to wall. Her eyes slowly open to reveal crosses in vibrant gold irises.

Neither Shiro nor Sora have shown much fear at all, except for the fear of being in public. But the descent of the Flügel brought it out in both of them. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Stephanie is beside herself with fear. Shiro’s eyes widen at the aura of power descending. Even Shiro, who’s never shown fear at anything except being in public, took on this almost hysterical grin and thought, “That’s not even close to an angel. That’s death itself” (23:20).

It was funny when the Flügel spoke in a lilting, almost infantile voice. I suspect, though, that was all part of her plan. Her powerful presence would likely drive most challengers away. If she’s still interesting in games — and I think she is — then her best tactic is to put them at their ease.

Before she destroys them.

I’ll tell ya — Shiro and Sora’s reaction really sold this moment. For Sora to show such a reaction, after all of the gaming and scheming and planning he’s done, drove home a key idea: This Flügel is not to be taken lightly. And in fact, he’s not sure facing her is even a good idea. That’s one of the reasons I’m so looking forward to the next episode!

Like the Soundtrack?

You can get it from CD Japan!

Thoughts

Did you catch Tet taunting the old gods in the opening scene? They were trying to horn in on his action, even to the point of questioning whether he was actively helping Imanity. He basically told them to shut up and get ready: Imanity was coming for them (00:56). Is that cool or what?

Tet continues to be an interesting character. He taunts even the elder gods — warning them that Imanity is coming for them, even on their plane of existence. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Speaking of cool, just before Shiro, Sora, and Stephanie entered the library, Sora was remembering everything he could about the Flügel. One of those facts was that they had been “created during the ancient war as a front-line weapon to kill gods” (21:10). That’s about the most cool sentence I have ever read. The idea of the Flügel created to fight the gods themselves is just so interesting! And our heroes are about to face one of them.

I’m always intrigued when a lesson from an anime series can be applied in real life. This episode contained one of those lessons. One of the more important lessons, in fact.

Remember how devastated Stephanie felt when she lost at Blackjack — especially since she’d invested so much time in perfecting a cheat? Remember how she kept challenging Blank over and over until she lost everything except a cloth covering her breasts and a little — a very little — apron? She was committed; there was no doubting that. She thought she’d done her homework. So she was desperate when she asked how he’d beaten her.

Stephanie was willing to push her losses to the point where she was almost naked. Her heart was absolutely in the right place. But her mind? Not so much… Blank tried to help her with that. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

“There’s no such thing as luck in this world,” Sora told her (16:58). There’s no chance. The victor is decided before the game evens starts. The example he used was from Blackjack. Left just to chance, the odds of drawing the card you want is 1.92%. Factor in card counting and other insights, and you can push the certainty to almost 100%. He pointed out that even the condition of the deck — whether it’s new or not — can affect the outcome. When she tried to object that such a thing was cheating, he calmly told her that she’d never asked the condition of the deck. “In other words, you didn’t know, right?” he asked her (17:42).

It’s the same way for us, every day, in a democratic society. And it has nothing to do with conspiracy theories. Does a decision during a business planning session constitute conspiracy? A board meeting? It all comes down to information. It just looks like a conspiracy if you weren’t at the meeting. Which might be why conspiracy theories are so popular…

Let’s say you wanted to invest in a company. Let’s also say you used to shop at Sears, and you loved Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances and even their selection of Levi jeans. You might have read they were in bankruptcy, which might have made you think that the company’s management must be trying to salvage the company.

“Certainly, with so much brand awareness and with such a long and storied history, the company’s going to make a come back!” After all, what executive wouldn’t want the store to succeed and continue providing so many jobs?

Stephanie’s grandfather the King said, “If your opponent is another human, you’re just screwed.” He was more right than he knew. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

If you invested in Sears at that point, you would have lost your investment. Why? Because, “in other words, you didn’t know, right?”

And to be clear: That was exactly what I was thinking as I read the news of Sears’ problems. I didn’t decide to invest in them, but I felt certain they’d pull out of their death spiral.

I didn’t know. And I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

If you’re interested in the details, you can check out this story in USA Today. It talks about how the real interests driving Sears’ condition had nothing to do with what I just described. People’s jobs? Brand recognition? Storied history? That’s nothing when you can buy a company, saddle it with debt, force it to sell its own real estate to fund debt payments, and then have your associate’s real estate companies lease the same land back to Sears — thus putting more downward pressure on the company, but sending even more cash flooding into certain interests’ coffers.

Seriously, give that article a read. The methods We the People have left open for the seriously rich to further profit by destroying the public interests is on us. We need to do better.

We need to know better.

Sora said, “…the person with that knowledge is the inevitable victor.” You know what? That is a truth. We can lament it; we can protest against it. But we ignore it at our peril. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

That’s the lesson Shiro and Sora were trying to pound into Stephanie. At this level of cultural and social combat, good intentions mean nothing. Being willing to lose the shirt off your back just means you’ll get sunburned. Bemoaning conspiracies and ill will on your opponent is a waste of time. Heck, 90% of the time you won’t even know who or what your opponent is.

We need to know better. We need to heed Sora’s warning. Because if we don’t, the War Beasts will feast on our bones, the elves will dance in our streets, and the Flügel will — well, I don’t know what they’ll do, but I’m pretty sure we won’t like it.

What did you think of the Flügel’s entrance? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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9 thoughts on “Review: No Game No Life Episode 5: Blank’s Ultimate Weapon Unveiled and the Angel of Death-ish

  1. Jibril is my favorite character of the series.

    There was a saying from Sun Tzu’s Art of War that came to mind while reading your article: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

    There is something to be said about knowing what is going on in the world, or what information you need to know to succeed. There is too much out there that I do not know. Sadly experience can only teach so much, and experience can only teach you after the fact. Most of my success’s in life have come from when I was prepared for what was ahead. And most of my failure’s come from the fact that I didn’t have the right information at the time to navigate that life situation.

    As correct information can be one of the most important tools in warfare, having correct information in life situations can protect you. Having correct information as a democracy ensures the survival of democracy.

    1. “There is too much out there that I do not know.”

      That’s the truth, isn’t it? There are some arenas where I will never be able to compete. Your quote from Sun Tzu (awesome work, BTW!), in this context, means knowing when to engage and when not to! But of course it means more than that…

      “Having correct information as a democracy ensures the survival of democracy.”

      If I had a column for picking comments for awards, I’d give you the Most True and Terrifying Comment — So Far.

      Actually, I’ll have to give that some thought!

  2. The road to hell is paved with good intentions!

    I’ve always enjoyed Steph’s character. At face value, she might seem like an idiot who is only there for fan service and comedy, but in reality, she’s a very smart girl whose naivety prevents her from being successful in a cutthroat world where winning literally is everything.

    1. “she’s a very smart girl whose naivety prevents her from being successful in a cutthroat world where winning literally is everything.”

      That’s a perfect description of Stephanie! She was able to manage politics at a kingdom level by manipulating the nobles. But she can’t win a game to save her life — or her clothes!

      1. I do wish that the anime showed more of her intelligent side to drive the character home though. She does such a good job at being rational , even when we first meet her, but I think that impression gets lost because of how she loses and Blank makes her look like a fool afterwards.

        1. “I do wish that the anime showed more of her intelligent side to drive the character home though.”

          Yeah — she kinda looks bad by comparison, doesn’t she?

          And even when she demonstrated her intelligence and skills, she mentioned she was top of her class — and ended up wearing dog ears and a tail for the rest of the day!

          I guess it could have been worse.

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