I expected this to be a little more like Liar Game, except, y’know, more “okaku-fied.” No, I don’t want a carbon copy of Liar Game. What I simply mean by my initial statement is that I thought the game-playing aspects of this series would actually be, well, clever. In other words, there’d be a puzzle to solve each time the siblings challenged someone to a game, and if the audience was astute enough, we could figure it out as the story progresses. Well, no such luck. No Game, No Life is just making shit up as it goes along.
Needless to say, Sora challenges Kurumi to a game, and the crown of the kingdom is at stake. Since Kurumi is the challenged, she gets to pick the game they play. At first, the game she picks sort of resembles chess. Sora thus allows Shiro to take the reins; I imagine she’s the more analytical of the two. But this is no simple game of chess! Y’see, the chess pieces have a mind of their own, so they can move as their hearts desire. Ultimately, however, their performance is based on their morale, and as such, a strong leader is capable of motivating his or her chess pieces to do more than one might normally expect of them.
To nobody’s surprise, Kurumi is cheating: she’s using a magic spell to bolster her troops’ morale. Since the board aspect of the game is pretty much irrelevant, Sora quickly deduces that this game of “chess” is more like a real-time strategy game instead. As such, he eventually takes over for Shiro, and uses a bombastic speech to rile his chess pieces up into a fervor. He then commands his army to attack without any regard for whose turn it is, much to Kurumi’s displeasure. His army quickly gains the upper-hand, and it looks as though Kurumi might finally suffer her ignominious defeat. Ah, but this is where the making shit up part starts.
Kurumi cheats again by using a brainwashing spell! Any time an enemy chess piece touches one of her pieces, the enemy piece converts to her side. The tables have now turned on Sora and his sister! But then the tables turn again — no, really — when Sora inserts himself into the battlefield, and appeals to the enemy queen’s heart. I guess he’s supposed to be a smooth-talker or something. In any case, she turns to his side, but it doesn’t stop there. When an enemy knight goes to strike down the traitorous queen, the enemy knight suddenly sheds tears of regret… and then he converts as well. Unfortunately, none of this is actually all that satisfying to watch unless you’re a big fan of the siblings of which I am not.
The siblings are self-proclaimed badasses at games, but you don’t really get to see their aptitude in action. When it’s Shiro’s turn to play, the anime — using Sora as a mouthpiece — spends more time waxing poetic about the young girl’s intelligence than actually showing us how she gets the upper-hand on her opponent. Wow, she has great concentration. That sure does mean a whole lot to the audience! Then when it comes time for Sora to flex his muscles, so to speak, his talent is really just a bunch of silly words (“The one true, unchanging righteousness in the world is cuteness!”) that somehow works. As I’ve said at the start of this post, there’s nothing clever here. There’s nothing smart about any of this. You just feel as though the main characters will win, because, well, they’re the main characters.
And then you’ve got Stephanie, who is pretty much the designated dumbass of the show. Basically, you can show that a character is smart in two ways. First, just make the character actually smart. This requires a bit of effort though in that, well, you’d probably have to be smart yourself in order to show the audience that the character is smart. Otherwise, you’d have to resort to just telling us how intelligent he or she is, which is pretty much how the anime opts to portray Shiro. There’s another way to make a character appear smart, however, and that’s by drawing a sharp contrast between the supposedly smart character and an incredibly dumb character. So that’s Stephanie’s job.
Stephanie’s role in this anime is to be so utterly naive and stupid that Sora ends up sounding smart by comparison. Case in point, Kurumi knows that there’s a good chance she might lose this game. As a result, she feeds our heroes a bullshit offer. Basically, if they acquiesce to her ascendency to the throne, Imanity will fall under the Elves’ protection and all will be well! Well, of course not. All will not be well, and anyone with a brain cell would realize this. But Stephanie isn’t allowed to have even a single brain cell. She isn’t just average in intelligence; she’s incredibly stupid, which allows Sora to list off a bunch of common sense reasons why no one would take up Kurumi’s offer. Ah, but they sound smart, don’t they?
Anyway, disappointing episode, disappointing anime.