「素人《ビギナー》」 (Shirouto “Biginaa”)
A brother-sister pair who are really, really good at games are thrown into a world where everything is decided by games. They’re totally broken in both personality and skill, but damn they’re fun!
An Unintuitive World
For a certain kind of person, the real world is mind-boggling. Complexity without purpose, effort without meaning, the limitless possibilities that are only restrained by the nearly limitless shackles…I can see why, to a certain kind of person, real life seems like a confusing, contradictory, thoroughly unintuitive, and above all shitty game.
Personally, I’ve never thought that. In the complexity and confusion of real life – in the many shades of gray, and the other colors besides, rather than the “logical” person’s simple black and white – is where I find my enjoyment. I don’t want the simple game, because the simple game is too easy. Oh, they can be fun to play, but in games you either win or lose, and I have no interest in a zero-sum life. I’d rather create my own rules and define my own life, because then everything important is under my control, and I can be free.
Yet that’s what makes these main character fascinating to me, because they’re nothing like me. They’re experts who are so completely unsuited for regular life as to make them broken–but I’ll take broken (and interesting) characters any day of the week. They’re silly, they’re determined, they’re ruthless, and just plain old fun. It’s as I’ve always expected – broken is a lot more fun.
Two Birds of a Feather
We’re introduced to the legendary sibling hikikomori NEET gamers 「 」 (“Kuuhaku”, lit. “blank space”) as they’re wiping the floor with twelve hundred enemies in a game all at once. Sometimes realism is nice, but often realism in fiction is overrated, and Sora (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu) and Shiro (Kayano Ai) are so far beyond realistic that the plausibility of what they do doesn’t matter anymore. Playing with their feet!? Hah! That plus the completely lack of hesitation they had in throwing away their old lives makes them a treat to watch. I respect that kind of decisiveness, even when it’s born of madness.
As for the incest angle, I’m not convinced. They’re clearly close – not an eyelash was batted about them sleeping in the same bed, and they appear to have always spent all their time together – but I don’t think anything untoward even enters these two’s minds. Yes, Sora might have mentioned that Shiro was beautiful as she is once or twice, but that’s about the extent of it. They’re just two birds of a feather, a pair of those rare souls who get each other more than words can express. Sure, maybe they really are total brocons and siscons, I’m just not seeing it yet. Nothing perverted at least. Readers no ecchi!
I mentioned on my Mahouka post that I prefer hard fantasy to soft fantasy. And that’s true – hard fantasy is my favorite, and it’s even what I write. But I love soft fantasy too, and I write it as well. (You’ll see what I mean one day. Soon, soon…) I love all fantasy! And while hard fantasy is great, soft fantasy has a wonder all its own, and that wonder can be summarized as: Damn the rules, this is fun!
I mean, look at this! Very little of that is remotely possible, but like Sora and Shiro themselves, once you go so far past possible you can focus on just having fun. It’s cool, and the soft colors the series uses lend to the fantasy air. I have to wonder whether I’ll get tired of the almost washed out colors and art style, but for now it’s selling the feeling by blurring the world around the edges, thereby encouraging us to not focus too hard on the details. I count that as a plus for now.
The God of Play & His Ten Rules
I find gods to be fascinating, and the idea that all the gods (and most of the mortals) would kill themselves off, leaving the only one who didn’t fight to rule… Hah, serves you right! That sounds exactly like something that gods – at least the gods of most mythologies, who are really just mortals writ large, and therefore a lot more flawed/fun – would do. And it leaves us with an interesting world, with ten rules. To quote the One True God (of Play) Tet (Kugimiya Rie):
- All murder, war, and robbery is forbidden in this world.
- All conflict in this world will be resolved through games.
- In games, each player will bet something that they agree is of equal value.
- As long as it doesn’t go against number three, what they bet and the rules of the game will not be questioned.
- The challenged party has the right to decide the rules of the game.
- Any bets made in accordance with the pledges must be upheld.
- Conflicts between groups will be conducted by designated representatives with absolute authority.
- Being caught cheating during a game is grounds for an instant loss.
- In the name of God, the previous rules may never be changed.
- Let’s all have fun and play together!
Remember those. They’ve already proven themselves to be important, and I’m sure they’ll continue to be so.
The Effortless Flow of Good Storytelling
Many of the series I’ve intro’d or seen this season, even the good ones, have had adaptation problems. Most stories are designed with one medium in mind, and in transferring them to another medium it doesn’t always work. The first episode of Mahouka did an admirable job, but with so much to fit into so little time, there were signs of strain. This is a pattern repeated endlessly over the anime medium.
But not here. I was pleased with how effortless the storytelling seemed here. It just flowed, with the first half bringing them into the world and then calmly moving on with what they’re doing next. It even had the confidence to end on a low note, with the siblings deciding they don’t want to go back to their own world, before bringing out the hook after the OP played. It felt natural, like this was made for the screen, which is a rare treat.
Calculating Imouto, Tricky Nii
I like that the siblings each have skills that make them work together so well as a team. Shiro is the smart, calculating one with the intellect and mental processing power to beat chess programs designed to beat grandmasters, and to do it twenty times in a row. For my money I prefer Sora though, who has the corkscrew mentality to understand the tricky ways of mortals–and beat them at their own game.
“8. Being caught cheating during a game is grounds for an instant loss.” That means it’s okay if you don’t get caught, right? Sora came to the same realization I did, and used it to good effect. I laughed when he cheated right back against the cheater, because like in the opening battle, it’s good to see cheaters get their comeuppance. Better still was when he went full badass and berated the Innkeeper into giving them a fair price for a room. To quote a very scary man, don’t bullshit a bullshitter. I’d hate to negotiate against him. How was this boy not a millionaire?!
Looking Ahead – Game Tanoshii!
Picking shows before the season starts can be a crapshoot, but I’m inordinately pleased with this pick up so far. Crazy main characters, a fantasy world, a trickster god, and a busty girl already seeking the main characters’ assistance? Magic 8-ball says I have picked wisely, so make sure to stay tuned for more. Aschente!
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Broken, maladjusted geniuses are sucked into a world of games, & they couldn’t be happier. A good start. What a fun time! #nogenora 01
- Suddenly that cheater girl got all bouncy and happy. I liked that ^^
- “Urban legends are a kind of wish, because in reality, the least interesting answer is usually the correct one.” Humans wish reality was more like fiction, which is why we create stories and legends and drama…and therein lies the reason why Sora & Shiro are like they are. Not that it isn’t working out well for them right now.
- There’s a 95% chance I’ll say this all season, but I love Matsuoka Yoshitsugu as Sora. He’s at his best when he’s tsukkoming or being silly-awesome, and he has some of the best comedic timing and range of any seiyuu working today.
- He protected his imouto, d’aaww!
- This Stephanie Dora (Hikasa Yoko) girl…it’s not often you get to hear Hikasa Yoko go full “desuwa~”. Not bad though.
- I was wondering how they were still using their cell phones, but solar chargers, makes sense. A bit convenient, but enough was going well here that I’ll let it slide. Plus it’s nice for now, but they’re totally screwed when something breaks, or when they want a new game…which oughta take about a day at the rate these two play em.
- No points for guessing what happens next. It’s so obvious it’s not even worth pointing out. If you don’t know what I mean, just look at the OP. Too obvious…but I’m still looking forward to it!
Check out my blog about storytelling and the novel I’m writing at stiltsoutloud.com. The last four posts: Useful lies; Missing the point; You don’t get credit for the words you don’t write; and Right, not best.
Full-length images: 30.
OP: 「This Game」 by 鈴木このみ (Konomi Suzuki)