「収束法《ルール・ナンバー・10》」 (Shuusokuhou “Ruuru Nanbaa 10”)
“Rule Number 10”
A game within a game within a game. Kuuhaku’s target is never the one in front of them, but them, their next opponent, and everything else standing between them and the game against Tet. Long live the Elkian Federation!
Blood Destruction – The Super Cheat
Wow, so much happened in this episode that, by the time I got to the end, I almost forgot that the game against Izuna-tan finished in this episode. What a blast! Okay, let me back up.
Izuna-tan’s Blood Destruction mode lets her boost her physical abilities far beyond her previous limits. You can be forgiven for thinking some of what she did was magic, because no matter how fast you are it doesn’t seem like double jumping should be possible. I won’t argue that because, honestly, how can we prove either side? What I will say is that not only was it great foreshadowing for later on, it did a great job of being so overwhelmingly powerful it was hard to see how Sora and Shiro managed to avoid getting hit for so long. Shiro even exclaimed that Izuna was cheating! It takes a lot to put Shiro on the ropes, even if she was (probably) acting, at least in part. And that shot? Damn! Always remember the double tap, Sora.
The Ultimate Trump Card
I’ve been saying it for the past two episodes, but Steph to the rescue! Backing up, some people thought the equations Shiro was drawing up last episode were kind of silly. How could she anticipate Izuna’s actions so perfectly? Statistics could perhaps help, but even those wouldn’t be certain.
Turns out that’s not what she was doing. I anticipated Steph being the critical point, and even Kuuhaku wearing Izuna out by forcing her to stay in Blood Destruction for so long, but using an NPC to sneak up on her? Using equations to predict Izuna’s actions would be dubious at best, but using them to predict the actions of set NPCs shouldn’t be a problem. They’re all programmed after all.
On the topic of things-Stilts-didn’t-expect, bouncing the shot off Jibril’s to refill Steph’s love power (ammo) was far beyond my expectations. And for those of you who called that Sora would use the pledges on Steph to give her the cutting edge, well done. I didn’t expect that to be used to suppress her intent to attack so she could sneak up on Izuna either. Or Steph to shoot her with her eyes closed!
Great storytelling is often all about expectations. The anticipated show that’s okay will be favored far less than the unexpected show that turns out to be good, even if the anticipated show is objectively better. Defying our expectations again, and again, and again is what makes No Game No Life so much fun.
It’s Okay to Have Fun – Izuna-tan Get-o!
Izuna crying when she thought she let so many people down was heartbreaking–or it would have been, if I knew Kuuhaku wasn’t out to leave anyone beat. They have opponents, certainly, but not enemies, and they want allies (and fellow gamers) more than to trample people beneath their feet. It was a special stroke when they assured Izuna-tan that no matter if she had fun or not, they still would have won. The line between confidence and arrogance is thin, and from anyone else that would have been 100% on the side of arrogance. Not for Kuuhaku!
The World’s Most Brutal Coin Toss
As soon as the story moved to the Warbeast capital, the OST kicked it up another notch. Moments like when Avantheim showed up and Miko-sama’s dash sent chills down my spine. That only matched the worldwide scale of events.
I’ll say this again in the final impressions, but while everyone else is playing checkers, Kuuhaku is playing chess. They might think they’re playing chess, but they’re not – not on the same level Kuuhaku is. Case in point: using not only Elven Garde but Avantheim as well (thanks, Jibril!) to force the Eastern Federation to challenge Elkia. But why is that important?
Elkia doesn’t need the lands it took from the Eastern Federation, it needs the lands + the people + all of their technology. By itself, the land is useless, especially with Elkia’s current (shitty) technology. They need the Eastern Federation to properly make use of it…but the Eastern Federation withdrew all their technology and people. If Sora & Shiro weren’t as smart as they are, that would have likely led to Elkia challenging the Warbeasts again, giving the Eastern Federation the ability to set the rules of the game again. But with Elven Garde and Avantheim breathing down their backs, they didn’t have that choice.
But why didn’t Kuuhaku just add leaving the technology and people there as part of the original bargain? Because 1) the Warbeasts probably wouldn’t have agreed to wagering a bunch of their people in a bet, and 2) They wanted to bring the Warbeasts to the bargaining table. So they needed to leave the Warbeasts with some cards to play, i.e. something that Imanity would want immediately.
The Birth of the Elkian Federation!
Before a game ever starts, Kuuhaku has won. I didn’t for a second think they forgot about Blood Destruction, but I actually thought either winning or losing would be fine with them – either they get Warbeasts back on the continent to help with the land, or they get all of the Eastern Federation. But the latter would make them conquerors, which could be problematic later on.
They took the third option (trope!)–no, they made a third option. Miko-sama (Shindo Naomi) had the flips right, had the coin landed on flat ground, but it didn’t. And here we see another hallmark of how Kuuhaku does business – winning without defiling their opponents. Everyone came out the other side smiling.
Rule Number 10
10. Let’s all have fun and play together!
In an episode full of things I didn’t expect, it all came together when this was explained. Some people noticed that Rule Ten was suspect because Rule Nine, “In the name of God, the previous rules may never be changed”, didn’t encompass the final rule. What everyone I heard from failed to anticipate was that Rule Number Ten is serious business. If you’re not having fun, you’re technically in violation of the rules!
Maybe, maybe. More to the point though, it’s a huge hint about the world Tet wants to see – one where everyone is having fun together. Strife? War? Death? A gamer wants not these, save for on the board of games, between the deck of cards, or on the simulated field of video game battle! No, a gamer wants to have fun, and games are more fun with everyone.
This can only mean one thing: To steal a phrase from Wil Wheaton, play more games! And hopefully we’ll get to see more be played if (when!) No Game No Life gets a second season. Final impressions below.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Steph pulls out the win, Izuna learns to have fun, & the Elkian Federation is born. Everyone have fun! #nogenora 12 END
- I love the lessons good stories can convey. For example: You can either advance your own strategy, or respond to another player’s strategy. Either take initiative or someone else will take it for you, and force you to dance to their tune. That’s as true in real life as it is in games.
- Do you even have to ask, Shiro? Sora would never let others see his imouto naked! (Steph is okay though.)
- “Nobody’s going to die, and nobody’s going to suffer. This world is a game. Everyone here fails to understand that.” Only Kuuhaku really understand the world Tet created. A game can be serious, but it should also be fun!
- Muscular ojii-san is what why noooo!
- “Checkmate doesn’t mean you’ve simply cornered the enemy king. It’s a declaration that the enemy king is yours.” Chills man, chills.
- Kuuhaku are always thinking one (and more!) steps ahead. Hello, Old Deus!
I knew as soon as I saw the artwork for this show that I wanted to blog it. I am glad I did.
Hyper-Competence Done Right
I came into this hoping for a little of that Mondaiji flavor, and got something far better. Hyper-competent characters are tricky because if they’re too good, they can get bland. The usually depend on matching them up against such titanic opponents that it’s only by seeing the unstoppable force battle the immovable object that a proper conflict can be created. We got that, with an interesting wrinkle.
It’s hard to empathize with perfect characters, and that’s what the Sora/Shiro/Kuuhaku dynamic is so friggin’ brilliant (and I say that with all due jealousy, because it’s an idea I wish I had thought up. Brilliant!). Taken by themselves, neither Sora nor Shiro are perfect., so they remain relatable and likable; it’s only together, as Kuuhaku, that’s they’re invincible. That means they know what most invincible characters do not – the sting, and the value, or defeat. They’ve both lost, so they know its value and have learned its lessons. Life beat them down, so they understand that too. Their strength comes from weakness, a weakness we can all imagine, and it’s from weakness that we truly bond with characters. Sora & Shiro have that, while coming together to be the juggernaut that is Kuuhaku for our enjoyment.
Beautifully done. The storyteller within me is weeping.
Another thing No Game No Life does so well is mixing the serious with the silly. Serious business stories can be great, but No Game No Life focuses on what many of us look for in much of our entertainment, and that is entertainment. We want to have fun! The stakes are high, with the fate of nations – or even the characters’ very existences – hanging in the balance, but it never forgets that its role is to entertain, and it’s telling a story about games. Games are fun! And an anime about them should be as well. That’s what No Game No Life was, in spades.
Pitch Perfect Pacing & Direction
I cannot praise director Ishizuka Atsuko and her team enough. Simple things matter, like giving each episode enough time and not rushing to adapt too much material at one time. They followed the (generally) golden rule of four-episodes-per-one-light-novel-volume, and it worked well. It probably didn’t hurt that original creator Kamiya Yuu-sensei was on hand, even writing the script for a couple of episodes, but I can’t praise the fundamentals of this show enough. This is my storytelling geekery showing, but even getting the simple stuff correct is hard, so kudos go to Ishizuka-san’s team for pulling it off. And the seiyuu were superb as well, including a performance I never would have expected from Hikasa Yoko and one unlike anything I’ve ever heard her do from the notoriously one-note Sawashiro Miyuki. Though with Matsuoka Yoshitsugu and Kayano Ai leading the group, we got great things from the beginning.
As for Ishizuka-san herself, she’s directing another show this coming season, Hanayamata, and while it’s markedly different than No Game No Life in many ways, I’ve come to trust her ability enough that I’m going to give it a shot. I hope some of you will join me.
Chess & Checkers
But undoubtedly my favorite part was the care and thought which went into every single game. Once again, I can’t stress how difficult it is to think ahead to the degree that Kamiya-sensei apparently has. While everyone else is playing checkers, Kuuhaku is playing chess, and even when you have total control over the world (as Kamiya-sensei does), you actually don’t. You can’t violate the rules or spirit of your creation, and despite the collision of ridiculous plans, nothing ever felt “forced”. And, because Sora & Shiro are imperfect, even though I know Kuuhaku will beat Elven Garde and the others someday, I still want to see how they’ll pull it off. Watching these games is a whole lot of fun, and like I said, that’s the whole point. No game, no life!
The big question now is “Second season when?” To answer some questions: The BDs/DVDs look like they’re going to sell decently-to-well (probably…the first BD volume just went on sale), there was a huge bump in LN sales after the season started, and yes, there is enough currently released source material for another one-cour season. If I were to bet, I would say No Game No Life will see a second season eventually, and hopefully sooner rather than later. What I know for sure is this – I will be disappointed if one doesn’t happen. No Game No Life has been one of the most fun series I’ve had the pleasure to both watch and blog, and I want more!
I’m looking for an artist for some commission work. If you’re a talented illustrator, email me at stiltsoutloud(at)gmail(dot)com with some samples. If I like what I see, I’ll explain what the job entails. And yes, this is a paying gig.