「First Game」 (Fāsuto Gēmu)

Darwin’s Game is like many others of its kind. Our protagonist gets sucked into a game where the stakes, unbeknownst to him, are life or death. The mobile gaming app called “Darwin’s Game” uses a virtual snake to inject ‘venom’ bestowing a ‘gift’ onto each user. This gift is called a sigil and each player has a different one. Using these newfound abilities, they engage in life and death battles in order to survive.

In this first episode, we’re introduced to Sudo Kaname (Kobayashi Yuusuke), a high school student who is thrust into this vicious killing game by a stroke of bad luck. Without any training or explanation, within hours of tapping a link, he becomes the prey of a hunt during which three other individuals die. After these unbelievable events occur, Kaname searches for the truth but in the end, finds only the perfect partner in crime, Karino Shuka (Ueda Reina). She’s powerful, a little off the rails, and most importantly, in a shounen like this, submissive to a powerful main.

Not that I feel the need to justify it, but my opinion stems from years, if not decades of watching anime so I do understand that the series coming out now was developed with the new generation of anime viewers in mind. But as you continue to read, beware that I’m filtering out all the bits as to why this just isn’t my cup of tea. I will say that the level of gore in the show is adequately present for a killing game and it’s probably my only hook for now.

General Impressions

This one is difficult. I’m not too sure what kind of expectations I had watching this episode but, if I had had any, the reality is that the premiere of Darwin’s Game didn’t leave me with the best of first impressions. The premise is unoriginal but still has intrigue. Even though there have been other series that fall along the lines of mobile-death-killing games (Mirai Nikki, Eden of the East, etc.), the difference here is the ‘evolutionary’ abilities each player is given. This slight difference, however enticing, doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence in what comes later. We have a protagonist who, to me, seems overpowered after just a single episode and a lot of copycat ideas floating about.

In the history of anime, there have definitely been acceptable if not amazing episodes that exposed much more with much less screen time. So why choose to make this premiere incredibly long? The very little bits of exposition offered during this 43-minute premiere only made me question the logic behind the world.

Actually, the more the story progressed, the more questions I had. And not of the ‘I am intrigued by this’ kind. More along the lines of ‘none of this makes sense.’ How is it that their cellphones aren’t connected to the outside world, yet our main protagonist, Kaname, could easily talk to a police officer who, within seconds of the event, gets killed by another player? What happens to this police officer after his death? Does he also disappear like the players do – ‘death by pixels’? And, if cell phones can’t connect to anything outside the game’s world during a battle, why was it OK for a non-player to hit a player with his car who then dies of his wounds in the midst of this same battle?

Building a world requires rules. But when rules don’t adhere to any logic, this is where the story loses its footing. I acknowledge I’m being harsh but it would be nice to have some sort of glue that holds the mould together.

Perhaps these empty slots will be filled as the series progresses. The details around the world-building might come to light on a step by step basis, or at least I hope so. I’m usually enraptured by series such as these but for now, I’m feeling a distance creeping in.

Our main character is also quite bland, with the exception that he’s just been paired up with the ideal partner in crime. I imagine, just like it Mirai Nikki, the more he connects with Shuka, the more he’ll learn and the more we’ll discover about him. Based on the ED, which I think is actually nicely done, he’ll be joined by at least three other members forming some kind of band or pact. I’m leaving some space for growth here, in both the character and the series. I’m mostly reacting because this very long first episode was underwhelming.

I’ll be watching the next two episodes to get a fuller view of what’s meant to be a pretty well-anticipated series and I’m hoping to be proven wrong. I have been in the past so at least there’s hope yet.

ED Sequence

ED: 「Alive」by (Ayano Mashiro)


  1. There is no hole in logic here, you just missing something very simple.

    Game is played in real world (or else those pixels won’t be visible). You can see that both Player weren’t get teleport into a different world or a closed space during the game right?

    Talking/interacting with normal people outside a game is possible, of course. And you can easily assume that the app in the phone simply prevented him from making the call with it during the game since Darwin’s game app is running on it.

    1. But why would an app stop you from making a call if you could just use a payphone? Or your computer? Or a stranger’s phone which won’t have the app running? I’m not entirely convinced just yet.

      1. *tiny spoiler*
        You need to see, Darwins Game is older than what the beginning suggest.
        There will be a scene, where an ancient skeleton have a sigil on his neck.
        So there most be another way of physic interactive around the people, like a code in, the genetic code to leave an area when a game starts or in the technic, indirect integrated over hundreds of years, from the administration of the game, so they can manipulate all they want to their need for the game, like disable outgoing communications.
        The Administrations of the game is like an underground world government.
        The App is only a modern solution to interact with the players, nothing more, there is more than the app, because the app vant teleport you, the app cant make you a pixle mashup.

  2. I liked the first half. The second half seemed kind of boring, but it turned out OK.

    Surely someone would notice all these missing people right? And what does happen to NPCs that get killed?

  3. “What happens to this police officer after his death? Does he also disappear like the players do – ‘death by pixels’?”
    No in fact, the anime cut the scene, but right after her orders the gun, a pair of detectives investigating the officer’s death pay a visit to his place because he left his bag at the crime scene. They made several cuts and changes to the start of the story, presumably for brevity. Also it seems the first ep is long because it’s going to run 11 eps, so really they just did the first two eps in 1 week instead of running for 12 weeks I guess.

    1. Given there are always cameras and eye witnesses you’d think the police would just start rounding up players and gunning down those unwilling to go. If you can run down players you can also just use regular police forces. The odd thing is they explicitly show staff being alerted to their behavior and the police also reacting and nonplayers killing players. If the phone blocking is just on the software level and not magic then they could just use another phone. Apple and Google would also just use their killswitches to block the messages and non magic side of the apps from being downloaded or installed. A dns block and an ISP level ban with an IMEI/Sim OTA brick would kick off every player in one go and prevent the use of the phone on any network while also uninstalling the game of every phone forcefully as it is certainly breaking ToS by a lightyear. Just a wiff of an association with countless dead users and nonplayers would get it so quickly wiped off the internet. Funny thing is that existing users would retain their magic powers but would have no UI to find or battle other people.

      It would make a lot more sense if there was a reality perception filter that prevented police or bystandards from interfering so people like the police or google couldn’t do anything because it’s magic. Otherwise governments would quickly catch on and start abusing the game to break physics for economic and military purposes. The main character can seemingly duplicate objects at a distance which is pretty op power. Yozakura Quartet op magic everywhere with a similar ability user duplication magic works a lot better as a magic system in the real world kind of situation.

      1. It’s an advanced malware. DNS block and ISP level bans are actually easy to bypass. IMEI and sims are spoof-able too, Of course that assume that they are still connected to their current provider and not redirected elsewhere. Easiest thing to do is actually to ditch the phone. Can’t say if there are consequences in doing that.

      2. If you’re saying there are police as major characters, I’m intrigued now. I think the single-player story (from Kaname’s perspective) wasn’t enough to justify what was happening around. A few interchangeable characters or storylines might have given this more substance. Either way, like I said at the end, I’m still somewhat interested. Just not as much as I wish I was.

    2. True it’s only 11 episodes but this first episode is regarded as a first according to sources and not a combination of two.

      I saw the cut, but to me, it really seems as though there isn’t consistency around the disappearances of people who actually live in the real world. How long has this game been around?

      Either way, I’ll watch the next few episodes to see if this leads somewhere.

  4. Came in with low expectations. Was actually impressed in how they managed to keep the tension. Choreography and audio was actually quite good.

    Won’t comment on the story since I’ve read this half a decade ago. Don’t remember every detail, but I did watch this with no sense of mystery. Can’t say I saw any glaring flaws besides the school nurse accepting an empty form. But also can’t say if this’ll pass anyone’s three episode rule.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *