「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.
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: 「Alive」by (Ayano Mashiro)