DVD Review: No Game No Life – The Complete Series
25/02/2016 Leave a comment
After several continuious delays No Game No Life will soon be upon us in a Collectors Edition form, with individual DVD and Blu-ray releases to follow shortly after; so was this series worth the wait or is it just another disappointing franchise pulled over into the UK? Well let’s find out in our DVD Review of No Game No Life.
On the internet, they’re legends: the tag-team duo known as BLANK, famed for their incredible game-playing skills. In the real world, however, the lives of 18 year old Sora and his 11 year old stepsister Shiro have been spiraling out of control. Now existing as shut-ins, they rarely leave their house and are unable to be separated without suffering panic attacks. Games, for them, are the safest retreat from reality. Until they win a chess match against a mysterious opponent known as Tet and find themselves pulled into a game bigger than any they could have ever imagined.
Now, in a world where the outcome of games determines the fates of both civilizations and species, they must defend Humanity in the ultimate challenge, vying against a host of otherworldly competitors for the right to rule them all! But if they fail, it means slavery or destruction for all mankind. No pressure, of course! Can two misfits who can barely handle their own lives somehow rise to the occasion and save the human race?
Before we even approach the story of No Game No Life we must first step back and appreciate the glorious artwork and animation design by MADHOUSE; it may look like Studio GO Hands (K, Mardock Scramble), but it’s not and it looks fantastic. The unique style of colour, the lighting and the animation quality in characters eyes offer a different type of viewing experience and it’s one thats combined well with the every entertaining, and amusing, story that’s on offer.
I had no real idea what to expect from this series and yet I thoroughly enjoyed everything it had to offer; even if some of those things are of a ‘questionable’ nature. In any event No Game No Life follows the brother-sister duo of Sora and Shiro, otherwise known as the unbeatable MMORPG player ‘blank’, as they attempt to survive in a harsh new world run entirely through games and gambling. It’s an unusual setup of events and yet amazingly it works exceptionally well and more importantly gets better as the series progresses forward.
The events unfold when Sora and Shiro, two highly intelligent and experienced gamers, find themselves whisked away into an alternate world after winning a match in an online chess game. The pretence here is that the person who challenged them to this chess game is a god and amazed by their abilities invited them to his world to try and conquer the games within the land. Confused? Well in this world all matters are settled with games – some more interesting than others – and as such Sora and Shiro begin exploring the land to find out more about what it can offer. It’s a story you assume would see Sora and Shiro attempt to return home; but instead it actually sees our protagonists enjoying themselves and never wanting to leave which leads nicely into the next stage of the game.
The next stage is the introduction of Stephanie Dola and her troubles with the kingdom of Elkia and it’s one that outlines the remaining episodes of the series. It’s revealed that Stephanie’s grandfarther, and the previous king of Elkia, gamebled the kingdom of Elkia away to other nations and, at the same time, pledged that the next king would be decided by a gaming tournament. As a result of this the kingdom of Elkia is not only in ruins but an outsider known as Kurami would be in line to next rule the kingdom. Armed with this new information Sora and Shiro, otherwise known together as Blank, team-up with Stephanie to put a stop to this coronation and re-take the land that was lost from surrounding kingdoms.
In a nut-shell this is what No Game No Life offers; a unique tale which sees two gaming-enthuasist thrown into a new world that is dictated by gaming and aid a local in reclaiming her kingdom. It’s not your traditional ‘gaming-tale’ (such as the likes of SAO or Accel World) but it offers a more interesting story that’s not only visually stunning but funny as well. No Game No Life may seem to offer a serious storyline but when you get right down to it it’s an entertaining storyline with plenty of comical banter, inappropriate comments and some sexual innuendo thrown in for good measure. Like i said; it’s a mixture of animation, storytelling and presentation – and yet it somehow works exceptionally well.
There’s no denying it; No Game No Life has the best selection of bonus content ever included on a Sentai-come-MVM released product and so i applaud everyone for leaving it included on the disc. Spread across the two DVD discs we have Commentaries, Chibi-Short Episodes, Promotional Trailers, Textless Songs and Trailers for other Sentai released titles; which is a nice variety of content if i don’t say so myself.
On the first disc are a selection of Cast Commentaries; each of which relate to episodes on the disc. However unlike a traditional commentary these are done from the perspective of the character and not the voice actor – just like they were in the Bakemnogatari franchise – and as such it sees our lead protagonists explaining what happened and elements that led up to it; as well as some occasional banter between characters. In total six commentaries are included; with three on the first disc and the remainder on the second disc and my advice would be to watch them once the series is complete.
The second DVD disc however is where majority of the content can be located; with Promotional Trailers, Textless Songs and anime trailers spread nicely alongside the remaining commentaries. These types of bonus content we are all familiar with; however it’s the inclusion of Six Chibi-Shorts which make this disc (alongside it’s episodic content) worthwhile.
These chibi-shorts feature inspiration from events from within the main series itself and some are more ‘questionable’ than others; for instance one Chibi-episode sees Sora and Shiro getting each-other dressed after reaching the kingdom of Elkia while another sees Stephanie being entangled by a monster. You could say these add no real value or merit to the series itself but they do provide some ‘comical moments’ and – in some cases – can fill in the blanks with some character personalities; although that is at a stretch. It’s also worth mentioning that each of the shorts are available in both English and Japanese (with English Subtitles) and the audio is changed through the setup screen on the main menu.
Media: DVD 9 x2
Running Time: 2:26:49 (Disc 1), 2:26:50 (Disc 2)
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 720 x 576 (576i)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps
Before watching the series I expected No Game No Life to follow two characters as they share their interests in hardcore gaming; and while the latter may be correct it’s actually a story which sees two teenagers thrown into an alternate world by a god in an attempt to liven things up for everyone involved. As such our protagonists not only quickly come to terms with their new reality, and actually like it, but they become wrapped-up in a bigger situation which leads them to take charge of a nation and reclaim lost land.
A uniquely entertaining story, with visually stunning animation and a wonderful cast of characters is what’s on offer here and ironically enough it just gets better with each passing episode; well that’s until it comes to its conclusion of course. No Game No Life could have easily been a longer anime series, and taken more time to explore more of the characters within the world; but at least what we do have is enough to satisfy our needs with the story and love for the characters portrayed on screen. A job well done you might say; even if it is in the odd-nature of entertainment.
Speaking of a job-well-done then MVM Entertainment through disc author Hanabee and original US licensor Sentai Filmworks have to be commended for keeping a variety of bonus content contained within this DVD release of the series. As mentioned previously you can find Commentaries and Chibi-Short Episodes alongside the usual selection of bonus content; all of which have been presented in either subtitled or dubbed form (where appropriate). Speaking of Dubs then we also have to give a thumbs-up to Sentai Filmworks for produce a really good dubs of the series; both English voice actors for Sora and Shiro seem to resonate perfectly with their on-screen –counterparts and my only ‘dub niggle’ would be the English voice actor for Stephanie. Of course the Japanese audio track offers a more ‘natural’ feel to the series but in general both offer a decent experience that you would’nt expect from a Sentai produced release.
Despite my constant positive comments i do have my ‘obvious’ complaint. The DVD version of No Game No Life doesn’t offer the constant video quality one may expect to receive. It doesn’t seem to be an encoding issue or a fault with the discs; it’s just that six episodes per disc, plus bonus content, combined with a uniquely detailed visual style in the show means that some quality is lost. Another issue i experienced with this DVD set is that playback on my PC wasn’t smooth – at first i thought it was just my computer acting strangely but upon inspecting other MVM discs they all played fine. On a whole however this is a superb release by MVM Entertainment, both in presentation and content, but i’d recommend going for the Blu-ray in order to experience the best this series has to offer; it’s visual aesthetic.
No Game No Life – The Complete Series will be released as a Collectors Edition Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack from the 29th February 2016; the stand-a-lone DVD and Blu-ray variations on the other hand will be available from March 2016.