No Game, No Life, treads a thin line between wish fulfillment and something more harsh and critical. We follow an 18 year-old NEET brother and his 11 year-old shut-in sister, as they enter a world where everything is decided by games. This leaves the series open to plenty of opportunities for wish fulfillment, yet at the same it doesn’t shy away from depicting this couple as two very depraved and flawed individuals.
Early on in the episode we’re introduced to the brother-sister duo of the story. The room is nearly pitch black and only lighted by the dozen computer screens within. There’s trash and junkfood everywhere, and both siblings are tired and exhausted from gaming so much; Sora has huge bags under his eyes, and we’re informed that Shiro hasn’t slept for five days. As the brother frantically plays his video games, he has a brief exchange about how a gamer like he and Shiro only need glucose and wheat bread to function properly. These clearly aren’t the healthiest people, even if they have perfect anime looks, and the scene is enough to make me feel a little uncomfortable just looking at these sorry humans. With just this one scene, it’s evident that the lives of these two kids really fucking sucks.
Sora and Shiro are really smart too, with the latter literally being a master at math and chess. But they’re utterly lacking in one of the most vital things to success in life: social skills. Yeah you need those in order to make friends, but it’s also important when you want to get a good career for yourself. You need to be able to network, job search, and communicate with your boss and co-workers to make money and support yourself. Sure, you can still succeed in your career without being the most likable person, but when you’re as socially inept as these two hikikomoris, it can be a huge obstacle to overcome. And perhaps more relevant to these children who’ve never even tried to get a job, it’s discouraging. They’re ostracized from their peers with a sense of inferiority. And with enough depression and anxiety, that can lead to becoming a hikikomori.
And it only gets harder to communicate with others the longer you remain a shut-in, so the two of them have just driven themselves into a hole that’s difficult to get out of. Even if they tried to become “normal,” it’d probably take them a while to learn the necessary social skills and get over whatever mental blocks they have. They rely on their computers and games to completely shut themselves away from the world, and dive into some deep level escapism. And ir gives them a sense of power and security make themselves feel good about themselves by doing the one thing they’re good at. Given the circumstances, it’s no wonder they’d want to leave earth and enter a fantasy world, since that’s essentially what they were already doing in the first place.
And then they’re teleported to the fantasy world of Disboard (sounds liked “discord”,) a world in which everything is decided through games. Exactly like how they wish Earth was like. And since these kids are master gamers, they can probably do just about anything they want, cheaters not withstanding. And they’re shown with crowns in the OP too, and in the episode they come to a gambling tournament to decide the next king of the human realm. I think I know where this show is headed with that. Maybe the story will introduce some more master gamers to give our heroes some competition, but we’ll see.
Hopefully No Game, No Life continues to explore these themes, though at this point it could easily devolve into straight-up wish fulfillment. At the very least it should be interesting to see how these kids use their gaming skills to manipulate situations and gain power in Disboard. Sora comes off as a bit morally ambiguous too, which his willingness to cheat and bet the life of his sister—even if he’s 100% sure he’ll win. Before the credits, the episode also ends with Sora looking at a checklist and saying to himself “Let the games begins,” which comes off as rather sinister. These aren’t exactly the kind of people I’d like to see rule a nation, and so it should be interesting to see what they do.
Now as much as I’m liking the story, the color palette for the visuals is absolutely atrocious. The choice of colors for Disboard make it difficult just to look at the series, and I was never a fan of shows that use red instead of black for the line art. If the story continues to live up to its promise I can overlook this, but otherwise it’s definitely an issue. At least they managed to make poker seem exciting and fun to watch.
Sora also acts surprisingly confident and savvy once he’s entered Disboard, with no sign of that communication disorder of his. It’s certainly plausible that the situation could trigger a personality change in him, but completely doing away with his hiki-ways right off the bat is a bit much.
There’s a notable lack of explicit incest or romantic feelings between the siblings, which is nice, but there’s also a fair bit of incest subtext. Early on Shiro says she’ll need more nutrients if she ever wants to “get bigger” while look down at her breasts, to which Sora replies “You’re already a perfect, flawless beauty.” Hint, hint. And Shiro’s pretty sexualized too. One of the first shots we get of her is a close up of her panties and cameltoe, so there’s still plenty of loli pandering to go around. But oh well, at least on a surface level their relationship is genuinely familial and caring, which is sweet.
The next episode preview just shows Sora groping the princess girl, so that should be exciting.