This is one of those strange anime series wherein when I describe it for you, you shake your head and think that I'm making it all up because you, for some reason, think I have an active imagination. I do not, and this show is real.
No Game No Life is about two siblings (18 year-old big brother Sora and 11 year-old younger sister Shiro) who are NEET (meaning they're Not in Education, Employment, or Training) hikikomoris (meaning they sit around their apartment all day doing their best to avoid the outside world). They do nothing but play games all the time, and are known as team "Blank" because whenever they play anybody in any form of online game they never fill in their team name.
Blank never loses. Blank always wins, no matter what game they play — from chess to rock/paper/scissors to word games to the newest FPS. Because of Sora and Shiro's incomparable combined skills Blank cannot be defeated. It is because of this that Sora and Shiro are challenged by the god of gaming, Tet, and brought into the universe that Tet rules, where every decision and challenge must be decided by a game. Sora and Shiro fucking THRIVE in this world, and they decide to beat everybody and every race in this new universe in order to earn the right to challenge Tet (according to his own rules) and become the new gods of the world of gaming.
See, there are 16 separate magical races in this world, including humans ("Imanity," who really have very little if any special powers), elves, war-beasts, ex-gods, and god-killer angels. There's no more straight-up wars after the last one almost wiped out everybody and everything, and the only remaining god still standing, Tet, recreated the new rules of his new world order by making EVERYTHING a game. All disputes are handled by two sides playing any sort of basic or magical game that they must both agree to, and also agree to the stakes involved. Those stakes can be anything from a person's clothes to becoming king of the land, as long as both parties agree to the bet. All bets are magically enforced too so that there's no welshing on them in the end, because you know some assholes would be all like "Uh, no, I didn't REALLY mean to bet my awesome X-Men issue #245 on that game of Super Mario Bros. 3. That was a joke. No, I don't owe you anything! Get out of my house now before I tell my mom on you!".... Fucking asshole John Simmons... Yeah, I still remember, Johnny "On the Spot." And you still fucking suck.
Trust me, No Game No Life is awesome. I know, it sounds incredibly ghey, but it is so much fun, full of so much energy, over-flowing with so much thoughtfulness, and is simply so sharp and smart that it will make a believer out of even the most cynical anime fan out there. Sora and Shiro may be shut-ins with no real socialization skillz, but you quickly take their side and root for them even though if they were real people and you ever met them you'd just want to punch them in the face and tell them to get a fucking job.
At the very start of the show I was a little worried when I was afraid that this was going to turn into another MMORPG-based anime (there have been way too many in the past few years), but thankfully that opening scene in a virtual world was just a red herring. Once our main protags get sucked into Tet's game world, meet their soon-to-be apostle Steph, and start doling out human (or "Imanity") justice on the other 15 races that populate the new dimension that they find themselves in, you begin to fully appreciate the original author's unbelievably genius-level IQ and wit. The WAY that Blank wins some of the challenges placed before them (like a chess game with pieces that think for themselves, or rock/paper/scissors when they tell their opponent that Blank will only be allowed to throw a certain element down) will make you question your own intelligence. When all hope seems lost, when the cards are literally stacked against them, and when the opponent is cheating and Blank even knows it, Sora and Shiro still seem to be at least 2 steps ahead of their enemy. And even knowing that Sora and Shiro are that good and can't be defeated you STILL have to watch just to see HOW they win in the end. I'm telling you, No Game No Life will change how you watch or read any story involving strategies in the future.
Oh, and I need to mention Steph again, the sibling's helper in this gaming world. Steph is a normal person of actually higher than normal intelligence, but when in the company of Blank she's usually caught off guard by their drive and plans and doesn't seem quite so bright (as anybody placed next to them would). But there are times when she states something that she figured out that is really complicated and detailed and Shiro and Sora are seriously surprised and aghast, and it makes me laugh like a 13 year-old boy who just figured out what all those dirty jokes his older cousins had been telling him his whole life were all about.
Art-wise No Game No Life is a strange one. It's one of the most insanely colorful anime I've ever stumbled upon, and most of the lines are drawn in red instead of black, which has a very odd effect on the whole feel of the thing. Some people have told me that this took them out of the story and made it hard to focus on it, but I had no such problems, and actually felt that it helps you to appreciate the wonderful drawings and animation (and the magical world as a whole) more since it's such a new visual element.
Other than that, the pacing of this short 12 episode series is good, but I just wish it was a full 24 to 26 episode show. There are about a half-dozen light novels of the original story already released, so they have plenty of plot to go by, but we only really see Sora and Shiro play their games against a few of the many races of this magical land. I wanted more. They had better be working on a sequel already. I need more Blank in my life!
I may not know much in regards to all the high tech video games with the Marios and the Auto Thefting and all that, but board games and chess! Ah, now you're talking my language.
Anyway, this series reminded me of that time I lost a limb when the hybrid jackal/grizzly bear I had been fusing together broke free of its bonds and ate part of me. There I was, bleeding out in my lab while my young, sexy, and very large breasted personal multi-cloned assistant charged the rampaging beast with a hand grenade in her cleavage, vaporizing them both in a cloud of red mist, when all of a sudden the Grim Reaper himself appeared in front of me.
After previously watching The Seventh Seal (or for you young 'uns, it's the Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey of my generation), I knew that I could challenge Death to a game of my choosing to see if I could escape my ever-lasting fate of probably Hell for at least a few more decades (or longer if I can crack that eternal-youth regenerative stem-cell experiment and finally suck out all the genetic materials I need from Jimmy Jammer's ass... It's strange, it's like he has an unborn twin that he absorbed in the womb that he just can't poop out). Death agreed, and I challenged him to the ultimate game of Mattel's brand-new at the time Handheld Football computer game.
See, my gambit was that this new technology in 1977 would befuddle the classically-themed specter of Death, and that he would be too confused to even play it. Well, in actuality it confused us both to the point of nobody knowing just what the heck was going on in that little portable device. Honestly, it had 6 or 7 red dots that lit up seemingly at random, and neither of us could figure out when we were playing offensive or defensive. And it would not stop bleeping and blooping mockingly at us until Death had enough and smashed the system on the ground next to my lovely assistant's jawbone.
After that it turned out that Death was a good sport though and he stitched me up himself and told me "GOOD GAME." before he left to pick up Elvis. I of course wish I got to meet the King, but I was grateful enough just to be alive. And that's when I constructed my new cybernetic leg from my old Kirby and the remains of the grizzly bear that I had stored in the freezer.
I love games. Especially DRINKING games! When they gonna hit on that plot twist in this anime, huh?
Get Sora playing some beer pong, ya know? Have Shiro play drunk darts, or have them both challenge the ex-gods to "Das Boot"? I'd watch that shit.
This show just seemed to try too hard to be clever. Yeah, it was a smart series, blah, blah, blah, blahdy, blah... But it just rubs its smartness in the viewer's face. Ugh. It's obnoxious. But whatevs. It wasn't that bad a show, there were just a few times where we had to rewind the episode a bit to figure out just how Sora and his sister beat an enemy with their logic and shit. That was just a bit embarrassing.