When No Game No Life debuted a few years ago, I found that I loved its premise, art style, and the games that made up the battles in the magical world of Disboard. I was impressed with the brother-sister combo of Team Blank, and how this duo used their mad gaming skills to take down all competitors in any kind of competition they encountered. True, No Game No Life was a little bit pervy (lots of panty shots, and a weird, borderline incestuous connection between the main leads), but not distractingly so.
And so, a few years later (meaning "now"), a sequel/prequel story has been animated, but this "Zero" story is about 98% prequel to the original tale. And I'm quite happy with the outcome, despite the fact that I am really chomping at the bit for more gaming shenanigans of Team Blank. In fact, Blank (and all their collective colleagues) only appear for about 4 minutes of screen-time that book-end the actual main story, which is a creation tale of how Disboard came to be.
So it's not a "remake" movie? It is indeed a sequel?
Well, it's mostly a prequel, but yes, it's not a remake, or something that simply reuses animation from the show in a cheap way to save a buck.
Well..... Did you LIKE it?
I really enjoyed No Game No Life: Zero, even though it is NOTHING like the original TV series. The playful feel of the TV show, the bright colors and unusual setting of the magical Disboard realm is not to be found in this flick. Instead, the world that we encounter here is dark, destroyed, and toxic. Humans have to scuttle around, living in underground caves to survive, avoiding the constantly falling ash from the poisonous skies due to it literally burning their flesh if it makes contact.
The movie takes place 6,000 years before the events of the show, and the world is on the brink of utter destruction, with the Elves, Flugel, Dwarves, Warbeasts, Ex Machinas robots, the old Deus, and a bunch of other species fighting tooth and nail for dominance. It looks as if nobody will survive the apocalyptic war that is currently being waged.
That sounds absolutely NOTHING like the TV series. Are you sure you liked it?
NGNL:ZERO is almost the antithesis of NGNL: The Series. The fact that it's different doesn't automatically make it bad or good. The characters and the plot make it bad or good. And in this case, the dark tones and apocalyptic tale were good, despite their differences from the original show. But let me get back to the narrative.
Several of the sides that are brawling have at their disposal "ultimate weapons" of either science or magic, and they all have their fingers hovering over the big red button.
Into this conflict, the young human leader Riku meets up with an Ex Machina female he nicknames Schwi (pronounced "Shu-vee") in the pits of a crumbling ex-Elf city. She latches on to him since she's left the Ex Machina collective in search of what humans call "the soul." The other Ex Machina do not believe that the soul exists, or if it does, they maintain that it does not matter to their collective existence. Schwi thinks otherwise, and through her interactions with Riku and his dwindling clan she hopes to understand the soul, and through that, everything that matters in this world.
Together Riku and Schwi, along with the remains of the humans, take it upon themselves to manipulate and trick all the other (much more powerful) warring species into giving up their chance to have their god "win" by becoming the most powerful, last standing being on the planet, thereby winning full control over Disboard and being given absolute power to recreate the world in their image.
If you've seen the TV series, or read the light novels, you already know if they succeeded or not, so I won't talk any more about how they went about doing what they did, since I think you should watch this movie if you in any way enjoyed what you've seen before. I'll now jump into how the story was told.
Does this involve spoilers?
I will probably let some heavy ones slip, so yeah, feel free to call it.
The first half of this thing is kinda cringe-worthy. When Riku and Schwi first meet (she being a 10 year-old-looking robot girl), there are way too many weird "jokes" about her accepting Riku as her "nii-san", and then asking if he wants to procreate with her, even though she has no orifices down below.... It's about as creepy and bad as you'd think.
The reason I put the word "jokes" in quotes up above is because this movie is virtually devoid of any humor. It is as dark, depressing, and dismal as the No Game No Life TV show was bright, comical, and funny. In this flick, the world is basically dead. There's no more sunlight, no more trees, and no more birds or beasts on the surface. The tone of the story is sad and dispiriting, and everyone is on the verge of just giving up.
The first half of Zero goes on just a bit too long. They explain the state of the world, the humans' place in the war, how all the other races are ready and willing to destroy everything for the chance to win, and they just wallow in the doom and gloom. We the viewers just watch Riku and Schwi play game after game after game of chess as they talk about how shitty things are. We already saw the cost of this conflict, and we understand how it's mentally and physically taking its toll on everyone, especially Riku... But they just won't move on beyond it. The narrative and characterizations don't progress, they just flounder.
You just made me hate this movie. I hate that kind of repetitive shit.
Now hold on, hold on... I'm about to change your mind, just like my mind was changed for me.
Then, the slowness and almost tediousness ends rather abruptly when Riku proposes marriage to Schwi (it is a very strange proposal, and it comes from out of nowhere at the time) and together they come up with a plan to not only save humanity, but resurrect the world, with the goal of not letting anybody else die. A lofty, and somewhat overzealous goal, yes, but the characters' exuberance sells it.
Then the second half of the tale starts up, and interesting shit finally starts happening, and the payoff for the first part of the movie comes into play. I still think that they could have done more to make the beginning of this flick a little more exciting (without losing its main point [that being "this world is dead"]), but the end of it totally makes up for any pacing issues in the first half. I'm not talking about ACTION or any out of place battles or anything so crude (that's not what No Game No Life is about), I'm just talking about THINGS HAPPENING. The humans start acting and molding the different factions to their own advantage, using their god-given wiles to twist the world and guide it into a direction that they want.
The second half actually made me forget how much the first part dragged. I (and my friends) mostly just remembered the much more interesting ending to this movie than we did the almost boring beginning. Not that the first half is terrible, it's just not as memorable and exciting as the second part. Character building is one thing, but honestly, more development happened with the cast in the more exciting second half, proving that the beginning was just slow for no reason other than to stretch out the runtime to feature-film length.
Okay... I'm still kind of sold. Are the spoilers over?
They are over.
What else did you like about NGNL:ZERO?
I liked the characters in Zero, even the ones that were only on screen for a short amount of time (like the Ex Machina collective, the Flugels, and the Elves). They all fit their roles and what we already knew of their races from the series. I liked the character designs well enough, but like I pointed out before, everything in the movie was less colorful and more dreary than the TV show, but that was kind of the point of it. It was a creation story, and it showed us the creation of Tet's Disboard rather well.
I liked the sound of the movie too. That's not something I normally pay attention to in my anime (most of the shows and stuff that I watch are not that audibly dynamic), but watching this in the theater with the speakers cranked, the sound effects and explosions and everything were very well produced.
That's pretty much all that I have. If you liked the series, you'll like the movie. If you haven't seen the series, the movie will mean a little less to you, but it will still be enjoyable as its own tale of destruction and rebirth... You may just have more questions as to the nature of the Flugel, Elves, and Warbeasts than the movie has answers, but that should lead you to get excited for the No Game No Life TV series or books.
But I can't read...
And BOOM goes the dynamite.
No Game No Life was a weird, but entertaining series that was candy-colored and different from almost anything else I'd seen before. This prequel movie is bland, boring, and dullllllllllllllllll. I fell asleep multiple times during it (the Rossman was always oh-so-kind to wake me up with a hard nudge to the ribs every time I started to snore), so I don't think that I got the entire full experience that non-sleeping audiences did, but it doesn't look like I missed much.
And man, is it actually funny in Japan when underage characters throw themselves sexually at older people? How many goddamn times did that preteen robot girl offer to blow or straight up fuck that main guy? Jesus Christ! Take a fucking cold shower, Japan. You island nation of fucking perverts!
For as visually dark as this thing was, the main point to it seemed to be that you should never give up hope, or some-such shit like that. Let me tell you something, pal... Sometimes you DO need to give up hope in order to live a relatively healthy life. Take me for example. I've given up hope to ever win the lottery, eat a pizza larger than myself in one sitting, or have an afternoon of no-consequences sex with the newest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover model... Whoever she may be. Trust me, I'm much happier without all that stuff weighing on me.
Did I see the show this movie was based on? No, really, I'm asking. I honestly have no idea anymore. All these shows and movies look the same, and they're all filled with the same perverted characters. I just don't get it or understand it.
So, there's this world where all the humans are either dead or eating rats in caves, but robot chicks and angels and dog men and elves and shit walk around the world declaring war on everyone else. Then some guy finds an underaged robot chick and their unearned love saves the world... I don't think I've ever seen anything with that exact plot before, but it felt cliched as all fuck out. And it was slow. And it was just sooooo dark. Did they only have shades of gray set aside to paint this thing? That makes no sense though, since everything is digitally colored nowadays. Whatever.
Just rewatch The Little Mermaid or Aladdin or something if you're in the mood for an animated movie. Leave No Game No Life: Zero alone.