There’s a fundamental problem with No Game No Life in that when the series isn’t revelling in the games that form the core of its mythos, it’s chronically dull. Like a lot of series this doesn’t become apparent until well into its run and for NGNL it’s the shift away from minute-to-minute, seat-of-your-pants gaming pugilism towards the “long game” that starts being played.
they’ll pull through and they’ll do it with enough self-knowing swagger and pomposity to make it seem like it was all planned
Rewind though. Young man and even younger girl get transported to a fantasy realm of elves and angels where every conflict is resolved with a game. These games cover the spectrum from cards to chess to video games and are governed by a set of rules outlined by the whimsical child-like deity Tet. As I mentioned in my Mondaiji-tachi review, it’s a well realised world that takes its core conceit to its logical extreme: nothing is contested without a game. This obviously puts our heroes, Sora and Shiro, at the top of the pile because of their impossibly prodigious game playing abilities.
There aren’t many ways of describing Hitsugi no Chaika (Chaika the Coffin Princess) that don’t boil down to it being “solid”. It starts pleasingly enough pitching a late medieval fantasy world where unicorns aren’t brushed snow stallions but grotesque slathering monsters, then proceeds to flesh out its trio, then quartet, of main characters before concluding with a satisfying end. A second season (or continuation of this season depending on your point of view of staggered broadcasts) has been announced which is unsurprising given that the series has been well received and has enough mileage in its premise to carry it through another dozen or so episodes.
The titular Chaika is an amnesiac goth loli with apple cheeks and a clipped, almost breathless cadence to her speech who is looking for the remains of her father, Emperor Gaz. Enlisting the help of the mercenaries, or “saboteurs” in the series’ lingo, Toru and Akari, the group set off to help Chaika in putting her father to rest. The issue being of course that Gaz was killed because of the war he started that lasted two hundred years, and his remains were separated so that his immense magical powers would not allow him to reform, T-1000 style, and start up hostilities all over again. Nothing is ever easy.
There’s a principle in writing drama coined by Anton Chekhov called simply “Chekhov’s Gun”. It’s a straightforward idea with the spirit of it being “don’t include anything unnecessary”; a lot of anime do it anyway as either a hangover from their manga or light novel source material, as a way to entice viewers further than the first episode, or as a misguided attempt to construct a foundation for additional instalments. If that’s Chekhov’s gun, then Seikoku no Dragonar (Dragonar Academy) is Chekhov’s arsenal. It’s frankly staggering how such a multitude of bits of back story and character development are shown but then never utilised again.
evil schemes so laughably ineffective that all they achieved were minor property damage
Daughter of Avalon? Nope. Silvia and Ash’s history together? Nope. Arranged marriage? Nope. Morally ambiguous teacher? Nope. The list goes on and on until by the end you could make a doily out of all of the plot threads that are left hanging. What you do get in Dragonar then is a whole lot of things you’ve seen before but forced together like ill fitting jigsaw pieces. You’ve got the precocious and pink-haired loli from Zero no Tsukaima, the improbable harem of Infinite Stratos and the throw-away fantasy leanings of too many series to name.
On paper Outbreak Company is, frankly, bobbins. An otaku is transported to a fantasy realm of elven maids, busty werewolves and a pint-sized queen in order to spread the otaku way to them. But of course paper is exactly where it started with a series of ongoing light novels and manga preceding the twelve episode anime which is not only funny in a dorky, self-aware kind of way but also surprisingly sensitive to the panoply of topics it touched upon.
The first it tackles is cultural imperialism: the male protagonist Shinichi, and by extension Japan through his, what else, busty BL-loving JSDF aide, are shown to be sensitive to steamrollering their ideals and morals on the populace of the fantasy realm of Eldant. This creates some oddly atypical situations such as when the diminutive queen verbally and almost physically attacks the lead half-elf maid, a situation defused not by posturing and proselytising but by a measure of understanding. From a western point of view this very pointed approach to diplomacy could be taken as a dig towards the jingoism of real-world recent conflicts and occupations but is more likely aimed inward and towards Japan’s recent past.
Once upon a time there was a girl who had lost her father. Her sister and mother were very upset, but this little girl didn't cry, she refused to believe her father had died. This little girl was Rikka, and she wielded the Wicked Eye: able to summon tremendous dark power; and though she had many minions, her greatest ally was the mysterious Dark Flame Master.
But the Dark Flame Master's powers waned with age and it was up to her Wicked Eye and her devoted minion, Dekomori, to try and save their once great ally and discover the Ethereal Horizon where Rikka's father now resided. There were pretenders, trials and tribulations along the way, and at one point the Wicked Eye lost its vigour all together, but eventually, she prevailed and built a great dark kingdom with her allies.