Posts with the “games” tag

Travelling without moving

A review of the second Sword Art Online anime series

Some way into this second series of Sword Art Online I found myself thinking that it was quite brave. Taking the clown-shoed silliness of the first series and slowing everything down, focusing on characters and setting, seemed like an odd decision. Like so many other aspects of Sword Art Online II though, I was disappointed. It’s not being brave, just invoking standard shounen-esque time wasting. Meaning if you watched the series as it aired you will have spent several weeks watching wunderkind Kirito and newcomer Sinon sit in a virtual cave in the middle of a virtual desert.

Imagine a character that is part Jesus Christ and part James Dean and you get the idea

I shouldn’t really have expected anything else really. I liked the simplicity of the first series’ bifurcated storyline in a schlocky, intelligence-lite way, but the spark of that first storyline - trapped in a virtual world, die here and you die for real - was gone. Alfheim, the fairy filled fantasy funfair that occupied the second half of that series and is now the staple MMO for the core cast, was bright and cheerful but lacked the tangibility of Aincrad. It’s disheartening then that this second series kicks off by plunging Kirito into the grimy, gunmetal grey world of Gun Gale Online.

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Player of games

A review of the No Game No Life anime series

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.

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A review of the Mondaiji-tachi anime series

If you were in a hurry you could easily mistake Mondaiji-tachi’s premise for No Game No Life’s: bored children get transported to an alternate world where they join an underdog group and take part in sanctioned games to win glory and territory. Even though, it give it it’s full title, Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai Kara Kuru Sou Desu yo? (Problem Children are Coming from Another World, aren’t they?) starts with the same kind of torturous lateral thinking that typifies NGNL, their core difference is that series’ reliance on the “games” is all-encompassing and its fantasy-tinged world is a lot more cohesive than the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach taken here.

one of them got to punch a dragon while another shoulder-locked a lycanthrope

Its poster child, Black Rabbit (who is for some reason primarily blue as well as sometimes pink), is a prime example of this. Bunny girls are few and far between in anime in general, far more often it’s cat girls and fox girls who steal the limelight, yet here, just in case bunny girls aren’t your thing, there are also cat girls. And dog girls. And vampires. And fairies. And lizard people. And weretigers. You get the idea. Coherence or even a united vision for the series’ world isn’t high on the list of priorities and it prefers to throw enough at you in the hope that some of it sticks.

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