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.
Accel World owes a lot to Serial Experiments Lain. The script may not be penned by Chiaki J. Konaka and has yet to deal with digital deities but a great many of this new series' ideas can be traced back to it.
there is a fundamental stumbling block to the kind of time-stoppage seen in Accel World: biology
Lain itself is of course based on volumes of, what was then considered fringe, research on the unstoppable onset of the Internet and digital devices - Project Xanadu and Memex are just a couple of its mentioned inspirations. When Lain was released mobile phones weren't remotely close to the technological marvels they are today and the concept of wireless access to the Internet (ne. The Wired) was still far fetched. The beating heart of the series though was the eponymous Lain's attempts to be subsumed into the digital world by pursuing a "deviceless" way to access the network.
With a title that summons up thoughts of other infamous maid focused shows such as He Is My Master and a premise which seems ripe to follow in the lusty sexualisation of maids demonstrated so keenly by other series, Kaichou wa Maid-sama! does not seemed primed for success. Surprising then that the opening three episodes are so superbly proportioned - often amusing, sometimes touching but always great fun. Its greatest triumph though is not the feministic duality of a strong-minded school girl with a subservient part-time job, or a protagonist with genuine and affecting reasons for her quiddities, but how expertly it demystifies maid cafés: turning them from restaurants of desire into just another workplace. It's hard to imagine the remainder of the series will sputter when the pace and quality of its beginning is so capable.
the exposure of the cafés as something not simply for the deviant or socially maligned makes them seem more accessible
Misaki Ayuzawa lives with her peculiar younger sister and frail mother in a decrepit house - surviving day-to-day after her father disappeared, saddling the family with a large debt. To make up for the loss of income, Misaki took a job in a maid café in a neighbouring town, working whenever she can - including after school where she has risen through grit and determination to become a much respected student council president. As one of only a few girls in the recently boys-only school she is fiercely competitive and is known throughout the student body as strict and unyielding. That is until a handsome and capricious boy, Takumi Usui, discovers her occupation as a maid, threatening to undermine the position she built for herself at school. Takumi is not all that he seems however and despite others finding out her profession, her secret remains safe for the time being.