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No Game No Life Complete Collection Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

13 min read

No Game No Life CESometimes you can get to the world you were meant to be born into.

What They Say:
On the internet, they’re legends: the tag-team duo known as BLANK, famed for their incredible game-playing skills. In the real world, however, the lives of 18-year-old Sora and his 11-year-old stepsister Shiro have been spiraling out of control. Now existing as shut-ins, they rarely leave their house and are unable to be separated without suffering panic attacks. Games, for them, are the safest retreat from reality. Until they win a chess match against a mysterious opponent known as Tet and find themselves pulled into a game bigger than any they could have ever imagined.

Now, in a world where the outcome of games determines the fates of both civilizations and species, they must defend Humanity in the ultimate challenge, vying against a host of otherworldly competitors for the right to rule them all! But if they fail, it means slavery or destruction for all mankind. No pressure, of course! Can two misfits who can barely handle their own lives somehow rise to the occasion and save the human race?

Contains episodes 1-12 plus a CD, a poster, 9 stickers, 6 postcards, a foil card, an authenticity card, and playing cards, all in a chipboard art box.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is done with the original Japanese language in stereo as well as the English language dub, both of which are encoded using the lossless DTS-HD MA codec. The series is one that does largely play to dialogue in its design, but it has a lot of creative little areas with the incidental sounds and some good action sequences from time to time that lets it flex itself a bit. This comes more in the big match towards the end, but there are a few other little encounters along the way. The music is at its strongest with the opening and closing as one would expect, but the incidental music throughout has its moments as well, particularly in the bigger sequences, but some of the quieter pieces are very good as well. The show works with the forward soundstage as a whole with the dialogue so we get good placement throughout and there’re some really fun moments of depth with the way the cast grows and as certain characters are abused.

Video:
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second, which also has the commentary episodes as well. Animated by Madhouse, this is one absolutely beautiful show in its design. It’s the show where you realize the color designer really deserves several raises because it’s just so striking and sets the tone so well that you still notice it constantly even as you get to the end of the season rather than being numbed to it. Those colors and the amount of detail throughout the show are beautifully captured in the transfer that has some really great pop of color and vibrancy to it that it stands out in a huge way. This is definitely the kind of show whose quality and budget is all in the presentation and it pays off handsomely, which is made all the clearer with the encoding here. Colors are crisp and solid, the dark areas are well handled and there’s nothing to be seen when it comes to line noise or background problems. Just a gorgeous looking release through and through.

Packaging:
For a twelve episode series, this packaging just feels nuts as it’s a huge box that holds so much stuff. The oversized heavy chipboard box reminds me more of the box sets from years ago with the six-volume releases. It’s done up with some great silvers and pinks to make it stand out by using the color design from the show. The front panel of the box gives us our two leads with a beautifully detailed piece as they’re curled up together with some of the key elements of the show there. It’s so rich in color and detail that you can spend a lot of time admiring. The same can be said of the back cover, which is given over to Jibril against a more mixed pink and silver design that has a lot of great color to it, particularly with the hair design. Most of the time you can ignore the spine on sets because it’s so small, but here the wide space is given over to a shadowed chessboard image in the pinks with the logo running through it.

Inside the box, we get three DVD sized cases to hold everything. The first case holds the two Blu-ray discs and uses another pairing of Shiro and Sora for its cover against a white background that again has a lot of pop. The DVD case is given over to Stephanie, also against a white backdrop, that has some really beautiful color design here as well that’s highly appealing. The back covers for them break tradition for Sentai in terms of layout as we get vertical strips going down on them based on the number of discs in the set. Each strip breaks down the episodes by number and title along with a shot from the show. Locations of the extras for each respective disc are also listed. Both the DVD/BD cases have artwork on the reverse side and they provide expanded looks at the main cast while also using more backgrounds from the show. The CD soundtrack cover uses the artwork from the front of the box, though with a pinkish hued background instead. It does its back cover the same as the DVD/BD cases, but it doesn’t use any artwork with it. With there being three soundtracks included in the one case, it covers a lot of material. The reverse side artwork for this goes for a fun bathing scene for Izuna and the others from the Federation.

Also inside the box is another box that holds all the collector’s items goodies. The box itself is the usual thin spacer box, but it has more great artwork with Kurami and Fil on one side while the other is given over to Izuna. Within the box, we get the playing card deck, complete with Tet as the joker, which is so appropriate, and a whole lot more. Every piece of the postcard collection is frameable with some beautiful images, there’s a colorful embossed card with the logo on one side and the two leads on the other. We also get an adorable set of stickers of the cast in cutiefied form. A certificate of authenticity is included as well, individually numbered (#1853 here) that provides the ten pledges of Tet for journeying in Disboard that’s done on some decent cardstock. And finally there’s the foldout poster, which uses the image from the embossed card on one side and one of the group pairings from the DVD cases back cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release works a simple approach but it does it in a really good way. Going with static backgrounds, the menu design along the left has the brighter futuristic gamer colors here with the pinks, whites and blues to tie it all together as we get the episodes listed by number and title. Submenus load quickly and easily for both languages and extras and it has a good feeling overall when you use the pop-up menu during the show as it feels like you’re watching the game more. The first disc uses a beautiful image of the two leads curled up together in their room as the hazy light from the monitors shines on them. The second goes for a more colorful image of them in the world of Disboard that is just full of an insane amount of detail and color.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty good overall and fans will be very glad to have the bonus shorts. The six shorts here were spread across the six Japanese home video releases and they’re basically just under three minute pieces that are playful with the characters. I’m hesitant to call them animated since it’s mostly stills that are well utilized, but it’s fun to push the characters in weird directions and play more to the fanservice, which is what the buyers want. The release also comes with the Japanese commentaries for a few episodes, which are kept completely separate here, and we get the good round of original promos and commercials alongside the clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series by Yuu Kamiya, No Game No Life is a twelve episode animated series from Madhouse. The original work started back in 2012 from MF Bunko J and as of this writing there are seven novels produced about this story, which gives me hope for more of this series in the future. While I didn’t see it during its original simulcast run in the spring of 2014, I knew a lot of very enthusiastic fans that were all over it in a big way. So when Sentai Filmworks acquired it, and then announced that it was getting this elaborate kind of collector’s edition release, you know that it likely warranted some real attention. After burning through the series in mostly the space of a day, it’s the kind of show where I’m now stomping my feet in saying that there damn well better be another couple of seasons of this made.

The premise of this series is certainly familiar, but it’s all in the execution and the scale of it. We’re introduced to eighteen year old Sora and his eleven year old sister Shiro. Both are complete NEETs in a big way and spend their time gaming constantly – to the point where they’re really not taking care of themselves physically. The two have worked through probably countless hours upon hours of gaming and have established a reputation as the group known as Blank. They’re unbeatable and have always won. whether their opponents were highly skilled or cheating. Though we don’t see that skill in the prologue, just what we get from them and their style and some of the noise made about them in the gaming world makes it clear that they’re a force that can’t be dealth with. They’re just that good.

Their talk about not being right for this world, viewing it as a game where there’s seven billion players in it that have no real intention of playing the game, they’re at a loss and just focus on what they can. But it’s at this point that the opportunity comes up. Through a game of chess offered to them online, they’re able to easily beat their opponent, relatively speaking, but it reveals that the other play is actually Tet, the god of a wholly other world that’s all about gaming. Not video games per say, but games and luck and skill in just about every part of life. With a series of ten pledges that governs this world, called Disboard, all conflict must be dealt with in this way as Tet has removed the One True God and taken over. It’s turned the sixteen races of this world into large groups of players in a sense and the whole thing is hugely appealing to the siblings.

For those that have watched series involving people/gamers from the real world going to other worlds like this, where it’s a fantasy-ish kind of place, there’s certainly familiarities to be had. Sora and Shiro figure out the basics rules and the tricks to working with them quickly and they run into a lot of encounters that lets them basically climb the ladder of civilization in a very fast way. Considering their reputation of never losing, that plays into it here so you kind of have to believe that they will win because that’s part of the draw. The other part is seeing how they do it, which comes from a bit of internal dialogue at times, breaking down the games yourself as they unfold and seeing the ways to win and sometimes just enjoying the hell out of it waiting to see what they pull out of their hat. With Sora and Shiro essentially taking over the kingdom of Inmanity in the first couple of episodes, you know that they’re going to play at a large scale and for me that’s an immense draw. Rather than focusing on the slow climb, these are the Star Players and they know how to work the system and do so without any guilt or problem.

With a grand scale ahead of it as we see how the pair use their skill and knowledge to understand the various races while pulling in their own sim game knowledge on how to manage it, it’s fun to see the quick rise they take in Imanity while still keeping to some of their NEET ways. The personal interactions with others are a treat as well, such as taking on the former king’s granddaughter, Stephanie, as a kind of guide and useful tool for various plays they make along the way. Stephanie provides the local view of things and guides us through the world, but she also suffers the most from the siblings as they toy with her in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to the perverted side that Sora is honing so well as an eighteen year old NEET virgin who has spent his life gaming. The cast expands well as it goes on, with Kurami and her plans to try and take the kingdom, an angel-like person from the Flugel race that craves knowledge (and Sora’s iFruit device with thousands of reference books) and several others along the way. Of course, most of them are women as there’s little need or desire for a show like this with Sora’s point of view to bring in any competition. That’s what drives the big fantasy aspect of it for the character, especially as he denies himself things that are almost freely offered to him.

And this is probably the most problematic relationship that exists in the show. Sora and Shiro certainly play up the bro/sis-con stuff, but there’s a lot of deeper meaning to it that’s brought in as we get some flashback material that shows Shiro at two years old and how isolated she was. It’s difficult to see them at their present ages where they’re unable to be separated as it sends Shiro into a real panic attack, and there’s obviously the potential disturbing ideas of what things happen with the kind of closeness they have. They’re like two halves though, when you get down to it, but halves where Sora is a lot more playful and teasing while always drawing the line about actually doing anything – or making you believe he would actually do anything. Though there are uncomfortable moments, the end result is that these two are a really great dynamic to watch play out because even if the idea is familiar it’s executed in such a way that it feels fresh, intense and highly engaging.

No Game No Life has one other asset that cannot be overlooked in what makes it so much fun. Madhouse simply put everything into it. With the original novels having some utterly gorgeous designs, there’s always the feeling that the anime can’t live up to those illustrations. Here, they make the expected changes in adapting from one to the other, but they don’t skimp on the big things. It’s a high budget show with lush visuals and a drop dead gorgeous color design that has me saying it should not be released on DVD because it cannot do it justice. The look of the show is highly important to the tone and atmosphere of it as it’s truly otherworldly while familiar. There are moments where it gets reduced in color and you realize just how important it is. Color design like this can also often end up feeling diminished as it goes on because you get used to it, but it’s used so expertly here and so strongly that it stands out constantly and makes the whole show feel like a far richer experience.

In Summary:
I had no idea what to expect with No Game No Life going into it but I came out of it demanding that there be more Right This Instant. This is that kind of series where you feel the pain of it not having more yet and craving news every day. I tend to not fanboy over a lot of shows simply because I see so many and there aren’t a lot that are exceptional. No Game No Life feels exceptional. It warrants the hype. It demands it. But it also earns it. And that’s one of the reasons that this collector’s edition will go over so well too. It’s hitting the right audience with exactly what they want and it does it in spades. This is a beautiful release from top to bottom and one that I’ll be keeping out to show to people – both in packaging in show/visual design – as something that’s worth getting. Top notch all around.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Commentary, No Game No Life Shorts, Clean Opening and Closing, Japanese Promos & Commercials.

Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 28th, 2015
MSRP: $129.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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