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No Game No Life Vol. #05 Light Novel Review

5 min read

No Game No Life Volume 5 CoverAn exciting turnabout with a nasty Achilles’ heel

Creative Staff
Story/Illustration: Yuu Kamiya
Translation: Daniel Komen

What They Say
In the world of Disboard, everything is decided by games. Since arriving in this strange place, genius gamer siblings Sora and Shiro have risen to become king and queen of what’s left of Disboard’s humans. Their latest challenge is winning an unwinnable romance game against the races of Dhampir and Siren. To uncover the true strategy to beat this sadistic game of love, they head for the home of the angelic Flugel: the midair city of Avant Heim. But the Flugel are a hideously powerful race, created specifically to kill gods. Will things really go as planned?

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
While last volume was filler-y garbage to its core, this entry in the series fortunately separates itself at the very start by immediately launching into a battle. It’s a little different than usual, though, as it’s between Fiel and a noble named Barthel, with two other players getting involved midway through. In an actually interesting move, there is a LOT of sexualization here… but it’s all coming from the villains and is certainly not painted in a positive light. It’s kind of funny in a meta way to see the book effectively demonizing what it so frequently revels in (with last time being an especially egregious example). Anyway, the actual game itself is largely arbitrary and abstract, but fortunately the reader isn’t really expected to keep up with it anyway. Rather, it’s the mind games and trickery that take center stage here, and I’m glad to say that those are handled quite well and live up to what the series has pulled off in the past. And thanks to all of this, we get a rather invigorating intro to the book that makes a clean break from the weaknesses of the previous entry.

Before kicking into the core plot this time around, we get a look at Steph and Izuna trying to track down info on the Siren game via the records of the old king, which turns out to be a daunting task. This plot thread continues alongside the main story throughout, and it works as a decent enough aside, fleshing out both characters and the relationship between them, as well as throwing in some nice enough humor to break things up. But as for the central plot this time around, we join Sora and Shiro as they try to do their own research in the city of the Flugel, Avant Heim. And it’s there that we are introduced to Azril, Jibril’s elder/older sister. She’s certainly the main focus this time around, as she seems to care about Jibril, but also fits rather poorly with the ideals of the younger Flugel. Thanks to her, we get a much more in depth look at Flugel in general, especially over the course of the book, which is certainly appreciated. And as the driving force, I’d say she legitimately works fairly well as we get a closer look at her bit by bit and see what exactly is going on with her.

Anyway, Azril most certainly has no interest in helping Sora and Shiro find what they need, and instead their interaction ends with our heroes in a game of tag against a whole large crowd of the god slayers! The catch here is that there are forty six syllables, each transcribed somewhere on one of the girls’ bodies, and if our heroes capture them they can combine them to “use” different words, with their effects becoming reality. And unfortunately, this is certainly something of a mess by design to display in translation, as it was of course written with the more strictly defined syllables of Japanese rather than the looser rules of English. For what it’s worth, I applaud the translator’s effort in at least getting it to function on some level, which must’ve been a real pain, but a LOT is clearly lost in the conversion.

Rather than getting to see clever wordplay in a game that makes logical sense in a way the reader can follow, you get a bit of chaos in which things kind of roughly happen and you just have to roll with it. Which is certainly a shame, as it’s clearly the core of the “cleverness” this time around, and almost all of that has been regrettably (but understandably) abandoned for English readers. Still, you do get some more straightforward clever plays/maneuvers, and as I said, it certainly isn’t busted to the degree of being unreadable, so I still think there’s enough good that shines through. (As a quick note, I haven’t marked down the translation score for this review solely because I honestly believe this was an unavoidable problem, and that the translation itself likely did as well as could reasonably be expected.)

After all of that resolves, we actually do get the end of the Siren game shoved in here as well. And… to be honest, it’s just a straight up gag. That said, it’s played fairly well and is less egregious when the rest of the book has been playing things straight, so I certainly won’t knock the book for indulging a bit. Then finally, we top things off with a bit of a surprise twist that works great and does a lot to enhance the character it relates to, bringing the book to a solid and memorable close.

In Summary
By focusing on plenty of action, development of the world, and moments for its cast, this volume succeeds greatly where the last one failed. Sadly, though, there’s one big issue dragging the book down that needs to be mentioned, and that’s what’s lost in translation. Which is to say, the core battle focuses heavily around wordplay and use of syllables, in such a way that a lot is clearly lost in the effort to bring the work to English readers. It’s not absolutely broken, but pretty much any cleverness to those parts have sadly been lost along the way. Still, enough good remains in the rest of the book, and even in that battle itself, that this flaw doesn’t sink the volume. There’s a lot of what’s good about the series packed into these pages, so be sure to give it a look, and let’s hope that following entries stick closer to this track (though ideally with less elements that are problematic in terms of translation).

Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: N/A
Package Rating: B+
Text/Translation Rating: B+

Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: December 20th, 2016
MSRP: $13.99

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