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No Game, No Life Zero Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

A trip back in time…

What They Say:
6,000 years before Sora and Shiro rocked the world of Disboard, black rain falls from the sky and multiple species fight a desperate battle for survival. Constantly caught in the crossfire between the more powerful magical races, Humanity is on the edge of extinction, always on the retreat. But amidst the chaos and destruction, one young man, Riku, has a vision of a better future. And the first step towards achieving that goal comes in a dead city, where he encounters Schwi, an exiled female android who seeks to know one thing: what it is to have a human heart.

The mysterious past of the world of Disboard is unveiled and the ultimate game begins in the spectacular prequel to the hit TV series!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is done with the original Japanese language in 5.1 as it was a theatrical release as well as the English language dub, both of which are encoded using the lossless DTS-HD MA codec. In a rare bit of inclusion that I wish we had more of, we also get a Spanish 5.1 language track and Spanish subtitles so viewers can watching it in Japanese with Spanish subtitles. The film 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. It does handle things going bigger at times but the majority of it is fairly straightforward stuff. The music is at its strongest when it really gets to stand out in the bigger scenes 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.

Originally in theaters in 2017, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Madhouse once again, this is one absolutely beautiful work in its design. The original TV series is something that I already felt was pretty much theatrical in quality and it’s one 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 throughout. 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 work 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.

The packaging design for this release uses some of the wonderful key visual material with the main characters almost swirled together in a way here with a throughline to it that helps to give it a bit more weight. The designs are richly detailed and it may look overdone to some degree but the combination of that with all the detail is just fantastic, resulting in a really striking piece. The logo is kept simple to the bottom so that the artwork does all the heavy lifting. The back cover goes with a simple partial shot along the top that works while below it we get a decent strip of small shots from the film. The summary of the premise is easy to read as are the extras below it. The remainder is the standard production credits and technical grid that breaks down everything for the release in a clean and easy to figure out fashion. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release works a simple approach but it does it in a really good way. Going with a static background, 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 draw for this property is clearly in the designs and the color work so going with something striking here is a given and it works well..

Extras for this set are a little familiar to some degree as we get a good selection of the original Japanese promos. What surprised me was the inclusion of a nearly twenty-minute behind the scenes piece. While it opens to kind of providing some background to the TV series itself, it shifts into showing off pieces from the franchise and talking with the cast and voice actors for it as they talk about engaging with the characters and the connection to the TV series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since I saw the TV series back in 2015 and to now finally get the movie. I had absolutely love the TV show and it got a rare A+ grade for me with what it did with the story and characters. So when a film was put into production I was naturally excited, even though it was being done with a twist. Originally out in 2017, the film isn’t a continuation or side story to the main TV series but rather it adapts from the sixth novel in the series that takes us back to the origins of this world, or at least a key pivotal moment. This i definitely intriguing, even for those that dislike prequels, and it garnered extra attention for the way it had the TV main actors come back and voice the main characters from here, providing a welcome kind of echo that works for me throughout the project.

Told as a story by Tet to Izuna, Tet takes us back some six thousand years ago to the time of the Great War. It’s in here that the various races are all in a state of war as part of a grand game that’s being played for control of the world. The one that’s really in a rough spot is humanity as they’re nearly extinct as we learn from Riku, the young leader of the last group that’s still out there. The view of things is one that’s bleak in that they’re basically running from dangerous situation to dangerous situation, trying to last until the end as best as they can. That’s no way to live but it’s all they’ve got this point and it’s something that they have to do. The weight of it all on Riku’s shoulders is definitely there as leader and just knowing what’s going on, which is why a little quiet time away for him is good.

This brings him to a hideout that he had found before where there’s an Ex-Machina from the game there that’s disconnected from the main and is trying to understand humanity, or more specially, love and the human heart. It’s an easy angle to work with and that lets us spend a decent part of the first half or so of the film where the two engage with each other as he teaches her plenty, all while falling in love without realizing it of course, and she fills him in on various things about the nature of this world that helps him to understand what humanity is really facing. While she initially takes on the name of Schwarzer, it becomes Schwi and the two conceal her true nature and introduce her into the group as they continue to do their best to survive. But the more that Riku realizes of the world the more he comes to the conclusion that they need to make a stand with some creativity in place first.

Admittedly, there’s plenty of familiar ideas in here and there’s no breaking of new or creative ground in how humanity basically has to run the tables to survive and take over. There are nice nods to the larger game narrative that drives the present day material for it in the novels and TV series but the main focus is on Riku and Schwi’s growth as beings, with his friend Corounne providing plenty of helpful prodding along the way, and shifting gears to Riku truly leading rather than guiding from hiding spot to hiding spot. There’s a lot of little moments that I suspect fans of the books will enjoy and those that are very invested in the series and I totally enjoyed it – but I note that the three year gap has me wondering if there are elements I’ve missed out on because of it. But this is important as well because the film works very, very, well as a standalone piece that doesn’t require any foreknowledge. Yes, you’ll get more out of it if you do, but if you don’t you’ll still have a great time.

In Summary:
The standard edition of No Game, No Life Zero is a very solid work in the technical sense with a great encode, a pair of dubs in addition to the Japanese track, and some fun extras. It’s a beautifully animated film with some good themes touched upon and an expansion of what the world the property takes place in that can color your view of the present day a bit. Working both within the larger framework but also very accessible to a completely new audience, No Game, No Life Zero is a really engaging film that takes time to breathe, doesn’t overpopulate its cast, and focuses on what it is that it really wants to achieve – and does so very well. Very recommended to new and long time fans alike.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, Spanish Subtitles, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos, Behind the Scenes with Sentai Filmworks Staff & Cast

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 28th, 2018
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 105 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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