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No Game, No Life Zero Anime DVD Review

6 min read

History may repeat itself… but there is a first time for everything.

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 part of the world of Disboard is unveiled and the ultimate game begins in the spectacular prequel to the hit TV series, NO GAME, NO LIFE ZERO!

The Review!
Audio:
I didn’t have any problem with the audio for No Game, No Life Zero. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 wasn’t absolutely perfect, but I wouldn’t say it was atrocious either. I’d sometimes catch certain noises that felt like they should have been louder being relegated to a background noise. However, this was the only issue I found. This movie comes in three different audio sets: English, Japanese, and Spanish. All of it is Dolby Digital 5.1.

Video:
DVD quality aside, the animation of No Game, No Life Zero is truly astounding and something I’ve come to expect Madhouse Studios. That said, the animation and artwork do suffer some in the DVD production. I’m sure the bluray is able to adequately display the crisp lineart and stellar animation, but the DVD has some trouble capturing the higher quality production. Some of the lines and colors seem pixelated at times.

Packaging:
The black case features a diagonal split screen with the characters from the TV series on the bottom left and the movie characters on the upper right. Oddly enough, Jibril is in both because she appears in both. However, her expression in the No Game No Life Zero side makes her seem quite evil. The artwork is incredibly well done for the cover. I love the colorful art and the poses that all of the characters are in. Meanwhile, the back features Schwi and Riku hands at the top, followed by the movie premise and several screenshots. Schwi’s finger has a ring on it, showing potential spoilers for the anime.

Menu:
The menu features Schwi with her eyes closed and arms spread out. Because this is a DVD, the lines in her design aren’t very crisp. The menu allows you to select the standard options: Play, Scene selection, language, and special features. While the menu is up, the background music playing is the opening theme song for the movie.

Extras:
There aren’t really any good extras on the DVD. The special features include Japanese promos, a behind the scenes look of No Game No Life Series with Sentai Filmwork’s cast, and other series that are available from Sentai Filmworks.

Content: (Please note that this portion of the review may contain spoilers):
Those who remember the No Game No Life animated series will probably remember the crazy characters, off the wall gags, outrageous comedy, and creepy pedo bath scenes. The series was well-known both among its fanbase and non-fans for these things. However, No Game No Life Zero has almost none of those. I was surprised by how grim and dark this movie was. The world is not a good place, the races are at war with each other, and humans are being killed simply from getting caught in the crossfire. In order to survive, they have to sacrifice each other. Save one to save a thousand is the game of the day in this series.

One of the key differences in this movie from the series is the main character. Riku is an incredibly conflicted young man. He leads Humanity on its quest for survival, sacrificing numerous lives in the process and berating himself over and over again. His own self-loathing leads to a lot of self-abuse on his part. He’s vastly different from Sora, the titular protagonist in the series who was goofy and weird. On that note, Schwi, the female protagonist who partners with Riku, actually seems a lot like Shiro in many ways, though she also has her differences.

Riku and Schwi aren’t close at first like Sora and Shiro were. Schwi is an android called an Ex-Machina. Being one of the races who have powers beyond Humanity, Riku obviously doesn’t trust her at first, which is emphasized by how he treats her during the first half of the series. It is only as the story progresses that Riku begins to implicitly trust Schwi. We learn that Schwi was exiled from the Ex-Machina hive mind due to various system and logic errors, which were a result of a previous meeting between Riku and Schwi many years before when he was just a kid.

One of the shining highlights of this series is the dynamics and relationship between the two main characters. While this movie doesn’t have the same level of comedy as the series, there are moments between Riku and Schwi that just made me laugh. Their first true meeting was one such moment. Riku is overwhelmed by Schwi, thinks he is about to be killed, and is then surprised when Schwi kisses him and informs him that she wants to have sex… despite the fact that she is a machine and doesn’t have any of the key organs necessary for the act. There are quite a few moments such as this, which I believe bring some much needed lightheartedness to this otherwise bleak story.

After Riku and Schwi partner up, Riku begins learning more about the reason this war started. The gods who control the other races all want to become the one true god of this world. To accomplish this, they began a war in order to obtain an object called the Suniaster, an ancient relic that according to legend will grant the user the title of One True God and give them absolute power above all other races. While the gods are using their pawns to battle each other, Riku and his group act in secret, planning and manipulating the movements of the other races’ armies, with his ultimate goal being to force the armies into a situation where they all have to unleash their ultimate attacks on each other, which would then be directed toward the planet’s core, thereby forcing the Suniaster to appear.

I’ve mentioned before that this movie is pretty grim. What I neglected to mention was that this movie was also very tragic. Neither of the protagonists survive. Schwi is killed by Jibril and Riku dies immediately after acquiring the Suniaster. Their tragic ending hits you really hard. Throughout the series, I really grew to like this strange pair. Despite being different species and not getting along at first, Riku and Schwi grew to love each other and even got married toward the end. Watching Riku as he broke down in tears at Schwi’s death was one of the hardest things I’ve seen in an anime. Likewise, watching his emotional ending was equally impactful. The emotional impact somewhat shocked me.

In Summary:
No Game No Life Zero is an excellent movie, though certainly not what I had been expecting. The story is far grimmer than what I was thinking it would be based on the TV series. However, I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing either. While it is grim, dark, and ultimately tragic, the events that transpire in this movie are what paved the way for Sora and Shiro in the series. It was also interesting to see how different the world was 6,000 years ago. Watching as Humanity struggles to survive in a world where they have no powers and are forced into the crossfire of beings so far above them it’s almost funny gave me a new appreciation for the series.

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 28th, 2018
MSRP: $19.98
Running Time: 105 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
55″ Class AQUOS HD Series LED TV LC-55LE643U, Xbox 360


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