Rating: 4.5/5 – Let the Games Begin!
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
If I haven’t stressed it enough in my reviews, the world of manga is a world of tropes, stereotypes, and expected results. It’s rarely a question of whether or not you should invest your time in a particular story, but which version of that story is the best value for your dollar. The story itself is almost always the same, and because companies know it’s a good story, they have no problem putting it out there again and again and again, with different characters and artistic teams being the only real inconstant elements. So when a book comes along that is “self-aware” and knows how to play those tropes and expectations – letting the reader in on the gag at the same time – that book presents something truly refreshing. No Game No Life is one such book.
Sora is a NEET (the Japanese equivalent of a welfare addict) who lives with his sister Shino, a shut-in, in a tiny one-room apartment playing video games all day…but playing them well. So well, in fact, that the duo have earned a reputation for being undefeated on any platform on any game. Indeed, it’s their ability to work together that makes them so unbeatable, with Sora’s ability to understand the emotional side of playing a game coupled with Shino’s uncannily analytic mind. So when the two are whisked away to a magical land where wars, conflicts, even arguments are settled by playing games (killing is forbidden), you’d think the whole story would be about their attempts to get back home, right?
Well, not exactly. The story itself is very genre-savvy and does its best to avoid the usual trappings of books of this kind, often to humorous effect. Because Sora and Shino don’t have much of a life in the “real” world, they have no burning desire to get back to it when they’re cast into this fantasy realm. Instead, they waste no time in attempting to take it over, and since everything is game-based, it’s a pretty safe bet they’ll succeed. Writer Yuu Kamiya has thought this world out thoroughly, populating it with sixteen races with their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to gaming, and governing it with a set of Ten Covenants that rule how the games are to be played. It’s a very clever and fun book to read, and you will be entertained by it, make no mistake.
Sora goes into minor soliloquies about the games the duo play, and they’re quite fun to read. He can spot a cheater a mile away, knows how to game the system to work it to his advantage, and, as mentioned, doesn’t lose while his sister is around. Shino is also an interesting character, with a sharpness and focus in high-pressure situations that makes her every bit as important to the duo despite their difference in age. To drive the point home that these two are family and have been inseparable for a long time, they both become physically weak when separated, as if they can’t function as lone entities. I’m sure this will come into play in future volumes.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow – firstname.lastname@example.org
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