Light Novel Review: No Game No Life [Volume 1]

All over the gaming world, there exists a legendary gamer by the name of『  』. Such an unbeatable player must have an account with actual people behind it right? Meet Sora and Shiro, two siblings in which their entire lives revolves around games, avoiding the real world outside. One day, the duo received an email from a mysterious source, asking if they felt that they were in the wrong world. After defeating the player behind the email, they were then asked what they would feel about a world where everything was decided by games.

“If there’s such a world, we sure were born in the wrong one.” 

From those words, the two siblings were instantly transported to the fantasy world of Disboard, where everything is decided by simple games.

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Welcome to the world of Disboard, a fantasy world where the entire world operates around games. People’s lives and countries’ borders could be bet on a simple chess game, and the position to be king is bet on a game of poker. The mere premise of the world is quite fascinating as it could lead to many repercussions. For example, what if someone completely qualified to run a government loses their job just because some kid beat them in a game. There’s a lot of risks that come with this system, betting people and resources; and if a race can’t keep on winning games, that’s their problem. Through interactions with the last residing member of the royal blood line and our protagonists, we get to understand the current state of the country and see how our characters will react to the situation. Unfortunately, most of this content of the world is pushed off to the side to display our main protagonists in full light.

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Our characters, Sora and Shiro, are shut-ins inserted into a fantasy world and they have to operate within this world’s rules rather than their own world. While their prime characteristic is their quick-witted responses and erratic behaviors, at least in Sora’s case, there really isn’t anything hiding underneath our characters. The reason why I say Sora, is because Shiro doesn’t do much in terms of talking or behaviors. Most of her characteristics are given to us via Sora, and it makes her a tag along character rather than a stand-alone character.

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We get introduced to a character called Steph later in the volume and while she could stand on her own in terms of development, having a decent backstory regarding her family; she becomes the bearer to ecchi and romantic comedic bits. These portions of the volume don’t really do anything important to the plot but more along the lines of fanservice, which is very disappointing since I see hope for Steph as a developed character later on. (It gets really disheartening to see her getting played around with.)

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I’m not well-versed when it comes to translations in comparison to original content but the writing style is very odd, or at least not normal for a regular book. The volume has lots of short sentences with the inclusion of dashes. There are lots of moments where the text is changed to accommodate the scene but after multiple uses of font size changes, bolded print, and plenty of italics, it loses its effect. The volume also has references to gamer terminology..? (Is that what it is called?) However, these words have no footnote to help guide the reader to understand the slang language.

The color illustrations are very colorful with heavy uses of bright colors and gradients. Meanwhile, the rest are detailed in their clothing or hair. The character designs are displayed in a full body profile with each character having their own distinct clothing style to them. While I’m not against ecchi portions in illustration format, the bath scene picture was cutting it a bit close for me.

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The first volume of No Game No Life is merely an introduction to the series, letting the audience understand the world and its inhabitants. While the world premise may be interesting, that can’t save the book from lack of developed characters, often sporadic writing style, and lackluster plot so far.

Rating: Average* – Not Recommended (As a standalone)

* The volumes after this one do get better. If you have any incentive of continuing the series, I would read the next volume.


Author and Illustrator: Yū Kamiya

English Publisher: Yen Press

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