No Game No Life, Vol. 12

By Yuu Kamiya. Released in Japan by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Richard Tobin.

After a few volumes where I found myself sayhing “I know, I know, it’s skeezy as hell, but you just gotta power through it”, this new volume ends up being one of the strongest in quite some time. Now, this does not mean that it’s not filled with exactly what you’d expect from No Game No Life, after all. There’s tons of Steph being humiliated, especially in the back half, and there’s also two of Sora’s “harem” giving him what amount to naked selfies so he can masturbate. It’s still not something you’d recommend to your grandma. But this volume does a great job showing off the good points of the main characters, particularly Sora and Steph, while also continuing to set up the massive conflict teased in the previous book, and also possibly setting up for a major fracture between [ ] and their strongest ally in the next volume. The whole point of these games has been “no one actually dies” – that’s why they were created. But can someone get around that?

We begin with a massive 7-day celebration of Sora and Shiro’s one-year anniversary in arriving in Disboard, as well as a birthday celebration for both of them. While neither of them are wild about this at the start, it ends up being a fun and touching party… that is interrupted by the arrival of Schira Ha, here as a representative of the Devil, and announcing that their army will finally be destroying the world. Which, um, they’ve tried before, and it hasn’t gone well. Also, the Devil is represented in Disboard by a cute little puffball thing. That said, they do have a massive tower where the goal is to get past all 100 levels, and the reward is the race piece of all the devils. The game itself is a dungeon crawl, which Sora and Shiro should have no issues with, but the game requires hope… and that’s more of an issue.

If you know my reviews of prior books, you know this is where I talk about Steph. She’s terrific at the start of the book, being emotionally sensitive, highly capable, and also knowing Sora and Shiro better than anyone else. Naturally, seeing this, I knew we were in for a giant string of “Steph gets humiliated” later on, and that’s just what happens, as she’s forced into bikini armor… which then gets destroyed, leaving her naked. But I also love the idea that SHE is the powerhouse of their dungeon group, rather than any of the far more powerful others, mostly as, while she’s certainly gotten embarrassed and exasperated and irritated, Steph doesn’t get depressed. Which leads to a heaping pile of hope. That said, the ending of the volume, where Sora has to tell her that this game will be ending with them actually having to kill someone, promises that will change soon.

All this plus their nation is losing people by the day as everyone runs away! It’s a nasty cliffhanger, and we may wait another 18 months to get it resolved, but for fans of this series, this is a must read.

No Game No Life, Vol. 11

By Yuu Kamiya. Released in Japan by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Richard Tobin.

The general rule of thumb when reading a volume of No Game No Life is to ignore anything that is not directly related to the plot or character development. and yes, this means you are ignoring about 85% of each book. This volume in particular is filled with pointless fanservice, cringey cliches, and more situations and art that remind you why this series got Amazon banned (though, again, this new volume is still there). When you get past all that, you’re essentially left with two things. First of all, the fact that [ ] actually lose for the first time in the series… and they’re not too sure how it happened yet. The result, though, is near catastrophic, though I guess it’s very good news if you’re Chlammy. The second thing is that Sora and Shiro, adopted siblings, are forced to confront their feelings for each other for real… and Shiro especially is almost broken by them. This is a rare reminder that she’s still eleven years old. And while there’s a reset at the end, I think both of them have moved forward a bit.

We open with Sora, Shiro, Steph, Jibril and Emir-Eins waking up to find they’re now trapped in a death game, to Sora’s horror. He hates the very idea of death games, and knows that the only reason that he and the others would ever have agreed to it is if [ ] had lost. Their host is Foeniculum a fairy who is streaming all of this on the fairy version of YouTube. The five of them are in a room where there’s an exit door… but only those who say they’re a couple can go through it. Needless to say, everyone is horrified at this… especially as there’s five of them, so someone will lose. Also, four of them are women. You can buy a key to get out… but the price is exorbitant, and depends entirely on getting donations from viewers. As a result… Sora and company need to be interesting enough to make money!

A lot of this, especially in the first half, is pure stupidity, with the usual antics. Sora has low self-esteem, Steph whines, Jibril and Emir-Eins fight, etc. Things change once the fairy viewers force Sora to tell Shiro that he finds her attractive… something Shiro, theoretically, has been waiting eleven books to hear. But theory and practice are two different things, and it turns out Sora seeing her sexually terrifies her… and indeed Sora, after being released from the fairy geas, is appalled he said it as well. The incest subtext has always been uncomfortable in this series, and it’s shoved in our faces here, but the outcome in the end is good; Shiro doesn’t really need Sora as a lover or a boyfriend, she just needs Sora there next to her all the time. As for [ ] losing, we’re still not sure how it happened either, but it’s setting up for a big battle against the elves next time.

I didn’t mention Steph, but her role is the same as always: be degraded and humiliated 95% of the book, then remind the cast she’s the emotional heart of the story, and far more sensible than any of them. NGNL fans will definitely have a ball with this. Hope we don’t wait so long for the 12th book.

No Game No Life: Practical War Game

By Yuu Kamiya. Released in Japan by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Richard Tobin.

It has been a rough couple years for No Game No Life. The author has had health issues, which has led to a long hiatus in Japan (though the 11th volume is due out there next month). As with Re: Zero and Index, Yen licensed this side story volume out of order, so a lot of it is setting up a 10th volume that we read a year and a half ago. And of course the entire series has been banned, in print and digital form, by Amazon… except for this new volume, which they are quite happy to sell because no one can guess how they actually decide anything. That said, it is good to finally see this book which goes back to the events of the 6th volume and shows us things from the POV of Think, the elven legend. Unfortunately, this flashback is only a little more than a third of this book, which is otherwise padded out with short stories that originally came with the DVD releases in Japan. Yep, it’s a short story volume.

Practical War Game itself starts off with Sora and Shiro playing Feel and Chlammy in a game of chess, which Feel is trying to deliberately lose once she hears what the prize is (molesting Chlammy). Jibril then tells the siblings about Feel’s ancestor, and about her acolyte Nina, who takes over after Think supposedly “disappears”. After this, we get a story showing off a desperate Steph, running low on sleep and sanity, challenging the siblings to game after game, even it means more humiliation. Par for the course, in other words. We then get a story about Feel and Chlammy’s past, and how and why they set up what happens at the start of the series. Finally, we get a two-parter focused on Jibril, just why she’s so special, and her determination to do the impossible simply because everyone else says it can’t be done.

As always with this series, I love Steph, even when it’s making her the fanservice queen or having her be the chump for the sake of humor. She almost manages to speak out a win here, and is basically told “try this again when you’ve slept and are calm”. The story with Feel and Chlammy was also fun, showing them as a lot more of a loving couple than the main books do, as well as exactly how they got that way. The bulk of the book are the stories with Think and Jibril, which are flawed but good. I can do without the author’s “is this LGBT representation or shameless trolling fanservice!”, mostly because by now we know it’s both. The sections of Jibril’s story dealing with the dragon are fantastic, but Azril is simply FAR too annoying to make it 100% enjoyable, and the canon explanation as to why really doesn’t work for me.

Still, overall it’s a better volume than some of the recent books have been, and should make fans of the series happy. Oh yes, and there’s a new translator. I think the books read a bit smoother than before, though Kamiya’s writing is always hard to parse.