How do you win a game against someone who can invisibly cheat with magic? This question echoes around the human kingdom of Elkia, which Sora and Shiro have managed to become the leaders of by doing just that. However, they’re not the type of people to sit on a victory without attempting to top it, and Sora has a plan.
Sora and Shiro have managed to become the king(s) of Immanity. However, despite their sweeping industrial reforms thanks to knowledge from their world, the reality is that the kingdom of Elkia just doesn’t have the land to be particularly prosperous. Fortunately, they know of another kingdom that does, and Sora is pleased to find that it is made up of animal girls for him to pet. Before he can challenge them to a game though, he and Shiro are going to have to find more information about their opponents...
Anyone looking for a unique take on a classic-seeming fantasy world will be fascinated by the setting. If you are looking for clever mind games where the protagonist faces seemingly insurmountable odds, then this is the book for you.
No Game No Life’s author Yuu Kamiya has a lot of ‘interesting’ approaches to writing, and from the storytelling aspect they have been and continue to be a benefit to the series. He has opened both books with excellent introductions, and the second volume is a long comparison of the real world to games, something that is not only a central theme of the story but also a cleverly worded discussion that excites readers for the actual book. In a similar vein, it’s important to mention that when the comedy isn’t ridiculously lewd it is actually pretty funny. Sora really feels like Kamiya’s picture of himself in a fantasy world, as he behaves in a very similar fashion to how the author writes. Because the two complement each other quite well, I actually don’t mind Sora as a protagonist despite his creepy tendencies.
What I really enjoy about the writing, however, is how it handles the challenges Sora and Shiro as Blank face. Kamiya has thus far never copped out, as Sora and Shiro win the challenges not by a series of dei ex machinae, but instead through relatively believable and clever solutions. While the story never makes the readers feel like Sora and Shiro have any chance of losing, that’s fine because it doesn’t try to. Instead, the point is to make the readers wonder how they will win, creating a compelling psychological narrative. Somehow this continues to be pulled off in the second volume despite facing foes who are far more difficult than the previous volume, including a practically immortal angel and a civilization that previously defeated the magic of the elves without magic of their own.
Fanservice and quasi-erotic situations continue to be prevalent in this volume, and if you thought they might die down after the first one, you were wrong. I mentioned this in my review of the previous volume, but it’s still worth mentioning again as the story manages to come up with fresh ways to be strange like this. Thankfully, the more incestuous jokes from volume 1 aren’t really around in this second volume, but the cover alone should give you a decent idea of what kind of stuff there is. Sora continues to be a virgin, but moments such as Jibril the Flugel’s ‘investigation’ make me unsure if this is a bit of a misnomer. Overall, I wouldn’t say that these moments are necessarily bad in and of themselves, but I do think the story would benefit if they were toned down a bit, since by this point they have pretty much guaranteed that only a relatively small audience will be able to stomach the series.
In my review of the first volume, I did not discuss the translation because it was my first review of a light novel and I didn’t think it was my place to be judging one way or another. However, now that I have read and reviewed several, I have a decent knowledge of the difference between good and bad. I may not be an expert on the Japanese language, but I can tell if a translation is particularly excellent or downright atrocious. Noragami’s translation is very good. No Game No Life’s is very bad. It’s not even that it’s just bad, it’s bad for numerous reasons. Yuu Kamiya is a very difficult writer to translate because of his interesting writing style, but that’s no excuse for the almost illegible moments that pop up frequently on what is supposed to be an official legal translation. Sentence fragments are numerous and horribly grammatically incorrect, and seemingly odd translation choices aren’t even explained at all because there are no translation notes. For example, in the original work, Sora would sometimes say phrases in English to sound sophisticated. Since the translation is already in English, the phrases are left in Japanese. Except... the people reading the book don’t speak Japanese. If it weren’t for the numerous Japanese anime titles and a Death Note meme, I would not have known what ‘kami no keikaku’ meant (it means god’s plan, for the record), and the book doesn’t provide a definition anywhere.
No Game No Life continues to be an incredibly clever series, and the games and their solutions are fascinating to read about. However, the second volume seems mired in dumb sex jokes and a translation that leaves quite a bit to be desired. That being said, if you are able to look past those (admittedly egregious) issues, then the book is still definitely worth your time and should be able to hold your interest. It’s still good to support the official translation to encourage the series to continue to be brought over here, so if that’s the only thing holding you back then it might still be worth a purchase.
Author’s Note: I wanted to explain this score in slightly more detail just to provide my reasoning. Essentially, I counted the series down less for the fanservice this volume (since to a certain extent by now you should know what to expect), but then hit it for more because of the quality of the translation, which I felt could be a potential deterrent to fans.
No Game No Life Vol. 2 was published in English by Yen Press on July 21st, 2015. Authored by Yuu Kamiya, the series is ongoing in Media Factory’s MF Bunko J imprint. The series also received a one-cour anime adaption by Madhouse in Spring 2014 and volume 3 is listed to be published in English on October 27th, 2015. The series recently returned from a 1-year break with the release of volume 7 in Japanese last week.
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*Review copy provided for Taykobon by the publisher.
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