Hi. I’m Josh, also known as the Cajun Samurai, and for some reason heaven only knows, I’ve been called upon to do an episode-by-episode review for an anime this Fall 2017 season. I have to say, it’s been a while since this young black man from the great state of Louisiana wrote an anime review, much less an episode-by-episode review. Heck, I still have a FLCL review to work on back at my neck of the internet…from about two years ago. But things like life, work, and Persona 5 makes fools of us all. Don’t judge me; Persona 5 is awesome.
In any case, for at least the next twelve weeks, I have a new project–giving you guys my running commentary on an anime that I’ve been excited for since it was announced. Will I be disappointed, or will my socks be sufficiently rocked? Let’s make like Brian McKnight and start at one. Once again, I’m Josh, and this is my review of King’s Game: The Animation Episode 1.
We start our series with…wait…what? Did I click on the wrong video somewhere? I thought this was supposed to be King’s Game: The Animation, not The End of Evangelion. So help me, if I have to sit through that mind-screw of a movie one more dawg gone time, I’m gonna go Angry Black—oh, wait. That’s not Shinji. Thank goodness.
Anyway, this is our protagonist Nobuaki Kanazawa and he’s currently tripping balls in this hellish landscape. However, as we’ve seen time and again in Japan, even when it’s the end of the world, you’re still able to get reliable cell service, and Nobuaki gets a text from the “King.” But as with all protagonists facing the end of the world, he soon finds himself drowning (Literally and figuratively) with a naked girl, Honda Chiemi, who then proceeds to fall apart in a bloody mess…much like Rei in the aforementioned End of Evangelion. Overall, this is an OKAY way to open up the series, but I wouldn’t miss it if it were gone. Especially for what’s to come.
Cut to a much friendlier scene—the Kure Academy Sports Day festivities. Nobuaki and his class are participating in a relay race, complete with a falling big chested moe blob (to whom the concept of a Sports Bra is foreign). Nobuaki passes the baton to classmate Honda Natsuko who hauls butt and wins the race for her class. What else do you expect from a girl named after an automobile? Also, ANOTHER Honda, huh? Interesting…put a pin in that. Might be important later.
After the group class photo, Nobuaki reminisces about the first day he transferred into the class; a completely anti-social guy who looks like he’s seen some stuff go down in his day. The teacher assigns him to the typical anime protagonist desk. You know the one, right by the window towards the back, perfect for those convenient plot-relevant conversations. Anyway, our protagonist takes a seat and Natsuko introduces herself causing Nobuaki to—HOLD UP.
What the heck is going on here?! This reflection makes ZERO sense! Considering the direction in which he’s facing, we should NOT see his full face in the glass! There’s NO way this works. Either this is some kind of creative decision the animators made, like maybe Nobuaki is looking back on these events, or the animators dropped the ball big time with this one. Either way, this is a glaring issue.
Anyway, after lessons, the class gathers around Nobuaki’s desk and try to befriend him…to which Nobuaki says “Eff that noise” and runs out the class almost begging for others to leave him alone. Natsuko is not one to give up, however, and continues to offer her friendship. She then asks Nobuaki to sign up for the inter-class relay race and help them bring home the gold. After overhearing through two random exposition providing classmates that both Natsuko’s parents are dead, Nobuaki decides to suck it up and run the relay.
So we jump back to the present time and what do you know? Our sad sack actually had fun and manages to smile again. However, that smile is quickly “Gon” as the Midnight Hour approaches. But instead of love tumbling down, a mass message from a sender known only as “King” is sent out to all of Nobuaki’s classmates:
The next day, Nobuaki’s classmates are rightfully terrified that some mysterious person sent a message to all their phones about a deadly game and—NAH…they’re all loving it, thinking that it’s some sort of big prank set up to get Nobuaki and Natsuko to hook up. Nobuaki tries to explain that the King’s game is legit and stuff is about to get real. However, the class blows it off thinking that he set up the whole thing just to try to check out Honda’s “headlights” so to speak. Talk about group-think. The ENTIRE class just seem to ebb and flow with the opinions and thoughts of the defacto leader, Satou Yuuchi. Nobody seems to have their own thoughts or opinions. When Satou thinks it’s a joke, they all just laugh and go along with him. When he starts getting disgusted with Nobuaki, they all do so in kind. Think for yourselves, dummies!
Later at Typical Anime High School Hangout Location #1 (also known as the school roof), Nobuaki reminisces that the last class involved with the King’s Game didn’t believe it either…until the bodies started piling up like cordwood. One of his classmates continues to believe that this whole thing is a prank and offers her support to Nobuaki and Natsuko, saying that Natsuko actually likes him. Nobuaki tells her GTFO and he ruminates about dragging Natsuko down with him into the King’s Game.
That night, 5 minutes before the dark hour—I mean Midnight, Natsuko meets up with Nobuaki back at the school. Gotta love those conveniently deceased parents, am I right? Natsuko pushes him for info, still thinking this is a prank, asking if he has a girlfriend. We then see a quick flashback to Nobuaki who looks as though he is about to go for a test drive in the Honda we saw earlier, if you get my drift. However, even after revealing a portion of his past to her, Natsuko sees past the defenses Nobuaki puts up and draws closer to him, determined not to lose. She receives a message on her phone which Nobuaki thinks is from the King containing her punishment. Suddenly, Natsuko goes in for the kiss saying that she is not going to give up. Ohhh, baby girl…you just saved your proverbial bacon and quenched your “thirst.”
Nobuaki thinks that they were too late, however, what he thought was a message from the King was actually a message from that dingbat wannabe Cupid from earlier, showing that they kissed one minute BEFORE midnight, completing the order of the King. To his horror, Nobuaki continues scrolling to see that new orders have been sent out . Some are silly like having one student lick the foot of another. Others are more pervy like having a boy touch a girls chest. Some make me contemplate whether or not the King is a pervert as one particular order demands that two classmates “hook up.” Apparently, the King is worried about those declining birth rates in Japan.
But it’s the last order that’s the most sinister:
…And as it’s now a little past midnight, there are clearly some students that have violated the deep rest order and the King politely notifies the class that student #2 Iguchi Asuka and #28 Midorikawa Hayato have died by hanging themselves, effectively disproving the old adage “Early to Bed, Early to Rise.” Nobuaki sets off to try and save one of his classmates, Furusawa Tsubasa, from his fate, while having Natsuko gather the remaining classmates in one area…because OF COURSE their parents will let them go out after midnight.
Nobuaki arrives at Tsubasa’s house and attempts to stop the hanging, but is too late and—wait a minute!
Now, I let the window reflection crap pass, but there’s NO excuse for this one! HOW DO YOU MISSPELL TSUBASA?! “TUBASA”?! Really?! Come on.
Anyway, Nobuaki arrives too late to save Tsubasa and runs off. On the way, the King sends him a couple of friendly messages letting him know that #3 Iketani Hanako, #13 Sakurai Megumi, #7 Takamura Misa, #19 Takumi Nanami, #22 Hasegawa Shou, and #17 Takada Shin have all been knocked off. And here I complain about the text messages Verizon sends me about my data plan.
At the gathering site, Nobuaki attempts to once again explain to his classmates what the heck is going on, explaining that he has played the King’s Game before, and he was the lone survivor of his class. One of the classmates deduces that Nobuaki knowingly knew the consequences of denying Natsuko a kiss; that the two of them would die. Enraged at this, Satou Yuuchi begins kicking the tar out of Nobuaki, assuming that he is the culprit in charge of the messages and the murders…a direct violation of the Kings’ “Don’t be doing all extra” edict…and, as per a text message, he is punished by bleeding to death.
But this isn’t your normal “bleeding to death,” no. This is a bubbling, oozing, explosive exsanguination, boys and girls. You wanna talk about high blood pressure? This dude’s pressure is somewhere in the neighborhood of 300/150. Ain’t no medication helping that one.
After the end credit sequence which features a pretty cool song set up against an anything but cool clip show of the episode we just saw, we see several faces crossed off the class photo, reminding me a lot of Trigger Happy Havoc: Danganronpa : 10 down, 22 to go.
So that’s Episode 1 of King’s Game: The Animation. Long story short…it’s an O.K. start to the series. Could it be better? Absolutely. But when it comes to premiere episodes, I’ve seen worse. Hopefully we get some individual character development in the next episode, as well as more background info on Nobuaki…whom I will be calling “Nobu” for short because I’m tired of having to look back and see how to spell this dummy’s name. I mentioned Danganronpa earlier, and honestly this anime is giving me the same kinda vibe: high school kids thrown into a life-or-death game where they have to learn who they can and can’t trust. What makes this show special is the fact that we don’t see our antagonist: we don’t see the King, but we get an idea of just how powerful he is and how much control he has. It’s deliciously sinister and creepy–perfect for the Halloween season.
Here’s hoping it stays that way. See you next time for Episode 2.
King’s Game: The Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll with new episodes every Thursday at 11:00AM. Funimation will also be doing a SimulDub of the series, but there’s currently no information as to the cast or the update schedule.