Hey guys, Josh here again. First and foremost, I want to thank you all for the love you’ve given this Southern Anime Writer on my first review. It’s really inspirational to have my work being appreciated once again. Seriously, ya’ll are prodigious and I hope to continue to put out reviews worthy of your accolades.
Now if only this show would put out episodes worthy of us. Yeah, boys and girls, this was not a good episode. In fact, when I finished it, I immediately blamed my bro Kadeem for putting me through this torture…who then proceeded to remind me that I was the dummy who picked this dawg gone show in the first place. That…is true, but I still like to blame him for my anguish. It’s how we stayed friends for so long.
That being said, let’s make like the late, great Koji Wada and fly on my love. (And if you know what song that’s from, you are awesome.) I’m Josh and this is my review of King’s Game: The Animation, Episode 2.
When we last left our group of unsupervised high school students who were gathered in the park past midnight, Nobuaki, henceforth known as “Nobu-Kun,” because why not, reiterates the importance of the group working together in order to survive the Kings Game. He then turns to Natsuko, the hero of the Class Relay Race and all around good wholesome girl for support…
…And she’s more worried about who she is going to have sex with. If you recall, one of the King’s Orders is that she “hook up” with #25 Teruaki Nagata and she’s really fretting over it. Hey, sweetie? You are caught up in a perilous game of life-and-death right now. TEN of your classmates just died…one right in front of you in the most horrible of ways, and all you can think about right now is “Am I gonna have to have sex with some guy?!” You don’t have to have sex with Teruaki RIGHT THIS SECOND. You have 24 hours to figure out what you want to do. PRIORITIES…GET THEM…NOW.
We then cut from Natsuko worrying about her sex life to the new OP. The song is “Feed the Fire” by Coldrain. The song goes well with the anime and it sounds awesome, but the animation accompanying it doesn’t really do anything for me. It’s nothing really special.
Anyway, let’s check back in with Natsuko, who by now has probably calmed down and realized that the safety of herself and her friends is more important–
AND THEY’RE STILL TALKING ABOUT WHO SHE IS GOING TO HAVE SEX WITH!! Why?! WHY IS THIS STILL A TOPIC OF DISCUSSION AT THIS POINT IN TIME?! Again, you just lost 10 classmates…one of whom died right in front of you (and is still laying there, just FYI)…and all you can think about is who is going to be the first to take your virginity?! And she then starts crying to Nobu-Kun, wanting him to take her virginity first as she loves him. Natsuko…sweetie…THINK ABOUT YOUR VAGINA LATER! Nobu-Kun then decides to tell us about his history with the King’s Game which can only mean one thing: It’s FLASHBACK TIME!! It’s just like Naruto: Shippuden all over again except there’s no Vic Mignogna…yet.
Speaking of Shippuden, I have to say this is probably the most unimaginative and abrupt entry into a flashback sequence I’ve ever seen since Shippuden. I looked away from my TV for a second when I was watching the episode, and when I looked back, for a few seconds, I didn’t pick up on the fact that we weren’t in the same place. The only way I realized it was when I noted the Crunchyroll Subtitles were outlined in blue instead of all white. Even the characters from Nobu-Kun’s old class look somewhat like the ones in his new class. Would it have hurt the creators to make an interesting transition, or maybe make the break between acts the transition?
ANYWAY…we’re back in time to Nobu-Kun’s old class where King’s Game shenanigans are just kicking off. Hideki Toyota has been ordered by the King to touch Satomi Ishii’s F-Cups. Of course, baby girl is none too thrilled about this. The class thinks this is just a big elaborate prank. He backs off and we then see a SMILING Nobu-Kun talking to his pal Naoya Hashimoto who—
Okay…PAUSE HERE AGAIN! There’s something I want to address. This happened in the 1st episode, and it’s happening here and getting on my nerves. Whenever they introduce a classmate, they let them have a line, their name appears on-screen, and there’s silence for about 1-3 seconds. They don’t move, they don’t blink, they don’t do ANYTHING…they just freeze as though they’re giving the audience time to read their names…or make a sandwich. And it’s awkward. The most egregious instance of this is with Naoya’s introduction. He says his line, his name appears, and he just freezes…unblinking…unspeaking with those big brown eyes and that Old Navy Frost Free Quilted Vest. (Look it up if you don’t believe me!)
Anyway, that night, Nobu-Kun receives a couple of messages from the King. One about Hideki and Satomi from earlier, the other containing a new Order—that Daisuke Tazaki and Misaki Nakajima “hook up.” I’m not sure if this is an issue with Translation or what, but I find it interesting that the “King” uses the phrase “Hook Up.” The “King” doesn’t explicitly say “Have Sex.” That is a bit vague on my end, truth be told. I mean, if you tell someone to “Have Sex,” then that’s pretty much cut and dry right there. But “Hook Up” could mean many things aside from intercourse. It could mean something innocuous like going out on a date or having a nice kiss. I find it funny that these kids AUTOMATICALLY jump to the conclusion that the “King” wants them to have sex instead of doing something less intense like going out on a date. It would make my day if the King sent a message right afterwards saying “DANG! I just wanted ya’ll to go out on a date! I didn’t mean for ya’ll to do all that! The King’s next order is that the two of you get the Morning After Pill.”
In any case…the next day, the teacher relays some bad news: Hideki and Satomi hung themselves and died. This naturally has the class shook. After school (and after an establishing shot of Ria Iwamura because I’m SURE she’ll come back later) Shouta, Misaki’s boyfriend, is livid at the thought of his girl hooking up with another dude, and he threatens to break up with her and kill Daisuke.
That afternoon, at Typical Anime High School Hangout Location #3 (also known as the riverbank), Hiro-kun and Chiemi talk for a bit about the death of their friends. Nobu-Kun receives a message from the King saying that the Order was done—Daisuke and Misaki did the deed. Chiemi wonders out loud what would happen if they received the order, and Hiro-Kun says that there’s no way in hell he would comply. The lies you tell, Nobu-Kun.
The next day Nobu-Kun walks to school with Naoya and another order comes in from the King. Shouta, our jealous boyfriend, is given the rare opportunity to be King for the Day and give an order. He also gets his own special crown, a Personal Pan Pizza, and 50 free tokens to play any game he chooses at Chuck-E-Cheese for being a good boy and getting Straight A’s on his report card. So, this order is pretty much cut and dry…just have Shouta give a harmless order, execute it, and call it a day until the next one comes around, right? Shouta seems like a pretty nice guy who wouldn’t give any prodigiously stupid or dangerous orders, huh?
Cut to our King for the Day beating the ever-loving snot out of Daisuke. Dang it, why do I have to be so freaking naive? Anyway, Nobu-Kun arrives just in time to pull Shouta off Daisuke who then decides to give his order: that Daisuke Tazaki hangs himself and dies. Shame on you, Shouta. No Personal Pan for you, young man! No soon as the proclamation is given, the King sends confirmation of the order to the entire class via text. Daisuke dashes out in terror and at Chiemi’s insistence, Nobu-Kun follows after him leaving his classmates behind to explain to their teacher what all the ruckus was about and why the desks are all askew. Nah, I’m just kidding. Adults don’t exist in this show to do actual adult things like that.
Later, at Typical Anime High School Hangout Location #1 (also known as the school roof), Nobu-Kun comforts Daisuke reiterating that this whole thing is just a sick joke. As they talk, we get a peek into Nobu-kun’s life before everything goes downhill. We find out here that he’s a musician in training with dreams of playing at Nippon Budokan one day. Bro, don’t you know you haven’t really made it big until you play at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana? Now THAT’S a venue. Daisuke reveals that he also has dreams of being a musician despite his external meek appearance. He’s kind of like Koyuki from Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad–quiet on the outside but inside beats the heart of a rock star. Now if only Greg Ayres would voice him in the dub, that would just be awesome. In any case, this revelation hypes Nobu-Kun up and he decides that the two of them along with Naoya should rock out all night long past midnight, with Nobu-Kun vowing that he’ll stop the King’s punishment no matter what.
Fast forward to later that day at Daisuke’s house (with no parents around, of course) and the trio belt out music all through the night with Daisuke especially putting his heart and soul into the music, especially in the last ten minutes before “Midnight.” The time comes and goes and the group celebrates with Daisuke going to get drinks. You know, when you really think about it, our glasses wearing bro has had a pretty awesome 24 hours if you don’t factor in the King’s Game or the beat-down he got earlier. He made some new friends, he had a chance to rock out with said friends, and he got to sleep with a cute girl. Not an AWFUL way to spend a day…riiiiiight???
Welp, a phone call from Chiemi brings an otherwise awesome day to a tragic end as she states that it’s actually a few minutes BEFORE midnight. Turns out the clock in the room they were having the concert in was off by a couple of minutes and it’s not quite midnight…because NOBODY IN THIS ANIME LOOKS AT THEIR CELL PHONE TO KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS…
Even worse, much to Naoya’s horror, a message from the King comes on his phone with just two words: “Obedience Confirmed.” Nobu-Kun rushes to the study to find Daisuke hanging from the ceiling, dead and gone. Nobu-Kun is clearly torn up: he failed to ease the panic of his new friend, and he ended up seeing him swinging from the ceiling in the study–
Wait…how did he know Daisuke was in the study? Before he left, our glasses bro said he was thirsty and was going to get drinks for everyone. Wouldn’t the logical place to look for Daisuke first would be the kitchen and not the study? Nobu-Kun just RAN down the hall, busted through the first set of closed doors he comes across and finds Daisuke. That’s either dumb luck or just plain dumb writing.
Speaking of dumb things, we jump back to the present where Natsuko is STILL fretting over who will take her virginity first. She pleads with Nobu-Kun to sleep with her first before she does the deed with Teruaki. Keep in mind this whole conversation is happening with ALL HER CLASSMATES circled around them…and the dead body of their classmate still on the ground! Teruaki decides that enough is enough and that they must follow the King’s order right then and there. He drags Natsuko away from Nobu-Kun and puts her on the ground struggling against his grasp while her classmates, save for one girl, watches on.
So, yeah…rape. He’s literally about to rape her…in broad dayli—I mean moonlight…in front of her classmates…on the ground…WITH A DEAD BODY A FEW FEET AWAY. I…I don’t even know anymore. RAPE. What is this, Sword Art Online or something?! Am I supposed to believe that Teruaki is so crazed that he is willing to RAPE a girl outside.
Oh, but hang onto your socks, boys and girls. Things go even further down the rabbit hole. Apparently, the attempted rape flips a switch and Natsuko kicks Teruaki off her. Her entire demeanor changes and she starts talking down to Nobu-Kun about how she expected more from him since he survived the King’s game last time. She then removes her blouse and talks about how she’s now willing to do anything to survive and tells the now frightened Teruaki that they should “get started.” When he doesn’t reply, she abruptly drags Nobu-Kun off away from the group for a sidebar.
If the above paragraph made no sense, then congrats. We’re on the same page. That scene makes zero sense whatsoever. So, the attempted rape from earlier caused this immediate mood change in Natsuko…who is now apparently cool with having sex outside in front of her classmates, one of which, I would like to remind you again, is RECENTLY DECEASED. So she decides to strip down to her bra and offer herself to Teruaki…who just sits there in horror! Dude, TWO SECONDS AGO YOU WERE ABOUT TO RAPE HER! You were so terrified about not following the King’s Order you were willing to violate a girl in public. NOW YOU’RE SCARED?! What, now that she’s offering herself to you, consent and all, it’s not that big a deal!? Good grief, this writing is stupid.
During the sidebar, Nobu-kun reiterates that his goal is to try to save people from this game, but Natsuko rebukes him saying that self-preservation is more important and that backstabbing and deceit is the way to go. What happens next still blows my mind. Natsuko starts to strangle Nobu-kun declaring that she hates him. When he pushes her off, she throws her blouse at him and screams loudly, giving the illusion that Nobu-kun is trying to do something inappropriate. The classmates come rushing to her aid and immediately assume Nobu-Kun is the guilty party and commence with a beat down.
Lemme get this straight. The class SAW how Teruaki was about to rape Natsuko. They saw her kick him in the gut. They saw her take off her blouse and goad Teruaki into having sex with her. THEY SAW HER PULL NOBU-KUN INTO THE WOODS FOR A SIDEBAR CONVERSATION WITH HER BLOUSE STILL OFF. And they figure “Oh, well Nobu-kun must’ve tried to do something” and they wail on him?! NOW you decide to stop the “rape”…when there IS NO RAPE OCCURING?! I swear, I didn’t think I would rage on this show this hard and this early on, but good grief.
Meanwhile, Natsuko is now trying to appeal to #32 Mizuki Yukimura to text the word “Die” to Nobu-Kun in line with King’s order which she states will kill him. How does she know what will happen? The message only states that Mizuki and another student had to text the word “Die” to a classmate. She has NO WAY of knowing what effect it would have on the recipient. So why is she acting like she knows what will happen when she honestly doesn’t?! The episode ends with one of the students calling out for Nobu-kun as he loses consciousness. Who is this guy? Hell if I know. I’m just glad this episode is over.
The Death Toll Remains: 10 Dead, 22 Remain.
The ending credits are somewhat improved from the first one…somewhat. The song is just your standard Japanese rock singer singing a standard Japanese rock song playing over standard imagery. Nothing too memorable here. A first-time YouTuber with Windows Movie Maker could do better.
So, yeah. That was crap. That was not a very entertaining twenty-three minutes at all. The only redeeming factors I can find in this particular episode were the flashback sequences and even then, I had issues. This was completely jumbled storytelling, and it left more questions than answers…and not in a good “Ooh, I want to see what happens in the next episode” kind of way. These are more “Why are these people so freaking blind and/or stupid?!” Natsuko’s flipped personality switch came out of NOWHERE and her plan to frame Nobu-Kun for rape was equally puzzling.
On the plus side, I am glad that I got a little back-story on Nobu-Kun that I talked about earlier. It was great to see him in the flashbacks grinning, goofing off with his friends, hearing about his hopes and dreams (Even if it was the generic “I want to be a rock star!”). It was an excellent starting point for the hardened character we met in Episode 1 and I hope we get more.
Finally, I can’t help but get the feeling that this is a show that I’ve seen before. A friend of mine pointed out that this is yet another anime taking place in a high school with your typical troupe filled students…much like every other anime out there over the last few decades. I understand that this may be a popular setting in anime, but a little variety never hurt anybody. On Monday, I found myself going back into Crunchyroll’s manga archives and looking at “Kings Game: Origin,” a manga created by Nobuaki Kanazawa, the creator of the original “Kings Game” manga this show is based on. In fact, “Origin” acts as a prequel to the events seen in the anime and takes place in the same universe.
In that manga, set in 1977, a remote village in a mountain area is forced to take part in the King’s Game. Orders are sent by letter instead of emails because, duh, it’s 1977, and leaving the village doesn’t make you immune to the King’s punishments, which are just downright gruesome. I can’t help but wish that the “Origin” manga was the one the studio adapted, not the manga set in the modern-day. It would’ve been refreshing if we didn’t have a show set in yet another stereotypical high school. Also, how cool would it have been to see an entire village play the game? Not just high school teenagers, but grown adults, little kids, the elderly…all wrapped up this deadly game. I know it might sound morbid wanting to involve little kids in this life-or-death struggle, but you have to admit, it would be a lot more interesting than watching the same old characters in the same old high school setting. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
I know it’s still early for King’s Game: The Animation, and despite the face palming stupidity of this episode, it STILL has the potential to wow me…but it had better get the lead out and FAST as it only has 10 episodes left. I know some shows take a while to heat up and get a good head of steam, but we can’t have any more episodes like this.
Just a reminder that 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 starting on October 21st but at the time of publishing, there is no cast listing. Seriously hoping Daisuke is played by Greg Ayres, though. He’s awesome.