Yo! Josh here once again with another episodic review of King’s Game: The Animation! As always, I want to thank you guys for all your feedback and all the love I’ve gotten for these reviews. It’s always awesome when someone offers constructive praise and critiques when it comes to writing, and you guys never disappoint. So once again, thank you so much those who have given me feedback!
So, remember when I said last week that the show LOOKS like it WANTS to do something? Well…turns out the show decided that maybe it wants to move a little bit towards the edge of the bed; it’s still nowhere near getting up and doing something, but it’s closer than it was before. This week’s episode is just more of the same thing we’ve come to expect from King’s Game: The Animation at this point. Sure there may be some new little bits here and there, but on the whole, we’re still in the same place we were before, both in the episode and the series as a whole.
That being said, to quote “Cruel Angel Thesis,” let’s take flight through the window with surging hot pathos! I’m Josh, and this is Episode 5 of King’s Game: The Animation.
Last time out, Nobuaki, AKA “Nobu-Kun” took a ride in a poorly rendered train with Kenta and Mizuki to the abandoned Yonaki village, the site of the first King’s game 30 years ago. During the trip, Nobu-Kun throws us into another flashback, this time about a classmate named Nami who is struck blind after a failed attempt at trying to catch the King. Crying and screaming ensues along with the needlessly smashing of objects and running around town trying to find a blind girl who gets around better than most tourists in New York City. But alas, Nobu-kun fails to save Nami who commits suicide by somehow finding her way to a beach and walking off into the surf. Got it? Good. Let’s get this over with.
We now rejoin our flashback currently in progress. Seriously, this show doesn’t even bother with the framework of the new class like it usually does. It just deposits us right back into the flashback at the exact moment we left. Anyway, Ria joins Nobu-Kun on the beach, berating the late Nami about how foolish her decision was to commit suicide when her punishment wasn’t death. And…on this, I would have to agree. While, yes, sudden blindness would be a big shock to anyone, Nami was still alive and well, all things considered. Did she REALLY like Nobu-kun that much that she would sacrifice her life for him? Seriously?! Anyway, Nobu-kun grabs Ria by the collar, still clearly angry over losing Nami. Ria, nonplussed at this display of emotion, repeats her previous claim that she is the King and that Nobu-Kun should use the anger he feels at losing Nami to kill her and end the game.
After the OP, Nobu-Kun reminds Ria that Nami put her life on the line by giving herself the order to touch the King, thinking that the culprit was a member of the class. And as Nami clearly touched everyone in class, including Ria, and no “Obedience Confirmed” message was sent out, nobody was the culprit. However, Ria states that Nami didn’t touch her; she grabbed Nami’s hand and touched it to her body.
PAUSE. RIGHT HERE! PAUSE THIS RIGHT NOW! Oh, I’m calling bullpocky right here and right now! Does this show expect us to believe that because Ria grabbed Nami’s hand and touched it to her body, it doesn’t technically count as a touch because she didn’t do it herself?! Seriously!? THAT STILL COUNTS AS A TOUCH! Nami’s hand is still Nami’s hand, no matter who has a hold of it! The order was that she touch the king. Even though someone else had her hand, she still touched Ria! If this is the writers’ way of trying to be cute and cleaver, then it’s not working at all. Even if she were being acted on by an outside force, for all intents and purposes, Nami did touch Ria!
Anyway, after a minute of angry frustration, Nobu-Kun pushes Ria to the ground and exclaims that if she really is the King, he will kill her. Ria then leaps up and uses a Taser on Nobu-Kun. Yes, really. She produces a taser and shocks him. He had it coming! Anyway, Ria then makes like OJ Simpson and states that IF SHE REALLY WERE the King, Nobu-Kun would be dead by now. When Nobu-Kun questions Ria’s motives, she states that she actually wants to enjoy the King’s Game and will do whatever it takes to defeat the King including killing. You know, I agree with Ria…I really want to enjoy King’s Game too…it’s just too bad the writers and the creators won’t allow me such a luxury. Nobu-Kun reiterates that there must be a way to defeat the king without any more body’s stacking up. Good luck with that. Ria leaves him stating that she’ll play the game her way and survive.
Meanwhile, we get two new characters in the fray from the class…Kaori and Yousuke. Who are Kaori and Yousuke? NO EFFING CLUE WHATSOEVER. Does it matter who they are? NOPE! Because, spoiler alert, they’ll both be dead before the ending credits roll. These two are pretty much here to act as a mirror to Kenta and Mizuki from our current timeline; the willowy girl who needs her strong secret crush to protect her. Only this time Yousuke is somewhat intelligent as he is trying to solve the mystery of the King’s Game to hopefully bring it to an end. Now if they would only bring this show to an end, that would be something.
Later, in Nobu-Kun’s wrecked room, Naoya stops by to explain about what happened to two other students off screen. Students #1 and #15, Shingo Adachi and Akemi Kinoshita respectively, got an order from the King to send the “Die” texts to two students each or risk death from Natural Causes. The recipients will also die from Natural Causes. Admittedly, I’m a little confused at what happened during this little fracas, and this is after replaying the scene over and over again trying to get what happened! This is what happens when you have a cast of 40+ characters to keep track of! Anyway, suffice it to say, more students died. Now, all this information was told to Naoya by a TEACHER. A teacher is telling one of their students specific details about how their classmates died?! Also, what kind of school is this that there is NO INVESTIGATION going on as to why the students in this one particular class are dropping off like flies?! You would think this would come up in a staff meeting or something…
“So, next up on the agenda…the students in one of our classes seem to be dying at an alarming rate in the most violent of ways. Please remind you students that sudden violent death is frowned upon at this institution and any student found spraying their blood on the walls will be suspended for 3 days if they still maintain consciousness. Now let’s move on to the class trip.”
While we’re here, let’s talk about this animation. While I do appreciate the fact that Nobu-Kun’s room didn’t magically repair itself between episodes, and I also appreciate the fact that we see Daisuke’s broken bracelet on the table, there are a few things that stood out. One, that window should be smashed; Nobu-Kun smashed it with his guitar in the last episode. Two, the guitars coloring is off in this scene as compared to the last time we saw it. Three, the strings should NOT be sticking up like that. Broken guitar strings hang limp and do not defy gravity. And four, Naoya’s socks change color from brown to grey between shots. Yes, I noticed those things.
On a related note, I have to give a shoutout to my bro Paresh (@NobleKind92) on Twitter who helped me figure out the conundrum with the guitar strings, even going so far as to provide this picture of anime V/A and Zeo Ranger IV Johnny Yong Bosch playing a guitar with a broken string hanging limp. He loves doggos, so send him a picture of a couple cute ones as thanks for letting me use this picture.
Anyway, Nobu-kun gets a phone call from Yousuke who says he may have found a clue about the King. Apparently, the people who die receives a text message from the King with a single character in the body of the message. Nobu-Kun confirms that Nami got a message before she passed away. He then asks Yousuke about Ria, expressing concerns about her knowledge of the game and her mysterious nature. Yousuke tells him that once upon a time, rumor has it, Ria wasn’t anything like she is now—she was a typical smiling friendly girl…until her father sexually abused her. And of course we actually have to see a shot of Ria after the aforementioned abuse because, WHY NOT?! Is it just me, or does this show treat it’s female characters like crap? Seriously, the females in this show are only there to either be sexually abused, helpless flowers that require a big strong man to save them, or convenient vaginas for a perverted King’s order. It’s like the writers of this anime just don’t know how to write good strong females.
Anyway, Midnight rolls around and a new order comes in from the King: “No one in class is to do anything unnecessary in the King’s Game.” Before our two bros have a chance to figure out what this means, another message comes in stating that a bunch of students will be punished for breaking the rules, and the King then goes on to list the students and the methods of death including Asphyxiation, Drowning, Decapitation, Immolation, Dismemberment, and good old fashioned Shinigami-approved, Heart Attack. No word yet on if anyone dies by falling and not being able to get up.
Nobu-Kun and Naoya begin making phone calls to the various members of their class to try and stop whatever is going on. Nobu-Kun calls Shouta, the King-For-The-Day from an earlier episode, but it seems as though he’s busy dying by asphyxiation…which is deliciously ironic considering how he commanded Daisuke to die by hanging himself. How’s it feel to be without oxygen, Shouta?! Before he punches his one-way ticket on the Midnight Train to Georgia, he tells Nobu-Kun that he blocked something on his phone, but dies before he has a chance to finish it. You’re gonna carry that weight, Shouta.
Naoya remembers seeing Shouta and two other classmates talking about blocking the King’s messages from appearing on their phone. Nobu-kun recalls that one of the rules of the game was that you couldn’t drop out partway and that maybe the act of blocking calls or deactivating phone service would be a breach of that rule. Hiro-kun attempts to call Chiemi with no reply. He decides to run to her house (of course) giving Naoya instructions to call his classmates and advise them not to deactivate their phone service or block the King’s messages or risk death and/or an Early Termination Fee from the phone provider.
Nobu-Kun calls one of his classmates, Hiroko, and advises her to make like the United States Congress and do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Hiroko tearfully agrees. Not 10 seconds after they hang up, the King sends out a message saying that Hiroko will get the Death Note classic punishment for not following the King’s order–a heart attack. Hiroko calls back to find out WTF, but she’s soon Knocking on Heaven’s Door. Nobu-kun then gets another message about another classmate, Hirofumi, about to bite the big one by immolation. After talking with him, Nobu-kun realizes what’s going on: the unnecessary action was crying.
Nobu-Kun steadies himself and calls Naoya to tell him what’s up and to tell everyone not to look at their phones, the last few minutes of the movie Titanic, or my bank account after spending the weekend at an anime convention; the reason being that if someone were to look at their phone and sees that a friend or love one died, they would naturally get upset, cry, and die. Nobu-Kun then tries calling Chiemi, but still doesn’t get a reply. Just as it seems like he’s about to give up and get emotional, Yousuke calls with some good news; he found a major clue about the King’s game…and that clue is Yonaki Village.
We come back from commercial with Yousuke telling Nobu-Kun that he has compiled all the information required and that he will send it to him in an email so he can go to Yonaki and solve the mystery. He also tells Nobu-Kun that he’ll soon be headed up the River Styx himself as he started crying earlier, thinking about Kaori. Nobu-Kun urges him to call Kaori once again to tell her how he feels, but Yousuke is more interested in ending the game once and for all, and that hope rests with Nobu-Kun. NO PRESSURE BRO! Also, what kind of advise is that?! Call the girl you have a crush on and tell her you’re about to die and confess your feelings? In this situation, that’s the VERY LAST THING you should do if your goal is to keep Kaori from getting upset and crying! Nobu-kun, you stupid as hell!
Yousuke compiles all the information in a ZIP file and enacts the typical anime “All I have to do is press this ONE BUTTON and everything is solved!” trope, but it’s right then that the King decides to enact punishment. Yousuke’s hand LITERALLY flies off his wrist in bloody fashion, but he manages to use his left hand to click the mouse and send the message before his body splatters in pieces on the floor. Rest in Various Pieces, Yousuke. Of course, it would’ve been much easier and less dramatic if he had just sent the message WHILE HE WAS ON THE PHONE WITH NOBU-KUN instead of waiting until the LAST SECOND, but of course this is anime and the hero has to have a dramatic press of the button or click of the mouse as that last heroic measure. Whatever.
Meanwhile, Nobu-Kun psyches himself up and vows to fight the King. He then calls Kaori, to advise her not to cry or look at her texts. When she asks if he heard from Yousuke, Nobu-Kun lies and says that he’s fine and relays the plan about going to Yonaki Village to her. He hangs up before she has a chance to argue the point further.
Later, at the train station, Nobu-Kun is waiting to head out, but the lead metal pipe knocking him unconscious has other plans. When Nobu-kun comes around, he finds himself tied up in what looks to be the school equipment storage room. His captor is revealed to be Kaori. So…wait…you mean to tell me that Kaori snuck up on Nobu-Kun, knocked him out, then dragged him to the school!? Did NOBODY see her do ANY of this?! I swear, everyone in this town must be blind, stupid, or BOTH.
Anyway, Kaori confronts Nobu-kun, accusing him at knife point of being the King and killing Yousuke. Nobu-kun explains Yousuke’s plan to her for him to go to Yonaki and solve the mystery and that Yousuke actually really liked her and didn’t want her to cry. This triggers…yet ANOTHER flashback as Kaori remembers the time when she and Yousuke were younger and he protected her from bullies in the sandbox. Could you GET anymore cliché? Anyway, this flashback was enough for her to believe him and she unties Nobu-Kun just as a phone message comes in and she collapses with tears in her eyes. As she dies, Kaori thanks Nobu-kun for relaying Yousuke’s feelings. As Nobu-kun mourns his lost friends, a figure in the darkness picks up his phone.
Do You Seriously Need Me To Remind You? Okay. The Death Toll Remains: 10 Dead, 22 Remaining…
Well, that’s Episode 5. And, I think it’s official now–this show has zero to no hope of getting better. This episode was mediocre at best. It’s just the same old thing we’ve seen for the last 4 episodes with no kind of progress forward in the non-flashback story line. In fact, it can be argued that this episode actually pushes us BACKWARDS as we already know what’s going on, but this episode repeats it. Remember, the last episode had Nobu-Kun, Kenta and Mizuki on a train going to Yonaki Village. We knew where they were going and why; Nobu-Kun clearly explained that Yonaki was the place of the first King’s Game and that he had to go there to see if there were any clues on how to stop it. Did we really need an entire flashback episode showing us how Nobu-Kun found out about Yonaki? Would it have made a difference if we knew Yousuke was the one who did the research? Did we really need an episode focused on the deaths of classmates that are inconsequential to the main story? I get the idea that these guys recently played the King’s Game, but they’re not the main cast; they’re not the ones we are introduced to first. So why are you trying to tell us a story and get us attracted to these flashback characters whose deaths are inconsequential to the plot and plight of our main non-flashback cast?
Nothing that happened in the flashbacks has any sort of consequence in the non-flashback reality except for Yousuke’s research which is really the only reason he was in this episode. Kaori was yet another damsel in distress looking for her Captain Save-A-Ho for protection and did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for the story. The character of Ria is somewhat interesting, but once again, the creators just couldn’t leave well enough alone so they not only decide to make her the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, but they actually show her lying on the bed after being abused! Did we REALLY need to see that? Just the idea that she was treated in this way by her father was enough–but the show decides that we need to SEE it to drive the point home. NO WE DIDN’T. There were many different ways the show could’ve done this, but it opts for the cheap out once again. Though, I have to give props to the creators that she carries around a taser for protection.
This show really needs to improve its animation. I mean SERIOUSLY, some of these mistakes and errors should have been caught LONG BEFORE this show was broadcast. It’s like they don’t have anyone editing or proofing their work before putting it out for public consumption. Heck, Tyler, bless his heart, edits my work before putting it out there, and I KNOW I make my share of mistakes. How hard is it to get someone to go back and proof the entire anime before submitting it? I get time constraints are a thing, but come on! This is supposed to be a polished work.
With regards to the English Dub…well…it’s not the best thing in the world. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not BAD, per se, but it’s by no means the best work that Funimation has ever put out. Nowhere near it, in fact. It’s like I said earlier—this is the 2nd string working on this project; it’s not Drew Brees, it’s Chase Daniel. I can’t help but wonder what this project would sound like if Sentai Filmworks got a hold of this. I also found myself wishing that this were a Gag Dub like the old ADV dub of Ghost Stories. I can see a bunch of V/A’s having a ball with this show.
So yeah, long story short, this Train of Mediocrity looks as though it will continue chugging down the track of Disappointment until it crashes into Failure Station like the train in Silver Streak…except there’s no Richard Pryor or Gene Wilder to save us.
Just a reminder that King’s Game: The Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll with new episodes every Thursday at 11:00AM. Funimation is currently doing a Simul-dub of the show, with new episodes premiering on Saturdays at 3:00PM CST.