No Game No Life: Zero, review of the prequel film on Prime Video

"In the Great War of antiquity we fought and survived, while gods, Elves, Teriantropes and all other races fought. "These are the words of Sora to Imani of Elkia. After all, few people know or remember what happened during the war thousands of years before, even if that event led to the birth of the current disboard.
We too, while watching No Game No Life, wondered what had happened in the past: Yuu Kamiya, the author of the light novel from which the animated series of the study was taken Madhouse, gave an explanation in the sixth volume of the novel.

After two years from the airing of the last episode of the first season, the animation studio wanted to pay homage to the fans who long await the second season by making the film adaptation of the sixth volume of the novel: No Game No Life: Zero. The Zero of the title not only indicates the nature of the product, that is, a prequel, but also the inability of humans to use magic. After landing on VVVVID, recently No Game No Life: Zero is also available on Prime Videos, in the original language and with Italian subtitles.

Create hope

In the first episode of No Game No Life, a war is mentioned which shocked and destroyed the whole world, and which brought the god Tet to modify Disboard, so that it was a peaceful place, without bloodshed and where the disputes were resolved by playing. No Game No Life: Zero it is set 6000 years earlier and is the story of the last moments of the terrifying clash.

We already know the reasons behind the outbreak of the Great Eternal War: the gods began to fight each other, deploying the races created to gain absolute power. Due to the ongoing conflict, the planet is destroyed by flames and covered with a blanket of corrosive ash. The only species, however, that is truly affected by the clashes is the human one, as it does not perceive and cannot use magic: almost completely decimated, the few survivors have holed up in caves, far from conflict. The main character is Riku, a boy who was born and raised in the war: he was still a child when he saw his village destroyed, and this led him to harbor a deep hatred for the various sides. Riku is now head of a small survivor community and a group of explorers, who delves into the affected areas to retrieve material and obtain information about the conflict, to be used to survive longer. As a human leader, the protagonist is forced to make difficult and questionable decisions: to save the few people still alive, often he must sacrifice his companions.

In front of the others, Riku cannot appear weak, but when he is alone he gives in to every fragility and reproaches himself for the choices he has made. One day, the chief of humans reaches the ruins of an old elven capital, where he hopes to find some information, but runs into a Ex-Machina.

This is one Prufer, a model for analysis, which he wants to know the human soul, but due to the continuous errors of calculation it was removed from its peers, for this reason it is now independent; however, the creature hopes to be able to return to the other members, after obtaining the necessary data. After losing a game of chess, Riku is forced to be accompanied by the Ex-Machina, who wants to continue his research, and to avoid creating disturbances he decides to hide it, giving it its name Schwi.

Perhaps the first half of the film could be monotonous, but it allows us to get to know the two protagonists and the serious condition in which the world is concerned; in these moments, Schwi begins to understand the soul and human emotions, maturing feelings towards his partner. The second part, which begins when Riku decides to exploit the knowledge of the Ex-Machina to end the war, however, is more lively, with little dramatic twists, some of which create a link with the main series.

A better tomorrow

Before starting the vision of No Game No Life: Zero we were convinced that the film was an isekai set years earlier, and that the hero came to disboard had brought about changes in the lives of humans.

From the first minutes we realized that the authors wanted to propose something different and we can say that the result is commendable: the creative staff of Madhouse managed to achieve a convincing feature film in perfect harmony with the original work, but at the same time detaching it, putting aside the belonging subgenre. This change of course led to a screenplay with more serious and slow tonalities and narrative rhythms: the film is devoid of citations, and has few moments focused on comedy and fanservice, limited mainly to the introductory lines. This shows how No Game No Life: Zero is a more mature work, as can also be seen from the choice of the protagonists: Riku, in fact, is not represented as a classic hero, having no gift and not sacrificing his own life to save that of others, let alone as an antihero; instead, he urges his companions to sacrifice themselves for common salvation. However, the young man is not blamed, because his every decision has the sole purpose of saving the few lives left.

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The protagonist is unable to take on the difficulties and sufferings of the survivors, and net of detached behavior, he cannot live with what he is forced to endure and face, and would like the war to end as soon as possible, even if he is aware that the world in which he lives is not suitable for humans, who seem destined to suffer.

Ultimately, we can consider Riku as a "human" hero: every day he must live with the consequences of his decisions and with the suffering he brings, in order to achieve peace and serenity. Through the eyes, words and actions of the main actor we can experience the horrors of an unjust and cruel war firsthand: we realize how the clash that is taking place, in addition to destroying the planet, brings with it countless victims of the weakest, and of how they strive strenuously to be able to live at least another day.

The reflections on the repercussions that the clashes have on the innocent, who often see loved ones die and hope to see the end of hostilities, are not so veiled.

In a time of difficulty, when he can no longer bear the weight of the dead, Riku meets Schwi: initially their relationship is cold, because he considers her as one of those races that are destroying human beings. Subsequently, the Ex-Machina realizes that she wants to know the soul of her partner, without making him suffer, and begins to bind to him little by little. With the passage of time, Our found in Schwi a person with whom to open up and confide and who helps him to face the difficulties of every day. The two grow and mature together: Riku puts aside the initial grudges against the Ex-machina, seeing it as a similar; Schwi begins to understand and experience human feelings. Yet, we must admit that the evolution of the relationship between the two protagonists has not completely convinced us: net of some intimate and reflective moments, thanks to which the bond takes shape, the relationship seems to mature too quickly. Continuing with the narrative, the two become more intimate, but we were not given an opportunity to see how they reached maturity: we would have liked the story to focus more on the relationship between Riku and Schwi, to make it even more credible.

This, however, did not spoil the vision: we still felt involved in the dynamics of the two, and in the final bars we realized that we felt empathy for them and that we had created an indissoluble bond.

However, there is a third character that we can define silent, as he is not very present on the scene, but influential in future events: Tet. Although it appears only at the beginning and end of the film, its presence is constant, like a divinity who watches the unfolding of events.

The few segments dedicated to the God of games offer us small details on his nature, which allow us to discover why he modified Disboard, inspired by chess, and the origin of the 10 Pacts. It cannot be excluded that No Game No Life: Zero has left us some clues as to why Tet summoned Sora and Shiro.

Tower in e6

The technical sector of No Game No Life: Zero does not differ much from that used in the main series: the stretch is well cared for, especially in the close-ups, but light and not very traced; once again a very bright photograph predominates, which does not ruin the most dramatic moments, well characterized by a slightly darker lighting.

In some situations, especially when the camera focuses on landscapes, we have noticed a more painstaking design, with an almost cinematic cut. The character design is well done, and we like to think that the similarity between Riku is Sora, Schwi is Shiro is a sort of parallelism and bond between the protagonists of the two works.

Given the uneventful nature of the production, we would not have expected to see fights, but we had to change our minds: in the final bars we witness a majestic clash, thanks to the artistic style and fluid and overwhelming animations, and to an audio sector and a column enthralling sounds, which highlight the action.

Although the duel kept us glued to the screen for its spectacularity, it seemed a little out of place, as a mere expedient to reach the conclusion of the now forgotten myth of Riku and Schwi.

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