Welcome to our 2017 Fall Anime Reviews. We’ll be tackling a few of the new shows airing this season in fairly brief reviews. The reviews will only cover the first episode of each series unless one catches our eye.
Ah, yes, the classroom survival game. Another staple of anime, particularly the horror genre. Because what would the Halloween season be without a good ole fashioned scare?
Again, we have another simple premise. Nobuaki transfers to a new school (and I almost bust out laughing when his seat is the back row next to the window), only for his entire class to be swept up in something known as King’s Game. Participants receive emails/texts with instructions for each individual (or the entire class) to follow during each 24-hour time span. Anyone who fails to complete a task or goes against the instructions given is killed. That’s about as tried and true as you can get with this sort of story. “Tried and true” unfortunately meaning predictable in this case. The texts go out, our “daring” protagonist tries to convince the class it’s real, they don’t believe him, everyone turns against him, some people die. Boom. Wrap it up and sell it. The public will eat this crap up.
Okay, I really can’t do this in a brief review. Gotta get a lot of this off my chest.
In all seriousness, it’s not awful. It’s just got that “been there done that” feel to it. If anything can be described as remotely above average about this show, I’d say it’s the character backgrounds for who I am assuming are the two leads: Nobuaki and his romantic interest Natsuko. (Let me be clear: character backgrounds, not character writing.) Natsuko suffered traumatic events earlier in life, but she maintains an outgoing and upbeat attitude, seemingly trying to engage herself more in the lives of those around her instead of dwelling on her own misfortune. Then there’s Nobuaki, who played King’s Game in the past (it’s not really a spoiler), lost pretty much everyone important to him, and is terrified of getting close to anyone again.
Now allow me to go on by saying the writing for every other character is hot garbage. The characters seem like they’re brought in just to say specific lines with no regard for their own personalities or the situation at hand. In addition, if you look beyond the basic motivations of Nobuaki and Natsuko, you find equal amounts hot garbage. Even they just seem bounced around from Point A to Point B by messy writing, which is a darn shame because I really did find some potential in how both of them were initially introduced. But the most important character writing question of all for this episode is: WHY THE HECK ARE SO MANY PEOPLE AWAKE AT MIDNIGHT? AND HOW DOES NATSUKO FIND NOBUAKI AT THAT TIME? Seriously, everything is so contrived about this show.
The most major problem with the show right now is the execution of the game itself. King’s Game is cool and all, but the instructions handed out seem arbitrary and ridiculous, like they are being sent out by some prepubescent shut-in, not to mention there’s one rule that’s practically impossible for many people to follow. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why one person died, as I could not think of any rules they broke, unless it was the incredibly vague (and grammatically incorrect) “No one is to do nothing unnecessary” instruction. This first episode seems more like something that should have been stretched out over two episodes, though I understand the need to get the hook in the water. Really, there just needs to be a little more setup regarding the instructions and how the punishments work, because the randomness and abstract nature of both really makes it hard to become engrossed in the narrative. It makes the violence seem gratuitous when the story fails to support it. Extras are just dying left and right as a sort of cheap shock value attempt, and it doesn’t work at all.
Speaking of which, the show seems to be playing it a little safe by toning down what could have been some really gory scenes. If this show really wants to be taken seriously, it’s going to need to ramp it up a little by trying to be more unsettling. I’m not saying I want it to go to the same levels as the Death Note movie on Netflix or .Another, both in which the violence just became comical after a while. But right now, it seems to indulge in violent scenes just for the sake of it. There’s nothing engaging about how the violence plays out – nothing shocking, creepy, or edgy. It’s just there. Like the writing staff had a quota of deaths to fill and just inserted them in randomly without wanting to take the time to make them unique or interesting in their own right. There’s not a whole lot working in this show’s favor, but I think if it can make its deaths have more punch to them, both visually and in terms of writing, it’ll at least have that.
King’s Game flounders a lot in its first episode. It’s not a completely bad show so far, but it’s also far from being a good show. If it can take time to make the game feel more personal and traumatic, I think it can survive, even against the other (and already leagues better) survival show of the season, Juni Taisen. But it can’t rely on the same old formulaic stuff we’ve seen time and time again, especially if the punishments are going to be handed out so indiscriminately (they happen so impersonally that it’s just hard to even care). I’ll stick around for a little while longer, but my hopes are not high for this show. It’s very middle of the line right now, and I’m not really seeing too many routes for it to get better. Here’s hoping I’m wrong and the show doesn’t become absolute trash.
King's Game - Episode 1
- Natsuko is written comparatively well, but the show doesn't set the bar very high
- Score helps set the tone
- King's Game is a bit too abstract
- Violent scenes lack intensity and just seem gratuitous
- Offers very little that has not been seen before in better shows
- Poor writing for entire cast