The willing suspension of disbelief if a concept in film, or in media just in general, which describes when the audience avoids thinking critically to believe a concept for the sake of enjoyment. And when the audience breaks the suspension of disbelief, the audience flips off that switch that prevents them from thinking about that concept and doubting the realisticness of the show. This key to keeping the audience engaged is done by setting up to the story flawlessly. You have to start off by telling exactly to your audience what is allowed in your world and what is not.
Here, I will be trying to make sense of how No Game No Life’s ridiculous and over the top actions of Sora and Shiro can be possible within the scope of the show, reasoning out possible explanations for inconsistency and why, even with such ridiculousness, the show manages to be incredibly enjoyable.
No Game No Life is one of my favorite anime of all time. It’s fun; it’s exciting; it’s interesting. I can’t tell you how zoned in I was everytime I watched the show starting from that super dark room lit up by the blue computer lights and the sky diving in the beautifully colored world of Disboard. And without a doubt, what makes the show so great is the genius of the Sora and Shiro Siblings that gets the gears of the game going.
No Game No Life begins by setting up the relationship and abilities of Sora and Shiro. We see them flawlessly beating up basically everyone in every game becoming some sort of an urban legend. We see Shiro playing multiplayers on her toes. We see Shiro beating a literal god in chess. Because the audience has already seen their ability applied in a game so early on, we are able to get a sense of how they would do in this literal game world. We get the sense that these two are unexplainable geniuses that have been holled up throughout their whole life because of their love for games.
This is a completely fine set up that allows the audience to know that something is possible. If we take a show like Kubikiri Cycle, for example, we are introduced to a literal physic, Maki, when we have been told that this is a real place on Earth where geniuses gather. However, this is completely believable in the context of the show for the audience as the show immediately establishes that she is a psychic that can read people’s minds and tell the future. This allows the audience to have this filter in our mind that approaches the show more like a fantasy where this is possible.
Especially when a character’s ability or a concept is fascinating, the audience is less likely to be in disbelief of them. And because No Game No Life is able to set up Shiro as this calculating genius and Sora as this mastermind, we are able to understand that this is the concept that the show will be building off of and everything that they do that blows our mind will be in the scope is this presented genius.
The problem with suspension of disbelief, however, is created when a character or world does something that is outside of this set up at the start. As the show goes on, especially the later parts of the show, we see this problem happen more and more often.
A good first example of this is the virtual reality game that they play against the Warbeast. We know that this is an actual game, like that of the ones Sora and Shiro played in the real world. So we know that they would do well.
But then, we get introduced to things like their actual physical ability in the real world. Unlike a game played with a controller, we see that this game is like an actual shooting battle — like a paintball battle in the real world. We also see the effect of running around on their stamina; they have to rest in the middle because they get tired. This creates a conflict between these two concepts. First, Shiro and Sora most likely never had any realistic shooting experience. With guns, where even a millimeter can affect how the bullet reaches the target, it’s hard to imagine that they could hit a target properly, even less in a tired state.
However, what we see in the game is Shiro running around, despite the fact that we heard that they are affected by their actual physic abilities (which obviously Shiro and Sora do not have), calculating the bounce of her bullets to protect herself from Izuna’s bullets in her blind spot on the fly. If this was a game with a controller or we were told that real life physical abilities did not affect the physical ability in the game, this may be somewhat possible because we have seen Shiro do this at the start of the show. But we are given the idea that this is a first person shooter game without any interface; again, a game like real life paintball than a video game. Do I think Shiro can run around at full speed the whole time, calculating everything on top of her tired state, while aiming exactly at the same planned location without any real practice with a gun? It’s pretty hard to buy.
I want to imagine that what we got was a spectator view for the audience whereas Sora and Shiro got some user interface that makes it closer to an actual video game that we have in real life (kind of like the calculations that we got when Sora was aiming for the underwear of the NPCs). Maybe they were able to control their movement precisely as they wished to like a game with their mind. But of course, that wouldn’t really connect to physical capabilities; how can they precisely control movement with their mind when their body doesn’t let them.
Maybe the scene where they get tired was like a stamina system. When they have even the slightest stamina, they can run around doing their normal video game-like actions while when they run out of stamina completely, they lose cognitive energy or ability to shoot and run while their stamina is out, like the stamina in Breath of the Wild or Genshin Impact.
While, unfortunately, the show doesn’t do too much to give explanations to support these issues that may exist, if you are able to buy into these ideas that you can make up to support these inconsistencies, or you are able to just maintain your suspension of disbelief even with such discrepancies, this game arc becomes incredibly entertaining.
That scene with Shiro, with her calculations of the bullet, running around chasing Izuna is just so fascinating to look at. From the slow motion of the bullets bouncing off of each other with their trajectory, to Izuna’s inner monologue with shocked facial expression, create such an exciting atmosphere with tension that really captures both the cornered feeling of Izuna and the incredible marksmanship of Shiro. Especially when the audience is set up to cheer on Shiro’s victory, as we have grown attached to them through the previous games they played in the last 9 or so episodes, watching Shiro corner the cheating Warbeasts that seemed to have so much of an advantage is extremely satisfying.
Of course, the rest of the game arc is very fun as well. The whole concept of the Girl-Gun like game centered in Tokyo that scares Sora and Shiro is absolutely hilarious. And the fact that they get over it by thinking of the game like that of Persona, Akiba, or Steins Gate adds to that hilarious comedy. The atmosphere created by the nerve wrecking tension with Shiro calculating possibilities on the ground while biting her lips, getting hit with the bullet by Izuna, or the great animation of Izuna’s movements make it a great action arc. The comical ending of the whole game is done so perfectly well to make the audience clench on the front of their seats even if they can’t really buy into the discrepancies in the game.
Because of all the possibilities that I can kind of make up for this game arc, I don’t find myself having too much of a hard time enjoying the arc even with the discrepancies. In fact, I enjoy this arc a lot. Sure, the show doesn’t really take time to explain how most of it, especially relating to the connection to the real life physical abilities, is possible other than Shiro is a genius, but at least this was done in this virtual reality game, the homeground of Shiro and Sora.
However, the game doesn’t compare even slightly to the most unbelievable scene in the show: the coin flip. I’d imagine the coin flip to have been super controversial in the time of the release and for good reasons.
I don’t think anyone will disagree with me when I say that the coin toss is pretty hard to believe. Even if Shiro was able to calculate the theoretical amount of strength and angle of the throw to make it land on that exact spot with the crack that they can move, I have a hard time believing that Sora would have the ability to flick the coin accounting for the exact location and the timing of the floor moving.
Does playing games so much and typing so much trains your fingers enough for you to control things like a coin toss to an exact location? If so, coin tossers in sports should be professional gamers hired by teams to give themselves an advantage with the coin toss.
Maybe this would have been more believable if we saw Sora just flipping coins randomly while standing around like Detroit’s Conner-like fashion. Or we have this happen in the game world where we saw Sora and Shiro already breaking their physical limitations. Honestly, with already how bizarre the show is, anything to give this sufficient background to make it slightly believable would have been enough to keep my suspension of disbelief attached.
The thing is they also naturally walk into that location on the spot at that moment after deciding to battle with Miko. It’s pretty unlikely that they happened to walk into a location with a crack on the floor in such a well built, well maintained shrine. But, this at least, I can sort of buy in to. Maybe they used the coincidence and used their quick thinking to propose the coin toss. Maybe they went out and practiced an hour before. All I know is that it’s definitely not as bad as the coin toss in terms of realisticness.
The coin flip, however, is still extremely interesting as a storytelling tool. If we take a hypothetical where this coin flip is believable, then it serves as almost a perfect resolution to the final bits of the anime. This is because it creates a twist for any audience may have been thinking.
Most likely many probably assumed that it was impossible for Sora and Shiro to lose in a bet like this. After all, the last 11 episodes of the show was set up so it seems like Sora and Shiro will never lose a single game in the following episodes. And most importantly, Sora looked extremely confident before the start of the coin toss. Of course, the audience wouldn’t have known how this coin flip would be won by Sora but they would have assumed Sora wins with his normal magic.
However, the show also sets up the coin toss to be less consequential — unlike the game where their race piece could have been taken — to the imanity race as their land would not be directly impacted. This makes it seem like it is perfectly reasonable for the author to end the first season as their progress is somewhat reset; it makes it completely believable that Sora and Shiro will get their first loss here.
However, the results of the coin toss, which ended in a win-win scenario where both groups didn’t lose, provided an unexpected twist that is supring for both sides. It would have been impossible to win normally in the coin flip because the supernatural Warbeast abilities that Miko has, and resetting the progress that they made would have been incredibly unsatisfying and frustrating for the audience. No one would have expected something like this to be even possible (obviously since it’s not really possible) and this twist that ends up in an incredibly satisfying way still creates this adrenaline rush that makes it incredibly enjoyable for the audience.
This result is then supported by rule number ten, “Let’s all have fun and play together!” which creates almost a bookend technique which reflects with the introduction of the covenants when they enter into Disboard in episode one.
I mean, in the end, most of the concepts in No Game No Life are almost supernatural. As I mentioned, Shiro’s ability to calculate on the fly is closer to a supernatural ability than anything. Needless to say, the whole concept of isekai is a fantasy in the first place. But like they did with Shiro’s calculator abilities, a part of me still wishes that the show provided some type of showcase or explanation that would explain a lot of the inconsistencies that were in the show. It would have made it a lot of interesting, but I also understand that at the same time, it is hard to incorporate something like an explanation without harming the suspense and excitement created from the fast pace and the shock of unbelievable actions.
Even with all of this, however, No Game No Life is still one heck of an exciting show. The colors are extremely unique and fun to watch and the stunts that Sora and Shiro pull off are so grand that it’s super thrilling. Maybe with these explanations, this show gets slightly less exciting. All I know right now is that No Game No Life as it is is one of my favorite anime and it is criminal that a second season will most likely not get made.
Thanks for reading!