Anime Review: King’s Game: The Animation

By Drew Hurley 23.04.2020 1

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King's Game: The Animation (UK Rating: 18)


The opening to the series is cliché anime through and through. Kanazawa Nobuaki is a new transfer student, coming from the big city into a rural town. He's sat next to the window at the back of the class, a loner that doesn't want to make friends, and the hottest girl in school is determined to be his friend. But this isn't just another slice of life series. The true opening to the show is a nightmare sequence where Nobuaki watches his friend get cut to pieces as she slowly drowns. Her death was caused by the 'King's Game.' She along with all the other members of his class met a grizzly end thanks to a sinister, supernatural series of orders via text message. Nobuaki was the only survivor. Now, in his new school, the game begins again. Coming courtesy of Anime Limited, this complete collection is available from March 9th.

The 'Game' begins with a text message to every one of the 32 members of the class. It reads "This is the King's Game. All members of your class will participate. The King's orders are absolute. You have 24 hours to carry them out. *Withdrawl from the game midway is not allowed.*" Then a challenge follows. The first is simple enough. Nobuaki and Natsuko are to kiss. The realisation of having to live through this nightmare again shatters Nobuaki, who decides to give up then and there. To escape the Game before it begins by failing the very first task and meeting his death. Even if it means taking Natsuko with him.

Natsuko has other plans though. Even though she says she doesn't believe in all that, she tells Nobuaki she likes him, and plants a kiss on him just before it's too late. The kiss saves them both, but it is also the precursor to the nightmare beginning again for everyone else. As soon as the kiss lands many more texts appear, instructing the other members of the class to stay awake or to die by hanging, then instructing other members with various tasks including Natsuko to sleep with a different guy in the class.

Sadly, it's too late for many members of the class who had already fallen asleep. Many are found dead, having hung or garrotte themselves. The survivors gather together in the park to finally listen to Nobuaki about this death game. Even with some of the deaths, the kids are still sceptical. They get a decent demo of the King's power. Right before their eyes, a punishment is dished out. A student is punished for breaking the rules and sentenced to death via bleeding to death. As his body repeatedly perforates in scenes of pretty grizzly gore, the reality sinks into the kids: there's no way out of this. They're all playing the King's Game.

Things take a turn when Natsuko realises her manipulation isn't going as she hoped. Natsuko's true personality finally shows. Her happy, friendly persona is a mask. A chilling and manipulative truth beneath, as she reveals she was using Nobuaki to learn more about the Game since he survived the first - then strips down happily, though those who watched the opening video had this twist telegraphed there… also as an aside, Feed the Fire by Coldrain is a belter. This power rock theme is quite possibly the best part of the show, filled with power chords banging out of guitars. As the kids say, it slaps.


 

Natsuko manipulates her classmates more, convincing them Nobuaki was about to sexually assault her. Nobuaki gets a beating, and the class splits off, understandably terrified, and meanwhile, the story jumps backwards. The first game is revealed, and Nobuaki's terrifying experience is shown. Nobuaki was a normal, happy kid. With a best friend, and a girlfriend, and just like his new class, the classmates at his first school thought the whole thing a big joke, which started with an order for one boy to grope a girl's chest.

The flashback details the entire first King's Game, showing how everyone in the first class died, including some horrific orders - including making one guy have sex with his best friend's girl. An order is given while all three are together - this flashback actually ends up being much more interesting than the regular story. It's a shame it wasn't the whole story. Meanwhile, in present-day, Nobuaki races to Yonaki Village, a place where the Game seemingly originated to try and stop the king.

The basic premise and the details sound promising, but the entire series is so absolutely, profoundly flawed, it's hard to find much to like. It's all in the execution here, and the execution is awful. First off, it is massively, excessively edgy. It feels like fan-fiction from a teenager who recently played Danganronpa and watched Battle Royale. The series is unnecessarily dark. The series is particularly dark. Not just due to the many, many, graphic scenes of death and gore, but, there's also sexual abuse, rape, incest.

These sorts of elements are forgivable if there's quality beneath. That quality is lacking here. The characters are one-note; the story developments dull with no interesting plot threads or arcs to keep the audience invested; the mechanics of the story are hugely disappointing. There's a core rule to these sorts of horror tales: you never reveal the man behind the curtain. The power the King has to be able to kill anyone and in such unbelievable ways should have remained a mystery. Revealing it was a poor choice and the explanation couldn't be stupider.

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

The 'Death Game' trope has become a popular one in Japanese media, with many video games, anime, and manga dedicated to this sort of story. Like anything that has exploded in popularity, there's a lot of dross for every success, and this certainly doesn't fall under the success category. It's trying far too hard to aim towards a more mature audience, without having anything to elevate it. The presentation is bland, character designs are forgettable. There is little here to recommend. There is an interesting premise, a few decent moments, and some gore for the horror fans… but, that's about it.
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Comments

Dang, the premise seemed kind of cool.
'It feels like fan-fiction from a teenager who recently played Danganronpa and watched Battle Royale. The series is unnecessarily dark. The series is particularly dark. Not just due to the many, many, graphic scenes of death and gore, but, there's also sexual abuse, rape, incest.'
Guess I will pass.   I was hoping for another Mirai Nikka (future diary) but sounds like it is just edgy for the sake of it.

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