Though I grew to regard the series as a joke, I actually had a positive initial reaction to 2017’s King’s Game. To this day I regret rating its first episode as high as I did, but I suspect that I will have fewer long-term regrets about this one. That’s because this double-length debut about deadly phone-related peril is not showing some of the common hallmarks of a bad series, like that one did: it isn’t being unintentionally campy, doesn’t depend on its characters being stupid, and most importantly, has more interesting and immediately likable characters. In fact, the series’ first 48 minutes persistently defied my admittedly-low expectation.
The basic premise is just a standard update of the long-standing “death game” scenario: an ordinary guy gets dragged unawares into the bloodbath by carelessly clicking on a free app. (Have to wonder if some symbolism about the danger of clicking on things you don’t know anything about was intended here.) He’s forced to piece together the rules of the game while he’s fighting to survive, as well as what his own power granted by the game is. There’s also a hot girl who changes from trying to kill him to wanting to “make a family” with him (she’s naked on top of him when she says this, so there’s no ambiguity about the intended meaning) once she accepts that she can trust him.
Okay, so that last part is a bit sketchy, but I’m willing to overlook it because everything else about the first episode is executed well. Thanks to a combination of good use of a driving, techno and rock-based musical score, inventive scene framing and perspectives, and surprising good action animation, the action components sizzle with tension, so much so that I was quite surprised to discover that this was director Yoshinobu Tokumoto’s first time helming an action series; these aren’t the Hand Shakers chains that Shuka is tossing around in her attacks. Shuka also has a striking character design – especially with that red dress – and Kaname doesn’t quite feel like your typical put-upon teenager. As stupid as the mascot-suited Banda seemed at first, he actually works in the long run as an intimidating presence as well. The episode also showcases a potential future ally and a probably enemy in the rather disgusting hoodlum who is clearly a player of the game as well. The opener suggests that Kaname will also meet and associate with a couple of characters who haven’t been introduced yet.
If you do decide to check this one out, be forewarned that it is at least as bloody as you might expect for the type of series that it is; Funimation even resorts to some black-out censoring in a couple of places. If you can handle that, though, then this series has more promise than I would have expected. You can also free Darwin’s Game anime watch online and free download.
Logic, reason, reality… these are things I simply do not care about. But because of an anime called Darwin’s Game, we need to talk about it. And by we, I do mean me, so take a seat and let me tell you why this anime is crap.
Darwin’s Game tries to pass itself off as a battle royale, one of my favorite sub-genres, but it really isn’t. I expected it to be dumb, shlocky, and nonsensical, which has never stopped me from enjoying an anime before. So I prepared to suspend my disbelief, but nothing could prepare me for what I have witnessed.
The titular death game everyone plays, shortened to D-Game, is a fight to the death downloadable right on your phone. Players enlist to earn cash money and to get away with murder. It’s also a dueling arena, a power struggle between clans, a citywide scavenger hunt, and it grants every player a random superpower known as a Sigil. There’s a lot going on in this show, it’s chaotic, which is good because chaos is my middle name. The problem is, they never stop adding new concepts, even until the final episode. There’s no shortage of lore and mystery to untangle here, but it’s so confusing and underwritten that I don’t think even the writer understands it all.
No one knows how an entire city is emptied for the game. No one knows how the game works. There here are new rules constantly being added. Skyscrapers are destroyed, people are slaughtered in the streets, entire city blocks are reduced to rubble. And all of society was taking a nap. Every now and then, the entire population wakes up and realizes all this shit happened, and they say “Hey guys what happened to our city? How did everyone sleep through it?” That’s a question that the author doesn’t seem to have a grasp on. Apparently, the game blocks your phone signal, but it still takes place in the real world. In the first episode, someone tries shooting the protagonist multiple times and no one calls the cops. Later on, civilians run over a player, an invisible man, dent their bumper, then drive off without a care in the world. They look around and see the terrified protagonist, but they don’t ask him if he’s ok or if he knows what they hit. They just leave. This is so detached from reality. Although the guy who was trying to kill him was a Panda, so I do like that.
I can’t stress this enough, but I do not care about what is logically possible in reality. Make it stupid, make it ridiculous. I will enjoy it. Punch a guy’s head off, topple a building, make a crazy yandere fall in love with the bland protagonist. Where I draw the line between dumb fun and inane writing is internal logic, which Darwin’s Game has none. For starters, the superpowers are not consistent at all. The main protagonist, Kaname, has the ability to create anything he can think of, any weapon imaginable. It’s awesome. Contrast this with a dude who can detect when people are lying. Not awesome. These powers are incomparable. Another main character is essentially a super-computer who can freeze time, she’s absurdly overpowered.
The logic is skewed to give the main characters as much power as possible, which is admittedly sometimes really fun to watch play out. I loved seeing Kaname pull a machine gun out of his ass to scare bad guys; Or a thirteen-year-old professional sniper evade a dozen burly bad guys and dodge a moving train within seconds. It’s kind of amazing how dumb this show is. But from the start, it’s clear who is expendable and who will never die. Their abilities make them practically invincible unless the author contrives some way for them to get hurt. Keep in mind, there are dozens of random fighters in either clan who have different abilities. There’s no telling how powerful they are or what their power even is. This means anyone can gain a new ability at any time. Unpredictability can be exciting, but it’s hard to enjoy a clusterfuck when you have no idea what’s happening.
Add this to the ugly animation and generic background music, and you’ve got a recipe for boredom. The action is supposed to be the appeal of the show, the rest of it is just the characters trying to figure out how the hell game functions. To this day, no one knows! Even after watching the whole show, I have no idea what Kaname was supposed to look like. His face changes every other shot like he’s made of melting clay. The artists prioritized animation over consistent character designs, probably because the story wouldn’t work without action. Other than a few special occasions, the animation looks pretty awful too. If you pause at any point while people are moving, you’ll notice the perspective is off, limbs look too big or too small.
Kaname, aside from being the personification of mashed potatoes, isn’t that bad of a character. Yeah, he’s an edgelord, but who isn’t these days? My problem with him is that he gained his overpowered sigil out of pure coincidence, and it allows him to succeed in the game. He does not develop until late in the series. Lucky circumstances cause him to succeed, dumb decisions cause him to temporarily fail. He meets powerful and agreeable players, who he dick whips ruthlessly until they join him. Ladies throw themselves at him, worshiping his sigil, to the point of insanity. Dear God, impregnate me Kaname-sama! There were one or two scenes when he was relatable, but that was all.
As for the other characters, we have Yuno Gasai with twin tails, a crazy child who is convinced she has the ghost of her twin in her body. She just whines for most of the show and does nothing. Might as well show her half-naked for the plot! The 13-year-old supercomputer sniper girl, she’s pretty cool. The human lie detector, this game is balanced. The Florist, a man trying to earn money to save his daughter, valid reason. Then he develops a hero complex for reasons. He has a heartfelt dialogue with the sniper girl, but afterward, he regurgitates his same pointless desire to live and die a hero undigested. HE learns nothing from one of the best scenes in the show. The main villain, big Wang himself, is another psychopathic edgelord who fits his role as the leader of the Bad Clan. There’s nothing to him, still, I have to give props to his voice actor for his great performance.
Ever since watching the classic Japanese film Battle Royale (that the Hunger Games shamelessly copied), I’ve loved death games. I think I have made a good argument for why Darwin’s Game is a very shitty anime, and I could end the review here. But I need to make it clear why this is also a shitty death game as well. I’ve enjoyed bad death game anime in the past, like the catastrophe that is Mirai Nikki. I expected Darwin’s Game to be a fix for my shlocky battle royale addiction, but I was tricked. Kaname basically uses his power and *sexy* personality to sway his enemies he encounters into joining his team. This is where Darwin’s Game ceases being a battle royale and becomes a battle between clans. I didn’t sign up for this! Worst of all, a lot of the violence is censored. There was a badass scene when a dude punches off a guy’s head, well it would have been badass if they hadn’t censored the shit out of it! Fuck censorship! Some guy’s arm got chopped off and it’s shown as a silhouette because they don’t want to offend the children. Kill your shitty child for all I care! I want to see blood, guts, filth!
I feel like I’m committing some kind of crime by reviewing this garbage. It’s not worth the effort I put into writing this review. It shouldn’t be as popular as it is, people are going to see this and think this is what anime is like. They’re going to think we’re all babbling angsty babies who believe this trash is high art. It’s obscene that I feel the need to announce that I know this anime is bad when it’s clear from just the first few minutes how shitty it is. I’m tapping out here, I’ve lost enough brain cells trying to unironically dissect this fecesfest. For those who want to hurt more, no shade if you’re into that sort of thing, this anime doesn’t have an ending so expect another season. If you like shlock in the same vein as Btoom!, Mirai Nikki, and Ousama’s Game, this might be worth a shot.