No Game No Life: Zero | Movie Review
In ancient Disboard, Riku is an angry, young warrior intent on saving humanity from the warring Exceed, the sixteen sentient species, fighting to establish the “One True God” amongst the Old Deus. In a lawless land, humanity’s lack of magic and weak bodies have made them easy targets for the other Exceed, leaving the humans on the brink of extinction. One day, however, hope returns to humanity when Riku finds a powerful female Ex-machina, whom he names Schwi, in an abandoned elf city. Exiled from her Cluster because of her research into human emotions, Schwi is convinced that humanity has only survived due to the power of these feelings and is determined to understand the human heart. Forming an unlikely partnership in the midst of the overwhelming chaos, Riku and Schwi must now find the answers to their individual shortcomings in each other, and discover for themselves what it truly means to be human as they fight for their lives together against all odds. Each with a powerful new ally in tow, it is now up to them to prevent the extinction of the human race and establish peace throughout Disboard!Written by MAL Rewrite of MyAnimeList.net
Wow, just wow. I just finished watching NGNL: Zero and my god, is this movie amazing. This movie served as the prologue no one thought would happen, but it was given to us anyway because why not! What this movie also does is give a little insight into the “past life” — the world before No Game No Life. As you all know (well I assume so anyway), NGNL is my favourite anime so to me this movie was something I was always looking forward to but never got around to watching. But now, since I found it on Netflix, I decided to finally give it a watch, and man I was not disappointed.
I think what I loved most about the movie was that it showed the events and decisions made leading up to the world we know now in NGNL. All the “gods” fighting to determine who would become the “one true god”. This movie showed how the chessboard came to be, and how imanity came to be. The backstory behind that as well, is ohmydays (this is a word I use all the time), god-tier because it showed the struggle humans during the “old world” had to go through in order to survive.
There were, however, a few things I didn’t like. The movie is just under 2 hours, like anyone who has watched movies that they themselves consider as “good” or “great”, then they kind of wish that the movie length was a little longer, similar to the length of Avengers: Endgame. But because we live in such an imperfect world, we do not get that. This is something this movie plays a lot on actually, that we live in a imperfect world. Nothing will ever come easy, some things may never go your way, you may never get the answers you’ll want, and you may never get to see the sacrifices you made blossom into something beautiful.
In the movie, we’re presented with three main characters, Riku, Schwi and Couronne. (All three of them for all intensive purposes look like Shiro, Sora, and Stephanie). Schwi an ex-machina exiled from her group, while Riku and Couronne are humans trying to survive with other humans. For simplicity sake, I’ll call it the “colony”.
Luckily for me however, there is an element of simplicity for the movie because if you have seen NGNL the anime, you’ll notice there, every race acts like a chess piece of the greater chessboard. The movie follows the same concept, but it isn’t as obvious and while the “new world” is all colourful, bright, and for the most part friendly (as they have to follow the 10 commandments), the “old world” is without the 10 commandments, so there is a bunch of killing and world domination to become the “one true god”.
The “old world” to me is one of fascination, and is something if Madhouse really wanted to, they could do spin offs from the movie alone because all the races could have their own little backstories on how they all came to be. But for obvious reasons, we only focus on Riku and Schwi, whose goal, just like Sora and Shiro is to create a better world for everyone else.
–MAJOR SPOILERS INCOMING-
What I love most about the story of the movie that just around the midway point of the movie, Riku and Schwi realize that all races currently fighting amongst each other all want to become the “one true god” and through the various missions the two of the go on, they mold each race into chess pieces on a makeshift chessboard they make from a map. They realize that if they have all the races in one particular part on the board, with all their powers being used at the same time, that all their power combined would be enough to summon the suniaster. The ultimate tool to shape the world in whatever the wielder desired, the power of the “one true god”.
This realization does not come without sacrifice though. In order to accomplish this goal, Riku and Schwi had to go to great lengths. For example, in order to gain information from the Elfs, he had to go undetected, and in a world covered by soot and ash that burned your skin and organs, Riku had to use it against himself in order to protect himself from the Elf’s powers. The information Riku gained came at the cost of both of his hands, left eye, all his skin being burnt, and organs damaged.
This also came with the ultimate sacrifice by Schwi, who in an effort to assist Riku in his mission to change the outcome of the war, was out busy executing in the necessary plans for success when she encountered Jibril. This was the movie’s climax in my opinion because after Jibril killed Schwi using all the power she had, Schwi did one last thing, which was reconnecting with her cluster of Ex-Machina and employing them to help Riku and using all her remaining power to protect the Riku’s wedding ring.
Because spoilers! Riku and Schwi get married towards the end and promise to be together forever (the irony). They join each other in the after life, having completed the mission they decided on together. Also fun fact, the person who married them off was Couronne, last name Dola. On a cyan stone Couronne hands to them, it she has her name Couronne Dola and since both Riku and Schwi didn’t have a last name, they engrave their names onto that same stone, with the last time Dola. (I’ll explain the importance later).
Enraged with anger and sorrow, Riku forced himself to complete the mission. Which he does without fail, being able to claim the suniaster for himself, his body fails at the last moment before he’s able to claim the ultimate tool. Crying he makes one last request, yelling out he asks the “God of games” a ghostly figure he played chess with when he was younger, a ghost from his imagination, to grant his wish, his wish of change the world forever and to end the war. That ghostly figure from his imagination, was in fact, Tet. And we know how that ended up in the end. I think it’s extremely interesting that at the end of it all, Tet, the “one true god” came from the imagination of I guess, you can say, the “founders” of the new world, Riku and Schwi.
This movie does extremely well to wrap everything up and tie it into the No Game No Life anime. The movie starts with Tet and Izuna playing a game of chess. Constantly frustrated with losing to Tet, Tet smiles and asks Izuna if she wanted to hear an old myth, something Izuna accepts. That’s how the movie starts off. It also ends in the same way, at the conclusion of the story. Izuna asks if what Tet told her was true, to which she replied, if she told her then it wouldn’t be a myth.
Not satisfied with that answer, Izuna here’s the calls of Shiro, Sora and Stephanie approaching her. Seeing that Stephanie had a similar stone, to that of the one Tet told her about. She immediately removed the stone from Stephanie’s bow and looked on the back of it and surely enough BOOM CONNECTION. IT WAS THE SAME STONE. This was only reaffirmed when Sora asked who Couronne was, and when Shiro asked Jibril about the language the names were engraved in. Stephanie replied as to the Queen of Elkia, but when he asked who Riku and Schwi were, she didn’t know. Guess who did know who Schwi was, Jibril. Ironic isn’t it.
A full circle had been completed. We found out how the world came to be, how the chessboard came to be, who created Tet and how imanity was created. We, as viewers, understand a little bit more why Tet brought Sora and Shiro into this world, it’s probably because Tet saw similarities between Riku and Schwi of old and wanted to bring them back to the world where it all began. Along with the descendants from the “old world” at their side, it felt like a continuation of the ambitions of Riku and Schwi, in a less violent and more peaceful world. A world only imagined and deemed possible through a game of chess.
Without a doubt in my mind, this movie, NGNL: Zero is one of my favourite movies, probably top 3. I definitely would watch it again, if Schwi dying wasn’t so sad and heart wrenching.
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