Survival games are still a hot genre in anime, but King's Game the Animation is just a hot syrupy mess compared to its peers. This week in anime, Nick and Jacob detail what went wrong for this hilarious horrorshow.
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You can read our weekly coverage of King's Game here!
Hey there Jake, how's your weekend treating you?
It's great! Nothing could possibly ruin my relaxing afternoon with a big delicious bowl of chocolate pudding.
So uh, what are we discussing today?
the sound of one spoon lowering
This Week In Anime is brought to you by Kraft Foods in cooperation with Jell-O.
I have no idea who in their right mind would sponsor King's Game, much less produce it in the first place. And yet, here we are.
Well somebody keeps making these things. It seems like every year we get at least one schlocky murderfest with piss-poor production values and boy are we scraping the bottom of the porta-potty with this one.
Yeah I'm usually down for a good old fashioned anime deathbowl, but King's Game just plays out like the first draft of a self-insert exercise somebody wrote on their cellphone—
OH WAIT, that's exactly what it is. Complete with the main character having the writer's actual full name.
You're kidding me. Dude, at least change around your initials or something.
It's all well and good for some Joe (or Nobuaki in this case) getting writing practice on the internet almost ten years ago, but I have no idea why anyone bothered to turn it into even this low-rent of an anime series. Apparently it was made into a horror movie in 2011 that did surprisingly well, but it hardly seems worth reviving now.
Okay, so it came out before Another then. Because all I could think was that somebody somewhere had seen Another and thought "okay but what if this was worse".
I think the best public service we can provide on this one is to just explain what the fuck has happened so far, in case people want to jump from the beginning straight to the crazy finale and just get the highlights on what is mostly an ugly and boring show. Just a reminder that this edition of TWIA is Very Not Safe For Work.
Nonsense, we'll just be posting pictures from the annual Pudding Dive contest.
WHOLESOME, STICKY FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
But yes, King's Game is the story of a bunch of clueless cardboard cutouts who start getting texts from a mysterious "King" that they must either follow or be killed. We start with our sadsack protagonist Nobuaki as he's greeted by the world's most kind and welcoming group of high school students who all instantly love him and want to be his best friend. That is, until the killing starts and suddenly they all want to curbstomp him in the middle of a children's playground because sure, that's how people work!
In fairness, the King's orders are basically laser-targeted to turn these teens into the worst versions of themselves.
The King is really into high school kids banging and I feel like somebody should question this at some point.
But yeah, even taking that into account, nobody is a remotely rational actor in this game. If I knew that Nobuaki was the only survivor of the previous King's Game, like even I really absolutely hated him and suspected him of being in cahoots with the enemy, I would be as careful with him as possible. Because if he really IS the King you definitely shouldn't beat him up haphazardly, and if he's not, he's the best source of information you have for maybe not dying this time.
Or just, you know, be nice to him because he's been through a lot at this point.
so much pudding...
Poor Nobuaki JUST found out he's pre-diabetic too. But yeah, everyone in the class is a raging dumbass, including the one person who's supposed to be smart. Because it turns out that Natsuko, the girl who'd been flirting with Nobuaki before all of this, is actually evil or something? She's out to win the King's Game at any cost, which she announces in front of the entire class, instantly making all of them her enemy. Except they don't turn on her, for some reason? They all just go along with her obvious lies and crocodile tears for a while afterward without explaining why.
Literally the whole class is like "why are you being so mean to her?!" after she strips her shirt off, starts making ruthless declarations, and stops fake-crying just long enough to do this.
But I can't hate on Natsuko too much because bless her crazy heart, at least she's the only one enjoying herself around here. Everyone else's reactions range from "This is just a sick prank! We should go to the police!" to "If we all work together, the power of friendship will overcome the King's Game!" But mostly people just come up with dumb orders to give themselves on their turn so they can get killed as fast as possible. Things like "Protect my crush!" (oops she dies in the next round) or "Touch the King and thereby expose him!" (whoops the King is not actually a person you can touch). Just order yourself to draw a dong on someone's forehead and survive the damn round, this is not that complicated!
Speaking of, where are the police in all this anyway? 20 dead teenagers in two days and nobody's so much as called a student council meeting.
Yeah, there don't seem to be any adults involved in this at all. Their teacher disappears completely after round one and the previous King's Game tragedies are just faintly reported as "mass suicides I guess ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ "
That's another problem with this whole setup. The King is a supernaturally powerful mystery entity that nobody has any hopes of disobeying or outsmarting. In other death games, the tension comes from whether the characters will buy into the game for their own survival or try to overthrow the whole thing. Here there's zero chance of accomplishing either so you're basically watching doomed idiots jump off a boat into a shark's frenzy.
Yeah, given the premise, this is a great opportunity to put Nobuaki to the test in a game where other people take on the role of King each round, giving him some kind of control over the situation or some kind of moral test beyond uh...well he certainly does make some Choices in this story! The first trial he faces comes when his best friend is ordered to have sex in the next ten minutes or die, while he's sitting there with Nobuaki and his girlfriend.
There are many solutions to this problem, but Nobuaki chose this one:
Like geez dude, cowboy up and take the dick yourself. Makin' your girlfriend do the dirty work is fuckin' terrible.
The funny part of that particular plot cul-de-sac is that it's so stupid I couldn't help but laugh at it. Like it's an awful, nihilistic shitshow that should gross me out, but it's so clumsy in execution that I can't find it anything but hilarious.
When King's Game isn't boring you with kids running in circles wailing about arbitrary orders to bone someone (although kudos to Mamoru Miyano for doing his best with those wailings), it does reach some pretty novel heights of hilarity.
Like when Nobuaki's friend is desperate to send him an email with info on how to stop the King's Game and HIS OWN FINGERS BETRAY HIM AT THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME
Or when a girl is ordered to get groped by a guy who's unfortunately just died, so she decides to sneak into the morgue and give it the ole college try!
It's terrible, but the show's fascination with weird gross details like zooming in on someone's pissed pants after they die or Natsuko waving a used condom around nefariously like a supervillain petting her cat somehow make it more watchable instead of less so. You're just getting the straight shotgun blast of ugly for ugly's sake, so at least you knew it was a snake when you picked it up.
My personal favorite was when one girl tried to hack the king's game
and was punished with spontaneous immolation.
I have no clue if she's supposed to come off as badass here but the show's poopoo animation makes it look like she just doesn't notice that she's on fire.
Right, she continues to deliver her tragic monologue while she's burning like it ain't no thang.
Okay she does notice long enough to strip down to her underwear for some reason.
But this is also a girl with amazing Hollywood Hacking Powers so maybe we're just not on her level yet.
I'm like 90% sure she was just bullshitting Nobuaki to look cool. She put on her screensaver and tapped randomly at the keyboard until the King got bored. Because after all, what she's supposedly hacking is a computer virus that actually originated from a human virus which was also actually hypnosis. Or something.
RIGHT, so that's the big twist of King's Game, which is perhaps unwisely saved for like the end of the second act. The show is structured in such a way that the present-day King's Game is introduced and then immediately put on pause in favor of the past King's Game that only Nobuaki survived. So we know how that's gonna go down, which kills the suspense completely, but it's executed that way so they could put the reveal of the game's true nature at the end of one game and (presumably) the destruction of the game at the end of the other.
But I mean, you're blowing your load early if you don't save this kinda juice for the very end imo.
At least that's how I WOULD feel if not for the haircut scene, the real climax of the show so far...
Oh my god the haircut scene.
So after Nobuaki's friends die on a useless field trip to find out the truth of the King's Game that delivers no actual revelations, he comes back in time to find Natsuko's gotten the remaining survivors to group up for a big ole finger breaking party.
Okay, one revelation: Natsuko is his dead girlfriend's sister. This changes nothing and helps them in no way whatsoever.
Also she's apparently survived a past King's Game too but knows diddly about how to stop it so I don't really know what the point was.
ANYWAY... The class has to go in order and break their own fingers to cast votes for or against other survivors, and anybody with more votes against than for gets killed off. At first everyone starts passing off their votes because yeah, breaking your own finger kinda hurts and murdering each other is not a great way to get folks to trust you. But midway through, some random guy who doesn't matter asks Nobuaki to step away with him for a minute and uh...
Everyone else is sitting all duck-duck-goose in a circle waiting in a nervous panic to see who's gonna die and he's just...?!
I was so floored by this that I went back in the show to see if this guy had ANY prior relationship with Nobuaki before this and guess what HIS FIRST LINES WERE IN EPISODE ONE
WE WERE WARNED
Holy shit this show had actual foreshadowing. I'm stunned.
Anyway, everyone's like "yo what the fuck" while this random guy starts telling Nobuaki how much he wants to be a hair stylist and Nobu's like "yeah man I want you to survive so your dream can happen" and we all know where this is going...
Yes, after he cuts Nobuaki's hair he turns to the class and reveals that his favorite anime is The Severing Crime Edge!
oh geez, that's a
But seriously, he breaks all his fuckin' fingers so they can beat Natsuko, what did you think he was going to do?
Shout out to Teruaki for being the first person to do anything remotely sensible in this whole game. Shame he did it right before the end of the episode so we know it's not going to stick, but you tried dude.
Yes I do, Teruaki. Yes I fucking do.
Come to think of it, the way to survive the King's Game seems to be just not doing anything yourself. Nobuaki only managed to live because every other person around him took action before he could and they all died.
That's the most maddening thing about it! Anyone who's proactive dies, and Nobuaki's just like "WHAT COULD I HAVE DONE? I AM THE WORST." (Yes, yes you are.)
Turns out the King's Game is just Mario Party
The absolute most hilarious example of this comes when Nobuaki finally loses his best friend. (Yes, the one he threw his girlfriend at, which never comes up again.) Someone in the group is supposed to roll a die that determines the number of people remaining who will explode in that round, because even though he's just a computer virus, the King is getting bored and lazy. Naoya is like "you've done so much for us and saved my life with your girlfriend's cooch Nobu, so I'm gonna take one for the team."
And oh the sad trombone did sound,
BECAUSE OF COURSE
Thanks for nothin', douchebag!
And then Nobuaki is left to just stand there while everyone else makes the hard decisions and fails to survive them. There's passive protagonists and then there's desk lamps who just hang out in the background. Though maybe that's unfair to desk lamps. You could actually use those as a good weapon in a pinch.
It's truly an awful story with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, from the arbitrary twists to the pointless characters to the weird decision to tell MOST of a killing game story in flashback, but there's some entertainment value to be gleaned if you like pain, I guess.
...why it's a show so bad that it will
MAKE YOUR HEAD SPIN
It'll make you throw your hands in the air!
you WON'T BE ABLE TO STAND how bad it gets!
It'll make you DOUBT THE EXISTENCE OF A BENEVOLENT AND LOVING GOD
King's Game: not even once.