King’s Game – Anime Review
Synopsis: Kanazawa Nobuaki has transferred to a high school far from where he used to live. Due to an incident at his old school, Nobuaki is afraid of getting close to his new classmates and keeps himself at a distance, but he starts opening up because of a sports day inter-class relay. Then, a single text message from someone calling themselves the “King” is sent to everyone in class. Nobuaki’s classmates think it’s a simple prank, and don’t take it seriously–but Nobuaki knows that a death game is about to begin, and struggles to oppose it… (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Note: Linny is currently on vacation. Her verdict and thoughts will be added at a later date.
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
King’s Game is like a train wreck. You can’t help but watch as idiotic characters cave to their compounding fear and behave more and more like deranged buffoons as death closes in around them. That’s the beauty of King’s Game: It knows how to top itself when it comes to its gruesome and unseemly deaths. These teenagers routinely make the most foolish, selfish, and ignorant mistakes time and again, leading them to horrific ends that are depicted with such over the top gusto and ludicrous ‘over acting’ that you can’t help but laugh or cry out with amused disbelief. That’s the charm of King’s Game: It’s B-movie horror schlock at its finest, incapable of scarring, but oh so able to make you chuckle with befuddled amusement.
As characters go, everyone is an idiot even our ever hopeful lead Nobuaki. He’s a survivor of a previous King’s Game, one we spend most of the first six episodes detailing at great length. Like in the first King’s Game, Nobuaki refuses to give up on anyone, even in this second time round. He’s got the ever lofty goal of keeping everyone alive through this harrowing event, even when people are dying off like flies. Nobuaki is a very naive fool, one who can’t see the writing on the wall. But he’s not alone. Near everyone in this story is a buffoon, often compounding their fates by making the dumbest of choices.
Eventually the show takes Nobuaki a tad too far, at least if you were to watch this show as it were intended as a true horror. Nobuaki is so self-sacrificing, so determined to put everyone else before him, you start having character after character diving on grenades to keep this poor sap alive. It might mean something emotionally if we knew any of these characters to a great extent, but we don’t. The fact of the matter is by dividing the audiences’ time between both the King’s Game Nobuaki survived, and the present day slaughterfest, we have no time to really grow attached to anyone besides our self-sacrificing lead. Characters are so frequently disposed of, and replaced with the next set of people Nobuaki is determined to not let die, that their deaths have no emotional impact.
When viewed as B-movie schlock however, this isn’t a huge deal, and in fact works in the series’ favor. As character spout lines about how they always wanted to be a hair-dresser, asking their friends if they enjoyed the last haircut he’ll be able to give them, you can’t help but smile and laugh at the ridiculousness of it, seeing as you have absolutely no connection to these characters. It’s likely a very conscious decision on the part of the original writer and animation team, knowing that King’s Game is fun ironically, not for actual artistic merit.
While telling two tales of this absurd death game at a time distances us from the characters, it offers double the mayhem and over the top deaths, always giving every episode one or two increasingly bizarre and laughable demises to entertain with. It helps that there’s a real commitment by the voice actors to sell their characters terror at the events unfolding. Couple that staunch devotion to honest emotion, mixed with gallon levels of blood spurt, and wonky animation that depict deaths in an awkward manner and you’ve got B-movie hilarity.
The series concludes itself with an ending that, I think, perfectly encapsulates King’s Game best appeal. Things wrap up in an ever increasingly absurd manner and things conclude the all too-classic “this isn’t over’ subversion ever horror film has ever done. While a slap in the face to anyone taking this series seriously, it fits with the hammy nature the show has been running with and ramping up the whole time.
Overall I’m convinced that the animation team and the original writer for the story knew exactly what they were crafting. This was never meant to be an honest horror series, but something of the likes of the Friday the 13th sequels, increasingly aware that they are B-movie content at best. If you go into King’s Game expecting a true horror experience, you’ll leave disappointed. But if you want that B-movie, so bad it’s good feel, King’s Game offers a remarkable experience. It’s the perfect kind of trash.