This is to me what Sword Art Online was 2 years ago: overrated, pandering, wish-fulfilling garbage. But also like that garbage, it’s at least eye-catching.
Before I start ranting, I admit that how the show sets up its premise was promising. Having 2 gaming siblings thrown into a fantasy world where gambling on classic card/board games means everything? Just the fact that it isn’t based on video games was enough to catch my interest, but it worked as a great contrast to the fantasy aspects while seamlessly integrating the two. The use of magic showcased the possibilities of cheating in this setting, and it also gave a good reason for why the Humans were currently ranked at the bottom. But cheating can only go so far before it becomes a rule breaker, and that’s exactly what it becomes after the initial poker and rock-paper-scissor match.
What I came for were a wide variety of games that test people’s wits, and cheating can still count as such. Instead, they break the rules of the system right after spelling them out, instantly changing a battle of strategy into a bullshitting contest of how much arbitrary rules players can make. Certainly there’s been popular shows that have sacrificed logic to make their protagonists seem awesome, but that only works for me if the whole point of the show was to kick logic to the curb. Here it doesn’t work because rather than revel in idiocy, it tries desperately to justify its rule bending as if thought went into these moves. And even if they don’t take it too seriously, that approach makes the bullshitting seem much more shameless. I’m sorry Sora, but you can’t motivate sentient chess pieces through cuteness and make it sound cool!
But like I said, it’s not like the show is void of entertainment. The visuals do a great job at portraying a fantasy world thanks to fluid animation, polished designs and lots of bright lighting. Seeing a society built around games while operated around magic is still interesting, especially when it’s competed between 16 individual races. Sora and Shiro may be unlikeable and overpowered, but their comedic chemistry is chuckle worthy and there are NO INCESTUAL UNDERTONES! Plus as long as you turn your brain off, it could be fun just witnessing how far these characters can keep bending game rules before someone ends up surrendering. It’s too bad that the show acts like it’s smart, fanservice ranges from mildly cute to offensive, and every other character is overshadowed by the two leads.
Some may think that I’m being bitter about popular shows, or that I can’t have a good time watching power fantasies. While the former is somewhat true, I highly disagree with the latter. Problem Children had a concept similar to this , but managed to form a well-constructed world, effective fanservice, balanced tone, and characters that didn’t have to resort to rule breaking to seem badass. I’m going to keep my word about not dropping this and go into it with lower expectations. I just hope it doesn’t get any worse from here.