Aniwords – Let’s Play an Anime Game!

After last week’s column on the “trapped in an MMO” genre, I was feeling pretty frisky about genre analysis, so I went back to sweep up the shows people mentioned that I didn’t address. This time, however, I’m playing around with the idea of genre and “gamified world” settings—it gets a bit more theoretical and less pointed than last weeks, but I think the post is more fun because the ideas are more adventurous.

No Game No Life

Here’s the link!

Bonus Content:

Phew, this is the last time I ever do an Aniwords without a question in the title. The response to this piece has been way weaker than last weeks and I’m pretty convinced that the title has a lot to do with it. Lesson learned—the average internet reader is attracted to really simple things.

Once again, I don’t have all that much to add, as I’ve said a pretty much all I have to say about the topic in this post, so instead I’ll plug selector infected WIXOSS, the show I cite in the article as something of a deconstruction of the very idea of a gamified world. WIXOSS was a messy show (as most Okada-written productions are) in a lot of ways, but it also was pretty darn smart and consistently entertaining and engaging. It probably won’t be a show for everyone, but I say—give it a try! I like it pretty well, and intend to review it for Otaku Review in November when Funimation’s BD release comes out.

Anyways, I guess I might as well as for some feedback at this point—what do you guys think of the Aniwords columns so far? This week’s installment was my tenth piece for Crunchyroll, so I’m curious to hear what you, my most favorite readers, have thought about this new adventure to this point.

8 thoughts on “Aniwords – Let’s Play an Anime Game!

  1. Well I’ve only read a few, but I like to read reviews of the anime that I watch to see if people enjoy them the someway I do. Not everyone admits to liking to watch anime especially if you happen to be an older person.. lol I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far. Keep up the good work.


  2. Yeah, gaming culture is deep-rooted in a lot of anime, especially modern ones. I think besides shows explicitly feature a game world, we can see variety of game mechanics manifesting itself in a lot of stuff to various extent. “Winning condition” is a common plot device in psychological series like Death Note and Spiral, while in general shounen combat series always brimmed with elements clearly lifted from the likes of beat em up and traditional JRPG; dungeon, power levels, boss characters, ‘party’, etc., even when these terms are not being used explicitly.

    What you said about Wixoss and deconstruction reminds me a lot of TWGOK. It’s a variant that I particularly like; a gamer try to apply his knowledge and skills toward real life situation (w/ fantastical crisis, but still essentially real life), eventually find out it’s not sustainable. I love how the story portrays Keima’s development throughout, from being as cold and calculating as your typical Speed Runner into being genuinely affected and struggling with the nuances of Real Life. And in the end (in manga at least, I think the anime ends just when it gets really good), the true nature of the story is revealed as a criticism toward how we approach the process of romancing someone. Damn, overall it’s a lot more mature and thoughtful than what I expected from the “otaku boy had to rid a bunch of cute girls’ evil spirit by having them falling for him” premise.

    (I believe this is the time I’ve heard of Wixoss, gonna look it up. Also my friend’s big on NGNL, but the color scheme hurt my eyes and I can’t stand apparent incest overtone)

    On Aniwords: I dunno, it seems to be getting increasingly heavy and theoretical? Not that I mind, although the fit with the platform you’re writing on might be something to consider. It’s okay though to try out something different once in a while. Out of all the stuff you wrote there, I like the Idol piece the most since it’s both largely entertaining and informative ^_^


    • I mean, to an extent, the whole game/winning thing is just inherent to the human predisposition towards violence and conflict—there’s going to be a winner and a loser.

      WIXOSS is, as I’ve said, very uneven, but also incredibly engaging (I won’t say entertaining for particular reasons) and interesting to watch. It’s not a cohesive thematic statement by any means—rather, it’s more like a “show by example” kind of thing.

      NGNL is gross; I wrote about it, but wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

      & thanks for the feedback on Aniwords! I’ve been thinking I need to go a bit light for the next few weeks after indulging myself in thinking exercise fun for the last two installments.


  3. I’ve been enjoying the posts, though I agree with Beobachter that this week’s post was more dense (but interesting!), perhaps too much for the average Crunchyroll reader. I did notice a slight drop in grammatical quality as there were quite a few typos (“ostentiably” instead of “ostensibly”; “tenats” instead of “tenets”; “took at look” instead of “took a look”; and some missing articles & apostrophes here and there…I don’t mean to be a grammar stickler but your writing is generally very clean and free of typos so it was weird to see so many little mistakes crop up in this week’s piece.

    This week’s piece was the most ambitious but also probably the least organized. You throw out some heavy observations about the fluidity of genre, the distinction between gamified worlds and worlds that happen to be games, games as wish fulfillment deconstructionism…all tantalizing subjects that probably would benefit from being written as a longer post or multiple post series.

    As the unofficial expert on children’s card games, I wonder how tournament-style card game anime like Yu-Gi-Oh! factor into your discussion of gamified worlds? I would argue that Yu-Gi-Oh! is a hybrid of the two game genres you mention: the games are used as “battle gimmick” to introduce & resolve conflict but the mythology built into the card game itself also brings an aspect of a “gamified world” (for instance, the characters are pulled into a Shadow Game, which is pretty much an ancient, magical version of a MMORG where there are certain rules which govern the world, which is a game, but within that world, the characters themselves also play games…

    Anyways, this gave me a lot to think about and sparked inspiration for a post on gamification in Yu-Gi-Oh! for my little blog. So thanks!


    • Phew, tons of great feedback here—thanks so much! The more heady I get when writing things, the more the details of stuff like typos get away from me. It’s a balance I definitely need to work on, but I’m kind of proofreading adverse—a very bad trait for a writer to have, I know…

      Sometime I just like to get the ideas out there, but fail to remember that not everyone finds reading my internal ramblings all that interesting… ^_^”

      I was actually thinking about stuff like Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, and Digimon as examples, too, but pulled away because I just haven’t seen much of any of them and didn’t feel I could talk about them as such.


  4. So here’s the piece you’ve announced in reply to my response to the MMO piece. It’s a very interesting read, but thinking about both of them together I’m having a problem, and that’s this:

    If you try to correlate a setting technicality with a sort of appeal, after some time of thinking, this feels like an hour-glass you can turn around endlessly; I no longer know what the definition is. An example:

    When you talk about “adapting” vs. “instant acceptance” as correlating with “trapped in a game” vs. “gamified world”, I’d have to play it through with examples to check it. But the problem is there are lots of shows that don’t fit clearly in either category, on either end of the hour-glass.

    Take for example Btoom!. I haven’t watched the show beyond the first few minutes, which were enough to turn me off, but from what I gather there’s a replica of a game on some island, where you have the play the game in real life – for survival (and the chance to escape). Formally, it has aspects of both: you’re trapped in a game you used to play – but the setting is a world deliberately constructed (after/in tandem with?) the game. On the other end of hour-glass, I can say that there’s definitely no instant acceptance – so if I buy your correlation, that would make it a trapped-in-a-game show. But the problem is this sort of thinking is circular: I don’t have an independent way to decide which type of anime Btoom! is. I’m mearly turning the hourglass on its head.

    With SAO I have the opposite problem; it’s definitely a trapped-in-a-game show, but even though it’s about survival and escaping, I feel that the show is embracing this situation as an adventure. That is: SAO is the poster book of “you win at the game, you win at life.” It’s not so as obvious as NGNL, but I get a distinct feeling that show deifies the programmer who traps people, and to make Kirito his apostle. It’s exactly what NGNL does: the programmer whose name I’ve forgotten takes Tet’s role, and Kirito has Sora and Shiro’s role. But all this is interpretation: my problem, this time, is on the other end of hourglass.

    I feel WIXXOS already deviates from the gamified world in that it’s the other way round: it’s not a world organised after gaming rules, but a scheme of some sort disguised as a game. In its duplicity, it has more in common with shows like Madoka or the underappreciated Mushi Uta. You sign up for one thing and get another. For this reason, I can’t really think that it subverts that particular genre; it’s been set up differently from the get go. But I’m not sure; I haven’t seen the second season (yet?).

    I’d say the Fate franchise has more in common with the gamified world concept. “Grail Wars” could easily be a game, except that it’s real. In fact, I think you’re on the right track when you compare Hunter X Hunter’s nen-system approaches a game system at times. I think that maybe game-like rules seem to a staple of shounen fighters, and they’re formalised in shows that sell real life games, such as Pokemon or Yu Gi Oh! (WIXXOS is also a real-world game, btw).

    All this isn’t meant as a critique of your post so much, as to show you what sort of thoughts your post has sent me down. I haven’t really worked out yet, what I think would be a useful classification or how to deal with it. One thing I’m wondering about the top part of the hourglass: why are Log Horizon and Overlord trapped-in-a-game shows, rather than gamified-world shows? Because the model’s a game the characters have already been playing?

    I think your last two posts are rather interesting as companion pieces. 🙂


    • As with last week’s comment, a ton of great stuff in here—particularly re: technicalities and appeal. You’re very right that trying to extrapolate from genre to reasons why people get into shows is a tricky, windy (and perhaps ultimately futile) venture.

      One of the things I didn’t talk about in either post was tone, which I feel is kind of a major factor in making stuff like NGNL and Problem Children distinct from things like SAO and Log Horizon. The attitudes are just different, the mood through which the worlds are considered aren’t the same. I realize that something that’s quite intangible, but I feel it’s pretty important.


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