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…
I do love an elimination game anime. I’ve already expressed this in my earlier review of Juni Taisen and I’m looking forward to following this and King’s Game to the end to see how things play out.
Nobuaki Kanazawa has only very recently transferred to a new school and is trying to keep a low profile. He thinks he’s doing well until he receives a text from someone called the King, outlining the rules of a game Nobuaki seems familiar with – The King’s Game, where a whole class must follow orders or face death. The first order is for Nobuaki to kiss a girl in their class, Natsuko, but everyone things he is making it up. Resigned to death, Nobuaki is saved with seconds to spare by Natsuko, who finds him and kisses him. When he discovers that other classmates have received their own orders, he tries to convince them that they aren’t a hoax but is too late – several of them have died in the night. The surviving students meet and believe Nobuaki to be a murderer. It isn’t until another student dies horribly in front of them that they start to believe the truth in Nobuaki’s words. That’s when he reveals to them that he is a lone survivor of a previous King’s Game, and he’s determined to make sure that as many of them as possible survive the game this time around – but some of the students might have other ideas.
From the get-go King’s Game is a very dark, very ambitious story. As well as being in the present day King’s Game, there are also extended flashbacks that take you through Nobuaki’s first ordeal as a participant in this deadly game was a traumatic one, and as the episodes go on we are shown the extent of his suffering and his determination to survive as well as his attempts to protect his friend and girlfriend. As the present-day class try their best to work out who the King is and how they could stop him, Nobuaki reflects on the knowledge he has gained from a previous game and attempts to put it to good use to avoid more deaths. Effectively, we are watching two King’s Game’s playing out at once. With two classes of around 30 students each, that is almost too much to keep track of. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, characters do tend to stick in your mind when you’ve watched them die rather horribly.
For the opening and ending music, we have Coldrain’s ‘Feed the Fire’ and Pile’s ‘Lost Paradise’, which are very up-tempo rocky tunes. Feed the Fire in particular is a favourite of mine and is rather catchy and has a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegan kind of vibe, who have done some great anime tracks in the past such as the original Hunter x Hunter theme as well as a track for Brynhildr in the Darkness. I will be looking out for more of Coldrain’s tracks in the future.
One of the difficult things about King’s Game is that it can get quite text-heavy at times, with the King sending messages to each of the participants. And when you’re reading subtitles, even if you’re a skilled speed-reader it’s practically impossible not to have to pause it in order to digest all the information being thrown about. Another difficult thing about this anime is it’s not one you can watch several episodes of in one sitting (unless you’re very strong of constitution). It is so gory and unsettling at times that I had to take a break and go and do something else – but I wouldn’t change it. I like an anime that still has the potential to unsettle me after all this time. Elimination anime is all about putting a group of people together and seeing how they react under extreme pressures and ultimatums and follows the choices that they make and how they let them make or break them. And every time it’s different.
King’s Game looks to be a fascinating ride. Even though you know the outcome of Nobuaki’s first game, it still affects you as you watch how situations unfolded and how they hinder and motivate Nobuaki this second time around. It remains to be seen if this experience ultimately hinders or helps him, but I can’t help but carry on watching this addictive gore-fest.