Great concept. Poor execution. That’s how I would summarize this anime adaptation of a Japanese cell phone novel. Wait, what? Cell phone novel? People actually write books on their mobile? Due to my stubby fingers I can barely type “hello” on a phone keypad, let alone an entire story. Bah, whatever. King’s Game stars a group of students who one fateful day start to receive text messages from an anonymous source. The texts request that each pupil perform a task within a specified time limit, or they will be executed in a most gruesome manner. Things start off simple enough, with orders requesting that the unfortunate teens kiss each other. After a while however, things escalate to the point were participants are expected to hack off their limbs in order to survive.
Transfer student Nobuaki Kanazawa is the protagonist of this sordid tale. In episode one we learn that in his previous school he participated in a King’s Game and emerged as the contest’s sole survivor. How he escaped with his life is beyond me, as he is a crybaby who regularly offers to sacrifice himself for the sake of casual acquaintances. The only time Nobuaki didn’t shed tears was during a 24 hour stint were the King decreed that anyone who sobs will be slain. Many of the show’s early episodes are peppered with flashbacks detailing the events that occurred in the previous King’s Game. The callbacks, to what transpired in Nobuaki’s last school, became so frequent that I began to wonder why studio Seven didn’t adapt that story instead and save this plot for a sequel.
Danganronpa has conditioned me to expect that, in these type of death games, the mastermind orchestrating the murders is one of the protagonist’s classmates. That wasn’t the case in King’s Game. Nor is the culprit a supernatural force, as was the case in the vastly superior Another. If you want to watch teens die in creative ways watch that show instead. The root of the King’s Game is basically influenza, which has somehow mutated into a computer virus. I’m not sure how a mobile phone Trojan causes people to spontaneously combust though. Nor am I sure why digital germs would demand that adolescents partake in sexual intercourse and race each other in a marathon. Malicious code has come a long way since the days when it would merely slow down your PC!
My rating for King’s Game is a one out of five. Battle royale shows can be compelling, as they show how different people react when placed in a life or death struggle. That only works however when the cast act in a believable manner. What ruins King’s Game is how brain dead everyone is. Despite being outnumbered, one villainous girl is permitted to run roughshod over her entire class. People calmly speak to their chums whilst on fire. A girl willingly saves the person who broke her hand a few seconds prior. Sweet and innocent children turn into complete psychopaths with no prompting whatsoever. Students dropping like flies, on a daily basis, don’t attract the attention of parents or law enforcement. I can suspend my disbelief when it comes to fiction, but only so far.
As you can imagine from a twelve episode series that has a huge cast, the characterisation is poor. King’s Game does the Akame Ga Kill trick of only fleshing out its characters moments before they die, in a vain attempt to make the audience feel sad at their demise. It didn’t work for me and the slog to the finale wasn’t worth it, as it all culminates in an unsatisfying “to be continued.” Wow, how optimistic. I can’t imagine this anime ever getting a second season. King’s Game is only worth watching with copious amounts of alcohol and friends who will join you in laughing at it’s silliness. The only thing I enjoyed about the show was the opening tune “Feed the Fire.” Coldrain’s rocking song is wasted on this series. The script is so weak I really can believe it was penned on a mobile.