Japanese game developers have made some of the most intense and memorable horror games around. Can the same be said of anime? Its usually known for portraying intense characters and moving tales. Though not so much for inducing moments of sheer terror. Ousama Game The Animation (King’s Game in English) steps forward as a new contender in this arena. A small class of students caught up in a dark and twisted game. Do they play along or suffer an unimaginable fate? Is this the movie SAW if it were an anime or something far better? Let’s take a look shall we?
The King’s decrees are absolute. This simple yet demanding rule is something many teenagers are about to become familiar with. Without any prior warning, students from a single class in a high school will find themselves receiving texts from someone calling themselves the King. Each one gets different instructions and must obey or face a gruesome death or some other unbearable punishment. A pretty basic horror story premise all things considered but one with potential.
Perhaps having poor luck or perhaps because he ‘s the only survivor of the last game, one student finds himself caught up in the King’s Game once again. Young Nobuaki Kanazawa transferred to a new high school hoping to escape his horrifying past. He happens to be the lone survivor of the last King’s Game. He receives no such respite. Before long him and his entire class receive their initiation texts from The King. Can he do something about it this time or has he resigned himself to his fate?
At the time of writing, Ousama Game The Animation has aired 5 episodes with a 6th on the way soon. Thus, there’s likely still many reveals and developments to come so there are parts of the story up in the air. Still, despite its promise, the story so far has been okay. It isn’t horrible but it won’t win any particular repute either. That might be intentional what with the mystery and horror element central to this tale. Thus, its too early to make a conclusive judgment.
However Ousama Game The Animation isn’t really horrifying. It is mysterious but what it does provide a lot of is shock value. Make no mistake this anime delves into some pretty gritty stuff. This ranges from sensitive topics like rape to suicide and torture, all involving its high school cast no less. This of course may be a source of horror to some so if you’re queasy about these things consider this fair warning. In fact sometimes it seems as though providing more shock value is the sole purpose of an episode more so than progressing story. In a way it misses some opportunity where philosophical questions or various themes could be explored. As soon as an emotional or moving thread comes up in the story its quickly thrown aside for a gory or dark moment clearly meant to unnerve the audience.
Ousama Game The Animation deals primarily with a class of 32 students while also flashing back to the previous victims of the game from Kanazawa’s past. This means they’re a lot of characters to keep track of as each one, even if surviving no longer than one episode, is still given some personality and motivations. This can make for some moving scenes when characters are humanized like this only to be plucked from existence moments later. A handful of these characters clearly stand out as more ‘main’ and important characters with Nobuaki Kanazawa being the primary lead.
Given his traumatic experiences he suffers a textbook case of survivor’s guilt. This has left him outright refusing to make new friends and form bonds. A part of him believes he should have died and is ready to resign himself to that fate. However another part of him is also tortured by the thought of dragging down more students with him. This leaves him awkward and difficult to communicate with. Though, as flashback sequences clearly show, he was once a very confident person with an iron will. This contrast helps to drive home the psychological effect of the game more so than the immediate threat of death. It leaves the audience wondering if the survivors really are the lucky ones.
Sound and voice are generally well done in Ousama Game The Animation. Characters convey the emotions they want to and picture quality is crisp with a dark color palette suited to the overall theme. As mentioned prior, this isn’t so much a horror story but it will unnerve you. Audiences will see the contorted faces and bloodshot eyes of victims gasping for breath as a noose tightens around their neck, all as they wet themselves while life leaves them. Giant pustules will swell and burst from someone’s body as they die a painful, tortured death. Students will turn on one another, ready to do the unthinkable and there’s even attempted rape in a scene. This production clearly doesn’t mind pushing limits and to some this may be unacceptable. However to others it’ll likely be entertaining though unnerving and shocking.
Not so much a horror story but more an edgy thriller, Ousama Game The Animation can be a hit or miss. If its content turns you off stay far away. However if this gory, macabre experience fits your bill feel free to dive right into it.