Original Run: January 3, 2020 - March 20, 2020 Number of Episodes: 11 Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller Based on the Series Created By: FLIPFLOPs
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Darwin’s Game. Reader discretion is advised.***
One day, Kaname Sudo (voiced by Yusuke Kobayashi) receives an invite to join a mobile app called Darwin’s Game. With the invitation coming from a friend, Kaname doesn’t think much of it. Unfortunately, with an absentminded, almost accidental push of a button, this once average teenager’s whole life suddenly becomes a living nightmare.
It turns out, Darwin’s Game is a real-life battle royal that forces players to face one another in bloody fights to the death. Although users are granted unique powers for combat, most new players don’t survive their first encounter.
Despite having no idea of the rules, Kaname shocks the game’s community by defeating two high ranking fighters, including the then Undefeated Queen Shuka Karino (voiced by Reina Ueda). However, the real horror of what Kaname has entered hasn’t yet been revealed. If he hopes to live through this madness, he must find allies, and when necessary, not hesitate to kill.
If I can give a quick apology. It surprises me how little I can think of things to say about Darwin’s Game because I really did enjoy this series. Therefore, let me emphasize this now; this show was a lot of fun to watch and I fully intend to recommend it. With that off my chest, on with the review.
Once I grasped what sort of series this was going to be – a sadistic survival game filled with violence and murder – my mind went to two previous examples of the like, Mirai Nikki and Ousama Game. “If Darwin’s Game were going to emulate one of those,” I thought to myself, “it best be the former because I would prefer not to throw my computer out the window.”
Fortunately, Darwin’s Game was much more competently made and executed than Ousama Game (not a hard thing to do, but still). Unexpectedly, though, this series was actually on par with Mirai Nikki in some areas and superior in others.
Supposing you’re reading that last sentence with no context: It wouldn’t be unfair to label Mirai Nikki as a modern classic. Granted, I do not think Darwin’s Game will be the next big thing – and there was no Yuno Gasai equivalent in this show – but it was a lot of fun nonetheless. Like, a lot of freaking fun, and right from the beginning, too.
Darwin’s Game knew the value of build-up. This series was proof that the tiniest point stated at the onset of a story could snowball into something much greater.
It was a small detail, but it worked well in this series’ favor to have Kaname Sudo join the titular Darwin’s Game by accident. More than that, there were a lot of unsaid puzzle pieces you could put together without your hand needing to be held.
Kaname was sent the link when one of his friends was in dire trouble with an opponent. So from the start, one has to wonder why during a life-or-death situation, someone felt their best chance was contacting Kaname. It wasn’t until much later did we learn what Kaname’s actual in-game power, or Sigil, was. Between his introduction and him gaining the ability to fight back effectively, we got a much clearer sense of what Kaname’s true strength was: His mind.
By doing this, Darwin’s Game established that this would be a series more focused on strategy than brute force. Essentially, there was always a way around any problem. So long as a contestant was able to notice the hints, nothing was impossible. This was a big reason as to why the treasure hunt event, which I assumed would only last an episode or two, not only could stretch out to fill up half the show but also remain exciting the whole time.
Darwin’s Game’s most significant success was its ability to build up the foundation of a continuation while still staying entertaining. This series did just enough to keep the viewer satisfied, but believe me, there needs to be a second season.
Again, I want to say sorry for this review being as sparse as it is. On the one hand, there is no excuse for me to release poorly written content. On the other hand, I think this is a testament to how good the show was. So much went on in this series. As a result, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you. For a more concise list of positives, though:
- Kaname had a fully developed character arc.
- This series walked the line between kindness and naivety.
- The fights were exciting, well-paced, and never longer than they needed to be.
- The characters that joined Kaname’s team were not dead weight; they all had their roles to play.
- The climactic showdown could not have been more satisfying.
If there is nothing else I can say about this show, let me, at least, add this. A series must be pretty damn good when I make it to the end of the first episode without realizing it was actually an hour long.
The worst thing that can happen to Darwin’s Game is if it never receives a second season. Although this series did plenty to keep its story self-contained, there were many details introduced that never went anywhere.
I don’t want to say this was a fault of the show since I think the odds of a continuation are quite high. However, this is a pattern I have seen time and time again, and I can’t tell you how many second chapters I am still waiting to get.
For example, this series introduced the number one ranked player of Darwin’s Game. Having this person make an appearance would have been one thing, but the show took it a step further by having this character interact with Kaname’s group and the two parties reached an agreement that never came into play during this installment.
Continuing from that: Many characters’ backstories went unresolved, and the story, by the end of this series, was fully ready to begin its next segment.
Therefore, when I say Darwin’s Game was satisfying, what I mean is that the main threat of this chapter (aside from Kaname trying to beat the game) was sufficiently brought to a resolution. However, this series only closed one big door. What it left opened were a lot of smaller doors, and each of them seemed worth exploring.
I don’t want my lack of words to be an indication that I didn’t enjoy this series. In fact, since I didn’t want to spoil the show, the thing I wanted to make crystal clear was how much enjoyment I got out of it. And I got a lot.
This series was much more than blood-thirsty people receiving the power to murder without consequences. There was a lot more thought put into each encounter. Victory often came down to who was smarter, not stronger. Thus, it made fights even more fun when we got players who understood that.
Should this be the first installment for a much larger story, then I am one-hundred percent on board.
Darwin’s Game has earned a recommendation.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Darwin’s Game? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.