The animé adaptation of FLIPFLOPs’ hit survival based manga series, Darwin’s Game, offers a more cerebral alternative to the genre’s usual serving of mindless violence. Produced by Nexus the animé series follows a young protagonist who must fight for survival, while trying to achieve his objectives.
Having originally been aired on Japanese television – in a run spanning from the first three months of the year – the Darwin’s Game series follows the life and death choices made by a teenage protagonist. The aforementioned protagonist, 17 year-old Kaname Sudō, unwittingly enters a to-the-death battle royale. The series turns out to be a more intellectual – and equally nail-biting – offering than other titles in the death battle animé genre (Ousama Game, & Mirai Nikki are two contemporary titles that spring to mind, regarding comparison).
The Darwin’s Game narrative kicks off with Kaname accepting an invite from a friend, prompting him to install the Darwin’s Game app. Upon firing up the app, Kaname finds himself literally immersed in a life-or-death tournament. It also turns out that the fellow who invited Kaname into the game, Hamada, is – at time of invite – engaged in a death match, and is getting his butt royally handed to him. Which begs the question, why was Kaname the only person Hamada could think of in such a situation?
The answer becomes more apparent as the story develops, with Kaname being forced to play the game through, and ice the game master. In true ‘main protagonist’ fashion, Kaname first draws a target on his back by defeating – not one, but two – high ranking players (unheard of for a rookie). Though players are given a special ability, Kaname Sudō seems to rely, more, on his wit.
As he learns the rules of the game, he (Kaname) employs more unorthodox and ingenuitive methods towards besting his opponents. As he resolves not to take a life, unless absolutely necessary. He earns the respect of many other players and the season closes with him and his clique, as rulers of their area.
Darwin’s Game features some interesting characters, complete with back stories that offer insight into the reasoning behind their current actions. The characters, especially Kaname, also develop according to the given circumstances and are very different individuals – in terms of outlook and behavior – at the end of the first season, in comparison to who they are at the beginning.
Voiced by Reina Ueda, Shuka Karino enters the game to avenge her parents. Her special ability, or sigil, is that she can control wire-like objects, enabling her to wield a pair of barbed chains. She starts out as an opponent of Kaname’s, the strapping lad earns her respect and eventually joins forces with him in the end, however. She is initially presented as a ruthless warrior, but later develops into a strong and reliable team member.
Ichiro Higari, is another masterpiece of a character who springs to mind. Higari is a middle aged man, who participates in the tournament to earn money to pay for an operation for his daughter. The Florist, as he becomes known – for his special ability – is also introduced as an enemy, but despite his personal reasons for entering the tournament, puts his life on the line for the sake of others.
The protagonist’s fully refined character arch, along with the realistically flawed supporting characters lend themselves well to the expertly timed action sequences, and suspense that the narrative is packed thick with.
What We Didn’t Like
What one might find frustrating with the tale is that it leaves a lot of plot details unresolved. The way the story is structured suggests that there might be a second season, as so much is left open ended. Except this is animé, and there are a lot of second seasons to incredible series that have never seen the light of day. Which, as you might imagine, is immensely frustrating.
Apart from the pageant of loose ends hanging from the plot, Darwin’s Game is a phenomenal series. It’s an action thriller with the right amount of suspense and mystery. The action itself is more elegant and cerebral than other titles in the genre. Darwin’s Game adds a chess game element to a genre that is traditionally about mindless violence. Here’s hoping we get a second season.