When plainly breaking the fourth wall isn’t quite the right kind of cheese.
Recently I’ve begun watching No Game No life, a beautifully animated series detailing the adventures and exploits of a pair of siblings thrown into a world where all conflicts are decided through games. It’s actually really great in a wacky kind of way, and I’ll probably write more about it some other time. Today though, I want to focus on one of the things its writing does so well: being meta about its genre and the tropes it employs.
If you watch a lot of things in a certain genre, you’ll notice actions, situations, or sequences of them, occurring rather repetitively. Sadly, most of the time this is just cheap writing. Throw in a trope or overdone gag and call it a script. What NGNL does though, is include aforementioned tropes and gags, and then joke with them. Skew the situation a bit, lampshade the idiocy, or give a wildly unexpected twist to it. The series may sometimes give off the feeling that it’s falling into one of those predictable patterns, but it’s secretly in control the entire time, waiting for the right time to pounce onto the viewer with the unexpected. That timing is precisely what makes the comedy work. “Oh, I can see where this is going. Sigh.” And then it slaps you in the face, “nope, we’re still good!”
Not to mention the frequent use of references (in the art or the writing) to other popular series in similar genres, including their over-the-top gags to add to the show’s own wackiness. It’s brilliant, and the “I can see why they included that here” feels lovely.
Commentating on your own line of work, it really is quite something.