Disclaimer: There might be spoilers ahead.
Survival of the fittest
I’ve always been fond of battle royale stories, there is something special about throwing a bunch of people in a life or death scenario were only a few or sometimes only one can survive. Perhaps my appreciation for this genre is just another expression of good old-fashioned sadism but I bet that I am not the only fan of watching –fictional– people bludgeon, stab, crush, shoot and choke each other to death. Having confessed my bias towards these type of anime, movies, books etc, I shouldn’t have to say that I have been looking forward to Darwin’s Game. I mean come on, it’s right there in the title “Darwin”, a clear reference to Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking work On the Origin of Species and most importantly his theory of evolution. After many years of meticulous research the English Naturalist proposed that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors and that this evolution resulted from a process that he named natural selection. I cannot be sure about what the creator of Darwin’s Game had in mind when the title was chosen but it would be safe to assume that there is a clear reference to the brutality of the ‘game’, the survival capabilities of the players and possibly the ‘mutations’ that the players of the game exhibit after joining Darwin’s Game, namely the sigils (but more on that later).
I found Darwin’s Game interesting from the very start. The animation, as well as the directing, did well in grabbing my attention. It also made it clear that this is an anime were brutality is to be expected and gratuitous violence and action are guaranteed. After the opening scene, where a young man is chased through the city streets and murdered by a knife wielding baseball mascot with Predator like invisibility powers, we are introduced to our main protagonist Sudou Kaname. A run of the mill Japanese high school student who is clearly oblivious to what has been going around the city. However, his classmate, Kyouda Hiroyuki does not seem so carefree and we soon find out why. He is a player of Darwin’s Game and that poor guy from the opening scene is his classmate and a fellow player. To cut the story short one thing leads to another and an ad for the said game pops up on our protagonist’s phone, urging him to join. Hiroyuki tries to stop him but fails. Suddenly, a snake jumps out of the screen and bites Kaname on the neck and disappears just as fast as it appeared. Our protagonist, who is still oblivious of what he has gotten himself into, pays no mind to his friend’s warning of hurrying home after school. While on the train, he launches the game hoping that it will simply be a silly game and nothing more. Unbeknownst to him, he just joined a deadly battle round of Darwin’s Game, a ‘game’ where the aim is to kill your opponent using any means available, including conventional weapons such as knives and handguns and unconventional ones such as telekinetic chains. These unconventional powers are called sigils, apparently every player has one. They are not the same and they are not equal in power or usability. It depends on the player to create a viable strategy using his sigil, weapons, and environment to survive and win the round. As you can tell, we are not talking about anything particularly different from most other survival/battle royale anime, since at the end of the day the basic premise is the same. You either kill or you get killed. Simple.
I am not in the mood to spoil any more of the story for you since I think that it’s well worth your time but in case you are wondering, yes, there is a story there. Darwin’s Game has more to it than simple killing. There is a mystery that needs to be unraveled as well as interesting characters to be met, including an attractive yandere homicidal girl who by the end of the longer than usual first episode seems to be infatuated with Kaname. Definitely getting some Future Diary, Yuki and Yuno vibes. (If you’ve watched Mirai Nikki you know what I’m talking about. If you have no idea, go watch it now, it’s great). However, I am glad to say that Kaname, although scared sh_tless at first, quickly gets the hang of his situation and is actually capable of defending himself. He is not perfect by any means which is good, and despite the fact that he is clearly special, he did not necessarily seem overpowered. But that remains to be seen. I would be lying if I said that I am not worried that he could become another idiotically powerful and overconfident harem king. Hope I didn’t raise any flags just now…
In conclusion, it seems that I was right in waiting eagerly for Darwin’s Game. Although it is still too early to tell whether this will be a great anime, it is definitely worth watching, especially if you are like me and want a little bit of violence in the midst of all the cat-eared girls and isekai reincarnations.