Anime review: Kaiji

Status: watched 3 episodes (of 26)


So Kaiji once co-signed for a buddy who took $300 dollars from a loan shark. Eventually, his buddy ducked out, leaving Kaiji on the hook for the dough plus interest. Interest of almost $40,000. Kaiji is small time and just doesn’t have that kind of cash. His way out? Get on a boat with loads of other losers like him and risk it all on a game of chance. He can come away with the debt paid and a lot of extra money for himself. Or, he can become the indentured slave of the shadowy organization behind this whole racket. But when you’ve got nothing to lose, those seem like pretty good stakes.

I started playing Texas Holdem a few months ago and I love the game. The strategy. The bluffing. The feel of the chips in my hand. And of course, the winning. The most intense moments I have during the game are when I’m betting high, even “all in”, without knowing if my cards are enough to beat my opponent. But you get this sense of purpose, of destiny, that you must win, that you will win. That doesn’t keep my heart from beating hard, and on more than one occasion, making my hands shake as I moved the chips into the center of the table.

That feeling is what propels Kaiji. This poor son of a bitch lives in this world constantly, and watching this show, you can’t help but feel that sense of fate.

There are so many wonderfully unique things about this show. First, the fact that it went from a manga, to a pachinko game, to an anime. Yeah, a story about a problem gambler who gets roped into a do or die gamble was turned into a… gambling game. Welcome to Planet Japan.

Then there’s the very simple plot with an even simpler game at it’s core. I’m only 3 episodes in and really wonder how this stretches out to a full series.

But the aspect that people probably notice right away is the unusual animation style – extremely heavy lines around the characters’ faces. I’ve never really seen anything like it and it looks both retro and kinda grotesque, but I’ve gotten used to it and it seems to fit the crude and intense style of the story.

Highly recommended for gamblers and anyone else looking for anime that’s just a little bit of the beaten track.


2 comments so far

  1. Michael Eh? on

    Seimen or men’s manga (and anime in this case) deals with the main character being a “Man’s man”. Looking fate in the eye and spitting. Since most men in Japan live servant to the corporations, this is their fantasy outlet.

    This style of ‘gambling’ anime deals suspense while pointing out the finer points of the game. Oddly enough, Yugioh is a form of this type of story telling.

    A far better is “Mahjong Legend Akagi: The Genius Who Descended Into the Darkness” which is by the same mangaka. Far darker and deadlier than Kaiji with a duel.. er match with craze tychon who plays for blood … literally.

  2. Michael Eh? on

    Sorry that is Seinen not Seimen. Ack!

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