Touhai Densetsu Akagi, or simply Akagi, is a niche series. It is a gambling series and has both manga and anime adaptation to enjoy. I will be covering the anime here.
The series starts as a man under heavy debt is playing Mahjong with a Yakuza gang. It is literally a gamble of his life. He either has to win or …. No, he has to win. After all, he was forced to purchase a life insurance a month ago, and its benefactor is the yakuza gang.
Before I go on, I will say that I have absolutely no idea how Mahjong plays. I have no idea about its rules, and I’ve only found out its history via wikipedia.
Basically, before I watched this anime, I simply did not know what Mahjong was. The game was originated from China. You can say it’s Asian chess but with a lot more complexity in it. Go board play is more similar to Chess than Mahjong. If you don’t know what “Go” game is, watch Hikaru no go.
Anyway, back to the topic in hand, the man who’s battling his debt is Nango. He has got 3 million yen debt. If he wins, his debt will become voided. If he loses, his debt will double, 6 million. It is an amount Nango cannot handle even with a payment plan due to an insane interest rate from Yakuza. Thus, the life insurance.
As he struggles to keep himself in the game, a boy enters the scene, Akagi. He is soaked wet. You see, Nango and Yakuza are playing on a freight vessel off a port; they are on sea which makes it easier to keep eyes on who comes and goes. It is also night and there is heavy rain outside.
Therefore, Akagi’s appearance surprises everyone. Nango, in a deep ditch, fatefully feels that Akagi is different and decides to literally gamble his life on him by teaching him basics of Mahjong on the spot.
The yakuza has no problem with this since they think Nango will lose either way.
And they’ve unleashed a beast, literally.
Akagi is a genius with quick wits and fast reaction. He studies his opponents in how they behave and act accordingly.
He defeats the Yakuza gang with ease and defeats even their backup player. In the end, he hands Nango millions after his debt is wiped off.
From there on, he goes on to defeat renowned Mahjong players.
To sum it up, Akagi is playing 3D or even 4D chess while others are just playing 2D version. It is a show of mind games. I doubt you will learn how to play Mahjong through this anime though. The game seems too complex to grasp by just watching an anime.
Akagi is a different kind of a gambler. He does not seek money despite him demanding a lot of money to play a round. He demands high prices so that his opponents would be of quality and would have the desire.
The background plays an important role as well. It clearly states that it is some years after the Pacific war, meaning there is general chaos in the society and it was also the era where Yakuza thrived.
Released in 2005, this anime does not have a HD version. 480p is the best resolution you are going to find, but good quality 480p rips are available on the net.
The art style will probably put off some but the art will be the least of your concerns if you can get into the anime. In fact, you will find that the art is quite fitting to the theme of the series.
This series is also quite different from general anime/manga. Akagi as MC does not experience any form of character growth. He is, from the moment he shows up, a complete character.
So, do I recommend it?
Well, it’s not a straight aye.
What I do like about the series is that it does not try to sugarcoat gambling. It also does not attempt to hide the darker side of the society. These two factors are quite rare, and Akagi is probably the only gambling anime that has these two factors.
And here is another thing; this series, at least the anime version, does not have a single female character. Now, that is very rare.
So, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it but give it a go if you feel like it.
Finally, one last thing.
The debt Nango had, 3 million yen, would be around 16 million yen in 2020. I am basing this on an assumption that the year in the anime is around 1960. 16 million yen to USD is around 150k. If he had lost, his debt would have become 300k USD.
Given that anyone in America with the notorious student loan can have more than 300k in debt, his debt amount isn’t abnormal. Anyone with a house mortgage can easily have more than 300k in debt as well, but his debt is a gambling one in a semi-lawless era.
In other words, it’s federally regulated debt versus completely unregulated one. Now, that makes a huge difference.