Tobaku Mokushiroku Kaiji or simply Kaiji is another gambling series like Akagi I reviewed previously. I suggest reading up my Akagi review if you haven’t watched the series because I compare those two in this review.
In fact, both are by the same author. Unlike Akagi though, Kaiji is far more realistic to a point that it’s …. just sad.
There are two seasons of anime to this series with 26 episodes each available in glorious FHD although the art style in FHD isn’t something nice to look at… It looks crisp in FHD. That is about it.
This series has been the author’s hit. In fact, Kaiji was what got me to watch Akagi in the first place.
Ito Kaiji is a loser. He isn’t a geek or a nerd. He is a real loser. He has no career. He has no savings. He spends days doing nothing but play the poker with some of his friends in hope of earning some dough which doesn’t turn out too well on that front, either.
Basically, he has failed on everything in his life. I wish I could speak something positive about him but, nope, nothing nada zero.
The series begins as Kaiji is confronted with the harsh reality of having borrowed a sizable sum from a questionable source where there was whooping 20% interest.
Without him realizing, what he had initially borrowed had become quite large. With no job, thus no income, he has no way of paying it off.
He is offered a chance to “score big” from a questionable gambling party which he can hardly refuse because he is threatened that they will go after his family and relatives. And that begins his dangerous life which evolves around these gray gambling companies or a company in particular which is Teiai Group.
The difference between legal (AKA white) and gray gambling is simple. Legal gambling is when it is backed up or run by a government entity. Gray gambling is when it is run by a company of some sort. It is basically 3rd party gambling.
In Canada where I reside, gray gambling is fully illegal. Only the government can run gambling systems. However, it seems that, in Japan, gray gambling is entirely legal as long as they follow certain guidelines. It is, of course, easy to look clean on surface….
At first, the games Kaiji are involved in can hardly classified as “gambling”. It is more of a sadist party for the riches where they watch hopeless, and poor, people break bones and even die to obtain a grand prize of 10,000,000 yen which translates to about 100k in USD.
The first two games he is involved in are such.
After those two events which consumes about half of season 1, the series focuses on proper gambling which is about outsmarting opponents on tables.
Kaiji, throughout 52 episodes across two seasons, will go through various brutal games where failure isn’t really an option. Granted, in the first game (early episodes), he does get away with a failure, but in late plot, failure will mean his death or at least loss of body parts.
The reason for that is because he does not have money to bet. Therefore, he has to bet something else, like ears, fingers, and so on….
He will watch other participants break their bones and even die for the pleasure of the riches. At one point, he even bellows, “WHY AM I DOING THIS?!”
Why? Because you need money ASAP.
Unlike Akagi whose ingenuity was consistent, Kaiji’s ingenuity is highly volatile. He seems to shine the most when his situation is absolutely the worst.
Ironically, his volatility is what makes this more enjoyable than Akagi. Kaiji is a human whereas Akagi is more of an embodiment of a gambling God.
Personally, I feel that the real message behind this anime is told by Tonegawa who is a very high ranking member of Teisi group corp.
Paraphrasing his words, he tells a group, including Kaiji, before attempting a crossbar crossing challenge on top of a building as they complain that the challenge is ridiculous.
He basically tells them that they are here, risking their lives for some money, because they failed their teenagehood. They should have thought better. They should have studied or at least planed a career of some sort instead of just playing and smoking.
He barks at them that those high flying salarymen they scoff at devoted their school years for a steady and decent payout for reminder of their adulthood. They’ve paid their price in youth and are getting their rewards.
Of course, I think none of them really cared about what he said because they were too scared to even think straight. But the point is there.
The point is that success demands a price. Either just enjoy your youth and pay the price for the rest of your life OR sacrifice your youth and receive a monthly payment for it until you retire.
Normally, kids will likely take the first choice. Thus, it’s down to their parents usually. This trend is very strong in Eastern Asia, like South Korea. Not sure about Japan and China though. Anyway, South Korea is notorious for its insanely competitive high school period to enter a good university. Just google or search on Youtube on the subject.
Overall, this series has a certain, unique, charm that no other general, ordinary, anime has. It is really a niche series, and the subject of gambling itself could make some viewers turn away. But if you want something that’s different, certainly give this as well as Akagi a try.
It’s certainly not aimed at the general audience for sure.
Well, until next time.