Anime of the Week: Kaiji

Gambling, gambling, gambling! This Anime of the Week brings you Kaiji. Strategy, luck, skill, and ZAWA ZAWA. The show has it all. Bring some tissues because manly tears will definitely be spread. Zawa zawa~

What’s it about: Kaiji is a man who carelessly gambles and drinks his life into heavy debt. He seeks help from a debt-collector, Endo, to repay the money he owes. Instead of deciding to spend ten years of his life to repay his debt, Kaiji takes a chance to repay it all in a single night by boarding a cruise ship where gambling isn’t all what it seems to be.

What it sounds like: Liar Game, apparently. I personally couldn’t find a good comparison to Kaiji, but co-host, Ven, describes it to be much like the manga, Liar Game. Both main characters experience ups and downs as they gamble with dangerous strangers.

Why you should watch it: Gambling in the Kaiji series isn’t like any other kind of gambling you’ve seen anywhere else. The first arc of the first season is a seemingly simple rock-paper-scissors game. However, it’s much more complex than that. Each person is given a specific amount of rock/paper/scissors cards and must challenge other players to win a star from them. Stars have a value of 5/10 million yen (?) and are used to clear the debts at the end of the game. Anyone who loses all of their stars is sent to a fate much worse than being in heavy debt. Keep in mind, this is the least dangerous arc of Kaiji. From there on out, it’s a game of life or death. Kaiji’s a persistent and strong-willed character, someone you wouldn’t see everyday on the streets. The music used in Kaiji is also well conducted. There’s not too many instances where a single track is overused or repeated for the sake of dramatic tension. The music compliments the mood of each episode extremely well, allowing some moments to stand out more than others. ‘Beginning’ might be one of my favorite tracks:

Kaiji’s second season was my anime of the year of 2011 for a reason. It was absolutely brilliant. There’s so much cleverness and strategy built up in the arcs that it didn’t even matter to me that they were long. It’s these kinds of shows that’s just filled with adrenaline and excitement. I found it impossible to just put down for awhile. Hell, Ven and I were even gambling ourselves to challenge each other of what would happen next in the series. This is what anime should be nowadays. It gets you excited about watching it. It gets you involved with what’s happening on screen and invested with the story. Kaiji’s one of the most manliest shows I’ve watched to date. So many manly tears are shed in the series, you can’t help but invest yourself into the sort of situation these characters are placed in. If the character designs appear to be a turn off for you, I urge you to overlook them for the sake of just watching what happens in Kaiji. The payoff will definitely be worth it.


About davethezombie
I watch anime on nearly a daily basis. I also try to read some manga every now and then.

11 Responses to Anime of the Week: Kaiji

  1. marshal M says:

    i’ve been trying to get my anime friend to watch this for months but he still doesn’t want to read subtitles even though I stressed that this show is incredibly focused and linear and easy to follow (every move is spelled out for you like in Death Note). it’s one of the top anime of the last 5 years, and both season endings had me screaming at the top of my lungs at the computer screen (in the best possible way).

    • Oh yes, it’s a very entertaining show. The only other person I can talk about it with is Ven, seeing as we’re the only two who watched it in our little AAP group. It’s unfortunate that it’s very unlikely that Kaiji would get a dub so people who don’t want to read subtitles might not be able to watch it.

  2. marshal M says:

    Kaiji would totally fly in America if they dubbed it and marketed it to the Death Note crowd by playing up the ruthless mind games in the show. Hell, who in america can’t relate to either gambling or being in debt?

    • It’s hard to say how well it’d do over here. I mean, look at Baccano. A show that would no doubt have great appeal to the west but even that isn’t very popular here.

  3. marshal M says:

    Key difference between Kaiji and Baccano as far as The West is concerned? Kaiji is compeltely linear, point A to point B, requiring no attention span. Now Baccano, despite being a masterpiece, is pretty inaccessible to someone with no brain. I can see many people watching the first episode, hell even the second episode and going ‘what the hell is this incomprehensible shit, CLICK’.

    • Whoa, whoa, what? Kaiji requires no attention span? There’s definitely some amount of attention required when it comes to Kaiji explaining his strategies and what he’s trying to accomplish. Maybe that might fly with the Death Note crowd, but for everyone else, it’s uncertain. As for Baccano, it may not be linear but I do believe there’s always something in each episode to keep the viewers entertained regardless of confusing them, not to mention each one pieces the fragments together slowly.

  4. marshal M says:

    and i just thought of this, but 1 main character in Kaiji vs 80 central characters in Baccano may also be a factor in this.

  5. marshal M says:

    I’m not saying the show isn’t complex. But since it’s linear, and virtually every twist and development is explained (sometimes by the character AND AGAIN by the narrator), the argument that it’s too smart or clever for the masses is nil. The show might tease you for a bit and not reveal its hand right away, but when it does, the show holds your hand as much as Death Note. The only hurdle for mass-appeal that I see, is the unconventional art, but even that I think is a bullshit excuse. I myself thought the art was disgusting (kept me away for a long time), but by episode 2 it felt completely natural.

    As for Baccano, i maintain that it’s wayyy too much to handle for the average fan who primarily watches never-ending shounen shows which is pretty much the bulk of the market in america. It relies on some of the most extreme time skipping in all of anime, a massive cast with no clearly discernible main character, as well as shocking scenes of ultra-violence at the drop of a hat. The show has no conventional narrative, plot, or character focus, and it uses very little genre tropes for crutches. I don’t think your average narutard could wrap their head around this show without watching it over and over, much less shelling out $50 for it.

    Sure Baccano isn’t a MAINSTREAM hit, but it’s very popular amongst real anime fans with some of the best word of mouth out there (hell it’s in the top 10 on MAL). It’s very popular in my opinion, just not ‘Death Note popular’. I think Kaiji would do a lot better business than Baccano for Funimation.

    • It doesn’t necessarily matter if it’s in the top rankings on MAL. Just look at Legend of Galactic Heroes and see how exactly popular that is. Point is, I’m not certain how much Kaiji would appeal to the states. The first season isn’t even licensed by any dub company and that was released in what, 2007? Funi and any other dub company tend to select shows that they think would be most popular and sell well with the US. They could be wrong with Kaiji for all we know, but it simply isn’t certain. Believe me, I’d love Kaiji to come over to the states as much as the next guy, but I just don’t see it coming over any time soon.

  6. marshal M says:

    i accepted the fact that it was passed over for dub when I gave up waiting and watched it (i believe thanks to your podcast actually). If Funi or Sentai ever considered licensing it, they probably looked at the ugly characters, saw that there were no moe girls, and decided it wasn’t worth the risk. Of course a good MAL rating doesn’t mean market penetration, but it does count for longterm word of mouth. It ensures that the target audience will find their way to it eventually. The only reason I’m sad there’s no dub is because it greatly limits its exposure, and I think it’s a show that everyone needs to watch, particularly people driven by money. It’s a show that has a lot to say, and it’s tough to walk away from it unscathed.

    • Oh yes, it definitely deserves more attention. Exactly why I started and included it in this weekly segment. Hopefully, it’ll get more exposure from this post even if it’s just by a little.

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