Kaiji

The Boring Info The Characters The Terms The Songs The Opinion
Itō Kaiji

Mirai wa Bokura no Te no Naka
Makeinutatsu no Requiem


The Animoo

KaijiKaiji is a young man who graduates from high school and enters the working force during the mid-90s, which is during the Japanese recession after their bubble economy burst. Because of this, and because of his demeanour, he is unable to hold a job for very long and is almost constantly in debt.

At the beginning of the series, he is talked into co-signing a loan for a co-worker for the amount of 3,850,000 yen, but is left shouldering the hole thing (plus interest). Unable to pay back the loan with his wages (900 yen per hour – living expenses), he is given the opportunity to board the gambling ship, Espoir (French for “hope”), where he, if successful, can win back the entire amount of the debt and more. However, when aboard the ship, Kaiji realizes that the stakes were alot higher than he initially thought and he quite literally ends up betting parts of his body, and even his life, in the many insane gambles during that one night of do or die…


The Boring Info

The anime is 26 episodes long and is based on the manga of the same name. The anime only covers the first part of the “trilogy” manga.
The “zawa zawa” noise heard in the anime is a Japanese onomatopoeia often used in manga to emphasize an uneasy atmosphere.
Because Kaiji was written and drawn by the same mangaka as Akagi (Nobuyuki Fukumoto), the art style of the two anime are the same, as are the themes (psychological suspense and gambling). As an Easter Egg for true fans, Akagi’s silhouette takes the place of Kaiji during an explanation in episode 18.
As a funny “coincidence”, another similarity between the two series is that the voice actor of Itō Kaiji, the main character of Kaiji, is the same who voiced Akagi Shigeru, the main character of Akagi. Further more, the main antagonists of both stories, wealthy, old, eccentric socialites (i.e. complete whack-jobs with a more money than God) who seek pleasure in gambling with the lives of other people, are also voiced by the same voice actor.
The title of the opening song is taken from what was written on page 4 of the first Kaiji manga.


The Characters

In snack-sized bits. Click names to see character images.
Itō Kaiji – A young man in constant debt and a habit for small gambles that he never seems able to win. However, when pushed to the extreme limit, he becomes fully able to analyse the situation and turn the odds in his favour. He boards the gambling ship, Espoir, in order to win enough money to pay back a million-amount loan, which he was talked into cosigning by a co-worker, to the Yakuza.


The Songs

Mirai wa Bokura no Te no Naka
Mirai wa Bokura no Te no Naka (The Future is in Our Hands) is performed by Kaiji with Redbourn Cherries. I don’t know why, but I’ve taken quite the liking to this song. Maybe because of it’s simplicity? :/ regardless, I like it, it just feels nostalgic somehow, like that kind of music has become rare since the mid-90s or something.

The animation and lyrics seems to relate to Kaiji’s state of mind. Not needing the morals and rules of society, and the the future is something you mould yourself based on your decisions and actions. It also shows his desires (enough money to start his life over) and his actual situation (on the run from money-collectors).

Makeinutatsu no Requiem
Makeinutatsu no Requiem (The Loser’s Requiem) is written and performed by Hakuryuu. There’s not really that much to say about it, as I didn’t really like it. It reminds me of the music in cowboy movies, where the cowboy slowly rides into the setting sun, leaving behind a sad señorita who cries as she looks the man she loves depart into the horizon *fade to black*. And for some odd reason, when the artist gets a bit more vocal at about 00:28, I almost go “VIVAAAAA LAS VEGAS!!“, Elvis Presley style. Not sure why…

The animation can be over-analysed quite a bit. On the left side you see the silhouette of Kaiji constantly walking, while the images in the background show him moving through society (work, other people, etc.), which could mean that he finds no place there for himself. It’s not until he reaches what looks like a dump that he stops, has a smoke, and seemingly finds his place (seeing how he is considered as “trash”). But that might just be me, analyse it however you wish.


The Opinion

Having already watched Akagi, which I simply loved, I had gotten passed the entire “Holy crap, weird art style”-phase and was able to immerse myself in the story right from the get-go. And what a story it was! It brought together many of my favourite elements: suspense, human psychology, manipulation of odds to gain the upper hand, and odd gambles.

What Kaiji does so beautifully, which I have yet to see another series do, is tap directly in the despair and desperation of the people considered the “trash” of society when faced with a debt they have no chance of repaying under normal circumstances. Many of the challenges/gambles are designed to emphasize that when shit hits the fan, people look out for number one (i.e. themselves, in case you aren’t familiar with the analogy), even if it means backstabbing the people who have helped them.

Another thing I found interesting was that I didn’t sympathise with any of the characters, except for Kaiji at times. Because while it is made clear that the rich people, who bet on the outcome of some of the races and who enjoy watching “the trash” squirm for their lives as despair gets the better of them, are monsters in their own right, it is also made clear that all the contestants brought these things upon themselves. They borrowed insane sums from that Yakuza, with no real chance of paying it back, and agreed to trying to win it all back in one fell swoop instead of choosing to go with the payment plan otherwise offered (unfair as it was, it beats the high chance of further increasing one’s debt with millions and get severely injured on top of it, no?).

Anywho, if you can get passed the “unusual” art, you will find an incredible story that at times will have you on the edge of your seat going “DAMN DAMN DAMN DAMN DAMN!!” with eyes wide open, your heart racing, and you body pumping you so full of adrenaline that you could go “RRRROAARAUUGH!!!” and punch a wall at the end of the episode. Okay, that last part was maybe a bit extreme, but it gets pretty freaking exciting at times (though admittedly, it has a few dull moments too).

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