The Boring Info The Characters The Terms The Songs The Opinion
Shigeru Akagi Terminology
Nantoka Nare

The Animoo

akagiIt a dark and stormy night, when Nangou finds himself on a losing streak in a game of Mahjong against the local Yakuza. He is already deep in debt, and if he keeps losing, there’s no doubt in his mind that he will be killed for not being able to pay.

A young boy suddenly opens the door, completely drenched. He is denied access to the Mahjong parlor because of his age and the late hour, but Nangou convinces the local Yakuza to let him in. After having watched a few games, he gives Nangou a piece of advice in a do-or-die situation, and despite how insane Nangou finds it to be, he follows the advice, throws away his last safety line to his life and ends up winning the hand because of it. After this, Akagi offers to play in Nangou’s place, despite having never played Mahjong before.

A few games after, the police barge in, searching for a boy who had played a life or death game chicken on a cliff (the other driver had become seriously injured). Akagi tells a lie, and everyone else cover for him, but the inspector still has his suspicions and decides to stay behind to witness Akagi’s matches. As the game proceeds, the stakes become higher, to the point of Akagi not only staking all his winnings in a double or nothing game, but even his own life…

The Boring Info

The anime is 26 episodes long and is based on the manga of the same name, which is a prequal to the manga “Ten” featuring the later life of the main character, Akagi.
It is called 闘牌伝説アカギ 闇に舞い降りた天才 (Tohai Densetu Akagi Yamini Maiorita Tensai) in Japanese, and Mahjong Legend Akagi: The Genius Who Descended Into the Darkness (it’s direct translation) and Legend of Mahjong: Akagi in the English.
It was cut short because it caught up to the storyline in the manga.
The manga was adapted into two movies, because of its immense popularity.

The Characters

In snack-sized bits
Shigeru Akagi – In the beginning of the anime, Akagi is a mere 13 years old, even though he looks much older (I thought he was in his early 20s). He has a keen insight into the minds of people and is well able to manipulate others. He also possesses amazing instincts when it comes to gambling. To many people, it may seem that he has a death wish, but that is not entirely true. If it had been, he would no doubt have offed himself long ago. What he has is a desire for the ultimate thrill which can only be found when you gamble with your very life on the line.

The Terms


I’ll try to keep this as simple as possible, since there’s a lot to remember. Note that for obvious reasons, these apply to Japanese mahjong (though many of them also apply to the mahjong rules of other countries).

Dead Wall – A wall of 14 tiles that may not be drawn from during the game.

Pond – A “pond” of a players discarded tiles. The tiles are placed face-up, so everyone can see them, to avoid cheating.

Pon – Three of a kind. Can be called on a draw or any opponents discarded tile. Turn skips to the person to the right of you. Meld is exposed to everyone by placing it in the player’s right-bottom corner of the board.

Kon – Four of a kind. If the fourth tile is drawn, it’s a concealed Kon (two tiles face down), if the fourth tile is a discard that you call, it is an exposed Kon (all tiles face up). I think it is possible to turn a Pon (your own, of course) into an exposed Kon, if you happen to draw the fourth tile. On a Kon, the player gets an extra turn. Also, a tile from the dead wall is turned over which becomes a bonus tile.

Chii – Three suited tiles in sequence. Can be called on a draw or a discard. From what I’ve later read, only a discard from the player on the left, unless it is a Chii resulting in a Ron.

Ron – Calling Ron means that you’re calling the tile discarded by another player resulting in your winning hand. In case a discard leads to two players calling a Ron, the player closest to the right of the player discarding the tile, gets priority. This is referred to as a head bump.

Tsumo – Same as calling a Ron, except with a Tsumo, you notify the other players that you yourself have just drawn the piece resulting in your winning hand.

Riichi – From the English “reach“. A Riichi is like a promise of sorts, that is usually made when you are one tile away from a winning hand. When you declare a Riichi, you pay a 1,000 point deposit and promise to discard any tile you draw if it isn’t a winning tile. The advantage of a Riichi is, that if you draw or call the winning tile before the end of your next turn, you get a bonus when you win. You place your discarded tile sideways in your pond, to signify when it was you declared a Riichi.


I honest to God did not get the scoring rules at all. If you want to know about them, read here. These are not essential to watching the anime, unlike the terminology, which can add to the suspense if you understand them.

The Songs

Nantoka Nare

Nantoka Nare (It’ll Be Fine Somehow) is performed by Furuido and used through-out the series. I found it to be extremely Bob Dylan-esque. The voice, the style, the music, everything. All it was missing was the harmonica. But in my opinion, it’s a very good song and it has these tones of old times and nostalgia which helps with the the setting of Akagi, which takes place in the late 1950s to mid 60s. So the song feels “at home” with the anime, if I can put it like that.

The animation is nothing really noteworthy, but it has a slow tempo, so it fits with the song. You basically see Akagi wander around town (on the way to a match, perhaps?).


Akagi is performed by MAXIMUM THE HORMONE and was used in episodes 1-13. I hated it. It switched between 3-5 different rock/metal styles through the 1-minute ending, that it was simply too hectic to like. Had the stuck to one, maaaaybe two, it would no doubt have been far more likable.

The animation is essentially Akagi in many different colors, fitting to the rhythm of the music (you’ll know what I mean when you see it). Somewhere in the middle, it switches to parts of an actual game of Mahjong, again with a tempo fitting the music’s.


S.T.S. (Silent This Side) is performed by Animals (not to be confused with the 60s English music-group “The Animals”) and was used in episodes 14-26. I liked it for reasons I’m not aware of. It’s a style of music I call “cute rock”, which I am sure music fanatics will hate me for. It’s like the band wants the song to sound badass, but not really, and somewhere in your mind, you just go “aaaaaw“. But it’s actually pretty good. The full version sounds a bit more “rough” though.

The animation was something else. It reminded me of “newbie” flash animations, where you draw the body in parts and move them separately. Either that or a stop-motion picture. Or actually, better yet, a modern touch to the drawing style seen in in Japan a century or two ago. Regardless of style, I thought it looked awesome. As for storyline, in a nutshell, it’s Akagi playing Mahjong, winning, taking a walk, and watching the sunrise/-set.

The Opinion

I loved Akagi, I really did. I was taken aback a bit by the art, because it was something I had expected from maybe a Canadian/French animation company, and not so much by a Japanese one, but it was refreshing, in a way.

One of the things a liked so much about the anime was Akagi himself, despite him looking somewhat like a parrot (because of the hair looking like feathers). His ability to skillfully read and manipulate people during a game, and his amazing gambling and playing prowess was a total jaw-dropper for me.

Another good thing about the anime is how it takes a “time-out” every once and again, to actually explain how Akagi comes to the conclusions he comes to. These time outs are set in between rounds, as the conclusions are usually explained by Akagi to the bystanders (which would make more sense, logically) rather than the viewer hearing his entire thought-process during the actual game (though you will hear his thoughts every so often). There’s even an entire episode dedicated to him explaining how he knew his opponent would throw the winning tile, which really shows the depth of Akagi’s manipulative and “mind”-reading abilities.

The only bad thing I can say about Akagi, is it abrupt ending, which was placed at the very climax of the game that gave him true legend status. They spring thirty-some years forward and show you who won (though it is rather obvious right from the get-go), but you never get to see just how he did it or what went on. So if you want to know how the game played out, read the manga. Other than that, simply amazing anime.

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