Posted by psgels on 22 February 2008 with categories: Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji


Call me gullible, but I’m not really pleased to find out that my praises for the E-Card arc of a few episodes ago, where I finally hoped to see some complex mind-games between two masterminds, turned out to be one big mistake. How I hoped to see both Tonegawa and Kaiji outsmart each other with complex tactics… well, it now turns out that Tonegawa has been cheating. Sigh. The episode was quite intense, and it wasn’t bad at all, actually, but it’s the whole attitude of this series that bothers me.

I finally think that I know where my problems for this series lie: with those cursed expectations again. A couple of years ago, I watched the first arc of Akagi. I’m still not sure why I didn’t continue it, but I loved the complex tactics that it brought into Mah-jong. Shion no Ou is currently doing a similar thing with complex and character-based tactics. So yes, I was hoping for the same kind of experience, where Kaiji would use his head while gambling, and come up with nice ideas to win money. It was even advertised, how Kaiji would “enter the dangerous world of gambling”.

Instead, we get 26 episodes of bunch of yakuza who like to bully a bunch of defenceless young adults. It’s nice and all, but it’s so different and less interesting (in my opinion, at least) from what I expected from this series. I also see no reason why this couldn’t be cut into just thirteen episodes. That would have been the perfect length for a concept such as this one. Each arc thus far has featured Kaiji enter a challenge full of confidence, dive into the deepest pit of despair imaginable, only to rise up again and survive with one masterful insight. In that way, the Boat-arc has so far been the best arc so far, because at least that one did have a bit more than just the formula I described.

Now I also understand why I’m so bothered with the slow pacing of this series, even though I usually don’t have this problem at all. The arcs are just so formulaic that I find myself thinking “just get on with it”. I mean, the creators really try to keep the episodes interesting, but the fact that Kaiji will rise from his despair and will at least do something that wasn’t part of Tonegawa’s plans are just way too apparent. It doesn’t even matter whether Kaiji wins or loses, because by the nature of this series I’m already expecting that Kaiji will walk away without any money, yet again, and that the creators will find another way to keep Kaiji on their leash so that he can enter the fourth and final arc of this series.

So, how is it that Shion no Ou is currently my absolute favourite series, even though it too is in the middle of a tournament-arc with a similar premise as that of Kaiji? Well, Shion no Ou makes sure that there’s enough going on for me not to care. It’s hard to explain, but it feels like every character there has his or her own goals and morals. In Kaiji, it just feels like they exist to carry Kaiji through the storyline.

9 Responses

  1. totoum says:

    thank you thank you thank you,my thoughts exactly.
    i want to pick up Shion no Ou ,but i know stricly nothing about the game,i at least knew a little Mah-jong before watching akagi.Could i still follow it.
    Did you ever finish akagi by the way?loved the first 2 arcs but never did like the rest as much,and anyway,one other thing i don’t like about this arc is that it just reminds me too much of the last arc of akagi,the setting,the camera shots,the old man and so on…

  2. ik says:

    lol, it seems people watch the show for completely different reasons (I think the show has gotten better since the end of the RPS arc actually).
    It has never really been a sports/game series at all. Instead, it is more of a bildungsroman, and an excellent one at that. Kaiji is one of the most realistic and best developed protagonists I have seen in a long time.

  3. psgels psgels says:

    Totoum: all I can say about Shion no Ou is: watch it! There’s no need to know anything about shougi, and you’ll pick up everything you need to know through the series.

  4. totoum says:

    thanks psgels,i’ll do that :)

    I forgot to mention that the fact I strongly disagree with the vision of the world that is presented in kaiji doesn’t help either,it prevents me from enjoying the side of the series that ik is talking about.

  5. bigjig says:

    The problem with Kaiji is that you either “get it” (for want of a better expression) or you don’t. What a lot of other shows will do is play up to fanboyism, put a loli in the show to look at, or some overdone robot battle to cover up for the cliched, boring bits in the show and wallah the show becomes popular.

    Kaiji, on the other hand, has none of this – the art style is out there, the story style is out there and if you don’t like it, you just don’t like it. The gap between loving this show and hating this show is just too great for it to become a classic.

    Regarding your post however, I think you did have the wrong expectations when starting the show. Kaiji is not shounen – it isn’t about Kaiji coming up with some far-fetched “ideas to win money”. Yes Kaiji does have a formula to it and if you just watch for the gambling I can see how you would become disappointed.

    Kaiji isn’t really a show about gambling at all though, rather it uses gambling to portray the human struggle – Yes Kaiji will win some and lose some, hey that’s life. The way that Kaiji rises above it and presses on when he is losing is what makes him such an endearing character.

    The show is not about “a bunch of yakuza who like to bully young adults”. It is about one young adult you struggles to rise up and fight the power and move forward in life (resembling the “rat race” struggle in the society around us?)

    The “gambling” presented in this is not the main course of the show at all, it is rather like the hors d’oeuvres. Of course you are going to be going home on an empty stomach if you’re just watching Kaiji for the gambling – you’re missing out on the main course!!

    Anyway I could go on and on about what makes Kaiji great, but I get the feeling it isn’t going to make any difference. You don’t like Kaiji? That’s okay – it never does try to go out of its way to appeal to everyone. Hey, I hated apparently popular shows like TTGL and Haruhi – to each his own I guess.

    (Even though we seem to disagree on Kaiji, I do enjoy reading your blog by the way – keep up the good work!)

  6. Regen says:

    I think that Kaiji is more fast packed than Shion no Hou. Kaiji has to survive, an error in his gambling and he is dead. Shion plays just for fun, there are not consequences, she can lose all her games then come back again.

  7. deltazechs says:

    It’s just my opinion, but you can’t possibly expect any kind of brilliant tactic from a game of E-Card. The entire game IS based on probability and body language speculation, which means that it ACTUALLY makes sense for Tonagawa to cheat against Kaiji. In fact, I thought it would be far-fetched for Tonagawa to win 7 times consecutively without cheating.

  8. Angus says:

    I agree with Regen – I don’t really see what is so great about Shion no Ou. Shows like Akagi and Kaiji often get berated for being too slow but you have to remember these shows portrays the inner thought processes of men GAMBLING FOR LIFE AND LIMB here – facing death in the eye. To me this is the complete opposite to what you say – Kaiji is one of the most intense shows I’ve seen in a long because of it’s sheer realism. In Shion no ou, what if she loses a match she goes down a rank in the Shogi league – who cares? I realize that there is more than Shogi to Shion no ou, but for me Kaiji is a way more intense experience

  9. BlueYoshi says:

    Have Regan and Angus even seen an episode of Shion no Ou yet? Shion is DEFINITELY not playing for ranks and maybe even not for fun. Story details are really slow paced with Shion no Ou as well, but there is tons more of character development and it has its own share of intensity at times.

    I kinda knew that Tonegawa was cheating. You know…after winning 7 times in a row, you just get that obvious feeling.xD Episode 20 makes up for the disappointment that 19 gave me though. Watch it now!

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  • Bam
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 09:55 AM)
    Or as we Persians call it “Yalda’s Night”.
  • Bam
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 09:55 AM)
    Happy winter solstice y’all!
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:47 AM)
    Though Aidan this is your chance to throw up a full review as a blog post that isn’t for an ongoing series.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:37 AM)
    Wait, ha I’ve figured it out, most of his work I couldn’t give a toss enough to get immersed in the plots either. Though yes I got immersed in Saya, which really goes to show that if a story is good enough to me I should be able to be fairer and not be too hard on the characterization.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:32 AM)
    Even though his works alienate me with their poor characterization, still still I was able to not care about that issue in Kikokugai and Saya no uta.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:24 AM)
    I forgot to say also a few pages back it needed more action scenes also. I could honestly see myself getting distracted from the thinness of it if there were more.
  • AidanAK47
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:24 AM)
    I wasn’t tying Gargania and Aldnoah. Hell Gargania was a step in the right direction for characters. Problem was that Gen only gave an outline. It Gen can’t write characters then he should leave them to other people and just handle story structure and the plot. It worked pretty damn well for Fate/zero.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:21 AM)
    But I’ve got a feeling Juno might not be so bothered by psycho pass 2 I do recall him saying before it aired he gave off the suggestion wasn’t going to come down hard on Tow.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:20 AM)
    *I’d
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:20 AM)
    I really wish Juno was here, really would right now because I’ love to see him argue for psycho pass 2 and Expelled from paradise.

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