Posted by psgels on 27 October 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews



I didn’t make the same mistake as with Kaiji; instead, I tried to marathon Akagi as fast as possible, and that really is the way to watch these series. When you look at the episodes individually, there is indeed very little that happens. In the big picture however, they’re morbid mind games in a tension that you can cut with a knife.

Akagi is definitely one of those series in which you need to know what to expect. You ain’t gonna run into complex characters here: Akagi’s character is completely flawless, the people he plays against just do what they need to do, they have their personalities established, but don’t really expect much more. What this show excels in however, is the way it analyzes what goes on inside the mind of these characters as they play Mahjong. It goes without saying that out of all of the mahjong anime I have seen, this has by far the most detailed and fleshed out matches out there.

Half of this review is going to be a comparison with Kaiji, because the two series are so similar, yet have some essential differences. First of all, when you look at the overall plot and premise, Akagi just tells the story of a god-moded guy who wins mahjong matches at unbelievable odds and that doesn’t even have a proper ending, while Kaiji shows human trash trying to struggle against silly gambling games set up by a bunch of bored mafioso.

However, Akagi is at favour when you look at how both series actually try to spend their time. They’re both incredibly slow, but Kaiji tries to fill its time by stalling: its games are all pretty simple, but it keeps delaying the inevitable, through which it creates its tension. Akagi however is about Mahjong: it creates its tension by constantly analyzing both the state of each of the players, in their minds and their hands. It shows all kinds of different strategies, worst case scenarios. In fact, I have seen very few board game anime that goes inside the minds of the different players this much, in which you can actually see nearly all of the different tactics and possibilities that they consider while playing the match. Sure, a huge part of Akagi is the crazy nature of luck, but unlike with series as Saki this doesn’t degenerate the characters’ abilities to shounen-like deus ex machina powers, but instead it becomes a core element of the game play.

Then there’s the acting. Kaiji created a lot of its tension by making an as large spectacle as possible, with a lot of screaming and overacting and stuff. Akagi doesn’t have that. Instead, this is cold and calculating: its atmosphere is the kind that creeps up behind you and doesn’t let go, even after an arc ends. It’s less spectacular of course, but also much more believable. Whether you prefer Akagi over Kaiji or the other way probably depends on what you find more important: the sneaky Akagi or the over the top Kaiji. Personally, I liked Akagi better.

In the end, Akagi has a similar problem as One Outs, in the way that its protagonist is so goddamn perfect, however there are some subtle differences between Akagi and Tokuchi. Tokuchi was a character who “pwns n00bs”, as a figure of speech: he loves toying with the weak. Akagi however is a complete lunatic who searches out the strongest opponents and the most impossible odds. It’s that what makes him unique and a much more interesting guy than your usual god-moded protagonist. My biggest advice though is: don’t plan to watch this series casually. This just is one of those series that should be marathoned.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Truly excellent atmosphere, grips you and never lets go. Excellent dialogue. Just ends in the middle of a big arc however.
Characters: 7/10 – Everything is kept as simple as possible with the characters and Akagi is god-moded, but their inner psyches really get thoroughly analyzed.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Simple but solid animation from madhouse, not to mention its unique character designs.
Setting: 9/10 – Both mahjong and the mindset of people during gambling are excellently explored.

Suggestions:
Kaiji
One Outs
Yugo the Negotiator

3 Responses

  1. Meep says:

    Great review! Your comparisons between Kaiji and Akagi are very helpful. I have only seen Kaiji, and I personally liked the over-the-top reactions for once, but I definitely plan to check out the other show now.

  2. evolstar says:

    Great review. I loved this show for the tension and the unique character designs but I hated the abupt ending.

  3. Frost says:

    Yeah the ending sucked… In fact, the whole last match was so drawn out, I got really bored… 6 episodes for a match, seriously?

    It was stellar up to that point though… I love the “underground” feeling of the anime, it really feels like they are playing with their lives, not just a random mahjong game

    Funny I watched Hikaru no Go the other day as well because of your review and of c, loved it, though it also left me with an empty feeling because we never actually see Hikaru reach the “Divine Game” or whatever it was called, it just stops right when things get interesting… Ugh

    Still, I dont really have a favourite… Each is good in their own way and definitely worth watching

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  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Jun 29. 2016 01:34 PM)
    @Bam: They’d never allow bringing in toys/games/comics back when I was in school, they thought bringing in such things would make the kids of lower income families feel bad for not being able to afford things.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Jun 29. 2016 01:31 PM)
    @Mario: He’s actually not a big fan of Iranian cinema, he told me before that he found most of it overly depressing.
    Now what you’re talking about there sounds like my kind of film.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Jun 29. 2016 01:30 PM)
    @Bam: I’ll get back into the mainstream blockbusters thing as much as I used to be someday. someday….
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Jun 29. 2016 01:28 PM)
    @Bam: Well, I guess I more brought up the being accused of hipsterism and contrarianism referring to the type of hypothetical person who would never be satisfied with how well you’d defend your opinion.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Jun 29. 2016 01:25 PM)
    Thats the awkward thing though, when casting a superhero role, its difficult to find someone who can get both identities correct.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Jun 29. 2016 01:23 PM)
    Bah implying toxic avenger and Italian spiderman aren’t the best superhero films OmO hahaha!
  • SuperMario
    (Wednesday, Jun 29. 2016 08:50 AM)
    Hey Bam, I remember attended a preview on one of an upcoming Iranian animated feature called The Last Fiction. it was inspired by the poem “Shahnameh” and from what I had seen so far, a very stylish, confident and “bloody” work. Expected to be complete in the end of 2017 thou.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Jun 29. 2016 06:37 AM)
    Comic books were super rare and expensive in Iran, being banned and all. Rich kids in elementary would bring them to school to show them off, along with their Ninja Turtles action figures; they looked so cool and I was hella jealous. Me and my brother only had the bootleg Toxic Crusader figures lol
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Jun 29. 2016 06:34 AM)
    @K-off: I didn’t read the comics either. I watched that weird 60s show, and Spiderman and the Amazing Friends, which had Firestar and the ice guy. I know his personality was quippy and kind of a wise-ass, and McGuire looks kinda like a rape victim of sorts. It was a lot better in costume, I admit.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Jun 29. 2016 06:29 AM)
    I mean if we use the term fanboy for whenever someone feels strongly about something, then what’ll we have left for people who LARP and insist to be called by their WoW character names and dress up in gear and persistently speak in fake ‘Ol English?

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