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.

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, Nov 25. 2015 08:59 AM)
    I say this because people often like to hype up the genre or those elements. I bring this up/think about it now because I played a game called undertale lately on my brothers recommendation and he was all like it emotionally destroyed him but I never ended up crying, I mean don’t get me wrong its a good game, there were laughs to be had and there was sentiment but it wasn’t THAT sad/funny.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Nov 25. 2015 08:44 AM)
    Given how many people cry at some drama, clannad included.
    That reminds me…
    I can’t actually remember the last time in my life where I cried, I draw a blank.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Nov 25. 2015 07:58 AM)
    @Aidan: Something always feels off to me when you criticize clannad, I mean I’m critical enough of key these days too but it seems odd that you rank it as an 8 on MAL when you’ve always made it sound its more of a high 6 or a 7.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Nov 25. 2015 03:45 AM)
    But I’m no fan of gung-ho soldier games/most fps games so I am glad clannad, a visual novel outsold call of duty.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Nov 25. 2015 03:44 AM)
    I said it once I’ll say it again. I preferred the clannad movie over the tv series, had more style, a more mature feel to it and cut out all the superfluous arcs/comedy for the better. It also concludes better than the series. The emotional involvement in the kyoani version doesn’t work for me anymore, doesn’t hold up. However the film remains emotionally engaging after revisiting it.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Nov 25. 2015 03:19 AM)
    Holy hell Clannad is selling like hotcakes on Steam. Even beat Call of Duty in sales at one point.
    Kinda happy to see a VN get recognised and it would help open up the market for more titles to come over. But..well..Clannad really isn’t all that great.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Nov 25. 2015 02:29 AM)
    I can remember when I first got into anime when I was a whole lot younger I always said I would watch lodoss war, El Hazard and slayers, yet I never ended up doing so…
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Nov 24. 2015 05:34 AM)
    Ha, the child in me would love to see a film like that I’d imagine, when I was young I was pretty crazy about Egyptian supernatural stuff.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Nov 24. 2015 05:23 AM)
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Nov 24. 2015 05:22 AM)
    @Kaiser: yeah, even tho it was his highest grossing movie it managed to brought his career to a stand-still. His next film Gods of Egypt looks like it could be fun, albeit it’s just as much as a CGIfest as I, Robot. Egyptian stuff is admittedly rather intriguing, I remember a 2004 French film Immortel ad vitam that blended that with modern themes that became popular for a while.

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