Posted 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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  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 31. 2014 09:59 AM)
    Actually given that I mentioned Genshiken, glad to have gotten back into that even if I only read it now for Hato, suu and Madarame.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 31. 2014 09:57 AM)
    Also Aidan, Mikey, coin toss, which is worse Chiaki Kon or Mari Okada..yes I’m forcing a choice =P
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 31. 2014 09:54 AM)
    While reading swan song..I ended up seeing a picture of Madarame from Genshiken…from that moment on everytime I looked at Kuwagata I was forced to imagine him as Madarame…why brain why do you do this to me.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 31. 2014 08:48 AM)
    The shoutbox was very inactive today unfortunately.
    And Alec theres a lot of rumour going around about psgels now, from plane crash, to being to busy , to getting a girl pregnant, getting sick of anime.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 31. 2014 08:46 AM)
    Another reason I’m putting off more visual novels at the moment is because I’m more seriously considering the possibility of hunter x hunter…well the chances are higher now at least.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 31. 2014 08:44 AM)
    In any case Mikey finish off Comyu and let me know your thoughts on that, taking a break from visual novels for a bit as they are quite time consuming though Grisaia is next, that is unless both of you feel I’d be better off with the anime and think it’ll benefit from being trimmed down in an adaptation.
    In any case thank for the recommendation this is the kind of story which hits on all of the right notes for me.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 31. 2014 08:44 AM)
    That atmosphere was further help by the bleak style it went for, it successfully got to me through its dark content.
    Now I did have some issues, while I love this genre, it did feel overly familiar a little, it could be slow going at times, I couldn’t get into Yuka x Tsukasa and the Hentai scenes were really dull to be honest. I went for the bad ending in the second last act, because really for this story to be true to itself, that’s what I wanted to see.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 31. 2014 08:44 AM)
    It had its fair share of tense moments. Apparently some didn’t go for the art style, I felt rather satisfied with it. The atmosphere is immersive and it almost feels as if the setting and “humanity itself” is a character in its own right. It was very addicting to read and I found myself marathoning it moreso than Saya, fate, sharin, maou.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 31. 2014 08:44 AM)
    As far as characters went Kuwagata , Nogi, Tsukasa got the most attention and interest from me, especially Kuwagata, other characters I did eventually warm up to but I would call them competent . The heights of this were the arc where they were at the hospital/middle school and also the religious crazies arc, felt real bad for the raped girl too.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 31. 2014 08:43 AM)
    Well Mikey and Aidan I have just completed swan song, felt I’d throw in a little review of sorts then.

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