Posted by psgels on 28 September 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji




I personally had a hate/love relationship with the first season of Kaiji. Of course the concept was awesome: gambling and mind games? this series would have been awesome to watch… if only it didn’t take forever to get from A to B. The first season just consisted out of four arcs, but in the end it was just too dragged out for me to really recommend it. Now, the second season only has two arcs. And yes, it’s just as long.

Again, it sounds wonderful on paper: this series continues with Kaiji having to find a way to win seemingly simple gambles, which prove to be exceptionally devious. The first arc is actually very good: it’s got excellent build-up and knows exactly what it wants to be. There is a good balance of Kaiji to figure out a plan to win his bets, the execution is short but sweet and it overall reaches a very satisfying and adrenaline filled conclusion.

The problem with this season lies with its monstrous second arc: the pachinko arc. Oh my god, that was way too long. In total, this one takes up a whopping seventeen episodes, even though its story really isn’t that complicated. The creators could easily have done this arc in about 11 episodes. The result? is that the remaining time is spent on stalling time.

Now, delaying the inevitable on its own can be quite effective. This show however takes it way too far. It starts off nicely with a crazy premise, intriguing build-up and an atmosphere that just tightens with every episode. After a while though, the creators just start to repeat themselves to increase tension. They repeat over and over how characters are feeling, they explain over and over what’s going on, and this just goes on and on, without going even further. On top of that, they just keep inserting these pointless and inconclusive symbolism scenes that all try to be different yet all just try to say the same thing. This show tries to build up an over the top atmosphere filled with adrenaline, but it lacks the substance to keep it up. I’m willing to say that if you marathon the first season, you’ll get an adrenaline filled roller-coaster ride out of it. I can not say the same for the second season, however.

To make matters even worse, this season also features its share of character derailment, especially near its end. The old man of the first season devolves into a deranged lunatic for no discernable reason whatsoever. Kaiji himself also starts to act really weirdly and against his character near the end, and the final episodes are also way too filled with manly tears. There’s a difference between acting over the top and overacting, and this series ends up crossing that line. And this takes into account the first season, in which that line wasn’t crossed.

What also makes this less adrenaline filled as what it could have been is that the stakes at the final arc… really aren’t that severe when you compare it to what Kaiji had to go through in the first season. That season was completely crazy in what Kaiji all had to do in order to win. When you compare the gore with each other, the second season is really tame. In the first season Kaiji was pretty much scarred for life or even dead in the case of a lost bet. The second season reduces the stakes to life time imprisonment. I mean, that’s pretty bad too and all, but not for watching a hot blooded adrenaline show.

There were months in which I rated this second season quite highly, and its first fifteen episodes or so pretty much do what they need to do. Looking back though… I really can’t recommend this show in its entirety. Just watch up to the Chinchiro arc for a nice conclusion, but there’s no need to bother with the incredibly long pachinko arc. It’s just not worth it.

Storytelling: 7/10 – Is way too long for its own good and drags on needlessly by repeating itself. It’s a shame, because the first arc is well written.
Characters: 7/10 – The final parts are bogged down by tons of bad overacting.
Production-Values: 8/10 – The unusual art style is definitely appreciated, and the animation does what it needs to do, although it’s nothing amazing.
Setting: 8/10 – This show does have the uncanny ability to portray gambling well. The best parts of this second season are the plans that Kaiji comes up with.

Suggestions:
Kurozuka
Touhai Densetsu Akagi
Rainbow

11 Responses

  1. Tosanu says:

    So the old man who twitched excitedly drooling at the thought of a man getting a drill shoved into his brain WASNT already a deranged lunatic? That character has ALWAYS been a complete deranged sadist.

  2. Tosanu says:

    So the old man who twitched excitedly drooling at the thought of a man getting a drill shoved into his brain WASNT already a deranged lunatic? That character has ALWAYS been a complete deranged sadist.

  3. Nic says:

    I agree, the Pachinko arc was drawn out far too long than it should have been. Still, that was entertaining enough and had its peak moments.

    Although I disagree about the first season being dragged out. The pace was perfect for me… but I imagine it must have been horrible for people watching it on a weekly basis because it was cliffhanger after cliffhanger. I watched it in one shot and it was amazing and incredibly tense and exciting.

  4. Geekodot says:

    Did anyone else notice the ton of Akagi references in the final episode? The drawings on the wall in the end, the name of the hotel and I think the logo on Kaiji’s beer glass in the end. Could there perhaps be a second season of Akagi coming? xD

  5. Joojoobees says:

    On the whole I enjoyed this second season, and I was petty satisfied with the ending, but I completely agree that the Chinchiro arc was vastly superior to the Bog arc, because the latter took too long to resolve. If the pace had been picked up in the second half, it probably would have been a more satisfying season.

  6. Wandering Bunny says:

    About the ending, while it’s true that Kaiji basically learned nothing about stoping to gamble, I think it’s actually quite understandable. After this long long time that Kaiji has been doing nothing but gambling or preparing for a gamble, he naturally became addicted and dosen’t really know how to stop anymore.
    The third part’s start also makes a point of this showing that because of the long time Kaiji spent not trying to get a good job and become part of soceity, that the whole thing is so alien to him he dosen’t really know what to do with himself.
    While it’s always idealistic and feels good to have the main character learn from his mistakes and become a better person, it’s not always realistic. In the end it’s a matter of taste, I prefer realism over idealism.
    I still liked that ending when I read it in the manga though because I liked how loyal Kaiji is to his comredes.

    Also like someone has already pointed out the old man was always a lunatic, it’s just that you get to see more of his serious side at the end of the first season.

    Also I think your underestimating how horrible being imprsoned for life in a work camp like that. I mean sure, having your fingers cut is more gorey, but living without a few fingers or even with a handicaped sense of hearing or you know what? even dying is arguably far better then to be imprisoned in a small place wherein your forced to work endlessly for the rest of your life (not to mention the hard conditions and lack of medical help implies you’ll die in a year anyway…). It’s not as gorey or showy as the others but in actuality it’s the worst kind of punishment Kaiji was faced with so far.
    Also you gotta remember this season had Ichijo sticking nails through his fingernails… As far as pain and torture go I dare say it rivals the finger cuting.

    Overall, I agree that this season wasn’t as good as the last. I mean I only watched the first arc but I found out that not only was the first seemed truer to the source, but that this season lacked a lot of elements that made the first season a masterpiece for me, such as the music (which despite being good just didn’t reach the level of the amazing OST of the first season which always made you feel tence or emotioal) and the direction (which although not bad, felt kind of average compared to the first season) (the animation though stayed top-notch), while adding stuff which arguably took from the strength of the story (some added scenes and changes of texts derailed some characters (notably Otsuki, who was pretty much a clown by the second half of his arc) and some original metaphors (again, Otsuki climbing a rope to the moon)).
    Overall it’s kinda too bad it wasn’t as good as the first season.

  7. Frost says:

    Yeah, Im glad I read the manga beforehand lol I thought the manga dragged on but wow, what were they thinking… The last 4 or so episodes were so unnecessary, just an endless mantears fest

    The 1st arc ended up being much better indeed… The problem is the fun in this kind of “gambler” story comes from the main guy out witting the others with unexpected tricks, but in the pachinko arc after all the 3 parts were revealed, it was just a matter of time until the balls eventually got there, there was no strategy whatsoever, or even luck for that matter, so it lost the suspense and ended up being boring

  8. VyseLegend says:

    I agree with everything you said. Kaiji 1 was good, but Kaiji 2….was a torture unto itself. I’m so fed up with this series that they’d have to beg me to want to see more. Maybe a real sequel to Akagi.

  9. Jason says:

    You’ll hate season 3 then (if there even is one)…it’s one looooooooong Mahjong Match.

    However, Season 4 is really the best (where the manga is at now), they play this extremely sadistic game where torture and electrocution is involved.

  10. Zoom says:

    Totally agree with everything said in this review.

    This season was EXTREMELY frustrating to watch at times, with how dragged out things were. Each episode basically had one twist / key plot element revealed, and the rest of the episode stuffed with filler scenes of grown men crying and pachinko balls barely missing their mark. Lame.

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  • Bam
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 09:45 AM)
    @K-off: That’s pretty cool. Conroy is easily the best portrayal of the Dark Knight- as somebody who got the Batman/Bruce Wayne dichotomy down like no other. The trick to get their attention is to be real with them, since they’ve heard every possibly fan praise a million times. I still remember how Maynard’s eyes lit up when my friend screamed “Hey Maynard! You’re a Tool!” at a Napa wine-tasting function he was hosting. You can always bank on weird.
  • k-off
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 07:17 AM)
    Very exciting, got to chat with Kevin Conroy in Vegas. I dropped 40$ to get a signature, but I met him afterwards outside the convention hall and talked some generic “fan-to-celebrity” talk, telling him how much I respected his work. I ain’t complaining though.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 12:43 AM)
    I enjoyed Vivi’s storyline tho. I think even tho he was bland and quiet he still had the most emotional developments as a character, which tied in to identity and what it means to be alive. I also liked the “I want to be your Canary” play within the game, it was like a fleshed-out version of the Opera House scene from FF6.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 12:40 AM)
    Yeah I remember that my brother would watch me play FF9 here and there and I would fill him in on the details, and he came in when I was fighting Necron and said “who the hell is that?” to which I replied “I have no clue. I think it’s the final boss”. I don’t really know why they decided to do that, but probably to give Kuja a last minute redemption. Still, they should’ve just went with a superform Kuja battle instead imo.
  • Emma
    (Monday, May 4. 2015 10:33 PM)
    @Aidan: I can admit that, in regards to the final boss of FF9 at least.
  • AidanAK47
    (Monday, May 4. 2015 09:33 PM)
    FF9 was Final fantasy goes Dragon Quest. I didn’t like it for the designs and wasn’t into the story at all. Itwas sort of the reason why I didn’t like wind wakers style. The series is good because of it’s more mature feel. Speaking of embarrassing last boss fights FF9 was worse than FF10. With an endboss who literally came straight out of nowhere.
  • Bam
    (Monday, May 4. 2015 09:26 PM)
    @Aidan: yeah, fusing turn-based (or ATB) battles with some real-time elements always intrigued me. That was the only redeeming quality in Legend of Dragoon’s battle system. That recent Child of Light game was a good, albeit basic, homage to those earlier games, and the simple battle system was both fun and nostalgic.
  • Bam
    (Monday, May 4. 2015 09:21 PM)
    @Emma: 9 was a throwback to the earlier ones, and that’s why people ate it up. I did like it tho, even despite the Chibi style which I don’t enjoy. To be frank I liked the series from 7-10 the most. It’s a combination of the games and those specific years of my youth.
  • Emma
    (Monday, May 4. 2015 08:49 PM)
    Though those are opinions which are from my teenaged self back then…
  • Emma
    (Monday, May 4. 2015 08:34 PM)
    That last boss fight in FF10 was embarrassing, then they brought out that silly fanservicey sequel to it. I find FF9 at the time had a good blend of a then modern game but also retro feel, I liked the revelations surrounding garland, Kuja, Zidane and felt that FF9 was where I was the most emotionally involved.

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