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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  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 08:38 AM)
    Jesus I never expected that doing a myanimelist/letterboxd account thing would be so hard. I’ve seen a scarily higher amount than I thought, its insanely hard to remember everything to add.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 06:17 AM)
    It seems then that the future of the franchise’s anime adaptations rests a bit on Schwarzesmarken’s success, which looking at the buzz doesn’t seem favourable at all. I doubt it can regain the lost audiences.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 06:14 AM)
    That would suggest that the author(s) had the foresight of including seemingly useless stuff that will come into play later. That’d be impressive if they did, as these kinda series are make-it-as-you-go.
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 01:59 AM)
    It’s difficult to put into words but essentially while the first game isn’t good, it does work as a tool for introducing and endearing you to the characters. Then Unlimited sets down the rules of the new world. And finally alternative proceeds to kick your ass into next Tuesday.
    That’s sort of why I don’t think it would have the same effect if it was an anime. VNs allow you to get a more personal connection with the characters.
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 01:55 AM)
    It’s not quite the same. It’s more like there are things in extra which seem insignificant but turn out to play an important role later. It wouldn’t really work the same if you did it in reverse order. Character history is a bit different too as each game is essentially an alternate universe. The character histories in extra are different from those in alternative.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:38 PM)
    And also remember how Darker Than Black had a big jump between the main series and Gemini of the Meteor. They later made a 4 episode OVA that covered the gap, and although you knew the outcome it was still entertaining; or at least more than the Gemini one. There’s merit to non-linear chronology and storytelling, but it is usually very hard to pull. The audience is intrigued by secrets that can later be uncovered, although in anime the pay-off is not always substantial.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:32 PM)
    I don’t know, the audience usually only needs very limited information to figure out dynamics and histories between the characters.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:27 PM)
    A 13 episode series would work for the second title unlimited. But Alternative is a pretty long visual novel. You need at least two cours to give it justice. Making extra an OVA could work but you do need it for alternative. But it’s not an optional part of the trilogy. It needs to be read first, so that events later have a greater impact. Personally I am not even sure Muv Luv can even work in another medium.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:12 PM)
    That might compress things, but I think a good screen-writer can fit pretty much any VN in 12-14 episodes (covering just the main route).
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:07 PM)
    @Aidan: then the best solution would’ve been to make a two cour season covering the 2nd and the 3rd book. Have the cours air two anime seasons apart, and in the middle have an offshoot short OVA that covers the 1st book, but has a more harem comedy feel to it. Think Full Metal Panic and Fumuffu.

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