Posted 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

Posted on 7 April 2011 with categories: Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji, Hyouge Mono, Some Quick First Impressions

Hyouge Mono

Short Synopsis: Our lead character really likes tea.
I really have no doubt that this will be the most underrated show of the season. It’s just completely void of just about any trope that you usually see in the popular anime: there is no moe whatsoever, nor any bishies. Instead the lead characters are all in their thirties; there is no youth in this show whatsoever. Meanwhile, takes place during the samurai age, yet there are hardly any battles, with this instead being a dialogue-centred series. On top of that, this is Bee-Train, so there is a lot of focus on talking heads. The soundtrack is completely weird and unconventional and the characters all tend to make silly faces. And I absolutely loved this first episode. It’s completely unlike any other series set in the Samurai Age, especially the main character is unique, with his really weird combination of silly facial expressions and down to earth dialogue. Steins;Gate’s lead looks just ordinary compared to this guy. Still, his characterization is excellent, and with Bee-Train, the build-up also was just terrific. Most of this episode was quiet, but the climax of this episode was already amazing. And you know what the best part is? This will go on for 39 episodes. When was the last time that a series of this caliber got more than 13 episodes? Let alone 26!
OP: Quiet and laid-back, with interesting visuals.
ED: I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Bee-Train OP or ED like this. Again really relaxed.
Potential: 90%

Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Hakairoku Hen

Short Synopsis: Our lead character has money problems.
Kaiji is a show about Gambling, but this first episode of the sequel didn’t have any of that. It was just meant to build up, and introduce the next arc, and it was actually very good in doing so. For Kaiji standards in particular, a lot happened here. The creators really wanted to show how deep one could fall if you get on the wrong side of the mafia. They lure you in with the promise that one day your debt will be over, but use very dirty tricks to just push that deadline back and back. This episode did a great job of breaking apart Kaiji’s spirit with basic psychology. That’s the big difference between Akagi and One outs: those are shows to see how well a superhuman can pwn just about everyone around him and their lead characters are more than aware of their own abilities.. Kaiji is at the complete opposite: he’s completely flawed, makes the most stupid decisions, only standing out because he can struggle like no other. Of course, at this point I can’t yet comment on whether this second season has improved the pacing issues of the first season. The only criticism I have at this point is that the narrator is a bit too enthusiastic. Even describing the most mundane activities are announced with that over the top voice of his. But then again, why am I expecting subtlety from this series?
ED: WTF. Just… wtf…
Potential: 80%

Sengoku Otome

Short Synopsis: Our lead character lands is just an average schoolgirl who winds up amongst famous people from the Sengoku Era.
Sengoku Otome’s biggest sin is its blandness. I wouldn’t call this bad.. it just fails to stand out in any kind of way. Just about everything about this show screams “been there, done that”. It has nothing that really sets itself apart of that is actually remotely good. The creators to me just didn’t seem to care here. The premise of a random teenager ending up in a fantasy world has been done a ton of times before, so you really need to set yourself apart in this genre. So what do the creators do? They choose a complete airhead as their main character. They turn it into self-insert fan-fiction amongst famous historical figures. They gender-swap said figures into females. They put no effort whatsoever into the character designs. And okay, the character-designs aren’t as bad as with Dog Days, but they still are pretty bad here. This entire episode just followed one cliche after the other, with nothing really to make up for it. If the characters were likable then this could be forgiven, but even there this show doesn’t do anything. The lead character is beyond annoying, and the rest of the cast is just completely one-sided and uninteresting.
OP: Like the show, bland, both in terms of visuals and music.
ED: Fanservice!
Potential: 10%

Posted on 19 April 2008 with categories: Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji


And it’s finally over. I’ve decided not to write a review about this series, though. I’ve watched this series the wrong way, and it turned out to be a big disappointment, save for four or five episodes. I feel that I’m way too biased to give an objective view about this series. It already was difficult to give this series a fair rating during my monthly summaries. Kaiji is a series that you need to marathon, in order to pump yourself up with adrenaline. It’s not something you can watch casually. Having said that, if you haven’t seen this episode yet, you might want to close this window, as SPOILERS will follow.

Overall, this episode disappointed, especially considering the enormous build-up that preceded it. This arc was in no way as intense as the E-card arc, simply because the creators refused to show Kaiji’s reaction after his hands got cut off. And to think that the gore was actually one of the best parts of this series. The raw emotions when seeing Kaiji, cutting off his own ear, and my favourite moment of the entire series: seeing Tonegawa punish himself: even though this series mostly bored me, I have to admit that these moments were truly unrivalled. It was a real downer that the screen just blacked out and we saw Kaiji’s hand wrapped in bondages.

What also disappointed me is that we never really got to look in the mind of Hyoudou, but that’s only natural, since the manga went on for much longer. This episode also hinted at a second season (although with Madhouse, you never know; yes, I’m looking at you, Shigurui), though it that ever comes, I don’t think I’ll end up blogging it.

Having said that, I at least like that this episode wrapped up this entire arc well enough. The aftermath wrapped up all of the loose ends of the storyline, and it didn’t really leave a bad taste behind, apart from what I just mentioned. At least we got to know a bit more about Hyoudou when Kaiji figured out how he won. I like how Kaiji himself figured it out, instead of in regular anime, where the opponent just brainlessly tells his opponent all of his plans. The guy is smarter than he looks, and I like that.

Posted on 10 April 2008 with categories: Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji


Yup, like expected: the entire success of this arc will depend on whether the final episode will deliver or not. Unfortunately, I’ve also been spoiled about it, so it’ll all depend on the execution. What I’m most curious about is the chairman himself. We know Kaiji by now and his fear is nothing new by now. But what I really want to see is the tricks up on the sleeve of this old master. He says that he’s a king and he can draw whatever he wants on a second turn, but it this just a bluff?

My guess is that he very well knew that Kaiji was cheating. I mean, what other idiot would just throw away his fingers? The guy checked out all possibilities, and probably found the second winning lot when he was checking every corner inside the box. He didn’t draw it, and instead mixed it with the other lots in order to make the gamble more “fun”, and make it last longer.

I admit that the choice to blog this series was a wrong one. During the past fall-season, I ended up blogging a lot of “wrong” shows. Shugo Chara, Suteki Tantei Labyrinth and Gundam 00 were also nice series and all, but I didn’t feel like blogging them was really interesting, especially with Shugo Chara. During the past Autumn-season, I really found out that I have the most fun in blogging a series that I can sing praises over and over about. Of course, making fun of bad series is fun as well once in a while, but you don’t want to do this for every episode. This is why the final episodes of Claymore and .Hack//Roots also felt such a chore for me to blog.

It’s the same as with Kaiji, although I don’t mean to say that this series isn’t good. This isn’t a show like Jigoku Shoujo that’s different with each single episode, so that I can have something to say for each single one of them. This is a series that is intended to be marathoned for entire arcs, just to beef you up with adrenaline for some kind of major sporting event or something.

Posted on 23 March 2008 with categories: Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji


When most other series build up for one big event, they usually have plenty of time with one episode that’s entirely meant to build up for that particular scene.

But Kaiji is different. Kaiji doesn’t need one episode, no. It needs three of them.

And so we’ve passed the second episode. All that’s left now is the final episode of building up, after which the episode where stuff actually happens will finally close off this series. The narrator was right: it has been a real night of lunacy, and I can expect someone to go crazy if you marathoned it entirely.

And although I admit that the pacing could have been a bit faster, I like the themes a lot. Here, people really try to outsmart each other, with carefully laid-out plans. This is much more interesting than a bunch of guys being scared to death on top of a beam that hangs 80 meters above the ground.

Posted on 17 March 2008 with categories: Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji


Okay, this’ll be a short entry, since all this episode did was building up anyway. Kaiji, while still under the influence of the adrenaline from his match with Tonegawa, is screwed in the head enough to abandon the 20 million he won, just for a shot to challenge the chairman. Even though the chairman claims that it doesn’t really hurt him whether or not he loses, Kaiji is still determined to gamble. This begs the question: how is Kaiji planning to take revenge on the chairman? The most obvious strategy would of course be for the guy to put all of his money on the line. If it’s one thing that rich people are terrified of, it’s getting poor. But this guy is a professional. He just isn’t crazy enough to just do it for the life of one measly ant.

Apart from that, the pacing was as slow as usual, which isn’t the most exciting thing when this series isn’t in one of its climaxes, so I’ll withhold my judgement until the next episode.

Posted on 7 March 2008 with categories: Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji


One thing that I do want to praise this series about is the balls that it has to go really extreme. After the Boat-arc, for a minute I feared that Kaiji would try to stop the punishment of Tonegawa. Instead, Tonegawa has proven that he’s a real man this time, even though he lost. He was just unable to escape the clutches of the employer he worked for for decades. His final moments were truly terrific, and I’m glad to say that this series now has two well-developed characters. And with a bit of luck, the chairman will make this count three, but that depends entirely on what’s going to happen for the final four episodes.

At the moment, I still don’t regard Kaiji as a flawless series. The boat-arc and especially the beam-arc dragged on, were a tad predictable and lacked engaging characters to keep me interested. And yet, the past few episodes, ever since Kaiji cut off his ear, have been absolutely amazing. I guess that that’s the time since the characters clicked with me.

The chairman has been an interesting character so far, with an interesting philosophy, but he still lacks development a bit. This episode told a bit of his background, but the final episodes still do have a bit of work to do. It would be a bit of a shame for Kaiji to just defeat the guy and make an end to his twisted ideas.

Posted on 5 March 2008 with categories: Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji


Oh god… as it stands now, reviewing Kaiji when it’s finally over is going to be a incredibly difficult. At the moment, I have no idea whether to classify it as just good or excellent. All the commenters on the previous episode made me see this series in a new light, but on the other hand I still remain convinced that the beam-arc was just way too long and drawn-out. I hope that the final episodes will either back up how amazing this series is, or how flawed it is.

The current episode was just amazing, though. This is really what I’ve been hoping for: mind-games without cheating. Tonegawa was absolutely amazing this time, because for once he has to use his head. He’s now going through the same as Kaiji was, back in round one. The creators also switched the viewpoint for this episode: the entire episode was told from the perspective of Tonegawa. We never get to see any of the worries that play into Kaiji’s head.

There’s one thing I do know for sure about this series: I absolutely HATE the cliff-hangers. They work fine if you’re marathoning this thing, but when you watch it on a weekly basis like I’m currently doing, they leave me every episode with a bad taste in my mouth, just because I’m too eager to find out what’s happening next.

I’m really interested to find out where Tonegawa’s thinking-error lies. Obviously, Kaiji can’t die yet; there are still five episodes left. But this also means that the final arc is going to be a relatively small one. The next episode will probably be enough to conclude the E-Card arc and introduce the final one, leaving just four episodes for the real action. If I had to guess (and hope), then Kaiji will be taking on the big boss himself. At the moment, I see Kaiji crazy enough to challenge that guy for something around 20 billion yen. Bleeding ear or no bleeding ear.

Posted on 25 February 2008 with categories: Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji


Oh my god… I’m speechless. I know I have been whining against this series, but that doesn’t matter for this episode. All I know that these were 20 of the most disturbing minutes of anime I’ve seen. Let me warn you: do not watch this episode if you can’t stand gore. I still can’t call this series great, but damn… this episode was so worth it.

I’m going to keep this entry short, because even though it was an awesome episode, it’s also one that I’d like to forget as soon as possible. In this sense, the gore is even worse than in Shigurui because there, you can see it coming. I didn’t expect for Kaiji to be this screwed in the mind to just cut off his ENTIRE EAR.

Posted on 22 February 2008 with categories: Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji


Call me gullible, but I’m not really pleased to find out that my praises for the E-Card arc of a few episodes ago, where I finally hoped to see some complex mind-games between two masterminds, turned out to be one big mistake. How I hoped to see both Tonegawa and Kaiji outsmart each other with complex tactics… well, it now turns out that Tonegawa has been cheating. Sigh. The episode was quite intense, and it wasn’t bad at all, actually, but it’s the whole attitude of this series that bothers me.

I finally think that I know where my problems for this series lie: with those cursed expectations again. A couple of years ago, I watched the first arc of Akagi. I’m still not sure why I didn’t continue it, but I loved the complex tactics that it brought into Mah-jong. Shion no Ou is currently doing a similar thing with complex and character-based tactics. So yes, I was hoping for the same kind of experience, where Kaiji would use his head while gambling, and come up with nice ideas to win money. It was even advertised, how Kaiji would “enter the dangerous world of gambling”.

Instead, we get 26 episodes of bunch of yakuza who like to bully a bunch of defenceless young adults. It’s nice and all, but it’s so different and less interesting (in my opinion, at least) from what I expected from this series. I also see no reason why this couldn’t be cut into just thirteen episodes. That would have been the perfect length for a concept such as this one. Each arc thus far has featured Kaiji enter a challenge full of confidence, dive into the deepest pit of despair imaginable, only to rise up again and survive with one masterful insight. In that way, the Boat-arc has so far been the best arc so far, because at least that one did have a bit more than just the formula I described.

Now I also understand why I’m so bothered with the slow pacing of this series, even though I usually don’t have this problem at all. The arcs are just so formulaic that I find myself thinking “just get on with it”. I mean, the creators really try to keep the episodes interesting, but the fact that Kaiji will rise from his despair and will at least do something that wasn’t part of Tonegawa’s plans are just way too apparent. It doesn’t even matter whether Kaiji wins or loses, because by the nature of this series I’m already expecting that Kaiji will walk away without any money, yet again, and that the creators will find another way to keep Kaiji on their leash so that he can enter the fourth and final arc of this series.

So, how is it that Shion no Ou is currently my absolute favourite series, even though it too is in the middle of a tournament-arc with a similar premise as that of Kaiji? Well, Shion no Ou makes sure that there’s enough going on for me not to care. It’s hard to explain, but it feels like every character there has his or her own goals and morals. In Kaiji, it just feels like they exist to carry Kaiji through the storyline.

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  • Bam
    (Monday, May 25. 2015 05:54 AM)
    The episode was alright and felt dense as I watched it, but in hindsight only really moved the plot forward incrementally. Lancer not untying Tohsaka as soon as he killed Kirei and then not killing Shinji when he clearly had the chance left a bad taste in my mouth. That and Shirou’s heavy plot armor at this point is becoming reminiscent of another famous anime dual-wielder. Not a compliment.
  • Bam
    (Monday, May 25. 2015 05:46 AM)
    UBW 20 felt like another rendition of Eva 26 (Take care of yourself), complete with character analysis, battle with one’s Jungian Shadow, and loosely Buddhist ideas of self-actualization. It even featured the repetitive monologue shots that fade to black (with “I saw Hell” instead of Rei’s “Sky. Red, red sky”). It never went as far as Eva with “which way is up?” type of Soliloquy, but that’s probably a good thing.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:48 AM)
    Ashura was an excellent example of how to through anime illicit and emotional response in an honest, non-melodramatic way.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:46 AM)
    @Bam: I’d be more than happy to take a look at some of those shorts anytime.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:44 AM)
    @Emma: there’s a lot of European animators that got active in the last 10 years or so that are really reinvigorating their animation scene, and every now and then I get introduced to some fabulous shorts.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:40 AM)
    @Emma: no I don’t really mind gory ‘for the fuck of it’ violence, I even like it in some grindhouse type of works, but I just don’t think it’s always effective as a shock factor. Live-action is the most sympathetic for obvious reasons, but there are animated works that do elicit a deep response. Probably because of circumstances but also the details of the in-between animation, which can induce certain feelings of disgust.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:39 AM)
    *here and there
  • Emma
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:35 AM)
    @Bam: I really wish there was more arthouse anime now to give some kind of a balance to everything thats out these days.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:33 AM)
    Now I like my exploitation every so often, but yes Bam I really do wish that adult and mature storytelling could be better associated with truly, more pure mature themes.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:25 AM)
    I get choked up over Bergmans cries and whisper and Autumn sonata, I look back on a work by Key and Jun Maeda and wonder, think of how silly it looks to me now.

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