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.|