I actually discovered this Anime by seeing two people I know on Twitter talking about it on a regular basis recently, with one of them in particular being vocal of his love of the series. Seeing this, and also luckily on the look out for a series to watch at the time anyway, I decided to give it a try, so what is it like?
Well aside from finding it to be brilliant, the best word to describe this show is definitely addictive. With a lot of series I tend to get through 2 or 3 episodes per day maximum, but that went right out the window when watching Kaiji, and before I knew it I was watching 6 or more episodes per day, the only thing preventing me from watching even more than that being a lack of available time.
You see, while the premise doesn’t sound extraordinary in any way, the series does an absolutely fantastic job of keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat. You really begin to care about Kaiji and his fate very early on, and inevitably it isn’t long before you are watching each episode desperate to see Kaiji come out on top and escape from the miserable lot he has been given in life.
Before I go any further, allow me to share the plot description so you get more of an idea about the series:
“Itou Kaiji is a bum who steals car emblems and slashes tires on what seems to be a regular basis. This routine changes one day when he is paid a visit by a man in a trench-coat. Once the two get talking, it seems that the visitor (Calling himself Endou) is a debt collector. The reason for his visit is an unpaid loan which Kaiji had previously co-signed for a work-mate (Furuhata Takeshi). The original loan was 300,000 yen and once Takeshi had disappeared, the loan then fell on Kaiji.
Kaiji is then told of a way to clear the interest compounded debt (which stood at 3,850,000 yen), which involved getting on a boat with others in his position. Once on the boat the debtors would then have to gamble with loaned money, which would end with a few winning, and others getting into deeper debt and having to work to pay of their debts. After some coercion Kaiji accepts a position on the boat, in order to clear his debt and make a bit of money as well…”
So in order to pay off his debts, Kaiji agrees to go on the cruise aboard the ship Espoir hoping to win enough money so that he can escape the debt nightmare he suddenly finds himself in. Now let me say that even if you are not the gambling type of person, you shouldn’t let it put you off at all. Although the series is based around the idea of gambling, it’s also much more than that and features a lot of psychological aspects as well which in my view are the thing that keeps the show so entertaining and addictive all the time.
Although initially Kaiji himself may come across as someone you can’t see yourself liking, ultimately you can’t help but like him before too long. Kaiji is labelled worthless, scum and trash right from the start, and while deep down he knows it himself, as well as clearing his gambling debts he also hopes to gain money so that he can have a fresh start at life and make more of himself.
Kaiji, despite some of his personal flaws, is deep down a relatively good person. In the past he had thrown his money away gambling, smoking, and drinking (though he continues to do those) and is someone most would probably consider an unsavoury character. Though all too often despite how he may look on the outside and despite his, for lack of a better term, “colourful” vocabulary, he sticks up for himself and also anyone else who is being treated unfairly. This is also a part of his downfall on occasion, as aboard the ship he finds people who are just waiting for the chance to prey on the weak and stab them in the back at the first given opportunity. Kaiji finds out the hard way on some occasions, but no matter how difficult a situation he finds himself in, he is also smart enough to come up with new plans and strategies to help himself, and on occasion others too.
I really don’t want to say too much more because a lot of what makes the series so brilliant is the awesome twists and turns as Kaiji finds himself in seemingly impossible situations and trying to overcome them. You will never be bored while watching Kaiji, I can assure you of that. With every twist and turn you will find yourself more and more immersed in the series, while at the end credits you will find yourself unable to resist the “I’ll just watch one more episode” trap that is so easy to fall in to, only to find yourself eventually having watched half the series. Kaiji is brilliant in that it does not rely on corny endings or making the viewer feel good about themselves, Kaiji often finds himself on the end of bad situations and pays a price for it. This Anime is not one to watch if you want some feel good, predictable affair that has been seen a million times before. However, if you want something addictive, likeable and downright exciting, then Kaiji comes highly recommended.
Kaiji isn’t all doom and gloom either, there are epic and impressive moments that will leave you with a big smile on your face as you find out just how certain characters pull off their tricks and plans.
Basically I highly recommend this series to anyone. I went in without a clue of what to expect, only to come out a massive fan of the series. Since I started the series I have noticed a few more people I know start watching too, and each of them have come away from it just as impressed as I have been. The only minor niggle is that the art style may not be to everyone’s liking, but I got used to it after a couple of episodes with no problem, so if you can look past / accept it then you won’t find many better series than this, so stop reading and go watch it now!