I’ve known about this series for years but it’s only been recently that I actually sat down and watched it and may I say it is one of the most outstanding series I have ever seen.
The story begins with our `hero`Kaiji, a gambling, jobless individual with no positive prospects for the future. As fate has it he gets landed with a debt of 3 million yen, driven into a state of despair Kaiji chooses the easier (and in his mind more practical) option and decides to risk it everything on gambling to pay it off.
As the story travels along Kaiji’s debt becomes more overbearing and the situations on which the gambling takes place becomes more and more shocking and deadly. These gambles show not only how desperate people are to pay off their debts but the gaps that money opens in society, the people with the money control everything and feel that it gives them the right to treat people who have no money as badly as they like feeling that they are inferior. Being such a money driven show there are many examples of how selfish and cruel humanity can be when any opportunity is thrust upon these people to gain money they don’t bat an eyelash to drop a companion in order for them to win big.This leads to some of the biggest shocks in the show.
The show is quite a psychological one as well, episodes can go by with the characters trying to out do and figure out their opponent. Ideas get thrown around in their minds and shows how it is easy for someone to let their paranoia and speculation get the best of them leading to a situation where really anything could happen.
The show itself doesn’t focus so much on people’s back story unless it’s to build on the development. The main drive of the show is the gambling and high stakes as well as watching Kaiji battle his way through, it takes no time at all for the viewer to be emotionally involved in Kaiji’s continuous attempts to pay off his debts.
The storytelling in this series is nothing short of genius. The show is written in such a way where it’s impossible to tell if Kaiji will actually be able to pull off such amazing feats and actually make you hope for a miracle. It also helps that even though Kaiji is not the most loveable of characters to describe his personality shines through while watching him. His courage and intelligence are something to really admire as well as his morals and belief in people which ultimately in a way are his undoing.
The main thing that makes this show stick out at first sight is the art style, for people who like cute moe girls the art might throw you off.
However it is a nice change and watching it was rather refreshing. It also adds to the characters and expressions are easier to show. Helping leave a more long term impression on the viewer.
An ongoing theme in the series is that it is constantly being narrated. This can add to the plot but at times it can feel rather out of place and distracting. The word `Zawa`meaning `uneasy atmosphere` is also present a lot of the time, this is a wonderful use of an onomatopoeia that is not commonly used in anime. The music in the series only has one goal and that is to add to the suspense giving it another level of drama.
If there is anything negative to say about Kaiji it would be that many episodes can pass without not a lot actually happening, the way it is paced keeps you hocked but this distracts you from the fact that you just watched 4 episodes and one thing has happened, there is no filler in the series it’s just the psychological warfare can drag and it takes a while to explain the thought processes, theories, themes, and general explanation for you to understand everything that is going on.
Kaiji is certainly an emotional series, full of tears, times of triumph, unbelievable moments and buckets loads of suspense. Truly a masterpiece in Japanese animation and storytelling that shows how good anime can be, reaching out to a wider audience and leaving an impact on people that they can never easily shrug off.