English: Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
Synonyms: Tobaku Mokushiroku Kaiji
Japanese: 逆境無頼カイジ Ultimate Survivor
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Oct 3, 2007 to Apr 2, 2008
23 min. per episode
R - 17+ (violence & profanity)
L represents licensing company
Score: 8.371 (scored by 28144 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
drama gambling psychological
SynopsisItou 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...
Related AnimeAdaptation: Tobaku Mokushiroku Kaiji
Sequel: Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Hakairoku Hen
Characters & Voice Actors
Kaiji is the devil child [insert Slayer- Hell Awaits soundtrack] among the 2007 Autumn season lineup, an outcast, the underdog just like the character himself – people take one look at those long noses and run for the hills – A TENGU IS COMING!! AAARGHH!!
It also just happens to not only be the best anime of the season; it ranks up among some of the best anime of all time. If there were to be a list of the current best five anime for the 2007 season it would be: 1. Kaiji, 2. Daylight, 3. Daylight, 4. Daylight, 5. Maybe Ghost Hound – nah, there is still a little more daylight between Kaiji and that show… Put simply, Kaiji is the type of anime that the gods sitting atop Mt. Olympus watch when they take a break from throwing down lightning bolts, swinging tridents, ruling the underworld or doing whatever gods sitting atop Mt. Olympus do. My reasons are explained below…
Firstly, a bit of background. Kaiji is based on Nobuyuki Fukumoto's award winning manga of the same name. More specifically, the anime is based on the first series of the manga containing the first 13 volumes of the story called ‘Kaiji – Tobaku Mokushikuroku', or, ‘Kaiji – The Gambling Apocalypse'. As no real English translations of the manga exist, the story is relatively unknown in the West. On the other hand, the manga, which first started being serialized back in 1996, went on to become extremely popular in Japan and Korea, producing two sequel series of manga which are also a superb read and are highly recommended. At the time of writing 38 volumes of the manga have been produced, featuring Kaiji putting it all on the line time and time again. The anime has followed this trend of popularity in the East, Kaiji the anime regular doubles the ratings for shows apparently popular according to this site, such as Minami-ke.
I am going to be blunt, the character design, like Akagi before it, is ‘bad’ in the traditional sense – but in all seriousness this is a very, very good thing. Let me explain by posing a rhetorical question: “Have you ever seen a good ‘bad’ film?” For example the film Evil Dead looks as though it has been produced on a 15 dollar budget but god damn it’s an awesome film! Titanic on the other hand was made on a bajillion dollar budget, won a whole heap of awards and raked in millions of dollars in profit but let’s face it – IT SUCKED.
Kaiji works in a similar way – the artwork is ‘bad’ in the same way Evil Dead is, and that’s what makes it awesome. Kaiji is not exactly a mainstream anime so it is never going to suit everyone’s tastes, but, as with Akagi, Fukumoto’s art style really does suit this kind of story – In pure Rocky fashion, here we see a gritty battler, the underdog in a fight, grappling with underground mobsters to get out of debt, to reach out and grasp the future within his hands – It’s never going to be a pretty picture…
Adding to the character designs are a variety of original touches, most notably Fukumoto’s trademark, ‘Zawa Zawa’ sound effect, which is derived from the Japanese word Zawameku, ‘ざわめく’ – signifying a tense state of agitation. To put it in layman's terms, it is kind of like the feeling you get when you take a dump only to realize that you are out of toilet paper – ZAWAAA!!! (Apologies for crudeness). In general the voice acting is superb, in particular the standouts being Kaiji’s V.O. Masato Hagiwara and the narrator himself, voiced by none other than Fumihiko Tachiki, the dude who is the narrator in PRIDE! Hideki Taneuchi picks up where he left off in Akagi providing an amazing score for Kaiji. Music is used in Kaiji to a perfect degree, and really helps build the ever-present underlying tension as Kaiji gambles with his life.
Let’s face it, an anime with an art style as flipped out as it is, Kaiji (the anime) is never really going to get anywhere without a decent story. Well, it is in this area that the anime really shines. Thoroughly engrossing, this is one of the few animes around that makes it seem like a painfully long wait for the next episode to come out.
While the basic plot shows Kaiji’s struggle to get out of debt, to survive, the thematically driven story is as deep as an abyss – Fukumoto’s world view portrayed throughout Kaiji is at times deeply profound, at other times it simply rocks the core of your soul. Yes, the plot simply revolves around a series of gambles, but the world of gambling that Kaiji (the character) is drawn into is merely used as an analogy about the struggle to survive in the real world, offering existential notions on the human race itself, where we as individuals stand in the ‘rat race’.
Some of the statements that this anime makes are despairingly stark; sombre realities that really hit home. You will want to disagree with the scornful remarks made by mobsters like Tonegawa and Co. about how the debtors have lived their lives up to this point, but you can’t. You can’t because they simply state the harsh realities of life; realities that we choose to turn our heads away from in everyday life. While mobsters like Tonegawa appearing in this anime may be considered ‘bad guys’ in the traditional sense because they are wrong morally, they have a far greater perception about the realities of life and, dare I say it, simply act as they do to survive themselves in a dog eat dog world…?
The story of Kaiji on the surface, features and draws out just about every possible emotion on the spectrum – the thrill of victory, the despair of defeat, the grief of seeing comrades fall, the anger of betrayal, the fear of looking death in the eye… While this makes for a gut-wrenchingly intense enough experience as it is, the thematic psychological commentary into the human condition that makes up the core that is Kaiji the anime is even more provocative and carries a lot more weight than the gambling action itself. Simply put, this really pulls ‘Kaiji’ above the realm of a simple anime and onto a higher plane. If you watch this show and find that it doesn’t really have an effect on you, try watching the show again once you’ve entered the work force – that is when things will really hit home...
Fukumoto’s world is world filled with men – the sole female survivor of the Gambling Apocalypse appears for about a minute at most. Hey, it’s one whole female character more than Akagi, a 100% increase!! Ahem.. Sorry guys – put away those tissues you had readied, if you look at anime for the fan-service, then you’re going to be one sorry fan. Look on the bright side though; brain-dead harem comedies are in plentiful supply…
Yes it truly is a man’s world in Kaiji, men gambling on the edge of despair. I won’t bother laying out each and every character for you, mainly because finding out about the personalities, traits and motivations of the characters that inhibit Kaiji’s world for yourself is a large part of the experience. I will give brief mention however to the lead, Kaiji himself because Kaiji’s character development is another one of this anime’s great points. As the plot summary suggests, Kaiji starts out the show a loser on his way out. A character simply floating through life, someone who chooses to not chase down ‘opportunity’, living in the medical sense that he has a beating heart and working lungs, but really ‘living’ to the fullest sense of the word. Not a real inspiring guy right? No, he isn’t, not to begin with. But as his dawdling way of life, where he cannot really see things as they ‘really’ are, places him into his predicament (i.e. a mountain of unpaid debts), his predicament is also what saves him, for it is only when Kaiji confronts the fear of death does he realize the value of his very existence, in a sense he ‘awakens’ from a deep sleep. With his back against the wall, he grows to become an absolute god of gambling in one sense, but in another way his development as a strong human being (both mentally and emotionally) is really what makes him an engaging character, one of the best leads I have ever seen in an anime. Personally I love the character of Kaiji and feel a lot more in touch with his struggle than I ever did with Akagi…
God this is a long review… And I still feel as though I have only just scraped the surface of what makes Kaiji so great… Ah well, you can figure the rest out if you watch the show. I’m not going to guarantee that everyone is going to like it – hey, everyone has different opinions, tastes, personalities… But if I can convince someone who had no interest in Kaiji to at least try it, then I feel my job here is done. Excellent anime. Top marks.
This review was originally written after the first arc, and has since been revised to cover my opinions of the entire show, with minimal spoilers.
Story: Itoh Kaiji, a bum with 3 million yen worth of debt gets into a gambling cruise to pay off his debts. The game played on the cruise is Gentei Janken (Restricted Rock-Paper-Scissors), where the players get four cards of each type and battle it out. What's the catch? Several things; each card can only be used once, cards can be bought off of other players, con men abound, and losing forces one into the vaguely established but horrible "other room". Also, one must not only break even in the actual matches, but also earn enough through the buying and selling of "stars" (3 of which equate a trip off the ship) to pay off their debts. A simple premise which gets expounded on to a cleverly intense degree. That, mind you, is the first arc. The later arcs follow up with themes on society, and it gets philosophical in a gritty sort of way. But, unfortunately, the"ending" is not anything of the sort, devoid of climax. The last 4 episode arc feels a bit tacked on, and leaves season 2 wide open.
Art: I looked at the promo picture, and I thought one thing: Elves. These noses are big, and the faces look pretty weird at first. However, once one gets past the first five minutes, it really becomes apparent just how expressive these faces can be, as the characters go through one emotional crisis after another.
Sound: Nice intro, nice ending. Where the sound really shines, though, is the intense scenes. It's well integrated into the rest of the show's experience - so much so that I didn't notice it except after watching a second or third time. However, once I did look into the more dramatic half of the soundtrack, I found it a fairly nice score.
However, soundtrack isn't the best part of this show's auditory arsenal either. That honor goes to the best voice acting I've ever heard. It may sound silly, but I have never heard anyone cry as effectively as Yanaka Hiroshi's character. Ever. The voice acting really captures the gritty, dreamless atmosphere which the show exhudes. Also, an extremely dramatic narration often helps the story along, and helps the viewer make sense of sometimes subtle mindgames.
Character: Sheeit- there's just too much to say. Men (absolutely no women in this show) betting their lives can make for pretty deep plots, and this is perhaps one of the very best. Kaiji himself is a normally hopeless person whose survival instincts lead him to fight off the system intended to break him down, and he takes himself down a number of pegs to help people who have nothing to give him (and occasionally stab him in the back). The rest of the cast of characters is a bit less scrupulous, and Kaiji suffers three major betrayals by con men and friends alike in the first nine episodes. In the antecedent arcs 2-4, shit hits the fan for our hero, though he is never betrayed after arc 1. Plenty of manly tears make the whole process very entertaining.
A major part of Kaiji that I feel I shoud mention is it's haves vs. have-nots dynamic. Rich "haves" are constantly responsible for the suffering of impoverished "have-nots", and situation which naturally causes tearful frustration for the have-nots. At times the narrator's observations of both sides sound like Hobbesian logic.
Enjoyment: A couple of major highlights: fistfights, naked wrestling behind a one-way mirror, and a fat guy being kicked in the corpulence. The presentation is terrific, dramatic, and bold. Just be aware that, when the chips are down and everything is at stake, there's a very real possibility that Kaiji will lose...
Overall: Kaiji=Pwn+Max Drama-A Decent Ending. If you don't want to be dissappointed, stop watching at episode 22 and wait for season 2 before watching episodes 23-26. There's no reason to skip the first 22, though. If you have any free time, what are you doing still reading this review? Watch it now! read more
Both are gambling animes done by the same director and mangaka, both main character's are also voiced by the same seiyū, Hagiwara Masato.
Same exact art style, produced by the same people - Kaiji is sure to reward the viewer with as much intensity as Akagi, if not more. I highly recommend watching Akagi if you plan on watching Kaiji.
Same director and creator, similar character design, and both have gambling themes.
Both are made after the manga of the same author, both deal with gambling and exceptional, life-and-death situations when the main characters have to use all their intellect and presence of mind to survive. Similar design, too, ugly at the first sight but it grows on you.
Both Psychological animes with battles of wits and finding out what ur opponent has. Both about gambling.
Both anime comes from MADHOUSE, also done by the same director and mangaka.
The main characters are very similar.
Both are gambling animes, the little difference that in Akagi they focus on Mahjong (a chinese board game), but in Kaiji they play various games that can get them killed or they can win a lot of money, this part is correct for Akagi also
Exactly the same art style and use of tension, suspense and thrills. Both are great series but I like Kaiji a little better.
Same story, same feel, cept Akagi's a badass mudabitch, but Kaiji sheds manly tears
Both are gambling anime directed by the same director. The style of animation is completely the same. Both of them have amazing cliffhangers and both main characters analyze their opponents psychologically and play mind games in order to get the results they want.
The whole idea that they dont become scared of death and such
Same Author, Same Seiyuu for the main character, same graphic style.
Most important, both animes are about gambling, but the theme is made more psychological than what it could look like.
Same author, same style, same themes (gambling, underworld), same atmosphere... different point of view.
Same art style
Both gambling animes
There's a lot of pressure to win in both
The main difference would be that Kaiji is more of a good guy and doesn't have such a dominating presence
same atmosphere that makes you uneasy, same author with an very unique art style (Nobuyuki Fukumoto). Akagi and Kaiji are two characters that are very similar when it comes to gambling. They go all out!
Akagi may seem darker than Kaiji, but the deep psychological analysis of characters remains the same.
Both animes are very similar to each other, both heroes plot an ingenius plan to survive, both keeps you guessing until the end and hunger for the next one, both has amazing storyline.
Kaiji is a genius anime without the supernatural stuff from Death note.
Same style of psychologically outwitting your enemies. Kaiji needs to be seen by more people, it is truly great.
Death note is a complicated strategy/mystery show in which people must constantly think ahead of one another to survive.
Although the plot is completely different, the similarities lie in brilliantly intelligent and original storylines. Death Note has you on the edge of your seat with the tension and Kaiji will get you doing exactly the same. You never know what will come next and it's strategical plot is immensely engrossing. Don't be put off by the art style of Kaiji, you won't regret watching this hidden gem.
Both animes are very intellectually based, also the main character in both have to think several steps ahead to stay alive.
In both anime moves of heroes are based on logic, and an insignificant mistake can cost the their lives.
Both series have like a protagonist a super-genius guy, who have to use his inventive to resolve different kinds of problems, it feels the same atmosphere in both series, a normal guy who's life suddenly change in a short period of time, while in death note it's because of a supernatural thing, in kaiji it´s a most normal problem, money. I highly recomend both series.
brain twisting and complex strategic plot
The similarity between these two anime can be explained in an extremely simple manner. They give the same feeling when you watch them. They give the same rush the same thrill. The need to watch the next episode. The need to watch more. The same level of enjoyment. They are both series based on intelligence, risk and reward.
Both geniuses ..
Kaiji is to much dramatic and in one episode they barely advanced,
and Kaiji its "zawa zawa" -and poor animation.
no action at all, but when its geniuses- its geniuses.
(oh.. and its more likely for kids, but if you want geniuses give its a chance -10 eps)
Opening Theme"Mirai wa Bokura no Te no Naka" by Kaiji with Redbourn Cherries
Ending Theme"Makeinu-tachi no Requiem (負け犬達のレクイエム)" by Hakuryuu
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