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: 8.381 (scored by 25418 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
I don't think there's any way I could explain to you just how much I enjoyed this show, but goddamn, am I gonna try.
I can tell you this much before we get into the nitty-gritty: I can't remember the last time I watched anything that made my heart skip a beat, that kept me at the very edge of my bed, or that made me look away in sheer terror of what might happen next.
I'm serious, Kaiji just has a way of pulling you in and immersing you with what's going on like nothing I've ever seen before it - and oh boy, are those some unique experiences in here.
It certainly helps that the man himself, Kaiji, is one hell of a guy. In some ways, he's exactly what so many other shows want their main character to be: a pariah with a big heart, who can be a badass when it comes down to it. Unlike other shows however, this one succeeds, and it leaves you with a main character who you feel akin to and root for, rather than some self-insert jerk-off or some prophesized hero of legend who simply cannot fail and never gets betrayed or fucked over.
Kaiji succeeds, and Kaiji fails, and Kaiji gets fucked, and Kaiji gets cheated, and you're never certain of which one it will be or how it's going to occur. I was simply amazed by the end of it at just how many times the show managed to surprise me. Whenever I'd get a snack, paying less attention as I thought I knew what would happen next, it would pick me up and smash my head against the screen, making me re-think that silly notion. To every single instance when I thought I'd be right about what would happen, there were thirty others when I was dead wrong.
I think in this day and age, we've gotten over-saturated with twists and other nonsense belonging to weaker narratives and sub par storytellers, but this is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a proper story that's down to earth and contained, but still manages to captivate your attention till the very last minute. That's what this show can offer you.
Now, I wouldn't want you to think that Kaiji is all about the big plays between the characters. You probably already know this anime is mostly about games and the psychological workings of each person as they go through them, but that's hardly the only thing Kaiji has going for it.
The main thing I love about Kaiji is the fact that the show possesses a fucking heart. It's not artificial, it's not soulless, cold mess that's meant to pull at your heartstrings in the most condemnable way, no - Kaiji makes you cry and makes you cheer in the simplest of ways, and it does so because it's so easy to put yourself in his position, because it would be so easy for any one of us to end up there, us 'dregs' and 'losers.'
Another thing I'd like to add is that there's a lot of depth to what goes on in Kaiji. I'm not talking about long-winded philosophical speeches, but rather the social/political commentary behind most of the situations Kaiji gets in, and perhaps the underlying ethical struggles behind his choices and motivations.
What I'm trying to say is, it's deep and positively riveting, and it's not trying trying too hard to be that way. It feels very natural and never breaks the flow.
The narrative structure is excellent in Kaiji as well There's not really a lot of time to get bored, as by the time you might get bored of an arc in a normal show, you're already at a new point in Kaiji, with a new location, new characters, and a new struggle.
While I've heard things like, 'the art style may not be for everyone,' I find that blown out of proportion. Yes, Kaiji is stylized, but it's nothing too out of the ordinary that would throw off a viewer, whether experienced or inexperienced. It's not a completely alien experience like Mononoke that'll make you wonder if you're actually high and just don't know it, that's for sure.
Some may like it more than others, I personally love the design, but it's definitely a passable thing even if you take an issue with it. I mean it's Madhouse people, it's impossible for it to be objectively bad.
The only reason I'm not giving the art a 10/10 is because I feel it might've needed a wee bit more expression when it came to the characters themselves. That's not to say that the faces are dead or anything, not at all, but perhaps due to the style itself, there wasn't a lot of variety or subtlety to the facial animation, nor to the amount of distinguishing differences between the characters themselves. Kaiji and a few others are unique, but some look like clones with very few differences between them.
The OST is great, but not a masterwork. Despite that, it's used very well and I never once felt like they over-used their best songs to make a moment feel 'epic,' which can be insanely annoying. They tone it down in the best way possible.
So yeah, it's impossible to express in any one review, particularly a written review, just how much I love this show.
It's one of the few things I've encountered in my life that I'd label as a masterpiece without a second thought. read more
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.
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
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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