With World War II right around the corner, intelligence on other countries' social and economic situation has become a valuable asset. As a result, Japan has established a new spy organization known as the "D Agency" to obtain this weapon.
Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Yuuki, eight agents have been assigned to infiltrate and observe some of the most powerful countries, reporting on any developments associated with the war. In order to carry out these dangerous tasks, these men have trained their bodies to survive in extreme conditions and studied numerous fields such as communications and languages. However, their greatest strength lies in their ability to manipulate people in order to obtain the information necessary to give their nation the upper hand.
Cool gadgets. Fine women. Exotic locations. Fast cars. Espionage. Epic Adventures.
This idealized depiction of the spy lifestyle has always been an in-house staple in Tinseltown, with big IPs like James Bond and The Mission Impossible franchise selling this image to rake in a cool profit with each new installment. While the actual lifestyle itself might not be any more glamorous than what's presented in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" or "Spy Game," it's still fun to see these lavish illustrations as they play out. The truth of the matter is that most real-life spy work revolves around arduous, long-term cover jobs, methodical information gathering, counterintelligence,
espionage and very rarely, the occasional physical altercation. But that template wouldn't make for an entertaining movie now, would it? Or at least not for Hollywood bigwigs looking to make a big splash at the box office.
But unlike the calculated risk of a big-budget Hollywood production, this is the world of anime, where the niche has a place to flourish and a built-in audience willing to give it a chance. Regardless of the actual end result, even the most tamed of anime offerings could be "different" by the standards of mainstream media. So with that in mind, how does a show like Joker Game approach this subject matter? Is it an adrenaline rush like "The Bourne Identity" and other spy thrillers, or is it relentlessly honest like "The Imitation Game" and titles that choose to take a more precise route in the depiction of spy work? Well, I'm not quite sure, and I don't think the show has an answer to that inquiry either. Why you may ask? Well, let's find out together.
Set during the WWII era, the story follows several Japanese spies as their day-to-day endeavors are recollected in a memoir-like narrative structure. Through the course of the show, we're made privy to a vast variety of methods that they utilize in order to carry out their services for their country. Decoding enemy tactics and spreading false information was all par for the course for our agents. The show forwarned that all of its events and names depicted were fictional, but it's fair to surmise that some of what was shown was inspired by historical occurrences. The degree to which those aspects were exaggerated varied immensely, but we'll address that later.
Transporting us to a time that's rarely delved into in the medium while simultaneously eliminating elements that have become almost symbiotic with anime, it doesn't take much to see the initial appeal that Joker Game brought to the table. For the most part, the title exudes a feeling of self-restraint in its actions. Characters were drawn with anatomical precision, locations were well mapped out, color choices were reasonably muted for the period-piece it was set in; everything functioned with a sense of real-world cinematics. A production invested in decisions that were devoid of most contemporary tricks, pulling far more from the world of live-action movies than it did the medium it resided in. This anime was the Dos Equis guy, suave and intellectual, not the boisterous Bud Light Frat boys.
So it's smooth, takes itself seriously, draws from real-world occurrences, and appears perceptive... so what's the problem? Well, its very nature is.
When a show like Joker Game takes itself seriously and demands a baseline level of respect from its audience, it's usually granted with a few unspoken rules that are easy to comprehend when spotlighted. The more serious you take yourself and subject matter, the less room for error you're given, as the audience will treat what's being seen with the same amount of scrutiny as the title has self-imposed on itself. In other words, the more realistic you try to be, the more realistic you're expected to be.
If this was a lighthearted comedy, the ability to "let loose" is far more obtainable since comedies are inherently silly by nature. However, in the case of a serious spy thriller, a sudden shift in tone can cause unwarranted whiplash. No one will call foul if Zoolander breaks out in a dance number, but if the same is done in There Will Be Blood, you might as well return the Oscar. And it's this very conundrum that Joker Game finds itself in, because while it may appear to be the Dos Equis's "Most Interesting Man in the World," it often spills its liquor like the klutzy Bud Light frat boys it so desperately tries to avoid being.
Due to the mostly episodic story structure, there's no true connective tissue holding anything together. As stand-alone episodes, they all bring varying degrees of engagement, but never anything to get invested into since there are no characters with definitive traits or overarching storylines to get immersed in. We're constantly introduced to a different mission and spy, or at least that's how it appears given the similar appearance of all the people involved. The only reoccurring character is that of Lieutenant Colonel Yuuki, the founder and head command of D Agency: the spy agency based off Japan that our spies report to. And even with his status as the only recurring character shown, the only intriguing thing divulged from his involvement is his backstory, which we don't get until the tail-end of the series. A backstory that, mind you, doesn't change how we view him, as he still remains an enigma. The main reason for why one was given to him, in the first place, was to showcase the type of temperament needed to become a spy—which by itself makes for a great thesis statement for the show as a whole—but as a means of endearing him to the audience, it offers nothing at all.
Joker Game is just too impersonal, an anime that's more concerned with maintaining a rigid appearance than it does revealing any blemishes found with its human participants. And it's this very stiff impersonal approach that not only alienates it from viewers but also leaves very little leeway for mistakes to be swept under the rug. If you can't empathize with anything in a supposedly "realistic" story, expecting it to be met with forgiveness from the audience when it messes up is simply wishful thinking. And so, watching Joker Game became akin to watching a theater play from the mezzanine seating, entertaining but too distant from viewers to allow an intimate connection.
So keeping that in mind, this anime functions like a loose anthology, to which its success is forced to be judged on an episode by episode basis. This may not seem like an unreasonable request at first, given how many episodic series has successfully navigated its way through similar setups, but that's before you account for the constraints that the show has placed on itself. For 12 episodes, Joker Game is expected to operate like a realistic spy thriller, unfortunately for it, that's a commitment it very seldom made in just 1, let alone 12.
With each new spy and mission introduced, a new opportunity to fumble presents itself. And sadly, that's what happens as these episodes are split down the middle in terms of practicality. Like the varying level of engagement that each could bring, the level of plausibility also ranges as well. The fact that they're spies is often used to excuse away far-fetched solutions, which, at times, could be convincing given the skill set taught to these men, but when the ruse is painfully obvious, there's very little that could be done to course correct the issue. To give a spoiler-free evaluation, there would be solutions taken that was plausible, only for the following episode to exercise acts akin to Pink Panther excerpts. Suspension of disbelief could only get you so far, especially when dealing with a show that's desperately signaling that it has the know-how to pull it off while presenting leaps of logic that no amount of mental gymnastics is capable of excusing. You can't expect viewers to take something seriously while the content itself becomes farcical in nature. There comes a point where calling out bullshit is the only affirmative action left to take, and for Joker Game, that time arose far too often.
For every instance that Joker Game is able to convince its audience, there are isolated scenarios that could be seen as satirical when viewed out of context. And again, had this been a show that wasn't so uptight about everything, this wouldn't be a jarring issue. But when you aim for realism and only half-deliver on that promise, there are very little passes that could be given to excuse the inconsistency. There's no levity, no quirkiness, no moment to unwind. Joker Game is simply too "adult" for that, and it doesn't always work out in its favor, especially when it's making a fool of itself.
It could be said that a great deal of the title's authenticity came from its dedication towards upholding this disciplined portrayal. It certainly was the reason that I enjoyed it, regardless of the cartoonish moments. The blood-curdling sounds of a violin paired up with the interlaced beating of drums, as the bellowing timbre of an incoming choir ascends over the musical arrangements. The way the camera would follow one of our agents, gliding along as if docked on a dolly track, the entire scene letterboxed for added visual flair. Natural dialogue exchanges that avoided most of the zany back-and-forth that anime usually fall back on, choosing to use more realistic banter to help sell the scene. It's these aspects that sustained Joker Game when its screenplay was in danger of derailment. This may have resulted in many viewing it as "boring," given the grounded nature of everything, but when accounting for the subject matter in question, it was the right call to make. Had the show broken character, it would have caused more tonal whiplash than it would have helped. The result of which could be seen in the 4th episode's juvenile escalation from its relatively adult depiction to grossly overblown melodrama that it regressed into. This isn't a show that has the leg-room to indulge in anime-like commonalities. It's one of the least "anime" anime to have aired in 2016.
The only way Joker Game could have walked out of this situation unscathed was if the writing was as airtight as the presentation. And sadly, this wasn't the case.
Despite the issues plaguing it, each scenario never loses focus. Joker Game's headstrong commitment may have hurt it in the end, but it also serves as the reason why I enjoyed it. I loved seeing a more hard-edged, realistic depiction of spy-life. I loved the color palette and air of mystique. And when the show wasn't tripping over itself, I loved the tension it was able to capture in certain moments. Joker Game was fun, dumb at times, but still fun nonetheless.
Despite how commonplace spy-related media is in movies and novels, it's still a relatively obscure topic in the world of anime. What Joker Game had to offer may not have been as extensive as the subject matter would entail, but it did leave a distinct enough mark for me to want more. Its downfall was its pigheaded commitment to always being serious, regardless of how silly some of its solutions ended up being. Even with this in mind, I still think Joker Game was entertaining enough to warrant giving it a try. It had something to offer that very few in the medium have attempted to service. It adds to a landscape that's known for its diversity, and that's always a good thing in my book.
Joker Game is certainly breath of fresh air but it is not a must see. It is one of those animes where every now and then you start thinking: 'Hey, this stuff looks promising” only to be hammered in the face a frame later on as you progress with the show.
Set in 1937 when the beginnings of World War II are starting to brew. The story follows the exploits of a small special spy organization called “D-Agency.” It started with the (supposed) main character who a new recruit of D-Agency without any special training got tricked by his spy-mates with something called “Joker Game”. It
is safe to say that the beginning arc will hook you in as the first two episodes is somewhat established a plot with an aim trying to discover what D-Agency is. Additionally it gives you a hints this is a show with serious dialogue and blather about politics and war.
.... of which unfortunately did not happened.
For everything that's done well, it is ashamed that the show is gone to episodic ala “spies of the week” by episode 3. Now don’t get me wrong. In theory that could be work and I don’t mind when a show being episodic, but Joker Game is one of the cases where it really doesn’t fit episodic structure, here’s the reason why:
Firstly, the sudden shift from straightforward to episodic is no means bad as long as the plot was for the lack of better words “good.” Sadly it isn’t, the plot was too formulaic and too predictable that one could guess what will happen. It always started with some cases in some European country, some military organization/person there will got involved, the most unsuspicious person is our Japanese spy and in the end he will finish his mission and tell the audiences his plan like some genius would be. There are maybe some difference and modification but that’s very minor. As a result of this is that the tension was lacking because no matter how much the spies has problem and situation where it almost impossible to beat, they will always pull it off. Pacing is kind of suffering as well due to this formulaic plot with far too much time allotted to things already seen before and too little to what makes particular sequence different from the ones before.
The second issue is the cast themselves. With only 12 episodes Joker Game has too many casts to handle with so little time in a hand. Moreover the show is plot-driven where most of the story is told by exposition and characters dialogue. As a result the whole cast seems flat and were by and large stereotypes. You may argue that they're flat because they’re spies, but c'mon it is work of fiction, your characters does need to attract audience because it is a show not real live documentary.
Lastly is the characters design. One of my major gripe with the show is that all the main characters look the same and most of the time their name aren't even mentioned. With episodic structur this doesn't go well. Remember books where the characters are called "Man", "Woman" and "That Guy" It's a bit like this here. The characters are just outlines of situation. It's really hard to get invented into the story if your characters aren’t interesting or memorable.
Visually it is solid. What I mean by solid is that the look of the show is fine by today’s standard although there really isn't anything visually interesting about the show with the exception of one or two scenery shots I suppose. Overall, everything works fine (disregarding the “Bulb Head” of one villain in one of the episode.)
The music was present I guess. Not much to write about here, I honestly don’t care because I hardly remember any of the OSTs ringing in my head. The only thing noticeable probably the jazzy opening but I don’t think it was that memorable in the long run. The voice acting was okay but nothing exceptional although it is quite understandable considering there were no many screams or some special cases where sound must be falsified.
A final issue worth mentioning is the prologue. Though this is of course purely a matter of preference, for people who watched may aware that every episodes is started with the same prologue about the making of D-Agency and how they were chosen. For me it wasn’t really necessary, I mean do we need this for every 12 episodes ? It’s not like the prologue were that interesting either.
All in All, the sudden shift to being episodic show was probably what shooting this show down because they had so little time to develop that many characters with this very formulaic plot." If anything out of curiosity people still want to watch this. I think watching it marathon from beginning to end would be a good way, because to be fair it’s quite heavy in dialogue albeit not too dense, so there are many details left when watching in weekly basis and that’s probably Why I feel just can’t get invented into the story. The only thing that makes it worthnoted is the setting, but that alone surely Not good enough to safe the script from the mediocrity.
I actually almost skipped this title for a few reasons. One it aired on Tuesday, a day where only two titles were airing, two I got it mixed up with another title airing this season with the word "joker" in it. Now when I first started Joker Game I honestly didn't expect much from it. It wasn't until later episodes that it really started to take off and I started to enjoy it immensely.'
Really interesting plot and story going on for each episode. In my opinion I think that the greatest thing about the story is that it remains, no matter what the episode
or plot is about, dramatic. Like, I found it very difficult to turn away from Joker Game. Whenever I tried to do something else while I was watching it, something interesting would happen and I'd be like "Oh man! what's going to happen next." So to me I'd say that drama is the shows main focal point. One other thing that I admire was how even though the story wasn't based on real events, the episodes and narrative played out like a old re-enactment of history videos you'd see on discovery channel or national geographic. The story added so much realism despite it being completely fictional and that is something that stood out to me quite a lot! Often times the dialogue seemed overly dramatic however this doesn't change my overall feelings for the story. The plot for each episode always kept things interesting & exciting because of the mystery element added to it. Honestly, I couldn't find too much that I didn't like in the story department other than the ending, which I cannot spoil because rules. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed watching the story of joker game unfold.
Visually, I was impressed with the background settings in Joker game. the details to certain objects and vehicles like the trains, cars, and other items looked alright. It was as if the team working on the shows animations for 1950's style settings did a good job with accurately researching objects, devices and settings from the 1950's. Although I'm sure most of their research focused more on main stream objects like guns, best trains available, best cars for that time period, that sort of thing. Character designs were pretty good however, I didn't like how plain a majority of the males looked. I'm glad that the females stood out more than the males but I still think the character designers could have done a better job with the appearances of the characters.
Let me start off with my favorite thing in the soundtrack department, the voice actors, seiyuu's etc.. they did a great job with speaking English! Words were pronounced fluently (to a certain extent) and properly spoken in their sentences. It really shows the devotion and extent that actors are willing to go to star in a role. Having that experiences really helps with getting more roles and I love to hear Japanese.. well foreigners in general speaking outside of their native language. Moving on, the soundtrack in Joker game was actually pretty nice. My favorite thing about the background music is that if a dramatic event was occurring, the music will help intensify that specific scene. My favorite song in the entire series though is the ending song by "Double" by MAGIC OF LiFE."
Before I get into characters, let me say that I really liked how diverse the characters involved in the show were. There were Caucasians, Africans, Asians, etc none of them portrayed too negatively nor stereotypical. Nationalities such as Germans, weren't exploited as negatively as they are in any other "Historical" anime genres. I like that there was a sense of respectfulness to other cultures in certain parts of the story. Characters wouldn't use offensive words to refer to each other. So that was dealt with very maturely. I think character growth is the most important factor of the series. It's crucial for the spies to grow and develop their skills otherwise they'll just end up dead as you'll see in the show.
I think what I enjoyed most about the series is that no matter what episode I was watching, I felt like the enjoyment I had watching were so good that I couldn't help but share what I thought was going to happen next with my mates. I think anticipating what's going to happen next episode is perhaps what makes this series so exiting to watch. The mysterious element along with drama just kept me coming back for more! Overall I would recommend Joker Game if you want to watch something generally interesting, easy to watch and understand.
Joker Game. Seeing that title already has my interest when examining the words of it on the surface. Joker implies that there will be tricksters in the series while game has a broad meaning of contesting between individuals. Yet, this show isn’t about a game. It’s about spies during a tense period of time when the world is at war. If you’re a fan of crime thriller, detective stories, and political conflicts in society, then this show will be a wild ride for you.
Starting off, the series is based on the novel of the same name. Prior to the anime adaptation, it had already received
a live-action film. The premise is similar and the setting takes place during the heightened stages of World War II. What does that mean? It basically shows that Joker Game is no stranger when it comes to political schemes and propaganda. The series has a good degree of realism as it portrays characters with their own ideals, goals, and purpose in the show. Furthermore, we get a concrete idea about what’s at stake during this time period. In retrospect, Joker Game does a fairly well job at getting the audience to understand the show by showing and telling.
In essence, Joker Game’s story structure follows more of an episodic stage. In other words, the show focuses on a different spy each episode as we learn individually about their story. It also explores their personalities quite well as the episodes focuses exclusively on them on a personal level. What’s common about each episode also shows how they view the conflict going on during this period of time, which is fairly interesting if you envision yourself as these characters. Later on though, the show does focuses on a more developed story that stays consistent with the overall premise. Another point to bring up is that the show also explores the side from the enemy point of view. In this case, Japan’s enemies. It brings another interesting perspective to show the ideologies of various nations beyond just Japan.
Characterization takes on a more personal approach for most of the characters. They get their spotlight and often play around with the audience about their real intentions. The theme of double agents come to play often in the show as no one can really be trusted. In the spy world, it’s easy to formulate that Joker Game is like a game of itself. The characters needs to play their cards right to win. This can be true especially for the D-Agency against rival spy organizations such as the Wind Agency and Secret Service of Great Britain. And while the series doesn’t have a true protagonist, it’s clear that Yuuki (the founder of the D-Agency) plays a prominent role to piece together events for the story. It’s also interesting to learn more about his background too and the origins of the very organization he created.
To enjoy watching Joker Game, the key is perhaps to finding an attachment to the characters. Each of them has their own talents, weaknesses, personality, and characteristic that make them an ideal spy. For instance, Amari is the type that can talk his way into almost anything. On the other hand, Fukimoto is the more silent type who uses his knowledge to get things done. Jitsui, who seems innocent on the outside is dangerous man from the inside. Kaminaga is also a man worth noting for his desire to accomplish anything at hand. Then, there’s Miyoshi with his sarcastic personality and difficult to read from any point of time. There’s more but you get the general idea. The idea is that D-Agency is not to be underestimated given what their core members are capable of. Their roles in the series varies but all of them meets the expectations of what spies should be. For the audience, I think that can be quite appreciable.
Production I.G helms the animation of the show and in essence, they do a good job at constructing the historical settings. The series’ eerie atmosphere also gives a mysterious vibe supplemented by well-coordinated choreography. However, one irk about the show is perhaps all the main characters looks very similar. While this may or may not be intentional, it can be rather confusing. Regardless, Production I.G. adapts high quality when it comes to visuals and shows once again their talent.
To me, the soundtrack of Joker Game is poetic. It’s poetic in the sense that the music focuses beyond just what it is. In other words, the OST is composed for a purpose to craft suspense especially with the soft paced piano tunes and eerie feel. OP and ED theme songs are also artistic with various symbolisms and catchy lyrics. Finally, voice mannerism is quite noticeable in the show. Each character may look similar but the voices can be distinctive different on many occasions. Because the series’ characters are mostly spies, they often talk in ways that is hard to read what their intent actually is.
Is Joker Game a good show? Is it worth picking up? That’s actually easy to say if you’re a fan of crime fiction, political thriller, and spy espionage. It’s aimed more towards a mature audience as each episode has a meaning. The story is very serious and rarely ever jokes with what it presents. That being said, characters can be a hit or miss for some fans especially for their roles. For everything it does, it’s still quite a spy adventure of rare breed.