Chuukan Kanriroku Tonegawa is a spin-off of the Kaiji series, which follows Tonegawa, the right hand man of Kazutaka Hyoudou, the president of the Teiai Corporation and owner of numerous gambling tournaments. After Hyoudou is getting bored with his life, he orders Tonegawa to organize a so called "game of death" as it is his and his subordinate's job to keep the president in a good mood. Tonegawa must cooperate with his subordinates in order to make the president happy and what follows is a humorous story of his interactions with his subordinates and other characters of the Kaiji series.
Donning his drab trench coat with a pack of cigarettes in tow is a man constantly at odds. He hunts those who dare test his patience, often poor strays lying about already bleeding for cash. In his eyes the pleas of worthless trash that caused their own misery, a contrast to the hardworking man in front of them. All they could give weighing less than a single bill of currency. He writes in his notebook: “Money matters are life and death matters. Society isn’t your mother.” Words he holds true to heart, using them to push himself further. As in the shadow of glory and
legends lies one Yukio Tonegawa, a mere middle manager, suffering and fighting in ways that no one really knows.
Mr. Tonegawa – Middle Management Blues is a peculiar spin-off to the underground classic gambling thriller Kaiji: The Ultimate Survivor in that it is set initially prior to the parent story and follows one of the minor antagonists to the main series. Tonegawa serves as the financial consulting firm Teiai Group’s second in charge and the right-hand man to president Hyoudou Kazutaka, who has a disconcerting fondness for extreme forms of entertainment. The series largely focuses to Tonegawa to meet and satisfy whatever Hyoudou wishes at practically any given time and has been assigned a project team to assist him, pitting Tonegawa in a predicament where he needs to appeal to both parties in order to succeed in his role. Through this premise, Tonegawa is able to bring out laughter from even the darkest of places.
The most important thing to understand about this series is that this is not the suspenseful thrill ride that Kaiji was, instead it seeks to act as a comedy and parody to the Kaiji series. In theory this places the show as a near complete polar opposite to its predecessor and what its intentions were, however this spin-off comes across more as a worthy companion piece to the series as a whole. While villains such as Tonegawa and Hyoudou still remain morally bad and even sinister at times, this new perspective expands upon their ideals and motives, even showing weaknesses in their struggles with life, particularly on Tonegawa’s inability to connect with each of his subordinates. Speaking of, characters that were no more than faceless thugs before are given a breath of fresh air with a more humanistic characterization to each of the men in black working under Tonegawa’s lead. A greater understanding of these characters coupled with a more grounded tone provides viewers with numerous moments tacked on throughout the show’s runtime that can easily be thought of as relatable and oddly endearing. It easily captures authentic parts of life at work and portrays it in a comedic way that might even be more effective for those of us who have already experienced moments like these ourselves. This expansion of the story may not have been needed, but it is surely welcomed for a fan like myself considering what it brings to the table.
Often when criticisms about the show’s use of humour are brought up, while I can respect the differing points of view I feel they ultimately miss the mark for how and why comedy works for Tonegawa. There are several different styles of comedy and even at the time when by this review has been published comedy anime has experienced a kind of resurgence, observational and surreal humour is still rare to find. And this is what I believe really helps make Tonegawa stand apart from its contemporaries; it’s a comedy series that thrives on these comedic styles through exaggerating the importance of seemingly mundane and trivial aspects partnered with a keen eye for detail leading to preposterous leaps of logic. The character Tonegawa is a perfect match for this type of humour, having been a key antagonist in the original series heavily reliant on observation already. The first meeting with the men in black provides a clear example of this: they all look the same and tells them upfront that he cannot tell them apart from one another, and when he tries learning their names he picks up on the similarity between them, making it even more difficult for Tonegawa to differentiate between his henchmen. An absurd line of logic that is executed surprisingly well. Psychological, yet surprisingly relatable events like this are what gives the series its own distinct charm. The show also has its fair share of subtle humour placed throughout each episode that helps to make episodes more memorable in their own way.
Trying to picture how this style of comedy could possibly work so effectively may prove difficult to those of you who have yet to watch anything from the franchise, and this leads into another core element of the show: the presentation. The entire franchise does utilize a very atypical art style that can easily act as a deterrent to potential fans, but further helps set the series as a whole apart from every other anime today. What’s more important however are the visual metaphors utilized, borrowing the techniques from the main source material originally used to make scenes more enthralling and using them in parody-style fashion, now creating low-brow jokes to act as literal metaphors and visual representations of such. Some of the more memorable examples include Tonegawa calling all his subordinates gutter balls after finding they are all interested in bowling coupled with every man in black rolling a gutter ball and Tonegawa hanging on to what appears to be a spider’s thread until soon after is revealed to be drool from the president after he failed Hyoudou. There’s also numerous references made to past works by the original creator of Kaiji that are sure to catch the eyes of seasoned fans for those series’. Major props to Jay Kabira who voiced the narrator of Tonegawa and might have been the best part of the series; his ability to garner genuine hype to even the most monotonous of things is second to none and was splendid to witness. Even the beloved “ZAWA” symbols from Kaiji are able to produce an oddly surreal atmosphere that I’ve never seen before in anime.
Sadly, it cannot all be high praise as Tonegawa does run into some issues along the way. The show teases progression a lot in regard to the relationship between Tonegawa and his employees. The show is certainly episodic but never tries to capitalize with all the sincere moments it creates like it potentially could have. Apart from being partially directionless, the story introduces short stories from the perspective of another antagonist from the original series, Tarou Ootsuki that in my opinion worked as a nice change of pace for a while, until half of every episode was dedicated to him. Tonegawa’s struggles brought forth what I felt was a much greater sense of absurdism and creativity that could carry the show compared to Ootsuki. It’s also perplexin why they would continue with content for Ootsuki considering an anime specifically focused on this character was announced halfway through this series… I don’t really know what to say to that, but honestly it just feels like they wasted TV time that could’ve been spent better.
The production, while emulating a similar style to that of Kaiji also unfortunately lacks the attention to detail in character designs and much of any fluid animation. Not a big issue for a comedy series in my opinion but these features were certainly noticeable. The colour palette used was much more faded and less vibrant in contrast and while I would not call it poor quality, feels a lot cheaper by comparison. Studio Madhouse were behind this series with a different staff, yet still manages to provide us with a successful homage to its parent anime visually. The music is also fairly unmemorable which is a shame as it remains one of the best features from both seasons of Kaiji. But the voice acting was solid from the main cast and the opening, “Sassou to Hashiru Tonegawa-kun” by Gesu no Kiwami Otome, became one of the most enjoyable and upbeat themes to hear an anime begin with. Hell, here’s the URL, you can thank me later: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkbyJ3unvWQ
Mr. Tonegawa – Middle Management Blues is a series that at first glance may appear to not know what audience to appeal to; the new or old. But I implore you, especially if you have seen Kaiji to try this spin-off. It is not Kaiji, nor was it seriously trying to be, but what you will find is hopefully one of the most entertaining and downright distinct comedies in a year almost saturated with them, and from my viewpoint the most underrated anime of the year. Zawa Zawa.
Opening narration (for wild peeps like myself):
"Tonegawa Yukio, the No.2 man of the massive Teiai Group.
He serves the monster of the Financial sector (Hyoudou).
This shot-caller rose to the position of Prez's right-hand man.
This is the story of the battles he waged as a middle manager...in the shadows of the glory and fame he achieved...
About the struggles of a remarkable man...chisana, chisanaaa, monogatari de aru (a small, unremarkable story)!"
Disclaimer: To be honest, this series is my very first actual interaction into the Kaiji series, so if I missed out some details, please forgive me on this.
To Kaiji fans, sorry, this ain't Season 3 and the continuation
of the wildly popular series that is Nobuyuki Fukumoto's Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor. Instead, this series focuses on the No. 2 person of the black market group that is Teiai Corporation and the right-hand man of nefarious President Kazutaka Hyoudou: Tonegawa Yukio, Middle Manager (or middleman) between President Hyoudou and the men in black that's introduced and is present in both seasons of Kaiji. Technically a spin-off non-canon series if you will.
Made as a manga by Tensei Hagiwara (literally a die-hard fan of the original series), which includes both this series and 1-nichi Gaishutsuroku Hanchōu which features Team E's famous underground foreman Ootsuki, the premise of Chuukan Kanriroku Tonegawa is set-up very differently from how Kaiji was from the get-go: a comedic parody of the day-to-day events at Teiai Corporation, featuring both Tonegawa and his project team of mercenary MIB in all sorts of weird antics despite the age gap in his group. Unlike Kaiji though, the series of events of Chuukan Kanriroku Tonegawa isn't quite set-up the way that it is at random, but is linear to how Kaiji started and its gradual flow, which it incorporates a similar style and its origins (since time is turned back towards the pre-Kaiji days). So, with this series, don't expect too much, but just encounter Fukumoto-sensei's well-known Zawa...Zawa… trademark, lots of endless comedies between the Prez, Tonegawa himself and his team of management blues, regarding and taking responsibility for whatever actions that are dealt with, and vice versa. Not to mention, Foreman Ootsuki's involvement with his other labour staff and his one-day outing excursions which feel very off, but with the joining of hands between Tonegawa and Ootsuki, it once again feels very natural in sight.
The acclaimed series was done by Madhouse 10 years prior in 2008, so it wouldn't be a surprise that even though Madhouse is once again back to animate this project, albeit with a different production staff this time and not the original team, it wouldn't necessarily cause justification or a rationale of the "pointing fingers Blame Game". But instead, it still manages to showcase some of the fine details that is an omage to the Kaiji series, and for that, I think this is a win. For the most part, Madhouse manages to peak out at a good angle of watch-ability, and even if some parts are not great, the series as a whole looks pleasing to the eye, and is really a treat to watch some of the finest non-Kaiji stuff.
The music is unfortunately the low point of the series (to just about many), but I actually found it good to begin with. Gesu no Kiwami Otome's OP which explains and sing praises about Tonegawa's standout traits is the perfect song to go with it. The moment when I heard the song and realized that the entire song is just 2 minutes short (that actually fits within excellent narrations done by sportscaster Jay Kabira), I couldn't believe my ears! It was just SO SO perfect and well done; the duration makes sense for Jay Kabira's introduction of Tonegawa (for front instrumentals) and the ever constant "chisana, chisanaaaa, monogatari de aru", that's when I know, it's a damn great song that thankfully lasted throughout the entire series. We got 2 EDs this time, the OK-ish 1st half by Pistol Takehara and the impressive up-beat and uplifting 2nd half by NoisyCell. Regardless of choices, I found the music to be the detractor for many people here.
In all sense of the word, Chuukan Kanriroku Tonegawa was a very fun, well-deserved watch, and the privilege is that you don't need to be a Kaiji fan to watch this funny spin-off. To the haters, I'd suggest you'll give this one a go, don't think too much on the negative aspects of Kaiji vs. Tonegawa, Ootsuki and vice versa. Just let loose, and let the Zawa…Zawa~~~ take reign over you.
Chuukan Kanriroku Tonegawa is a non-canon spin-off series to Kaiji. Written not by the master himself, but by two of his die hard fans. The series focuses around a man named Tonegawa, who was introduced in the first anime season.
From its settings, CKT is the polar opposite of Fukumoto Nobuyuki's (the author of Kaiji) gambling series for the reason that the main lead is not a person taking part in the gambling games, but instead working for the man who is behind these events. For that matter, recognizing this series to be even part of the same universe with Kaiji would be impossible if
it wasn't for Madhouse giving it an anime adaptation with identical production values and characters as in Kaiji. Similar ideas have been executed with great success in the past, such as Full Metal Panic Fumoffu which was also the 3rd season to FMP franchise, and the polar opposite of its first 2 seasons.
Despite the vastly different setup, the biggest difference between CKT and Kaiji lies within the series' approach. There where Kaiji was a game - thriller from its genres, CKT is a slice of life comedy series. Those who expected this to be anything like Kaiji are now disappointed, which somewhat can explain the low mean score the series currently has. Personally, I have the ability to appreciate series for more than one reason, and have been laughing my butt sore with CKT.
The comedy is badass and manly beyond belief, and focuses around the challenges Tonegawa meets in his daily job. This one time, bunch of people loaned money from the wrong folks, more specifically, from Tonegawa's boss. This is okay, of course, but now it's time to pay back, bitches! Tonegawa and his lackeys want to get their money and there is no escaping the manliness. They are literally everywhere and own everything in Japan, apparently. They go to your work, random car backseats, any alley in Chinatown. Just name it and they are there, and oh, you will pay no matter how small the sum you owe, is.
This other time, Tonekawa got mad at another dude for having too complicated of a last name (which he later forgot). How anyone can even write comedy like this is beyond me. "Apologize to me for having such a complex name." Arrogance like this tends to create good comedy moments, and here they truly shine. Most of our scenes are similarly amazing, and will appeal to manly men, such as myself, unconditionally. It's no secret that people with less money have no value in the eyes of society and CKT promotes this shamelessly with scenes such as these.
The characters are one of our selling points, and the main reason why the comedy works so well. The president dude (Tonegawa's boss), is a real philosopher. Lays on bed made of his employees (yes, you read correctly), telling how humans are being fed with money like animals with food. Apparently, the biggest mistake citizens make is think of society as their mother. Our manly men are here to show what real men are about.. by taking everything these pathetic people in debt own and making their life miserable while making sure that they understand how this is, indeed, their own fault for not understanding how money works. I must admit I love it when dudes who never understood what dollar is worth, get what is coming. The comedy is beyond great. It always treats trash people like the trash they are. I appreciate dudes like these when it comes to comedic content.
This series will most likely not appeal all that well to extremely sympathetic people, or those who forget that this is all just comedy centering around very brutal and illegal gambling business... or are also very poor and in debt themselves.. or further have yet to acknowledge that this is how the world works, like it or not.
The narrator is also a highly visible character, and an epic one for that matter. Whenever he says anything, it's like UFC fighter introductions in Japanese, except he does it with every word no matter the subject and how anti-climatic the event he describes, is. I also die of laughter when ever he introduces Tonekawa Yukio and pronounces his name "yu-gi-oh".
The production is practically identical to the Kaiji anime series from 10 years ago. Same, cute, moe art style and character design. Manly, badass voices for dudeouses, and awe-inspiring sound effects when anything dramatic happens. Madhouse has done great many questionable choices in the recent years, but this is not one of them.
As a person who enjoys manly and bro stuff, and liked both Kaiji seasons, as well as most of the manga series by the original creator, there is no reason for me to not love this show. The comedy is superb and all the dudes are awesome. Don't be fooled by the mean score that is a complete mystery to everyone as this is, indeed, the best show airing this season.. or at least in top 5.
"Bu...b... bu--but does it have zawa?" Well of fucking course it has zawa.
As a Kaiji fan, I was initially hyped when it was announced we’ll be getting more Kaiji. However, that excitment slowly faded away as soon as I started watching this series.
This Kaiji spin off is shit. It’s basically a pointless story with exaggerated, forced comedy on boring, trivial scenes and trying to make them funny. It repeats the same joke for too long sometimes, e.g. remembering the men in black’s name dragged on for 3 episodes. Comedy is subjective, but I find it hard to believe anyone finds this type of humor funny. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed once while watching
Tonegawa is supposed to be this cool, competent, strategic right-hand man, but in this show he’s reduced to a bumbling insecure man that stresses over remembering some men in black’s names. The president is supposed to be this intimidating, wise old man. Here he’s a old coot with mood swings. The show butchered their characterisation and the way I view them all for the sake of comedy.
The men in black are bland, one dimensional characters and I don’t care if it’s intentional.
The narrator’s voice is so annoying and tries so hard to be funny it ends up having the opposite effect. The osts aren’t helping, the “zawa zawa~” doesn’t fit the tone of this show and just builds false suspense.
I can’t fathom why there’s so many positive reviews on this garbage.
If you’re a fan of Kaiji, I’d recommend steering clear from this because it fails to capture what makes Kaiji so great and it’s not even about gambling to begin with.