Kaiji Season 2 Episode 3 – to nose or not to nose
April 22, 2011
Episode 3 of season 2 of Kaiji is out. It was great, but I won’t spend a lot of time describing it. Instead I comment on all this controversy about Kaiji’s nose, and finish with a sincere wish that someone gets punched in the face.
If you look at the talk online about Kaiji (not just this second season, this was true during season 1), you will find a lot of folks claiming that the show is impossible to watch because they can’t stand looking at Kaiji’s nose. In fact all the characters in Kaiji have somewhat prominent noses. At least the noses seem large by modern anime standards. I was tempted, as I mentally planned this post, to include a lot more images showing just how rare it is for character designs to have actual noses. The thing that leaped to mind were the profile shots in Bakuman, where characters seen from the side have almost flat faces. The thing is there are just WAY TOO MANY examples, because no nose is the new norm. I’ll admit that the character designs in Kaiji are probably intended to seem a bit repulsive. I think you are supposed to feel at least a little unpleasant when looking at the show, because it is all about confronting the uglier parts of human nature. On the other hand, I have a difficult time perceiving the no-nose moe as anything like cute, or attractive. To me these people (examples above from two Spring 2011 series) look like they are just a little bit less than human.
Now I’m not saying that this is a brand new trend, nor is it unique to anime. This has been going on for a while, so it is a little too late to really be complaining, but I do think that character designs should be allowed to have noses without people freaking out, or rejecting the show as unwatchable. Note that I acknowledge that Kaiji, in fact everyone in Kaiji’s universe, is intended to be ugly; they are supposed to turn our stomachs a little. This doesn’t mean, however, that we should see character designs that are missing body parts as an ideal of beauty. Accept your nose, and the nose of those around you!
As expected, in episode 3, Kaiji manages to make a bad situation worse. A big part of the problem is his new friend, the foreman at his work site, Ohtsuki. Ohtsuki has been stringing Kaiji along, getting him in more and more trouble. The genius of this, from an anime production perspective, is the seiyuu for Ohtsuki, Cho, who plays the character with a kind of soft, high-pitched voice that comes off as very passive aggressive. Hey, it’s not his fault that the beer he sells is so expensive. Hey, it’s not his fault that the money he lends comes at such high rates. Hey, it’s not his fault that he is betting the maximum against you. He’s just trying to make sure everybody has a good time.
Ohtsuki is another good example of the way that Kaiji is intended to make it’s viewers cringe. I hate this dude. The fact, of course, is that I am supposed to hate this dude. Just listening to him talk pisses me off. This is part of the genius of this series. It is designed to provoke all sorts of uncomfortable emotions. If Ohtsuki spoke in a more aggressive way, perhaps in a deeper register, he could conceivably be attacked openly. Instead it is obvious that no matter what he pulls, any attempt to give him what he deserves would be met with protests from all the others present to just “be reasonable”. It isn’t his fault, after all.