Kaiji season 2 episode 26 (final) ~ sly, scheming scumbag
September 28, 2011
Episode 26 finishes off season 2 of Kaiji. This post covers my final thoughts about Kaiji, rather than focusing on the final episode itself. This is intended to be a spoiler-free post, to those concerned about such things. I really enjoy Kaiji, especially season 1, and would continue to recommend it to people who want an unusual, gritty, psychological thriller. For a general introduction to Kaiji, see my season one review, for more thoughts on season two, continue reading beyond the jump.
The bottom-line: I enjoyed seasons one and 2 of Kaiji. If someone were coming to the franchise for the first time, I would unquestionably point them to the first season, although the second season mostly makes sense on its own. For me, the second season was worth watching, because the first third (that is the first arc, underground Chinchiro) is very well done, and the series ends in a way that gives a sense of completion, not only to the season, but to several things raised in the first season as well. Unfortunately the final arc (the Bog) drags on a bit. It certainly would have befitted by being faster paced, as one of the primary things Kaiji delivers is adrenalin, and covering the same material in fewer episodes would have maintained the rush better.
Now, there are all sorts of things that could be said about Kaiji, often the same observation could be used to support a negative and a positive impression. For example the games played are generally very simple. Many gaming, or gambling stories would choose to focus on games with somewhat complex rules to allow maximum opportunity for unexpected plot twists. In a context of games of utter simplicity such as pachinko, the audience is denied an avenue of engagement. They can’t strategize along with the gamblers (or the house), at least not in the normal fashion. Yet Kaiji manages to produce unanticipated depths in these games, generally from two sources: psychological battles, and cheating. The results are plot twists that come out of nowhere, because all of the strategic and tactical moves must be made beyond the rule book.
Another aspect of Kaiji is the extreme emotional intensity that seems to exist at all times. Be prepared to see many men weeping openly again and again and again. There are some for whom this is disturbing, but I felt it matched the overall tone of people who have everything on the line, letting emotions running wild. Whether it is the narrators extreme delivery, or the OTT reactions from anyone who happens to be watching the latest twist in Kaiji’s game, or the bizarrely serious pronouncements of “Kaiji’s Proverbs” that end most episodes, this show is always intense in a way that goes beyond beyond emotional, beyond melodramatic, beyond even funny … and all the way back to intense. Even when nothing happens all episode, the intensity can be so intense that it gives the anime watcher stomach knots.
As I said, I would recommend the first season of Kaiji to just about any adult. In many respects it is the better of the two seasons, so only after having watched season one is there any reason to watch season two. For those who already enjoyed season one, I would recommend season two; it starts off with a strong arc, and wraps up the larger story of Kaiji quite nicely. For those who watched season one, and didn’t enjoy it, stay away from season two! Season two is essentially more of what made season one so great.