Kaiji season 2 episode 26 (final) ~ sly, scheming scumbag

September 28, 2011

Kaiji. It's all over now.

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.

Kaiji is a very emotional anime.

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.

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12 Responses to “Kaiji season 2 episode 26 (final) ~ sly, scheming scumbag”

  1. LiSw Says:

    I pretty much agree on everything, even in the opinion that Season 1 is slightly superior. Both are great psychological thrillers with plentiful shares of both sheer awesomeness and the darkest of human nature, but this latter trait was more prominent in the first season as far as I’m concerned (the bridge, the ending, ANDOU…) whereas season two focused a bit more on the awesome part of things, which is great too but I have a slight preference for the enraging betrayals, harshly learnt lessons, totally wicked morals and my getting kuyashii to the umpteenth at the terrible things going on in the screen.

    Still, I adore the two. Hell, just recently I decided to give them a 5/5 rating in A-P (only two more shows in my list share that score) because I feel it’s the perfect manganime for me, like it was made for the sole purpose of my getting to watch and deeply enjoy it. That’s how special I feel Kaiji is.

    Will add my comment on ep 26 and ”the twist” below. Not sure if posting the one I wrote for ep 25 as well because perhaps that’s a bit too long.

  2. LiSw Says:

    Episode 26 (SPOILERS):

    Weeeell, finally in this unpredictable show we’ve been able to predict one of its major twists!! Well actually two, at least in my case, because I knew Kaiji would save Ishida’s son now. He’s never said it himself until now but knowing his personality it’s obvious he’d feel guilty for gambling away and losing the money he promised to use to save Ishida’s wife and son after finally struggling to get it. Kaiji is just that fucking good a guy.

    Too bad this world is so full of trash like Endou, or even Sakazaki. As soon as things got ugly for Kaiji he took his leave without helping him out whatsoever, he’s not much better than that fucking evil snake called Endou.

    Anyway I loved this episode, it left us with such a bittersweet ending, AND considering how this show usually operates it feels especially sweet. For one thing, I laughed my ass off several times which is something a series as grim as this shouldn’t be able to manage. Mikoko, the ”kind old man”, giddy Kaiji hiding behind a wall, moe hero, etcetera… Hilarious and awesome.

    Special mention deserves the Teiai man who was in the end touched by Kaiji’s kindness and naivety at the same time. He wasn’t around even half an ep but now I already find myself wanting to see him some more.

    AHHH!!! There were so many things to comment on that I almost forgot about Ichijou. I wasn’t expecting Kaiji to direct those words to him but I guess that goes to show that as treacherous an evil bastard Ichijou is Kaiji still thought highly of him as an scheming rival. Will Ichijou ever be able to come back to the surface? Now after this brief dialogue/last clash between the two I kind of want to see it. An Ichijou Gaiden wouldn’t be too shabby.

    And then the part of the seven meeting… Fuck that was more moving than I ever expected and the Mirai wa Bokura no Te no Naka theme fit perfectly with it all. A perfect ending for this second season as far as I’m concerned. Here’s hoping they’ll animate a third and a fourth. *^*

    • Joojoobees Says:

      Discussion of SPOILERS

      I didn’t think of saving Ishida’s son, but I wasn’t surprised when he did it. As you say, he really is a good guy.

      The great thing about the ending is that all they really do is make it back to even, which is fine with them. They are genuinely happy to no longer be under the foot of the Teiai group.

  3. LiSw Says:

    THE TWIST:

    Kaiji is naive alright, but I must note that Endou was taking advantage of the situation, the rushness, the mood, EVERYTHING when he handed over that contract for Kaiji to sign it. He (Kaiji) already doubted him before so it was necessary to build an atmosphere where he needs to act quick so he won’t actually read the contract.

    Let’s think about it. Endou carried his last remainders of money to the casino for a reason. He didn’t have to if his intent were to run away after the main funds were over. The black suits weren’t there SPECIFICALLY for him, his debt collection’s deadline was likely different from the date when Kaiji had to go back to the underground and they just happened to also apprehend Endou in the end because he stayed for too long. He could have easily fled in the bathroom break, go fetch up his money swiftly and run to some god-forsaken country.

    … SO, the fact he did bring his money indicates that he considered beforehand the possibility of using it for the gamble. Those were his last funds so he would only use them as a last resort and when the odds looked much in his favor. Therefore, it’s only natural for a loan shark to think of profit when there’s a possible money loan at hand. He brought that contract with him and although his hesitation was obviously there and his tears of despair were likely genuine, that was also a part of the scenario in which Kaiji would have to sign the contract. His time off Teiai’s clutches is running out and he needs to wrap up the gamble as soon as possible. Just as he’s running off with the money to keep on playing Endou calls him back, accentuating his hastiness and impatience, then makes him sign the contract as a last-hour formality just so he can get his money already and go shoot the balls to the jackpot.

    It was a rather elaborate psychological trick taking advantage of many things at the same time, such as the aforementioned hurry Kaiji was in, the false sense of comradeship growing between them as they keep their struggle against the Bog, the fact that Endou is entrusting his life to Kaiji, etcetera.

    As a last note: Endou didn’t have to bring his money in CASH, either, if he just wanted to flee with it. The money was there visible for everyone so Kaiji could see it and ask HIMSELF for the money instead of Endou offering it which would raise a flame of suspicion in our protagonist, however small.

    • Joojoobees Says:

      That’s an interesting theory. I guess the main point is that people like Endoh exist, and, despite Kaiji’s heroism, people like him are bound to be taken advantage of by those like Endoh. Kaiji thinks they are all in it together, and Endoh makes an unreasonable profit.

      And, yes, Sakazaki is a different kind of trash, but trash nonetheless. He didn’t plot to swindle Kaiji out of what was left of the winnings, but he abandons him.

  4. GJ Says:

    Thanks for blogging this series, I’ve enjoyed your reading your entries on both season 1 and 2.

    • Joojoobees Says:

      Thanks for the comment. I’m surprised that more people didn’t show interest in this show. It is so unusual, and yet it has elements of a traditional shounen battle series. I would have thought that was a sweet spot, making it accessible and refreshing. Aah well, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one to have enjoyed it.

  5. JJ Says:

    I’ve read Kaiji season 3 manga…well…I hope they air this too but not 26 episodes. Maybe reduce it to 14 or 15. Because the whole thing is just one looooooong Mahjong Match.

    Season 4 (where the manga is now currently) is the best yet, because this game they play is extremely sadistic on so many levels, it’s the most interesting game yet

  6. JJ Says:

    Ok, here’s the current game they play in season 4 of Kaiji (no spoilers). It’s hard to explain this game in words but I will do my best, it is the best game so far and it’s really, really cruel (think the Saw movies)

    Basically, there are three chairs. One at the bottom, one in the middle, and one at the top. Three guys sit in those chairs, they wear helmets, the helmets have devices in them they plays loud music, so they cannot hear anything, nor can they shout to each other. They are strapped by a seatbelt, so they can’t freely move either. Also, they cannot turn their heads sideways, or look back. They can only look straight.

    Now, one of the helmets on one of the contestants will light up. The contestant with the lighted helmet have to unlock himself, get up from the chair, and push a button like 5 feet away within 30 seconds. And that’s it.

    They have to repeat this process like 10 times to win 1 billion dollars or something.

    However, if he doesn’t do this in 30 seconds. The other 2 contestants will die (the helmet will fry them).

    The biggest challenge to this game is that, the contestants themselves have NO IDEA if it’s their OWN helmet that lights up (since they cannot turn their heads to check the other contestants). Also, they cannot see the clock to time themselves, so they have no idea how much time passes by.

    So they have to find a way to communicate, if they can, or just guess. The tension is higher than anything else I’ve read in Kaiji. Of course, it’s no longer gambling, but something completely different.


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