The End of Kaiji 2 and…Akagi???

Kaiji 2 has ended, and while I won’t spoil any of the things that happen in the show, I want to point your attention to a particular moment in the final episode.

Here you have what looks to be a bunch of messages from artists/staff members/etc. with stuff related to Kaiji. But take a closer look up above.

Two Akagi images! And not just that, but the drawing on the left has some writing.



Akagi Once Again!!

Is that a message of desire, or is it a hint of something to come?

I don’t want to get my hopes too up, but the possibility is there…

I was also amused by this:

Why Itou Kaiji is Awesome

What I’m about to write is pretty obvious to anyone who has seen the life-or-death gambling manga and anime Kaiji by Fukumoto Nobuyuki. That said, I still want to write about what I think makes its titular hero such a fascinating character. Maybe those who haven’t been exposed to Kaiji yet might find a reason to start.

Itou Kaiji can’t hold a job. He’s lazy and greedy and prefers to lash out at the world instead of doing anything to improve himself. He can be a nice guy, but it often comes back to bite him in the ass, making him extremely bitter. Kaiji is, in a word, flawed. But when push comes to shove, and shove comes to deadly knife fight, Kaiji begins to show his full potential. In a desperate situation, Kaiji is brilliant. His mind is sharp and focused, his ability to read others is top-notch, and his desire to survive exceeds all others around him. Amazingly however, this survival instinct does not take away his human compassion, and he is often seen helping the lost and downtrodden. Deep down (and I mean deep, deep, deep, deep, deep down) Itou Kaiji is a good man.

That’s fairly impressive, but I realize it doesn’t sound particularly special compared to any other similar character. What makes Kaiji special though is that not only is he at his very best in a life-or-death situation, but that he is only ever any good at all when his life is in peril. Most other characters like Kaiji will live a sad life, then fall into danger, and then come out of it stronger than before, now fully aware of their potential as a human being. Kaiji, however, shines brightly when backed into a corner, but as soon as he takes a few steps towards the exit, his star diminishes into near-absolute darkness. It’s somewhat of a classic trope to have someone who is only comfortable in a certain situation, the soldier who excels at war but is at a loss in peacetime, the wrestler who captures a devil shark but has to let it go because he has no other purpose in life but to pursue it. Kaiji is like this, but his “ideal” situation is when his life completely and unequivocally sucks ass. Put back into a comfortable position, Kaiji immediately starts wasting his life again.

Inevitably, Kaiji draws some comparison to the other great Fukumoto hero, Akagi Shigeru, who is in many ways his opposite. Whereas Kaiji is a perennial loser, Akagi is an unparalleled genius who is not only smarter than those around him, but can see deep into their psyches and pick them apart psychologically. Both often find themselves in seedy underworld settings, but Akagi almost never makes mistakes, while Kaiji is almost nothing but them. In this respect, they’re about as far apart as you can get, but one similarity is that they are both at their best when their lives are on the line and they risk dying meaninglessly. As Narutaki from the Reverse Thieves pointed out to me though, while Kaiji inevitably ends up in those scenarios, Akagi has to actively pursue them, because he is too intelligent and talented otherwise to fall into them. Kaiji will lose all of his money instantly and rack up a huge debt on top of that. Akagi will strike it rich and then purposely give away all of his money so that he can never rest on his laurels. In a way, I think if Akagi ever knew Kaiji, he would actually be kind of jealous, because Kaiji’s life naturally puts him at the gates of hell, while Akagi has to always find it.

Kaiji is awesome because of how he is capable of representing humanity at its best, but most of the time is an example of humanity at not its absolute worst, but not something you’d present as an exemplar of mankind. There is a flickering spark of inner strength and greatness in him, but it’s his sad fate that it is only truly visible when all other light has been snuffed out.

The Effects of Visual Falsehood

In the Anime World Order review of Nobody’s Boy Remi, Gerald Rathkolb discusses the way in which the narrator plays with the expectations of its viewers by saying things that turn out to be completely false a short while after. If the narrator says that Remi found some money and spent it happily, there would likely be a scene shortly after where he accidentally drops the money down a sewer.

Generally, identity-less narrators are seen as omniscient, so either the narrator does not actually know everything, or is actively deceiving the audience. A similar effect happens with misleading episode titles. How many times does Chiba Shigeru in Hokuto no Ken declare in the next episode that a major character is definitely going to die but actually doesn’t? It makes a person begin to doubt the authenticity of words in fiction.

But words are easy to ignore as lies. The very idea of lying is tied closely to the use of words. If someone says you’re lying, it usually has to do with what you’ve said and not what you’ve done. What happens then, when the lies are not words but pictures?

Ambiguity in a given scene is a common technique used in anime and manga to create a sense of tension and drama. In Dragon Ball Z, a character attacks an enemy with so many energy projectiles that a giant explosion occurs where the target was standing. This ambiguous moment is meant to leave the viewer in anticipation as to whether or not the attack worked, though the explosion itself begins to take on a symbolic identity as a red herring and leads the viewer to assume that the opponent did not in fact die. What I’m referring to with visual falsehood though is something far more sinister.

While I cannot speak for everyone, I tend to believe that what is presented to me on the screen or on the page is what has happened in the story. In other words, there is a certain degree of “truth” to the visuals of a manga, because without them how are we supposed to know what has or has not happened?

One prominent manga author who uses visual falsehoods to their utmost advantage is Fukumoto Nobuyuki, creator of gambling series such as Mahjong Legend Akagi: The Genius Who Descended into the Darkness, Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji: The Suffering Pariah -The Ultimate Survivor-, and Gambling Emperor Legend Zero. In Akagi and Ten for example, mahjong hands are displayed right on the page and presented as what a given character has to work with. In the anime for Akagi, the hand is generally displayed by itself floating in a space, as if to say that this is an objective view of the mahjong hand. Of course, it turns out not to be, and we are presented with what is really there.

This is a scene from Zero where the main character is faced with a scenario where he cannot see who is behind the wall. Fukumoto lets us the readers take a peek at the person behind the wall. Then he reveals the truth!

What are we to believe? Reveals like these are downright disarming.

A non-anime/manga example of this comes in the form of Megaman 9. In this game, there is an enemy that disguises itself as a 1-Up icon. Attempting to get a free life will of course result in an unpleasant surprise.

Though the enemy is not difficult to defeat, it creates some paranoia in the player. Just which 1-Ups are real? Does that 1-Up seem too good to be true? The game has challenged your perception of what “should” be.

I do not believe these visual lies impact these works negatively, but when the images themselves are untruths, it can create a sense of imbalance, a distrust for what is in front of you. Keep in mind that in Fukumoto’s case, this never damages the “gambling” or “mystery” aspects of his stories, so you are also unable to just doubt everything and view his works from a position of absolute superiority. It adds a new layer to reading manga, one where you are in a sense competing against the creators themselves.

Fukumotoverse, or “Zawa-rld”

Recently I’ve been wondering, or should I say, hoping that the works of Fukumoto Nobuyuki all take place in the same universe. We already know that Ten and Akagi take place in the same timeline, with the latter being a prequel to the former, but what of everything else?

Can Japan have enough room for the SHADOW PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN (Washizu from Akagi), the RICHEST MAN IN JAPAN (Zaizen from Zero), and the KING OF JAPAN (Hyoudou from Kaiji)?!

Is there not just one horrible conspiracy controlling Japan, but several, and they all have to be taken down by incredible gambling heroes? Are all of these evil old men actually in competition with one another, vying to see who is truly the ruler of Japan and its seedy gambling underworld? Do they compete to see who is the most ruthless and murderous of them all?

And is there an even stronger hidden ruler above THEM? Could there be a SHADOW DEMON EMPEROR GOD OF JAPAN that would unite the forces of all of our heroes together into 地上最初の賭博軍団, the world’s first Gambling Army?

So basically what I’m saying is, we need to get Imagawa Yasuhiro to make an anime based on Fukumoto’s works.