If you’re a fan of thriller shows that focus mainly on mystery and fiction, then Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor; an anime series based on gambling, might interest you. You surely want to make it to the end of this article as I will try to discuss the theme and plot of this anime in the briefest, most detailed way. This show, comprising of only 26 episodes, is produced by Nippon Television and three of its allies was released in the fall of 2007. It is rooted from ‘Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji’; the first half of the manga series ‘Kaiji’ of which the credit of both being the writer and illustrator goes to Nobuyuki Fukumoto.
The entire plot revolves around Kaiji Ito, the 21-year-old poverty-stricken protagonist of the series, and the rollercoaster of his experiences of deceit and mind games after stepping into the world of gambling. Before his life takes a turn towards gambling, Ito is displayed as an alcoholic thief known particularly for stealing hubcaps. What marks the beginning of his life greatly altering is a shady deal offered to him to participate in an underground gamble. This happens to him shortly after being deceived by his former co-worker and getting burdened by a huge debt which he cannot afford to repay his friend. Keeping in mind his unpleasant and unfortunate situation, he accepts the offer to gamble his way out of the massive debt.
The first arc of the story has a certain flexibility to it which keeps you guessing and calculating all sorts of possibilities. Consisting of 3 major gambles, the next arc showcases the protagonist’s dramatic approach to untangle the thought process of different characters. I liked the first arc better because I found the nature of the gambles shown very strategic and interesting. Although, the idea around which the second arc is based could be highly successful, giving sudden importance to the newly introduced characters didn’t completely work because of how they weren’t strong, to begin with, and no emotional attachment was established with them before the focus of the series shifted greatly towards their plots. The show had an open ending which suggested some sort of continuation in the future.
What makes this show so great is its clever use of psychology. Another praiseworthy aspect about it is that although the series’ simple premise of gambling has been modified in various ways to attract viewers, it is still an uncomplicated and logical anime that can be grasped by all audiences easily. The element of suspense and unpredictability that progressively intensifies throughout the series is something I can guarantee will keep you glued to your screen. As you will go through the episodes, the absurdity and stakes of the games displayed will increase.
I think many people can agree with my opinion regarding the music chosen for this series. The instrumentals contributed a great deal to the overall intensity of the show and fitted perfectly with the grittiness contained in the plot as well as the tone of the protagonist but what impressed me even more, was how smooth and unique the animation and visuals were. The quirky designs of each character helped bring out their personalities to the extreme and made the show much more fun and engaging to watch.
Despite having minimal flaws here and there, Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor in its entirety is a well-executed and highly entertaining anime that I would not recommend you to miss out on watching. This was my honest review of the show, which I hope you enjoyed. Make sure to let me know if you agree or disagree with this review!