The Future Is in Your Hands: Witnessing the Suffering of Kaiji

I re-watched the thrilling Kaiji some time ago and it became one of my favourite anime. Along the way, I wrote about each arc. Let me tell you why you should watch Kaiji, based on the first arc.

The main character is Kaiji Itou – a young unemployed bum – who receives a debt from one of his former co-workers after the co-worker vanishes. This is because Kaiji co-signed the loan. It’s way too much to pay off, but he’s offered the chance to repay the debt by means of participating in a gambling game involving other strugglers. It’s very clear that isn’t going to be pretty since the yakuza are obviously involved.

The story introduces the psychological elements step-by-step. The first gamble is a modified version of rock-paper-scissors. We are all familiar with the original game, so we have an easier time processing the modified rules and are thus eased into the story. Narration clearly explains various situations, though it does hamper the experience when the narration describes actions Kaiji performs rather than showing them.

The whole arc is a tonal adventure as there are numerous high and low points and the transitions between them aren’t sudden. The different situations and the methods and theories Kaiji uses to overcome challenges keep you engaged throughout. Kaiji is a bum but he’s actually kind of smart, which while you can argue is how the arc is ever able to last as long as it does (or else Kaiji would’ve been eliminated from the game earlier), he’s not so smart as to seize constant victories. This keeps things from getting stale and contributes to the overall mood curve.

What really makes Kaiji stand out though is the imagery it uses in desperate situations. This aspect is introduced with a rather simple example before ramping up the intensity.

The overall colour scheme can sometimes change during these sections which make them otherworldly and characters’ appearances can be physically distorted when they’re experiencing intense fear or nervousness. In addition, the narration in these segments strongly emphasises the images presented. Finally, there are the famous ざわ (zawa)’s, which is onomatopoeia for an uneasy atmosphere. The extensive usage of this is a distinct trait of the works of the original mangaka, Nobuyuki Fukumoto. They are visibly shown during multiple scenes and emphasise not only the characters’ emotions but our uneasiness as well.

My favourite moment of the arc might be the ending, which I won’t spoil here but it’s effective because we’ve experienced the gradual ups and downs of the arc along with Kaiji. We’ve delved deep into his lowest points, making us very empathetic for him. Kaiji’s empathy also boosts his likeability.

The last thing I’ll mention is the themes, one of which is how “the future is in our hands” (the name of the OP song). Most of the other players are in a similar life situation as Kaiji and being successful at the gamble is the means of restarting their lives not only with more financial means but also metaphorically, as the thrill of the gamble has made them realise what it means to feel alive. The series also explores how selfish humans are, how we can turn into monsters in dire circumstances and other standard fare among stories such as these.

I feel like it’s no surprise that I like Kaiji considering that I began my anime-aware journey with Death Note and Code Geass (and Lucky Star afterwards but that’s a completely different thing).

If any of what I described sounded interesting to you, then I suggest you give Kaiji a shot.

You should pay attention to the OST as well, composed by Hideki Taniuchi:

The rest of the write-ups can be found below. Keep in mind that these were orginally sent over Discord, so there may be a couple of inside jokes. Naturally, spoilers lie in store.

Saying Hi to Dumb Fun: Alice or Alice


When boob physics is what begins the story, you know exactly what you’re getting.

Alice or Alice involves twin sisters Rise and Airi, their friends, and their brother with a sister complex. Each character could be described in one sentence, the character designs aim to evoke as much cuteness as possible, and the brother isn’t even that important. In fact, there are only a couple of scenes over the 12 3-minute episodes which imply any sort of sister complex.

In actuality, the focus is on the girls, who find themselves in typical slice-of-life situations such as playing at the beach or going to a festival. What distinguishes these situations is the snappy and raunchy humour: quirky sound effects and audible grunts accompanying a character suddenly dropping dead on the floor is followed by one of them obsessively taking pictures of another character in a maid outfit, and it’s definitely the kind of unapologetic humour I dig. It also complements the random or striking facial expressions which add energy and dynamism to the package.


Concerning the brother, there’s generally more affection from the girls towards him rather than the reverse, and it comes off as adorable. Why the girls who aren’t his direct siblings adore him so much is never explained, and the series doesn’t care enough to do so; it doesn’t need to when the obvious intention is for the viewer to self-insert.


The most interesting aspect of the series though is the voice actors. It features the talent of Yoshitsugu Matsuoka — who plays Kirito from Sword Art Online — and ones who feature in the Love Live! idol franchise such as Aina Suzuki and Sora Tokui. Listening to the voices of Mari Ohara and Nico Yazawa as they anticipate a prideful battle between themselves is a welcome crossover. What’s funnier is that the girls become idols in the last episode, and it’s an instance of meta-textual aspects representing a noticeable portion of my enjoyment.

At the end of the day, Alice or Alice isn’t a bombastic thrill ride akin to Nichijou, but it knows its target audience and I’m glad to have watched it to the end. It’s a reminder of the fun hidden behind seemingly generic offerings and inclines me to give more shorts an honest shot. I’ll keep saying “hi” to them just like how I raised my right hand in front of my computer screen almost every time the word was uttered in the OP.

Hype Soundtracks: Relaxing Lunch Break (Love Live!)

What better way to kick things off than by writing about something from one of many pieces of media that inspired me to make this blog in the first place: Love Live!

Hype can involve riveting guitar solos, powerful orchestra, ominous chanting, the continuous addition of instruments, etc. Relaxing Lunch Break (Yuttari Ohiruyasumi/ゆったりお昼休み) from the first season of Love Live! School Idol Project is not an overly bombastic piece, but it nonetheless stirs excitement within me.

The first 7 seconds are simple enough: a ringing that establishes the upbeat tone and gives the same impression as a school bell which starts the next period of the day. In fact, I set this part as my wake-up alarm more than 3 months ago.

What follows is the hardest dubstep drop I’ve ever heard. If I come back to this after a while, my mind from here on out goes mental until the end, just as Love Live sometimes does to me.

This isn’t the kind of break where you’re staring out the window, but one where you’re outside and taking in everything around you as the sun shines. You whistle with the birds and search for the best vantage point to see the sights. You then anticipate the meal you’re going to munch on.

35 seconds in, the instrumentation (forgive my very basic music knowledge) evokes a dance through nature and the eclectic chatter between schoolmates. The brass that follows echoes the gradual end of the freedom but carries the happiness that lingers on even when you’re going back to class.

Most importantly, it relates to the series itself. It reminds me of the buzzing energy the main character Honoka possesses as she comes up with the next idea, the girls practising on the rooftop, and the general youthfulness that pervades many school stories. Perhaps when my alarm rings I can jump out of bed with my two feet in unison every day, and not just the first time it chimed from my phone. I could get the courage to overcome any obstacle no matter how trivial, like when Hanayo formally announces that she wants to join the group in episode 4. Perhaps then I can strive to achieve something great.

Or I can just listen to those beautiful 7 seconds repeat themselves and sleep for another hour.

Composed by Yoshiaki Fujisawa (A Place Further Than the Universe, Land of the Lustrous, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE)


I created this blog on May 11, 2018, after my last exam of the university year. I wanted to practice writing about things I liked even when previous attempts never reached their conclusion. There are some things that I just have to get out of my head, and certain anime and video games have pushed me into doing so.

I might not write on here frequently since Twitter is a thing, but I know that in order to get better at writing and in turn expressing myself, the best thing to do is to keep doing it while looking back at my work for improvements.

This blog is an individual work in itself consisting of not just many chapters to come (hopefully), but part of who I am. I may even adapt some of the material (if it comes to fruition) into YouTube videos if I feel like they’re good enough. I hope that you read and watch some of it!

Chase the light!