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The Future is in Our Hands!

The year is 1995. After graduating from high school, the young Kaiji Itou has moved to Tokyo in hopes of finding a steady job. Two years later, he's still unemployed and in a state of depression. Kaiji wastes what little money he has on cheap gambles, alcohol and cigarettes on a daily basis. To feel better about himself, he sabotages expensive cars and collects their emblems. One of these cars belongs to Yuuji Endou, a Yakuza with ties to the financial empire Teiai Corporation.

It turns out that Endou has been searching for Kaiji for a while, ever since he co-signed a contract for his friend Furuhata, which left him with a large debt. Endou also wants Kaiji to compensate for the car's damages. Kaiji is left with a choice; he must either spend 10 years working off the debt in a labour camp, or board a gambling cruise called "Espoir" (French for "hope") where he will be able to pay off the debt in one night... If he wins.

And that's just how the first series begins. Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji is probably the most famous work of Nobuyuki Fukumoto, a Seinen Mangaka. Starting in 1996, it has since then received critical acclaim for its ridiculous yet brilliant gambles as well as the complex psychological analyses of the characters. There are currently four series, the first two of which have gotten anime adaptations by Madhouse (much like Akagi before it), and eventually Live Action Adaptation films and pachinko games. Kaiji also makes an appearance in Girls RPG Cinderellife, a dating sim by Level 5, for Nintendo 3DS. As of 2012, the fourth series has been put on hiatus and will resume in a year.

Tropes used in Kaiji include:

The series in general

Part I

  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Kaiji hopes that the Yakuza don't come to collect on his debt after the first arc. They do, and he's forced to gamble again.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Andou betrays Kaiji twice, and he's in the story for fewer than four hours in-universe. Tonegawa has something more along the lines of Chronic Frontstabbing Disorder.
  • Cool Boat: Espoir.
  • Death by Irony: Tonegawa...okay, he doesn't die, but there was a lot of irony in how he loses the e-card game.
  • Downer Ending
  • Eye Scream: In the E-Card game, Kaiji gets to choose between putting his ear or eye on the line. Averted when he picks his ear, but we are still treated to some nice Imagine Spots with the mini-drill moving closer to his eyeball.
  • I Know You Know I KnowArguably how Tonegawa is defeated; by being too careful.
  • In a Single Bound: Sahara's leap in episode 14 is at least presented this way, whether it is or not is debatable.
  • Karma Houdini: Hyoudou escapes unscathed at the end of series 1.
  • Lost Him in a Card Game: A good reason to avoid being sent to the Other Room on the Espoir.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Hyoudou (whose name isn't even revealed until the very last episode) is the man behind Tonegawa.
  • Meaningful Name: The ship at the beginning of the series is called Espoir, which is the French word for hope.
  • Poor Predictable Rock: Somethingverted in the first arc; it could be described as anything from Played Straight to Deconstructed.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: During the second half of the Human Derby arc, Tonegawa delivers these at least Once an Episode.
  • Rock-Paper-Scissors — With cards.
  • Shaggy Dog Story
  • What Happened to the Mouse?Tonegawa's fate is unclear at this point. Seeing as how Kurosaki has replaced him by series 2, it's probably safe to assume that, at the very least, he was demoted to a lower rank in Teiai.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain — Series 1 plays this brutally with Sahara's death. After making his way across the bridge of death, he finally prepares to open the door to cash in on the price money... Only to be blown off the building by the air compression blast from the window towards a certain death.
  • You Fail Physics Forever: In one game, the contestants have to cross a metal beam placed across a chasm without falling. In the first round, some people fell, but were able to grab onto the beam and avoid being injured. In the second round, the beam was electrified. However, since electricity seeks the path of least resistance, there would be no reason for it to travel through a person, then through the air to the ground. If the voltage was high enough for that, we would probably see electricity arcing to the ground upon flipping the switch.
    • No. Rubber tennis shoes are decent insulation; the current does not need to be terribly strong to force a person to loosen their grip and fall.
    • Furthermore, the only way a person would be shocked is if touching the beam completed a circuit. The metal beam is split in half. In order to be shocked, a person would have to essentially short circuit the path by touching both halves of the beam.
    • Lightning wouldn't strike the ground from twenty stories. Air is, you might notice, not the best conductor. You don't often see arcs from high voltage lines to the ground precisely because the path of least resistance is the high voltage line itself. These beams similarly would be the path of least resistance.

Part II

Part III & IV

  • Chekhov's Skill: Kaiji's reactionary gambling style is referred to by Kaguya as a tsunami. Kaiji dismisses the notion at first but invokes the metaphor again when in doubt.
  • Face Heel Turn: Miyoshi and Maeda, but it's justified; see Well-Intentioned Extremist below.
  • Giant Spider: In a Stock Visual Metaphor. Eek.
  • Giggling Villain: Muraoka.
  • Mahjong: The entire third part focuses on this game, but it's a two-player variant.
  • Poor Communication Kills: In series 2, the Bog payed out 700 million yen, and Kaiji split it with Sakazaki and Endou. When Muraoka tells Miyoshi and Maeda about this, he tells them to "test" Kaiji by asking for his help and seeing how he responds after they add that he can profit from it. Because Kaiji denied their request at first and accepted it only when they offered money, they thought Kaiji had been using and holding out on them and the other 45'ers. As such, they decided to scam him out of money. Had Kaiji not been too proud to admit that he didn't beat the Bog alone, none of this would have happened.
  • Show Within a Show: Kazuya's in-universe novel.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Miyoshi and Maeda did not betray Kaiji just because they could; due to a misunderstanding, they thought he had betrayed them.

Live Action Movies

Zawa Zawa Zawa