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Sunday, 20 October 2013

Kaiji's second episode

Bad hair styles, pointy and hugely deformed noses and unlikely anime eyes. Those traits belong unmistakeably in the domain of drama and gamble gender inspired by Nobuyuki Fukumotto. On the first episode we got to be briefed on Kaiji's background and his uncalled-for features, namely being a major vagrant unable to walk life's road to success. Fortunately, our protagonist is presented with a heaven-sent call to take part in an unknown gamble to help himself out the rut he is in. Onward to episode 2:

Your fate is in the cards
  So Kaiji boards a liner on which a gamble takes place. The ship is freakin huge with all sorts of facilities! It even feels strange that deadbeat debtors get to travel on such a luxurious means of transportation. Problem is, they aren't supposed to appreciate the oceanic stroll. They'll be busy for the next four hours trying to figure a way out of their dire predicament.

A buttload of depressed people trying to look tough before the mighty hallmaster
The segment is richly illustrated and rekindles memories of  job interviews and applications, like the times when you join long queues to get a shot at whatever was at stake and you have to stand out above the rest of the pack in order to bag that one desired job. At first you are an anonymous figure, part of the unknown tide of humankind, in which not one in a thousand is attractive. But yet, you sure know that you need that coveted staff position that made you go out of your way and then your turn arrives to deliver. That's teh kind of feeling that tags along the viewer in many Kaiji episodes. Kaiji is very human and the viewer, having been exposed to the hero's limitations since day one of the series, knows full well that Kaiji has no puissant powers to get him above the common fold. Even worse, Kaiji seems incredibly unremarkable to content in the rat race. This is what makes the series a fantastical experience, because you can genuinely root for the main characters because not only it's easy to commiserate with him, but you're never sure of what is going to happen, even whether he is going to win. The plot in Kaiji branches off in many different directions and there's no way to anticipate it. This alone makes for a good portion of the built up sense of anxiety to get to the next episode...
Black suits are some of this show's staples

But now that Kaiji is in the heat of it, what gamble will pay his debt?

Attached to a stick-in velcro strip, star pendants will be used to keep track of the player's progress on a round of Restricted Rock-paper-scissors. Victory means an obtained star pendant, while defeat equates loss of one. A tie means that nothing happens, apart from the discarding of the used cards. Ah, players are supposed to use up all of their gesture cards (there are 12 of them) in order to finish the game. At the end of the game if a player still has some cards left, regardless of how many star pendants he has, he will be sent to the "dreaded other room". Apparently, the other room is a place where no-one wants to go. It's never made clear up to this point what the losers' den looks like, but Kaiji is so terrified at the thought of being sent there that his thought doesn't linger long on this prospect. All that matters for him is to get over this gamble as quickly as possible, and do the best thing that he can do- survive.

How low this whole gamble bullshit makes me!

Repent while you can! I may not be here long.
Although Kaiji is deep in debt, he is (along with all the other debtors) forced to accept a new loan, which will comprise their "war funds". The minimal amount to be borrowed is 1 million yen while the limit is 10 million. Kaiji goes for the upper limit after a peer confidently sails by to do the same, implying that it's necessary to ensure utter survival.It should also be explained that the hosts are willing to lend the money at an interest rate that compounds every 10 minutes. This is a very crippling twist added to the gamble, compelling the players to be all the more careful not to come off with an even bigger financial deficit, thus mounting on the pressure to end games quickly.

But who is the mysterious with the gall to strut with all that confidence at a time like this? What impact will he have for the remainder of Kaiji's stay? WHat did he mean when he stated that taking the upper limit was the only logical choice to make? It might not mean much by now, but this man will later turn out to be a very likeable and at the same time revoltingly swindling conman.For now he has a decent proposal to Kaiji and totes it accordingly:
Some of Kaiji's worst opponents come out as seemingly harmless creatures.

Turns out that Kaiji can wear out his fateful supply of cards by getting 12 draws in a row! How come isn't everyone thinking about the same?

Here's why people on this ship aren't cooperating to break it even without causing harm to others. It's all fine and dandy to trust your partner in order to escape danger, but once the prospect of earning easy resources dawn on one of the participants' minds, things take a turn for the worse. If you happen to be called Funai, this means to tune in to your more inner cravings for material advantage, which is about the most ambitious goal a man can have in his darkest hours. If you're the same Funai who borrowed the upper limit of 10 million yen and you've approached a desperate young man with a sweet offer for freedom, this means you're bound to resort to something that most ethically minded entities would frown upon, but nevertheless seems convenient to fulfill personal desires.
You'd also be issuing zawa zawa sounds if you were just backstabbed .

That's right. Funai backstabs Kaiji without the slightest tingle of regret and leaves him with only one star pendant, one gesture card and a hopeless situation. Will now Kaiji at last show his true colours and make a dignified escapade or will he have to squirm out of this plight by employing the most unimaginable tactics yet?
Tonegawa drives home some painful truths to his target audience.More on him will be evident later as the series progresses.