Under The Knife: Kaiji, Akagi, etc. AKA Series by Nobuyuki Fukumoto

by Link
(He hasn’t really watched any new anime since Kaiji.)

Okay, so… I’ve talked about this stuff for practically a year now. There’s at least 4 or 5 articles related to Kaiji or Akagi on HealingTouch, maybe more. But, I’ve yet to actually sit down and REVIEW the series. These series are very unknown but very epic. This is the underground of anime in the states. Be hip and cool. Read my review and watch/read the different series!


Kaiji and Akagi and every other one of Nobuyuki Fukumoto’s works are VERY hard to actually describe and make them sound enticing.


Akagi is about a Mahjong prodigy and plays Mahjong against all these super experienced players and he kicks ass and takes names. Akagi makes very extreme gambles, some that even risk his own life.

Kaiji is about a down and out crybaby who is up to his neck in a debt that doesn’t even belong to him in the first place. He gets roped up into the dirty underworld of Yakuza and gambling and is life is on the line throughout all 26 episodes. It’s real do or die shit.


Why should I care?

Overall, just by reading that, you’re sorta like “Meh.” For the most part I’d assume. They sound sorta average and/or not interesting/special. Next comes the art style. You’ve got these moon faced giant nosed ugly people with bad hair as most of the main characters. Additionally, everything takes place in REALITY, no magical girls, no giant mechas, no magical girls IN giant mechas, final destination.

BUT, what makes Kaiji AMAZING is the superb story telling and edge of your seat shit that goes on. You really grow to love the characters and everything about them. You feel Kaiji’s pain when he loses, and cheer for him when he is victorious. That sort of shit. You’re always just waiting to see what happens next, and what sort of brilliant plan and counter-plan might occur, it’s sort of like a chess match and the same sort of drama that people seem to enjoy with Death Note, but on a more realistic level.

Semi-Fictional Example:

Kaiji has to draw the correct card from his opponent’s hand, he has a 1/4 chance of doing it, yet it’s not all based on luck. There’s patterns and strategy and psychology that all come into play. If Kaiji draws the wrong card, then a drill device attached to his ear will move drill 5 milimeters closer to piercing his ear drum. If he’s victorious he makes a LOT of money, and keeps his ear drum intact for another round.

Besides the actual drama itself, the wording and metaphors used. AMAZING metaphors and visuals for the most mundane things. All the while that above example is going on, the narrator is telling you these amazing things about what’s occuring with Kaiji, about how the beasts of gambling are breaking loose from their chains and will soon take hold of his heart and causing him to go into a panicked state. Kaiji can only supress these feelings for so long, and fights his damndest to remain calm but it is all in vain!!!!!!

If that wasn’t enough, check out this video from Akagi…

Just, shit like that. Kaiji & Akagi are series that takes the seemingly mundane and make it an extraordinary roller coaster ride of orgasmic proportions. It’s a VERY fresh change of pace from all the Evangelion, Dragonball Z, Lucky Star, Harem Anime, Mecha Anime, etc. crap that everyone is so damn used to. Not to mention a lot of his works have won several manga awards and the such for being so damn awesome.

So, you might be asking yourself the following “Why haven’t I heard of this yet?” and “Why isn’t it licensed?”.

Honestly, it’s not licensed for much the same reason we don’t have Mother 3 in America. They’re not sure if they’ll have the market for it. The Mangas are worded in such a Kanji shit-storm that they’re very difficult to translate and localize without some serious effort. Even fan translations have only made it a few chapters into each series. The reason nobody has heard of these series, is because they came out during the ‘Death Note, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Higurashi’ shit storm. At least Kaiji did. Additionally, only ONE group was fansubbing it. It’s DEFINITELY the underdog of last year & first quarter ’08 anime seasons.

That, in not so much of a nutshell, is WHY people need to watch Kaiji, and then if they enjoy Kaiji, DEFINITELY check out Akagi, as well as the rest of Fukumoto’s works.


What About Akagi?

So… I guess I went off on a Kaiji rant there. My bad. Akagi is a series that takes some extra footwork. It’s based around Mahjong, the gambling version, not the silly little match the tiles pyramid game you play on your PC. Mahjong is essentially the Japanese form of Poker. It involves creating sets, setting up your openent, bluffing, and all that jazz. Because the rules are so different, and all the pieces/suits have weird ass names that we aren’t used to, it’s VERY hard to follow some times unless you go somewhere to familiarize yourself with the rules.

It primarily focuses around strategy, and while Kaiji might have been a very “emotional” anime with Kaiji rejoicing or crying or getting angry, Akagi is quite different. Akagi’s main character, Akagi, is a very emotionless sort of guy. He’s just a standard bad ass with a major hint of psychotic in him. He’s like The Joker if he didn’t have a sense of humor. The guy is just plain up crazy and wreckless and loves risking it all, etc. He’s the complete opposite of Kaiji, but in some ways it makes him harder to relate to.


Fun Facts/Fukumoto Works in Popular Culture

– They Are My Noble Masters and xxxHOLiC have both parodied Akagi/Kaiji in some of their episodes that revolve around gambling. How cool is that?! There is also a baseball anime named One Outs copies the hierarchy/storytelling of Akagi and Kaiji.

– There are talks of a live action Kaiji movie starring Tatsuya Fujiwara of Battle Royale/Death Note fame!

– Restricted Rock, Paper, Scissors is being played at Anime Conventions!


Getting Started

The following is a listing of all the Fukumoto anime/manga series out there available to you on the web (let me stress to all of you that BECAUSE this series isn’t licensed outside of Japan downloading fansubs and manga translations won’t get you in trouble with the law.)

AHK – Manga Translations of Akagi

Beginner’s Guide to Mahjong

Zawa Zawa Project – Manga Translations of Buraiden Gai

Zaotaku.info – Gin to Kin Translations

Tobaku Haouden ZERO – There’s a fan translation out there somewhere, I swear.

The Triad – Fansubs of both Akagi and Kaiji

Anime Blitzkrieg: Kaiji – Episode 1 Overview

Kaiji Soundtrack – Amazing soundtrack, a must listen, regardless of if you watch the anime or not.


Final Score

Overall I’d give Kaiji 10/10 and Akagi 8/10. Although they’re BOTH amazing series that should be watched, Kaiji is just more accessible to the open public.


  1. It’s true, they are hard to describe well enough to make them sound awesome. But good job!! ::two thumbs up::

  2. I wasn’t a fan of Kaiji, it was cool and all, but just very repetitive. And I really had a feeling that Kaiji would get into some crazy shit that would either A.) get rid of his dignity by doing something sexual with another male B.) Remove one of his body parts C.) Do shit that would get him killed in a second

    I would mostly give it an 8 on my side. I love the art though!

  3. […] Kaiji, Akagi, etc. AKA Series by Nobuyuki Fukumoto by Link […]

  4. I liked both Kaiji and Akagi — would have to give the nod to Akagi, which is kind of an adult version of “Hikaru No Go”. Anyone who likes these should probably check out Gungrave, which has a similar real-world hellhole-to-yakuza vibe (plus zombies and mutants, if you need that sort of thing :-)

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