Name: Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
MAL Score: 8.31/10
Genres: Game, Psychological, Seinen, Thriller
Potential light spoilers ahead
Do you have a sweet spot for psychological anime? Stories that feature the main character scrapping with others in a battle of wit? If you’re hungry for more mind games from a rivalry akin to Light and L, continue reading. Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor (Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji) is probably what you’re looking for.
Kaiji Itou is a lonely, lazy man that is always in debt. His daily routine consists of drinking beer, gambling, and stealing hubcaps from expensive cars. At first glance he may appear to be nothing more than a useless bum in society, but underneath that rugged exterior, is a man with a hidden gift. Kaiji is a genius with a gift for gambling. A unique ability that might have the potential to rescue him from drowning in his current debt. Desperate and out of options, Kaiji is presented with an opportunity to pay off this debt — by competing in a shady game of chance against other debt enslaved individuals. Unbenownst to Kaiji, this is where he would begin to unravel a world filled with cold-hearted deception.
The unusual art style is easily the first thing you’ll notice. Admittedly, I was initially turned off by Kaiji’s gritty, ugly aesthetic. It’s definitely a style that strays from the norm. Thankfully, the story was gripping enough for me to look past this and continue watching. A few episodes in, I actually started to get attached to the hideous world of Kaiji. The exaggerated facial expressions make the tense situations even more gut wrenching. I quickly realized the gritty, ugly aesthetic is all too fitting for the world of Kaiji.
Both Kaiji’s intro and ending song do a fantastic job at getting you hyped for our hero’s next mental battle. The voice acting is above average, but where Kaiji really shines is its narration. Tachiki Fumihiko’s dramatic narration explaining each character’s thought process is hilarious and gripping at the same time. This narrator could make any mundane task seem epic. There is a recurring “zawa” sound that represents the characters being in uncomfortable situations. This Fukumoto trademark onomatopoeia paired with tense music has you feeling just as nervous as the characters in the show.
The list of abnormalities in this anime continue to grow as I reflect on the show’s characters. You won’t find a single female character in this anime. The entire roster is made up of men and Kaiji Itou is the only character with any actual development. Kaiji is heroic to a fault, his trusting nature is often his downfall. Betrayal after betrayal, his cynicism grows throughout the story. Hopeless situation after hopeless situation, he has to get even more bold with his tactics in order to survive. You’ll be rooting for Kaiji all the way as the other characters are impossible to like.
Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor is easily one of the most addictive anime I’ve ever consumed. I effortlessly powered through all 26 episodes of the first season in one day. Despite this, be prepared to watch both seasons as the first season has a slightly unsatisfying ending. Also, there is a certain arc in the second season that goes on a little too long for my liking. These minor flaws hardly put a dent in the anime, consequently, I rate Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor an 8.5/10. If you consider yourself a fan of psychological thrillers, do yourself a favor and watch this immediately.
Written by yxn