Mike ‘n’ Sam’s Summer Anime Funstravaganza 7: Gambler’s Fallacy

Zawa… Zawa zawa… Kaiji is fucking awesome and you should watch it right now. “We don’t need your rules / We don’t need your morals” shouts Masato Hagiwara in the OP, yet his character is arguably one of the most moral anime has ever seen. Kaiji Itou is in massive debt, but is given the chance to pay these debts off in elaborate games held for the amusement of wealthy businessmen. There are four clear arcs in Kaiji, with the first three revolving around ‘gambles’ created by the Big Bad. In these games, not once does Kaiji go against the pre-ordained rules. Indeed, his morality extends to a surprisingly idealistic worldview – though you could call him naïve and not be far off the truth. In the first arc he is backstabbed no less than three times, but still manages to survive the game (albeit saddled with more debt than when he started) when it looked like all was lost and rescue another participant from the brink. The second game is essentially kill or be killed to begin with, and even then Kaiji can’t bring himself to do it. And accordingly, he gets what’s coming to him and survives.

The third arc is gruesome in what is being staked – a card game where Kaiji bets not with money (for he has none) but with his health. He wears a device that drills into his ear, betting millimetres – once the drill reaches 30mm it will rupture his eardrum. With much of the game gone already, he finally realises the game is rigged – his opponent is monitoring his vital signs through the device – (big spoiler here) he beats the system by cutting off his own ear. Hey, no one said he couldn’t do it. The gamble finally pays off, netting Kaiji ¥20 million (though after paying off debt and keeping a promise to the man he saved in the first arc this is reduced to ¥3 million).

However, the final arc has Kaiji seeking revenge. He never got to defeat the man behind everything, Hyoudou, so he devises a rigged lottery. Everything is meticulously planned, and Hyoudou insists they play for ¥100m, with the deficit on Kaiji’s side made up by putting his fingers on the line. It’s the first time Kaiji acts at all immoral in the whole series, and guess what? It all goes tits up. It goes very tits up. Kaiji’s desire for the ultimate victory led him to go against his principles and suffer a humiliating defeat.

If you’re at all interested in the principles behind the gambles in Kaiji (with a particular look at the mathematics – I know there are people out there who would be intrigued), look out for a post on the subject on this very blog. I should have it done by the end of the month.

For Sam’s next show, I rolled a 1 – something I saw and enjoyed. Isn’t he lucky!? So I think we’ll go with one of the less well-remembered noitaminA shows – House of Five Leaves.

House of Five Leaves

I still adore this art style.

4 thoughts on “Mike ‘n’ Sam’s Summer Anime Funstravaganza 7: Gambler’s Fallacy

  1. Kaiji is a show I’ve had on my to-watch list for a while, but from the looks of what you’re saying, it sounds absolutely enthralling. I’ll be sure to give it a try very soon then! I’m a huge fan of moral relativity, so Kaiji sounds right up my alley.

    As for House of Five Leaves- I can assure you that you’re bound to love it, both on an animation level and on a plot/character/theme level. It also explores the idea of moral relativity, but it’s very slow and focuses a lot on its characters. Natsume Ono is one of my favorite artists/storytellers around and I really hope you’ll enjoy the show as much as I did!

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