Kaiji S2 1 – Just One More Beer …
Been slow going so far this season because nothing I’ve watched as of yet has interested me enough to write about it save Fireball Charming (but that’s just one-shot post) . . . nothing, that is, aside from Kaiji. I’m a big fan of the first season, and while writing about the second may get frustrating at times due to the show’s notoriously slow pace (which is on full display in this episode), I’m sticking with it because Kaiji is just that awesome.
Before this season, I read a bit of rumbling about whether another season of Kaiji is ultimately necessary. After all, the first season ends on a pretty conclusive note — it’s not really satisfying for Kaiji (he lost his ear, some fingers and all the money he had won before), but from a storytelling point of view, it fits with the story’s M.O. Kaiji can’t win because the games are constructed to keep guys like him down and suffering. He comes close to victory, but he then becomes obsessed with the idea of completely sticking it to Hyoudou, and that’s where he slips up. That desire for total vengeance ends up fucking Kaiji over, and he’s in a worse situation than before. Not a happy ending, but probably the right ending for what the plot’s been preaching the entire time.
That said, I do still think there’s at least more to mine from Kaiji if told in the right way. I don’t think this is really an unnatural continuation of the story — at the end of the first season, I think it’s pretty clear that Kaiji’s a full-blown gambling addict. (If I remember correctly, he focuses almost entirely on how he was this close to taking down Hyoudou and how he’ll totally get his revenge the next go around.) Kaiji still being a worthless bum and being pleased as fuckin’ punch to see Endou (his link to the gambling world) is not shocking at all.
It’s obvious the only place Kaiji has any worth is when he’s putting his life on the line in these deadly gambling games. That’s the whole point of the first season, after all. It’s partly that there’s no real outlet for Kaiji to make something of himself, but it’s also that Kaiji is an incredibly flawed person. What can you say for a guy whose best traits emerge only under threat of death or worse? He’s cunning, analytical, empathetic . . . but only when gambling. Otherwise, he’s an idiot, which gives him something in common with a great many people. (Including myself, really; I can’t get up on my high horse when writing about Kaiji.) It takes that outside stimulus to get those synapses firing in his brain; Kaiji lives totally on instinct, which gives him an advantage in gambling because he’s got great instincts for that, and doesn’t help him much elsewhere.
But this is, of course, all ground covered in the first season. At least in the first episode, there’s nothing particularly new about the initial construction of the story: Kaiji gets dragged into a shitty situation due to his poor life choices, he gets suckered into making things worse because he is easily manipulated, and then he’s pulled into a gambling game that promises to make it all better (but ultimately will not). That’s the challenge the second season faces: Taking an audience that knows Kaiji‘s tricks and making them buy into the suspense again. Kaiji is at its best when the titular hero is pushed to his limit. How much further can Kaiji be pushed, though?
I think my favorite part of this episode (aside from the narrator, of course, who is as ridiculous as ever) is that the laborers are building a dual nuclear shelter/underground paradise. If Hyoudou wasn’t in total supervillain territory before, he sure as shit is now!
(P.S. My group of choice for Kaiji is The Triad, which is why my post on the first episode is so late. My Kaiji posts will come well after episodes are initially available, but so be it; that’s the price I’m willing to pay for quality. It just wouldn’t be Kaiji without The Triad.)
(P.P.S. zawa zawa zawa)