Review: Akagi

Well, here I am today doing a review again, because ‘lo and behold, I’ve misplaced my tablet pen somewhere and can’t draw Jack & Jill. I’m terribly sorry for failing at life, but I can’t help it. So to make it up to you, here’s the next anime on my list to review: Fukumoto Nobuyuki’s Akagi.

Before watching this show, it’s important to get some basic knowledge of mahjong (most importantly the rules) to enjoy the show. Or else it’ll just be people shouting out random phrases throughout the series. And after you do that, feel free to dig in! Itadakimasu~

I just met you and this is crazy, but... nevermind.

Here’s the gist. One dark and stormy night, this small time gambler named Nangou is playing mahjong with the Yakuza, trying to win off his debts. All of a sudden, this mysterious 13-year-old comes into the room seeking refuge from the cops after surviving a deadly game of chicken. Yep, this kid’s name is Akagi Shigeru, and he ends up subbing in for Nangou in the mahjong game. It turns out Akagi is a mahjong prodigy; he instinctively has all of the wits a player needs to troll, cheat and win against his opponents. Not to mention, Akagi loves living on the edge of life and death, literally. Ladies and gentlemen, you might not see it yet, but we have a bona fide crazy person as the main character.

Nangou (left) and Yasuoka (right)

And that was the introductory arc. The rest of the arcs happen in 5 years, when Akagi is 18. Meet the re-occuring dirty detective named Yasuoka, also known as the guy 13-year-old Akagi was running from after his chicken game. Yasuoka followed Akagi to the Yakuza mahjong parlor and actually witnessed Akagi’s mahjong game, so he ends up scouting Akagi to play for the Yakuza. And this is pretty much how the plot for this arc advances; Akagi goes and plays all of the Yakuza’s best mahjong players.

The last arc is entirely about Akagi going up against this crazy and senile old man, named Washizu Iwao, who seems more or less exactly like the person Akagi might grow old into. Washizu has amassed a huge sum of money, and basically has nothing better to do with the rest of his living years. So, he goes around challenging young mahjong prodigies to games, in which the stakes are their lives. Very literal life or death situation.

The number of shits I give? Zero.

As far as plot goes, it’s just Akagi going around playing mahjong with people. It’s the character development that’s really intense. Akagi’s personality doesn’t change throughout the series, but at the same time he manages to stay a mystery. And as for the games Akagi takes part in, they should be renamed “Akagi’s Cruel and Unusual Mental Torture Games.” Every single opponent Akagi goes against leaves not only defeated, but mentally ripped apart. Oh, and yes, the viewer does witness this process. So in terms of character development, I’d say the series gives a great view of what’s in each character’s head, aside from Akagi.

As always, I’ll bunch up art and animation. The art is definitely very stylized, with a rather deformed looking side-view featuring a distinct nose bridge, large lips and a rather narrow head. For some obviously crooked guys, It’s pretty hard to get used to in the beginning, but by the end it shouldn’t bother you anymore. In terms of animation, it’s as decent as non-shounen gets, considering this started airing in 2005; it’s consistent, they did a good job on filling up background space, and for the most part movement is fluid and realistic. Then again, most of the time, the animation team is just drawing up frames of mahjong tiles.

And finally the music. Before I start on music, I’d like to say that I absolutely love the voice actor for Akagi’s character. The voice is just the right amount of cool, sleezy, snooty and aloof. It was a really great choice. Now, the OP is some old school soft rock song called “Nantoka Nare,” by Furuido. The title means something along the lines of “I’ll manage,” or “I’ll make do,” although apparently the translation of the lyrics is pretty deep-set in misery. In any case, it’s catchy and the acoustic guitar melody tugs at the heart strings. I can’t say the same for the ED, I felt like it didn’t fit at all with the whole old-school feel of the show. As for the OST, the tracks comprise of sultry mystery-flick music, and it’s actually pretty good…just nothing spectacular.

I have to say, Akagi is one of my favorite anime of all time. It has a very unique main character who is an anti-hero that both enters and exits kicking ass, all the while staying true to his psychotic ways. The plot is easy to follow and still interesting. It’s a show that just works, so I really do want to give thanks for the grub. Thanks for reading, we are over and out! Gochisousama deshita~

Rating Breakdown
The plot is easy to follow, but still interesting. It just follows Akagi as he sits around mentally dissecting and destroying his opponents.
The strongest point of the anime. Akagi's character does not progress, and yet he remains a mystery the entire time. Everyone else's thought process and personality is explained through their playing style. Rather than focusing on likability, the show focuses on character exposition and depth.
Art style is deformed and definitely hard to get used to.
Pretty good for the time. Attention to background detail, quality is consistent, etc.
OST was okay but not spectacular. OP is great, ED is terribad.
Very enjoyable for people who have basic knowledge of mahjong and tend to like darker themed psychological or mystery flicks. I happen to like both, so it was a show suited for me.

Miscellaneous Details:
Studio:  Madhouse
Director: Yuzo Sato
Character design: Takahiro Umehara
Music: Hideki Taniuchi
Original creator: Nobuyuki Fukumoto (manga)
Original run: October 4, 2005 – March 28, 2006

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Just someone who was born with mugibrows.


Just someone who was born with mugibrows.

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