So what do you get when you add an 1960′s era Japan, Yakuza, mahjong, and characters who seem to have been hit with Pinocchio’s curse? You get Akagi.
Akagi is an anime about a boy who suddenly delves into the world of gambling with the yakuza (Japanese mafia). Betting his life on the table, he reaches instant fame due to his incredible winning streaks against professionals, despite being a beginner. But as time passes, he learns more about mahjong and he faces more tougher opponents. Opponents who are more interested in taking Akagi’s life rather than winning money for their yakuza bosses.
When I first heard about this from my dear friend Roobar, I didn’t think an anime about mahjong could work. But after watching the first episode, I marathoned right up to episode 11, and have been keeping track of it since. It works the same with Prince of Tennis or Eyeshield 21, but with mahjong, except with a darker overtone.
There are quite a few characters in Akagi, but the one person that it is focused on is mainly Akagi. At the start you get an impression that Akagi is a cunning and ruthless person. But as you watch him play throughout the games, you understand that he is actually a complicated character. Every action he takes has a motive and he is a person that thinks before he moves. With a high IQ and foresight, he predicts every move made in the game, but also factors in emotional aspects of his opponents. With such insight he can determine the course of action based on his opponents state of mind. But he is also analytical of body language and can pick up weaknesses in their habits. Combining all these together, he not only wins, but he literally destroys his opponent.
The animation in this isn’t exactly spectacular. To be honest it’s rather ugly, yet it suits the series rather well. With the pointy noses, squared cheeks etc, it gives each of the character a type of personality to them. Though it also doesn’t distract you from the progress of the game, but with enough mahjong jargon going on you end up focusing on the subs often anyway. The use of CG animation of the mahjong table, and the crappy drawing style result in a intense and drawing interest to the world of mahjong.
Personally I have never played mahjong in my life. I’ve only watched relatives play. But after watching Akagi I can see that it is a very complex and innovative game. It isn’t always about outdoing your opponents, but its how you bring down your opponents as well. But not only that. Like all gambling games, you always need to take risks for you to succeed. Although the moves that you see in Akagi are very logical, I doubt you would ever see it in real life. But mind you if there was ever a situation like that, I sure would like to see it.
So in short, Akagi is logical, but ruthless game of mahjong which keeps your interests as the games progress making you want more by the end of each episode. With each move it surprises you thinking how such moves is possible. So if you do have knowledge about playing mahjong, then you’ll find this very enjoyable. But even if you know nothing, the game is explained throughout the series, you’ll still find it very enjoyable.