Ishida owed a lot of money to gangsters. His debt meant that his wife became something like an indentured labourer, working in a pachinko parlour under a false name. Ishida wasn’t clever or brave or physically strong, and if Tonegawa’s analysis of his psychology was right, he lived a life of feckless procrastination. He only survived the first challenge in Kajii because Kaiji saved him. Ishida inspired pity, not awe.
Until that episode back in January in which he died.
Everyone, with the possible exception of Kaiji, lost their heads in the second part of the Human Derby, but unlike the rest of the contestants Ishida thought of others before himself. When he realised that he would fail, he passed the ticket for his previous winnings to Kaiji with a plea to press on, win and get the money to his wife. He calmly encouraged Kaiji forward, begging him not to live a similarly meaningless life. Then he fell off the girder, covering his mouth with his hands so that he wouldn’t scream and startle Kaiji into falling too.
Ishida was always pathetic – perhaps never more so than when he was on the girder trembling and bawling in terror – but, as Kaiji himself was quick to point out, his life and death weren’t meaningless. Perhaps Ishida scraped only a very little worth out of life, and perhaps Kaiji wouldn’t have fallen even if Ishida had screamed on his way down, but he mastered himself in the end, which is quite impressive. Besides, as Bernie can tell you, it’s wrong to deny the heroism of a gesture just because it lacks clear, quantifiable results.
So let’s pause to remember Ishida. If you’re anything like me, you’re much closer to him than you are to Kamina.