At the beginning of Kaiji 24, something unusual happens. Kazutaka Hyodo (the Chairman) asks Kaiji for something. It’s not something important – all he wants Kaiji to do is to let go of his wrist – but it is a request. Having tried to beat Kaiji’s arm away with his cane, the Chariman resorts to calmly asking Kaiji to do something (he should’ve hit Kaiji on the left side of his head, but in the heat of the moment perhaps he forgot about Kaiji’s injury).
This moment holds in it the essence of what we see for much of the episode: for the first time, the Chairman and Kaiji are interacting on something like equal terms. Indeed, for the first half of the episode Kaiji is in control of the situation, deceiving the Chairman and his black suits so that they accept his tissue-box gamble. Thinking back, it’s remarkable how far Kaiji has come from the tyre-slashing bum of the first episode – though he’s down one ear, of course. Now we see him and the Chairman sitting across a table as nominal equals. Both have minions in the room, and they’re trying to manipulate each other by the requests they make and the conditions they set for the lottery. (If there’s one thing we learned from the girder game, it’s that the devil is all-too-frequently in the detail.)
They’re only nominal equals, though. The black suits aren’t nursing injuries from the Brave Men Road like Kaiji’s fellow debtors are, and Kaiji’s not really able to dictate terms to the Chairman: whatever happens, the Chairman will presumably be going to bed when the show ends (unless Kaiji manages to give him a heart attack), while Kaiji is most definitely bound for hospital (quite how many appendages he’ll be missing we don’t, as yet, know). And while we saw Kaiji controlling the room in the first half of the episode, it’s important to remember that this was seen from the perspective of, and partly narrated by, one of his supporting debtors. We don’t know how things look from the Chairman’s side of the table. [Though we can discount the possibility of cameras in the bathroom, because Kaiji pulled off his ear(-trick).]
The wall-mounted armaments seemed more prominent in this episode.
I’m also still puzzling over who’s in the left-hand portrait – anyone recognise it?
I’m suspicious. Is Kaiji being lured into a trap (and not the Ackbar kind – this is Kaiji, where the women look like men rather than the men looking like women) by such a large amount of money? The pile of one hundred million yen caused visual distortions similar to the ones caused by fear on the electrified girder. Kaiji could overcome that fear and avoid plunging to his death then; has he just succumbed to greed here?
The narrator himself declares the money to be ‘the most dangerous and most tempting monster’, but Kaiji is attracted by the prospect of starting his life over. I am compelled to ask: can you ever reboot your life? Well, of course not. In the best case scenario, Kaiji’s going to have some interesting stitch-work on his left ear (you can tell how I’m still getting over the fact that he CUT HIS FREAKING EAR OFF by how much I’m referring to it). And I doubt this story’s dumb enough to go with ‘and he lived happily ever after because of his abso-bloody-lutely ginormous financial assets.’ And I want a second season – there’s plenty of Kaiji manga left, after all.
Plus there’s the cheating. I’m not going to condemn Kaiji for it: I don’t like condemning real people, and it feels even stupider to condemn a fictional character. But my doubts have been stimulated by his minions’ moral scruples in the previous episode, and by Karura’s remarks on said previous episode:
There’s something anticlimactic about the whole plan depending on cheating from the start – I suppose there’s some interest in the strategy of cheating, but it’s more enjoyable when a character is pushed to cheat after the game has begun, if they must do so at all.
Kaiji will impress me if Kaiji’s cunning plan unravels itself in a classic case of ‘what a tangled web we weave’. You’re probably familiar by now with my assertion that Kaiji is not a clone of Akagi (and the Kaiji‘s better for not trying to be Akagi). This gamble is the one which bears the closest resemblance to mahjong – the opponents will take turns to reach into a box and draw out a square object. It would be clever if this was where Kaiji tried to behave like Akagi and failed, and this would avoid the anticlimax of Kaiji planning to cheat and then succeeding. But we shall have to see.
In closing, I shall note one final thing. There are few more mass-produced, more disposable things than paper tissues, which are basically designed for cleaning up messes. How brilliant is it that, facing an incredibly wealthy man in a room full of luxurious, well-crafted furnishings and decor, Kaiji’s weapon is a box of tissues? I’ll tell you: very brilliant indeed.