Animal World (2018) is a Chinese film based on the manga, Kaiji by Nobuyuki Fukumoto. It is on the rock-paper-scissors arc of the manga. As a huge Kaiji fan, I had to watch this film.
Synopsis: Zheng Kaisi is tricked into shouldering on his friend’s debt. He enters a game that takes place on a ship. There, he sees players from all over the world with enormous debts. If he wins, he will be debt-free. However – if he loses, he will have to face a life worse than imaginable. The game is rock-paper-scissors but it has its own set of rules. Zheng Kaisi has to beat the other players in rock-paper-scissors. Sounds straight-forward, right?
Actually, it’s an extremely intense and interesting game. There are various psychological elements to consider, such as cheating, betrayal, working with comrades and greed. This psychological thriller/gambling film adapts the Kaiji manga very well. The gambling that happens in the film is identical to the manga, so you won’t be disappointed with the ending.
Something that was interesting was that the players were diverse and spoke different languages. Kaisi communicated with non-Chinese players by listening to an earpiece that translated the other player’s words into Chinese in real time. I thought this was realistic.
Kaiji is a great manga that tackles themes such as human nature and I think that ‘Animal World’ is a suitable name for the film because in an environment where there are not a lot of regulations, humans may succumb to “animal-like behaviours.” Kaisi is a great protagonist that refuses to degrade himself like that. In this game, he fights the resistance to betray others. He is a flawed protagonist that does not have a 100% chance of winning. That is what makes him such a relatable character.
I don’t think that Kaiji is a simple manga to adapt. Animal World did it well, because of a number of reasons. One, the cinematography is really well done. Nobuyuki Fukumoto does a lot of panels with metaphors, and Animal World has amazing graphics that showcases those metaphors. Metaphors help the audience understand the depths of what the character is feeling. I liked that the film remained close to the source material in this way.
The actor who plays Kaiji/Kaisi, Li Yifeng, is a great actor. He is famous in China and played the role really well. Kaisi is different from Kaiji in terms of his personality, family background, life situation and relationships, which gives Animal World its own sense of originality. Like Kaiji, Kaisi is a likable and strong protagonist.
The budget for this film and also the cinematography allowed the manga to come to life. Extra elements were added in the film but they were enjoyable to watch. Overall, I was really impressed with this adaptation and enjoyed it a lot. I recommend watching Animal World, even if you have never read or watched Kaiji. If you are a Kaiji fan, it doesn’t hurt to give this a try.
Animal World is available on Netflix.