Animal World: Kaiji Film Adaptation Review

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Manga Review: Tobaku Datenroku Kaiji: Kazuya-hen

Tobaku Datenroku Kaiji: Kazuya-hen is Part 4 of the Kaiji manga series by Nobuyuki Fukumoto.ย For my review on Part 3, click here.

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In the beginning of the arc, Kaiji reads a novel written by Kazuya. The story is ridiculous, but it was also extremely captivating. I was completely drawn in and couldn’t stop reading.

Kaiji plays a significantly smaller role in this part. Unlike the other arcs in which he is the main player, this arc is focused on three best friends: Mitsuyama, Chang, and Mario. The three friends play the Salvation Game. Kaiji and Kazuya watch from the sidelines while the three friends put their friendship to the test. Either all three friends will win the game and split up the prize money (millions of dollars) or one friend will betray the others and take all the money for himself. If the latter happens, the two remaining friends will have their skulls crushed and will die as a consequence.

Kaiji believes that Mitsuyama, Chang, and Mario will work together until the end and win the game, while Kazuya believes that they’re all frauds. He believes that betrayal is inevitable and that it’s inherent to human nature. I found that my own morals were put to the test because I felt that I had to pick a side. To be completely truthful, I kept going back and forth between Kaiji’s and Kazuya’s arguments. In the end, the side I picked lost.

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Kaiji stands his ground and doesn’t suck up to people he doesn’t like!

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Kaiji compares the players to his “friends.” This was a painful page to read. Not only did I feel empathy towards Kaiji, I was also reminded of my own experiences of betrayal.

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Kaiji still protests, despite being punched and kicked on.

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Kaiji isn’t involved in the game, doesn’t know the players, but still feels empathy for the players.

Why do I read Kaiji?

  1. It makes me feel better about my own life. I reflect upon my own life and think,ย my life isn’t bad at all. I’m actually so lucky to have a supportive family and a roof over my head. I don’t have to worry about going hungry. I have clothes that will keep me warm. I have a bed and access to a hot shower.ย 
  2. Kaiji inspires me. Yes, he’s a fictional character but he’s a resilient character.

Manga Review: Tobaku Datenroku Kaiji

Tobaku Datenroku Kaiji is Part 3 of the Kaiji manga. The events that take place happen after the second season of the anime.

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Synopsis: Kaiji is living in Mr. Sakazaki’s new house but he doesn’t work or do anything. Mikoko adores Kaiji, but the feelings are not mutual. (The scenes in the ending theme song of Kaiji season 2 were showing the future!) Maeda and Miyoshi, two of Kaiji’s friends that were freed from the underground labour camp, approach him to gamble. Kaiji accepts, and the rest is on mahjong.

Kaiji plays against the President of a casino in a game of 17 Steps. 17 Steps is a different version of mahjong in which you do not pick up new tiles. Instead, you can only discard tiles. The stakes are high – if Kaiji loses, he’ll have to pay the consequences.

Thoughts: I loved the beginning because you see Kaiji’s day-to-day life when he is not gambling. It will be difficult to understand the match if you do not know how to play mahjong. However, I don’t think you have to know how to play it because it’ll still be interesting to see the tensions building up and the emotional turmoil the characters experience. It’ll be beneficial to know how to play mahjong, but not required.

The art takes a while to get used to, but it depicts human emotions and suffering so well. Yes, it distorts features of the face and exaggerates expressions, but the art is so expressive.

Out of the three story parts so far, I liked this one the least. Don’t get me wrong – it’s great and it’s better than most manga I’ve read. Compared to the first two parts, however, it’s less exciting. Do I recommend this? Absolutely yes, but you have to start from the beginning.

Kaiji is my second favourite series. Kaiji Itou demonstrates so much resilience despite all the sh*t he’s been through. He’s been betrayed again and again, has nearly faced death many times, has been in the lowest situations imaginable, yet he still has faith in humanity. He still clings onto hope.

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Freedom feels relaxing in the beginning, but when freedom is prolonged, life feels empty and meaningless. Thus, I have a blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

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A reminder to myself in all situations.

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I was reading Kaiji on a day I was feeling sorry for myself, and this page sparked something within me. I think that perseverance is a strength in all of us.