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Manga: Akagi
I sense no life in you. I know. I was like that a second ago.

Tokyo, 1958. A 13-year-old kid, Shigeru Akagi, drives off a cliff in an rigged game of chicken, swims to safety and walks into a Mahjong parlor, where a man with heavy debts is gambling his life with the Yakuza. Despite having never played before, and given only a few minutes to learn the rules, he proceeds to crush his opponents. This becomes his modus operandi: breaking hardened gamblers into shells of their former selves with a deadly mix of intimidation, cunning, and monstrous luck. This is the start of the genius Akagi's legend in the underworld.

It should be noted that this is a prequel to Ten, where an older Akagi is one of the major characters. See also Kaiji which so far is the only other manga by Nobuyuki Fukumoto to get an anime adaptation.

This show provides examples of:

  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Akagi actually refused to play unless Washizu increased the wager to ten times the usual rate. This meant each mistake was more fatal, as Akagi would lose ten times more blood than usual. Ohgi wagered an arm as well, indicating his faith in Akagi was unshakable.
    • On the flip side, that meant Washizu would lose money at ten times the usual rate as well, eventually being driven into bankruptcy and being forced to wager his own blood.
  • All or Nothing: Akagi invokes the "double or nothing" wager against Yagi/Ryuuzaki. And again after defeating Ichikawa, though his request is denied.
    • Urabe also goes the "double or nothing" route against Fake Akagi, but it backfires horribly once the real Akagi steps in.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Washizu Iwao.
  • Asshole Victim: Akagi's co-workers, who try to con Osamu out of his pay, later fall victim to Akagi.
    • Most of Akagi's opponents, really. Not only they are professional gamblers who drive people into impossible debts without remorse, all of them, save Ichikawa, also are total assholes about this. And Ichikawa gets away from Akagi relatively lightly.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: All the pro players are very good at reading people. Akagi is the undisputed master, and also very good at keeping his opponents from reading him.
  • Batman Gambit: Everybody uses them, usually in the form of cheating or bluffing. And when it fails, oh, does it royally screw them over.
  • Big Bad: Washizu, whose arc takes up half of the anime and three-quarters of the manga, more than all the other opponents combined. He's got no connection to them, though.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The story is focused on the criminal underground of Showa Era Japan, meaning most of the characters are either ambiguously evil, members of the Yakuza, purely evil, or decent (and completely ineffective) normal people.
  • Boring, but Practical: Ichikawa's play style, which is lampshaded by everyone present. He gets Akagi on the ropes by consistently scoring with good hands over several rounds and is extremely difficult to Ron.
    • Fake Akagi plays by calculating the safest route to the quickest and beast-scoring hand, which is why the Yakuza head initially prefers him to the real thing. As a rep player he is a safe horse to back because he gains a consistent income, but being unwilling to gamble means he never wins big either.
  • Born Lucky: Akagi, Washizu, and Fake Akagi, to a lesser extent.
  • Butt Monkey: Yoshioka. Every time he shows concern for his boss, Washizu, he gets scolded and/or hurt.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : Averted. Akagi successfully cheats rather often. His opponents might notice, but won't call him out on it, possibly because they are cheating too.
  • Catch Phrase: The Akagi Chuckle. Oh yes. At least once per match, with a fan favorite being
    Akagi: "*Akagi Chuckle* You're a retard, Yagi-san."
  • Character Title
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Oh yes they do.
    • Unless they are Nakai in the manga, who takes Akagi on with two other allies, uses signals to get them to support him, uses sleight of hand to push the match further in his favor, and STILL loses.
  • The Chessmaster: Or rather mahjong master. Take a wild guess.
  • Combat Commentator
  • Cool Old Guy: Ichikawa.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Prior to the match against Washizu, Akagi makes an innocuous stop along the way. Turns out he purchased some energy drinks, knowing that the Absurdly High-Stakes Game meant that Washizu's people might try to poison their food/drinks. Ohgi apologizes for not having considered this obvious point.
    • Much later, in the manga, we find out that Akagi also got a blood transfusion of 500cc's, having already deduced the true nature of Washizu Mahjong. See the CMoA below.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: See Faux Symbolism in the YMMV tab. (The image on that page in particular.)
  • Cymbal-Banging Monkey: Akagi works in a factory that makes these.
  • Darkest Hour: When Akagi dies in the match against Washizu. See the Awesome tab above.
  • Dark Messiah: During his battle with Washizu Iwao, a mural on the wall behind Akagi portrays the Crucifixion, but Akagi is probably as far from a conventional Messiah as you can get.
  • Death Seeker: Sort of: Akagi is looking for a worthy opponent that he can struggle with in a game until one of them drops dead. In the manga, after he discards his blood, Washizu starts to think of him as suicidal.
  • Demonic Possession: Washizu seems to get help by demons to get his desired tile, a 1 Pin.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Anytime Akagi is down in points or the opponent has a huge lead. Not for Akagi, though, but rather everyone else around him.
  • Dirty Cop: Yasuoka. Akagi lampshades this fact early on, when Yasuoka agrees to setup a rematch, acting as the middleman.
  • Dirty Coward: Nakai.
  • Disposing of a Body: Fake Akagi's burial was interrupted and his corpse was discovered.
  • Down to the Last Play: The matches are usually close in the penultimate round, and Akagi barely comes out on top, point-wise. (For example, he barely won the first han-chan session against Washizu by 1000 points.)
    • Then we get to the (manga-only) fifth han-chan session against Washizu... and find that Akagi wins by an overwhelming 120,000+ points. Adding in the rank bonuses, that means Akagi wins over 200 MILLION yen in one session alone. The sixth han-chan session starts off with a reversal, with Washizu taking an early 99,000 point lead. However...
  • The Dragon: Suzuki to Washizu.
  • Duel to the Death: What Akagi vs Ichikawa was going to be, until Ichikawa suffered a Villainous Breakdown.
    • What Akagi vs Washizu literally is, due to the drawing of blood on both sides, following Washizu's bankruptcy.
    • This is Akagi's true goal. He wants a Duel to the Death with a Worthy Opponent of HIS credentials.
  • Easy Impersonation: Fake Akagi, who only has two things in common with the titular hero: white hair and a pointy nose.
    • To be fair he was supposed to be a 19 years old Akagi, when the last anyone had seen of him was when he was only 13 years old.
  • Evil Laugh: Urabe has a pretty unnerving one in his Villainous Breakdown.
  • Evil Gloating: Akagi's opponents always do this when they have the upper hand. And it always ends badly for the gloater, who really ought to wait until it's truly over.
  • False Roulette: Akagi pulls this on a group of punks out for revenge. After having actually shot them in the legs.
  • Faux Death: Akagi, during the Washizu arc. TWICE.
  • Fight Unscene: The final two han-chan sessions of the Washizu arc are not shown in the anime. The manga, which is still ongoing, does show these. And it is even crazier and more awesome than what the anime showed.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The author's earlier manga Ten, which takes place after Akagi, said he never lost a match. The timeskip to 1999 at the end of the last episode also spells out what the outcome of Washizu Mahjong will be.
  • Gambit Roulette: Guess who pulls these off spectacularly?
  • The Gambler: Duh.
  • Handicapped Badass: Ichikawa.
  • The Hero Dies: For real at the end of Ten. In the Akagi manga, it turns out to be a Not Quite Dead moment both times.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Happens after Akagi loses a total 2000cc's of blood and again after losing a total of 2300cc's.
    • Also used in the Mahjong sense, as rounds are named after the cardinal directions (ie East Wind and East Round).
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: All of Akagi's opponents. ALL OF THEM. (Yagi, Ichikawa, his greedy co-workers, Fake Akagi, Urabe, Washizu, and the manga-only Nakai.)
  • House Rules: Mahjong has plenty, but Washizu Mahjong adds a slew of them. For instance, they play with an unusual set of tiles; three out of four are transparent.
  • Invincible Hero: Akagi never loses a game. He may lose a match now and then, but never a game. Ever. See Foregone Conclusion.
  • I See Dead People: Washizu, after Akagi comes back from the dead the second time. Fake Akagi and all of Washizu's previous opponents/victims appear.
  • Japanese Delinquents
  • Karma Houdini: Washizu avoids any consequences from his murders via blood loss, due to his not-so-unlimited amount of funds used to bribe everyone involved.
  • The Lancer: Yasuoka to Akagi.
  • Large Ham: Washizu, increasingly so.
  • Lonely at the Top: A variation of this is Washizu Iwao's Start of Darkness. After becoming the 'shadow king' of the Showa Era in Japan, he realizes that he has nothing left to accomplish before his eventual death. This causes him to slowly go insane, and develop a deep-seated envy of youths.
  • Loose Canon: Washizu Lord Of Mahjong Hell.
  • Losing Is Worse Than Death: Played straight by Akagi. He even gloats over this point to Fake Akagi a few times.
  • Lost Him in a Mahjong Match: Fake Akagi dies during his match against Washizu. The discovery of his corpse sets the entire Washizu arc into motion.
  • The Magic Mahjong Equation
  • Mahjong: Duh.
  • Million to One Chance: Where the opponent's draws will seal Akagi's fate, but almost never come to pass. Washizu seems to be an exception.
    • Inverted in the manga only fifth han-chan session; Washizu actually has a 3/8 (37.5%) chance of drawing the winning tile, which will result in Akagi losing 600cc's of blood at once. Washizu draws it, and Akagi loses a grand total of 2000cc's.
  • Mind Rape: Yagi, Urabe, and Washizu all fall victim to Akagi's mindgames and break down spectacularly.
  • Mood-Swinger: Washizu swings between faux-affableness, cackling glee, rage and despair several times through his arc. Considering it's all supposed to take place in a single night...
  • Narrator
  • Neck Snap: Following Akagi's second resurrection/revival after shock due to severe blood loss, Washizu attempts to finish him off for good, because he's running out of patience waiting for Akagi to die.
  • Nerves of Steel: Akagi. There is nothing you can do to intimidate him. He takes a sword to the shoulder and doesn't even flinch. He fights groups of five or more armed thugs with his bare hands and emerges unscathed. And lest we forget, he drove full speed off a cliff in a rigged game of Chicken when he was thirteen years old, and dared to blatantly cheat against members of the Yakuza. And he lived to tell about it.
    • Well, actually in the scene where Akagi gets a sword cut, he is seriously scared, because he knows that he will be killed if he refuses to back down (he lived through that due to a coincidence beyond his power to predict). You can see him sweating and hesitating, for the first time in the manga. Of course, this makes his decision to reject the demand of Yakuza who hold him at swordpoint even more Badass.
    • Ohgi. His response to being told to bet an arm on a game of Mahjong is simply, "I don't mind." His expression doesn't even change.
  • Nominal Hero: Akagi could arguably be a straight up Villain Protagonist, considering he appears to have no morals of any kind. That being said, he never really does anything actively villainous either. At least not to people who weren't major bastards to begin with.
    • The sixth episode is titled "The Talent Of The Villain". This refers to Akagi.
    • Akagi has some standards, though - he despises people who try to gamble without risking anything, either by rigging the game or not intending to honor the outcome from the start.
  • No One Should Survive That / Normally, I Would Be Dead Now: Used in conjunction with I Can Still Fight.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Yagi's "caterpillar" technique, which Akagi figures out after the fact (by then it's too late to call him out on it).
    • Also Ichikawa's tile switching (from his unbroken wall) and Akagi's tile switching (from the discard pond).
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Urabe. Akagi immediately sees through it, and spends their entire match denying Urabe a similar outlook into his own psychology.
  • Oh Crap: There's a lot of them, but Urabe's is absolutely glorious.
  • Ordinary High-School Student: Averted. Akagi is anything but ordinary for a thirteen-year old.
    • He's not even a student.
  • Purple Prose: The Narrator uses some... interesting metaphors.
    The sand in the depths of hell is magical sand!
  • Quit Your Whining: After Washizu gains an enormous lead of 99,000 points (each player starts with only 25,000; the game does not end early if a player's score is negative, unlike regular Mahjong rules), Yasuoka starts to think the situation is hopeless. Then Akagi tells him to snap out of it, and that victory will be theirs in the end.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Akagi delivers one to Washizu after the infamous 1-pin scene.
    Akagi: You're just a coward, Washizu Iwao.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Washizu/Akagi are shown with Red/Blue auras, respectively. Later though, Akagi is portrayed as a Red devil.
    • In the scene after Fake Akagi is introduced, the real one is seen beating up some thugs. He is then shown in a split-screen with Fake Akagi, where Akagi's background is blue, and Fake Akagi's is red.
  • Relatively Flimsy Excuse: Nangou claims Akagi is his nephew who came to look for Nangou. Yasuoka is not fooled by this alibi one bit.
  • The Reveal
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: See below.
  • Russian Roulette: When Akagi first meets Ichikawa. Both survive the initial encounter, by means of skill (exceptional hearing), not luck.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Having money isn't enough to get the law off your back; Washizu has connections stemming from the end of World War II which allow him to get away with murder.
  • Can't Screw the Rules, I Have No More Money: Washizu, at least, up until volume 22 of the manga. Washizu, not one to let Akagi get away with a victory by default (he's won ALL of Washizu's six hundred million yen at this point), keeps the last round going by agreeing to bet his own blood, like Akagi had been doing all along.
  • Serious Business: SO serious that failure to win means death or worse.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Akagi. in many instances it's clear that he doesn't care if he lives or dies and has no problems killing (Just ask the four steet punks that hassled him and got shot in the legs for their trouble) and shows very little in the way of emotion.
  • Speak of the Devil: When Nangou prays for a miracle, even if it's the devil, guess who finally shows up. Later, when facing Washizu, Akagi is portrayed as a literal red devil.
  • Spin-Off: Recently got its own prequel spin off in the form of Washizu: King of Mahjong Hell.
    • Even more recently, Ten got its own sequel spinoff in the form of HERO, taking place three years after Akagi's death in Ten.
    • Interestingly, neither spinoffs are written nor drawn by Fukumoto himself; he is credited as an assistant (what with all of the characters being his creations and all.)
  • Spot the Impostor: Fake Akagi and Akagi, natch.
  • Stone Wall: Ichikawa and Urabe are near impossible to strike directly when they play defensively. Akagi out-gambits and out-lucks the first and out-psyches the latter.
  • The Gambler: Pretty much every main character (it is a gambling manga). Akagi is hands down the best with his cunning and unique style that leaves his opponents as the shattered shells of the men they used to be.
  • This Cannot Be!: Usually coupled with The Reveal and a Villainous Breakdown.
    • Uttered by Yasuoka, arguably one of the good guys, when Washizu suddenly accumulates twelve dora (bonus) tiles.
  • Two Plus Torture Equals Five: Invoked by the Yakuza during a Chō-Han session; the dice show an eight but they threaten to kill Akagi if he doesn't call it odd. He insists that it's even, and would have gotten his head chopped off if it wasn't for Yasuoka and Ohgi.
  • The Unfettered: Akagi.
  • Unsound Effect: ZAWA, indicating dramatic tension, and appearing in many of Fukumoto's other works, including Kaiji.
  • Villainous Breakdown
  • Weak, but Skilled: Subverted by Yukio Hirayama, the Fake Akagi. He has a photographic memory for the tiles and the ability to calculate probability and statistics immediately through training, allowing him to win games based entirely on mathematically calculating the soundest route to victory. However he lacks gambling instinct and psychology skills and is easily pushed, which lead to his defeat by Urabe and later being killed by Washizu in one of his games.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Ryuuzaki and Yagi, Akagi's first opponents? Do they get their hands/fingers mangled (like Urabe), saddled with debt (Urabe again), outright killed (for life insurance money, just like what was going to happen to Nangou), or what?
    • Well, based on Ryuuzaki's thoughts, he probably gets saddled with Nangou's (cancelled) debt, and Yagi probably loses (several) fingers, based on the threats made towards Akagi.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough: Exactly what Urabe was thinking when he dealt the Pei (North Wind tile), knowing that everybody saw it by accident in the beginning, and that Akagi couldn't possibly be waiting for it. Guess what...
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Akagi puts emphasis on "living" before survival, while normal human beings put survival before living. By that he means that it's better to live a fulfilling life and die early if need be than living a long but empty life. Subverted with Washizu who does want to live forever.
  • Why Won't You Die: Washizu insists that Akagi should be dead by all accounts after drawing a total of 2300cc's (actually 1800cc's plus 500cc's of transfused blood. Akagi simply says that so long as the gamble is unfinished, he will remain alive.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Despite not knowing much about Akagi's background, it's obvious that he has experienced a lot for a 13-year old.
  • Worthy Opponent: After Akagi resurrects a second time, Washizu grudgingly admits that Akagi is "an emperor, just like me. We are the same."
  • Xanatos Speed Mahjong: His match against Ichikawa, where they both end up waiting on the same tiles, and Akagi has to constantly change his wait in order to avoid dealing into Ichikawa's hand, which also constantly changes in order to trap Akagi. Akagi fails, but manages to survive long enough to stage a comeback.
  • Yakuza
  • You Can Barely Stand: Go ahead, guess who says this to Akagi. See every single mention of the severe blood loss events on this page.
  • You Have Failed Me: What happens to Urabe after he loses, in part because he was the one who kept doubling the wager.
  • Younger than They Look: Akagi in the anime, pre-Time Skip. When Akagi tells Nangou he's 13, Nangou's response is changed from "Yeah, you look it, too" in the manga to "Really? You don't look it" in the anime.
  • You're Insane!: Everyone thinks Akagi is insane for all the stunts he pulls. Washizu is also plenty insane, and he acknowledges it.
    • Washizu in particular thinks Akagi is insane for many reasons: upping the wager tenfold, all but signing his death warrant; passing on a winning dealt tile to win by tsumo (self-draw); not chasing a DaiSanGen hand (one of the biggest hands in Mahjong) and winning on a KoSanGen (a lesser variation) instead; throwing out his drawn blood and contaminating it, thereby making transfusions back into the body impossible; and many, many more instances.

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alternative title(s): Akagi; Akagi
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