->''"[[EarWorm The Future is in Our Hands!]]"''

The year is 1995. After graduating from high school, the young [[ButtMonkey Kaiji Itou]] has moved to Tokyo in hopes of finding a steady job. Two years later, he's still [[{{NEET}} unemployed]] and in a state of depression. Kaiji wastes what little money he has on cheap gambles, alcohol and cigarettes on a daily basis. To feel better about himself, he sabotages expensive cars and collects their emblems. One of these cars belongs to Yuuji Endou, a {{yakuza}} with ties to the financial empire Teiai Corporation.

It turns out that Endou has been searching for Kaiji for a while, ever since he co-signed a contract for his friend Furuhata, which left him with a large debt. Endou also wants Kaiji to compensate for the car's damages. Kaiji is left with a choice; he must either spend 10 years [[WorkOffTheDebt working off the debt]] in a labour camp, or board a gambling cruise called "Espoir" (French for "hope") where he will be able to pay off the debt in one night... If he wins.

And that's just how the first series begins. ''Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji'' is probably the most famous work of Nobuyuki Fukumoto, a {{seinen}} {{mangaka}}. Starting in 1996, it has since then received critical acclaim for its ridiculous yet brilliant gambles as well as the complex psychological analyses of the characters. There are currently five series, the first two of which have gotten anime adaptations by Creator/{{Madhouse}} (much like ''Manga/{{Akagi}}'' before it), and eventually LiveActionAdaptation films and pachinko games. Kaiji also makes an appearance in ''Girls RPG Cinderellife'', a dating sim by {{Level 5}}, for Nintendo3DS. As of November 2016, the fifth series is ongoing at 12 volumes.

!!This series provides examples of:


[[folder:The series in general]]
* AbsurdlyHighStakesGame: The Manga.
* AesopAmnesia: By the end of season 1 Kaiji seems to have learned his lesson about hard work and not trusting life to give you what you want. When we see him again at the start of season 2, he's back to the lousy deadbeat gambler he was at the beginning. Justified in that a year has passed since the end of the first season.
** End of season 2 - [[spoiler:in the day it takes him to meet the 45ers after they're free, he manages to blow his entire cut of the winnings on Pachinko.]]
* AllOrNothing: The show. Kaiji almost always tries to play it safe, but is eventually forced to play it all in order to win.
* ArtStyleDissonance: A slight version. Looking at the exaggerated artwork, overdramatic facial expressions and ridiculously high-stakes gambles, one could easily assume that this series is partly comedy. In reality there is almost no comedy to be found in ''Kaiji'', and those high-stakes gambles are played ''completely seriously'', making for one of the tensest and suspenseful manga of all time.
* BadBoss: Hyoudou. If you work for him and if you do anything he doesn't like, he'll do various bad things to you. He also puts his bare feet in a tub filled with wine and makes his workers drink out of it. Once, a worker started speaking during this, but Hyoudou said he didn't appreciate his tone of voice, and had him taken away. It's anyone's guess as to what happened to him, but it was without a doubt very bad.
* BeamOfEnlightenment
* CheatersNeverProsper: Most of them do (or did).
* ChekhovsGun: In the third series, Kaiji sees a poster which he dismisses offhand, only to be used later for his victory.
** Marking of the cards during the Rock-Paper-Scissors game ends up being a crucial strategy in E-card.
* ChewingTheScenery: The narrator.
* ChromosomeCasting: No female characters.
* CombatCommentator
* ConspicuousCG: The ship and its main hall. The "inside" of the Bog in season 2.
* CrapsackWorld
* CrouchingMoronHiddenBadass: Kaiji may only seem dumb, but the mental gymnastics he does so frequently cement him as this.
* EvilRedhead: Kitami, Ichijou (anime only, as he has black hair in the manga) and Kazuya.
* FatBastard: [[spoiler:Andou]] and Otsuki.
* {{Fingore}}: [[spoiler:Kaiji loses 4 of his left-hand fingers when his Tissue Box raffle goes horribly wrong. They manage to stitch them back later though.]]
** A less gory but still very painful example is provided by [[spoiler:Ichijou]] to Kaiji in series 2.
* TheGamblingAddict: It is hinted by Hyoudou that Kaiji is slowly turning into one, one who can only feel alive while gambling no matter how high the stakes. Hyoudou himself is this, so much that his "brain has been fried" and the only things that can give him any joy in life are the most extreme and twisted gambles. He foresees the same future for Kaiji, but he is yet to be proven right... or wrong.
* GambitRoulette: Kaiji's plan to beat the bog at the end of Season 2 relies on a series of convoluted {{plan}}s. But Kaiji and Ichijo both DidntSeeThatComing so many times, it turns into a Roulette that would ''almost'' look like XanatosSpeedChess if it weren't for the fact that Kaiji can't change '''anything''' after he starts playing.
** The very same bog machine is one, it has too many traps, counter contingencies, and last hour reveals to be true
* GeniusThriller: Kaiji solves all sorts of problems (often problems which involve him owing money to Yakuza) by being a gambling genius.
* HoistByHisOwnPetard: Most of the cheaters in the series fall victim to this. Key word being ''[[KarmaHoudini most]]'' of them.
** Notably, [[spoiler: at the end of series 1, ''Kaiji himself'' loses in the one game he tries to rig.]]
* HopeSpot: Constantly. Especially in the Pachinko Arc.
* IdiotBall: Kaiji gets this occasionally; by halfway through the second episode, he has already fallen for two {{Obvious Trap}}s, leaving him in what seems to be an {{Unwinnable}} situation and requiring him to struggle for an entire arc just to try to restore the status quo.
* InelegantBlubbering: Occasionally, as opposed to the more frequent CryCute.
* LargeHam: The narrator.
* ManlyTears: [[LampshadeHanging The fansubs even lampshade this.]]
* [[MenDontCry "Real" Men Don't Cry:]] [[AvertedTrope Oh the HELL they don't!]] Even [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]] in the anime opening.
* MovingTheGoalposts: The bad guys aren't really interested in having a fair game, they just want to see the underdogs suffer. Thus they will resort to this tactic as necessary.
* MundaneMadeAwesome: Kaiji goes up against a pimped-out pachinko machine in the second series.
* {{Narrator}}
* NiceGuy: Kaiji. Among other things he cries frequently, he doesn't want others to get hurt (even if said person was ready to send him to a painful death), he doesn't want people to relinquish their humanity, he values friendship, he's (obviously) sympathetic towards the poor and desperate, he wants to help everyone he can and is willing to put his life on the line for it, and he '''HATES''' injustice. Ironically (and arguably) the only person who genuinely appreciates all this aside from Ishida is one of the Teiai black suits at the end of Season/Part 2.
* OhCrap: This anime [[UpToEleven IS THIS TROPE.]]
* RiggedContest: [[spoiler:E-Card]], the tissue box lottery, [[spoiler:Hell Cee-lo]], the Man-Eating Bog and Minefield Mahjong are all rigged in different ways.
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge: Nothing that destructive, but Kaiji beats up [[spoiler: Furuhata and Andou after he manages to get his hands on them after they've betrayed him, and much later he beats up Maeda and Miyoshi (who have betrayed him) when they try to restrain him from catching Muraoka on the act of cheating.]]
* ScrewTheRulesIHaveMoney: The people Kaiji are up against have enough money and influence as to be practically untouchable.
** ScrewTheMoneyIHaveRules: The reason why Kaiji is awesome.
* SeriousBusiness: The main appeal of this series is arguably the ridiculously high stakes put on the simplest of gambles.
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism: The worldview of people Kaiji goes up against is basically that we live on a very materialistic dog eat dog world, and that the only people worth giving a damn about are the ones who became materially successful- no matter if they've killed, tortured or otherwise ruined dozens. Money is the only important thing in life, and all means are justified as long as the end is getting loads of money. It is also meaningless to trust other people, as only cowards do that and those people will betray you the first chance they get anyway. Kaiji's worldview starts out more or less the same, but his concealed beliefs about the worth of humanity, trust and decency quickly gain the upper hand and a humanist view starts to settle in and remains there despite going through things that confirm the cynical vision. Conversely, things Kaiji does (and on rare occasion things others do to him) confirm his own view.
* SmokingIsCool: This is a given, since the series is about gambling and {{Yakuza}}.
* SpiritualSuccessor: ''Manga/GamblingEmperorLegendZero''.
* StockVisualMetaphors: Often about drowning, jumping over a canyon or the GrimReaper.
* TrappedByGamblingDebts
* TraumaCongaLine
* UnsoundEffect: ZAWA, the sound of dramatic tension.
* UnspokenPlanGuarantee: Played straight much of the time. Occasionally, Kaiji will seem to explain his plan, but will only explain the first and less important half; [[spoiler:in these cases, the entire plan is guaranteed to work fine. Played painfully straight in the Tissue Box Raffle arc, though, when Kaiji explains his entire grand scheme four whole episodes before the end of the series, [[DeconstructedTrope which naturally falls apart and leaves him ruined]].]]
* VillainousBreakdown: Everytime Kaiji wins. Witnessing them is particularly satisfying since he's generally up against arrogant bastards
* {{Yakuza}}
* YaoiFangirl: ''Kaiji'', ''Manga/{{Akagi}}'', and many other series by Fukumoto Nobuyuki have surprisingly large female fanbases. Put that together with an almost complete lack of female characters and this happens, apparently.

[[folder:Part I]]
* TheCallKnowsWhereYouLive: Kaiji hopes that the {{Yakuza}} don't [[spoiler:come to collect on his debt after the first arc. [[CaptainObvious They do]], and he's forced to gamble again]].
* ChronicBackstabbingDisorder: [[spoiler:Andou betrays Kaiji twice, and he's in the story for fewer than four hours in-universe. Tonegawa has something more along the lines of Chronic Frontstabbing Disorder]].
* CoolBoat: Espoir: a luxurious floating gambler den that toots in a majestic manner at the end of each episode.
* DeathByIrony: [[spoiler: Tonegawa... okay, he doesn't die, but there was a lot of irony in how he loses the e-card game.]]
** [[spoiler: Also Ichijou later in Part 2, who also does not die but starts begging Kaiji to end their "duel" as a draw when he realizes he's going to lose in a few moments -a request he had denied a desperate Kaiji just a little while before.]]
* [[spoiler:DownerEnding: All the named participants to the Human Derby are dead, Kaiji survives but has lost all of his money (and is further in debt), along with his left ear and left hand fingers. Meanwhile, the villain has won money, and has been entertained throughout the night.]]
* EarAche: [[spoiler:In the E-Card game, when a drill is fastened to Kaiji's ear. Kaiji is forced to bet a certain number of millimeters, if he loses a round the drill advances this number of millimeters (and the sound of it apparently causes Kaiji great pain), and if it advances thirty millimeters it will pierce his eardrum (and we get several {{Imagine Spot}}s of this actually happening). But wait, it gets worse! Eventually Kaiji bets ''more'' then thirty millimeters, thus risking that the drill will destroy his inner ear and possibly cause him an agonizing death. And then he ''cuts off his ear with a shard of glass'' to take the device off.]]
* EyeScream: [[spoiler:In the E-Card game, Kaiji gets to choose between putting his ear or eye on the line. Averted when he picks his ear, but we are still treated to some nice {{Imagine Spot}}s with the mini-drill moving closer to his eyeball.]]
* IKnowYouKnowIKnow: [[spoiler:Arguably how Tonegawa is defeated; by being too careful.]]
* InASingleBound: Sahara's leap in episode 14 is at least presented this way.
* KarmaHoudini: [[spoiler:Hyoudou escapes unscathed at the end of series 1.]]
* KickTheSonOfABitch: Viciously subverted. [[spoiler: Tonegawa is forced to kneel on a burning plate for ten seconds after losing to Kaiji. Despite him being responsible for the deaths of nine people, and the majority of the events of the series up until this point, his torture is so cruel that it isn't satisfying in the slightest. Rather, it comes off as horrifying. Even Kaiji, who despised him, starts crying at the sight of it.]]
* LostHimInACardGame: A good reason to avoid being sent to the Other Room on the ''Espoir''.
* TheManBehindTheMan: Hyoudou (whose name isn't even revealed until the very last episode) is the man behind Tonegawa.
* MeaningfulName: The ship at the beginning of the series is called ''Espoir'', which is the French word for hope.
* PoorPredictableRock: [[PlayingWithATrope Somethingverted]] in the first arc; it could be described as anything from PlayedStraight to [[DeconstructedTrope Deconstructed]].
* PoseOfSupplication: Done when [[spoiler:Tonegawa is forced to do this on a ''burning hot iron plate'' to beg forgiveness from Hyoudou for failing him after losing to Kaiji]].
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: During the second half of the Human Derby arc, [[TheDragon Tonegawa]] delivers these at least OnceAnEpisode.
* RockPaperScissors: They play RockPaperScissors in this story. With cards. You'll end up wondering "did I just spend a few hours seeing grown men play RockPaperScissors?". Yes you did. And you liked it.
* [[spoiler:ShaggyDogStory]]
* WhatHappenedToTheMouse: [[spoiler:Tonegawa's]] fate is unclear at this point. Seeing as how [[spoiler:Kurosaki]] has replaced him by series 2, it's probably safe to assume that, at the very least, he was demoted to a lower rank in Teiai.
* YankTheDogsChain: Series 1 plays this brutally with [[spoiler:Sahara's death. After making his way across the bridge of death, he finally prepares to open the door to cash in on the price money... Only to be blown off the building by the air compression blast from the window towards a certain death.]]

[[folder:Part II]]
* {{Beergasm}}: Given that Kaiji's now slaving away in an underground hell-hole where only the bare necessities are provided, it's no wonder that the first over-priced beer they sell to workers there gives him a {{Beergasm}} when he gets one after such a long time.
* TheCameo: [[Manga/StrongestLegendKurosawa Kurosawa]] is seen in the opening and [[Manga/GamblingEmperorLegendZero Zero]] in the very last episode.
* [[spoiler:EarnYourHappyEnding]]
** [[spoiler: Sort of, he finally pays of his debt and even earned more money than he needed, however, Endou's contract drains him of a huge chunk of cash and he blows the rest on pachinko trying to earn some of it back.]]
* GaussianGirl: In the anime, curiously enough. Each episode has a "Proverbs of Kaiji" {{stinger}} after the ending credits: a short piece of live-cation video where a GaussianGirl recites one of Kaiji's lines from the corresponding episode in a "deep and philosophical" manner.
* JumpedAtTheCall: Kaiji at the start of series 2 - to the point where it could almost be said that [[InvertedTrope he knows]] [[TheCallKnowsWhereYouLive where the Call lives]].
* LockedIntoStrangeness: [[spoiler:Kaiji's hair appears to turn white once he's out of money at the end of episode 24. It might be a StockVisualMetaphor.]]
* LuckBasedMission: A rare non-game example. DoubleSubverted. Kaiji decides to take on "The Bog", a notorious pachinko machine. There is no luck involved in playing the Bog, because [[RiggedContest it's rigged to be impossible]]. [[spoiler: Kaiji must use his wits to create artificial circumstances that will LEAD to his victory. But because he constantly [[DidntSeeThatComing doesn't see it coming]], the game goes back to simply being a LuckBasedMission, except in the end everything he and Ichijou did end up tipping the odds to his favor.]]
* MetalScream: Opens the OP.
* MoodWhiplash: In episode 10, when Sakazaki is talking about his daughter, Mikoko, the initially serious atmosphere prevalent throughout the series suddenly (and briefly) shifts to a comedic one. Doubles as a CrowningMomentOfFunny.
** "''[[MemeticMutation Mikoko, you're so pretty!]]''"
* PetTheDog: At the end of season 2, one of the black suits gives a broke Kaiji a few thousand yen to meet his fellow 45ers. Mind you, this was after [[spoiler: Kaiji blew what was left of his pachinko earnings on ''pachinko'']].
* ShoutOut: At one point in the second season, Kaiji stays with Sakazaki and [[spoiler:Endou]] for a night at Hotel Manga/{{Akagi}}.
* WhamEpisode: The end of the second season isn't just '''a''' wham episode. It's a ''series'' of wham episodes!
* WorkOffTheDebt
* YourPrincessIsInAnotherCastle: [[spoiler: End of season 2 - after Kaiji's finally defeated the Bog and become rich, it turns out he didn't read the fine print in Endou's contract...]]

[[folder:Part III & IV]]
* ChekhovsSkill: Kaiji's reactionary gambling style is referred to by Kazuya as a tsunami. Kaiji dismisses the notion at first but invokes the metaphor again when in doubt.
* TheCynic: Despite being the son of a very wealthy and influential man, Kazuya has reasons to be unhappy and dissatisfied with life, arguably rightfully so. His ways of coping with his cynicism are anything but acceptable though.
* DynamicEntry: When one of Muraoka's men tries to hold Kaiji outside of the game room by restraining the door to give his boss more time to cheat, Kaiji manages to open the door enough to punch him in the face go in.
* EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep: Muraoka Takashi, better known as The President.
* [[spoiler:FaceHeelTurn: Miyoshi and Maeda, but it's justified; see WellIntentionedExtremist below.]]
* GiantSpider: In a StockVisualMetaphor. Eek.
* GigglingVillain: Muraoka. Kazuya to a lesser extent.
* ItsAllAboutMe: Muraoka IS this trope. Crowned as such especially with his reaction to when he's faced with the possibility of losing all his money to Kaiji (compared to him losing his life).
* LikeFatherLikeSon: [[spoiler: Kazuya has taken quite a bit after Hyoudou. At the very least both are rich bastards who enjoy seeing weak people suffer and have a complete disregard for human life and friendship. Despite all that they ironically both are very fair people when it comes to resolving the outcome of a gamble.]]
* {{Mahjong}}: The entire third part focuses on this game, but it's a two-player variant.
* PoorCommunicationKills: [[spoiler:In series 2, the Bog payed out 700 million yen, and Kaiji split it with Sakazaki and Endou. When Muraoka tells Miyoshi and Maeda about this, he tells them to "test" Kaiji by asking for his help and seeing how he responds after they add that he can profit from it. Because Kaiji denied their request at first and accepted it only when they offered money, they thought Kaiji had been using and holding out on them and the other 45'ers. As such, they decided to scam him out of money. Had Kaiji not been too proud to admit that he didn't beat the Bog alone, none of this would have happened.]]
* ShowWithinAShow: Kazuya's in-universe novel.
** [[spoiler:...which turns out to be BasedOnATrueStory. Again, in-universe.]]
* [[spoiler:SoreLoser: Muraoka, so much that even Kazuya can't believe it.]]
* [[spoiler:WellIntentionedExtremist: Miyoshi and Maeda did not betray Kaiji just because they could; [[PoorCommunicationKills due to a misunderstanding]], they thought ''he'' had betrayed ''them''.]]
** [[spoiler:...which still doesn't excuse how willing they were to completely ruin the life of the man to whom they owe their lives because of a ''money'' issue after a couple convincing words by Muraoka, without first extensively questioning Kaiji and ascertaining for sure whether or not he really had money or not. Had Maeda and Miyoshi's scheme succeeded, Kaiji would at ''best'' return to the Teiai underground mines for the rest of his life, and if not he would have been cut up to pieces on Kazuya's order.]]
* WritersSuck: Subverted with Kazuya, who thinks very highly of being a writer.

[[folder:Live Action Movies]]
* AdaptationalAttractiveness: Most of the characters look much more attractive than in the original work.
* CompressedAdaptation: Story-wise, the first film is basically a mix of the first two seasons.
* CreatorCameo: Fukumoto himself appears as a black suit.
* CompositeCharacter: Inverted; Ishida's daughter plays part of Sakazaki's role (namely [[spoiler:The BigDamnHeroes moment from part 2]], thus effectively splitting his role.
* GenderFlip: Ishida's son and Endou are both women in this adaptation.
* GratuitousEnglish: Tonegawa's infamous "FUCK YOU!"
* SmurfettePrinciple: See GenderFlip, above.