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Manga / Kaiji

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"The future is in our hands!"

The year is 1996. After graduating from high school, the young Kaiji Itou has moved to Tokyo in hopes of finding a steady job. Three years later, he's still 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. Kaiji is left with a choice; he must either spend 10 years 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 six series, the first two of which have gotten anime adaptations by Madhouse (much like Akagi before it), and eventually three live-action films and pachinko games. Kaiji also makes an appearance in Girls RPG Cinderellife, a dating sim by Level-5, for Nintendo 3DS.

A Spin-Off manga focusing on Tonegawa's life before Kaiji, Mr. Tonegawa: Middle Management Blues (Chuukan Kanriroku Tonegawa), got an anime adaptation in the Summer 2018 season which itself got a dub by Sentai Filmworks later in the year. Making it first of the Kaiji series to land in the west before the main series.

This series provides examples of:

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    The series in general 
  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The ship and its main hall. The "inside" of the Bog in season 2.
  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: The entire manga later deals with gambles that essentially comes down to life or death.
  • All or Nothing: Kaiji almost always tries to play it safe, but is eventually forced to play it all in order to win.
  • An Aesop: Several, in fact, but the two biggest ones are:
    • Things like luck and chance absolutely do exist, and banking on them for anything is borderline suicidal. In a situation like gambling, where it's all luck, you need be prepared to throw your life away if the chips are down. Kaiji is only successful because he repeatedly risks his life for a chance at fortune, and he himself begins to realize how foolish this is.
    • Good people do exist. Despite the world being full of cruel, opportunistic bastards, there are also a good amount of genuinely good people. Finding them is tough, but if you do, hold onto them with your life- because they'll back you up when you least expect it.
    • Cheating is a powerful tool, but relying on it to the point of frivolousness intrinsically ties your fortunes (and wits) to your cheat of choice.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: 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, with the stylistic exaggeration serving to increase the tension.
  • Bad Boss: 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.
  • Beam of Enlightenment
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Most of them do (or did).
  • Chekhov's Gun: 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.
    • During the One Poker session, the tarp that Kazuya's goons toss off the money becomes crucial to saving his life.
    • In part VI, Chang comments on a random poster near their hideout, warning about molesters, being seemingly useless. That is, until Chang gets lost trying to find his way back to the hideout, and had it not been for the poster, he would have never returned to Kaiji and Mario.
  • Chewing the Scenery: The narrator.
  • Chromosome Casting: Very few women show up in Kaiji. It's worth nothing that there's more female appearances in the first episode of Chuukan Kanriroku Tonegawa than there is cumulatively across the entire mainline series.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Kaiji may only seem dumb, but the mental gymnastics he does so frequently cement him as this.
  • Deadly Game: Oh yeah, a lot of the games usually end up at best, causing bodily harm and at worse, instantly death.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: In Part I, Kaiji only has to step on a tissue box to seconds afterwards come up with the perfect plan for taking down the Big Bad. Of course, maybe it would have been better for him to have avoided stepping on that tissue box...
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While members of Teiai Corporation resort to all sorts of cheating and goalpost moving, they never outright refuse giving a well-earned prize, even considering the implication that they can just easily eliminate the participant without paying anything if they really want to do so.
  • Evil Redhead: Kitami, Ichijou (anime only, as he has black hair in the manga) and Kazuya.
  • Fat Bastard: Andou and Otsuki.
  • Fingore: 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 Ichijou to Kaiji in series 2.
  • The Gambling Addict: 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.
  • Genius Thriller: Kaiji solves all sorts of problems (often problems which involve him owing money to Yakuza) by being a gambling genius.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: It's alright to lie, cheat and steal when your survival absolutely depends on it.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Most of the cheaters in the series fall victim to this. Key word being most of them.
    • Notably, at the end of series 1, Kaiji himself loses in the one game he tries to rig.
  • Hope Spot: Constantly. Especially in the Pachinko Arc.
  • Idiot Ball: Kaiji gets this occasionally; by halfway through the second episode, he has already fallen for two Obvious Traps, 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.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Occasionally.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: At the very beginning, Yuuji Endou says that something was wrong with his car. Kaiji says it's a shame that someone would steal its emblem, immediately revealing he was the culprit.
  • Large Ham: The narrator.
  • Manly Tears: The fansubs even lampshade this.
  • "Real" Men Don't Cry: Oh the HELL they don't! Even Lampshaded in the anime opening.
  • Moving the Goalposts: 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.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Kaiji goes up against a pimped-out pachinko machine in the second series.
  • Narrator
  • Nice Guy: 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.
    • Mario and Chang also grow to appreciate Kaiji for the things he's done for them, and later pay him back by putting their lives on the line for him.
  • Oh, Crap!: This anime IS THIS TROPE.
  • Rigged Contest: E-Card, the tissue box lottery, Hell Cee-lo, the Man-Eating Bog and Minefield Mahjong are all rigged in different ways.
    • Kazuya's game seem this way initially, but they have their tricks. The Survival Game would be definitely winnable with ease, but Kazuya does everything in his power to turn the three friends against each other, from things like preventing someone from leaving their seat on time to purposely messing with the helmet lights. Mother Sophie is actually 100% fair however- it turns out that both Kaiji and Kazuya can cheat equally (he just never told Kaiji), and once Kaiji figures this out the tables turn instantly.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Nothing that destructive, but Kaiji beats up Andou after he manages to get his hands on him after he and Furuhata 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.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Kaiji often gets offered smaller prizes in exchange for backing out of a challenge, but he frequently refuses them as he's determined to claim both moral and material victory.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: The people Kaiji are up against have enough money and influence as to be practically untouchable.
  • Serious Business: The main appeal of this series is arguably the ridiculously high stakes put on the simplest of gambles.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: 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.
  • Smoking Is Cool: This is a given, since the series is about gambling and Yakuza.
  • Spiritual Successor: Gambling Emperor Legend Zero and to a lesser extent, Gamble Fish.
  • Stock Visual Metaphors: Often about drowning, jumping over a canyon or the Grim Reaper.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: Debts incurred by Kaiji and his companions are what get them involved with Teiai's twisted games in the first place.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Several characters, but special note goes to the Asian Three's extended torture session that is the Survival Game.
  • Unsound Effect: ZAWA, the sound of dramatic tension.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Played straight much of the time. Occasionally, Kaiji will seem to explain his plan, but will only explain the first and less important half; 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, which naturally falls apart and leaves him ruined.
    • It's to the point that if it's the villain monologuing to the audience about their plan, then you've already been spoiled that Kaiji is going to be the victor.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Everytime Kaiji wins. Witnessing them is particularly satisfying since he's generally up against arrogant bastards. Muraoka's breakdown, for example, seems to drive him completely insane.
  • Wham Shot: A shit ton given the nature of the story. Some notable examples include:
    • Andou turning against Kaiji, silently condemning him to death.
    • The pachinko balls on the third plate of The Bog finally spilling into the hole, giving Kaiji and his allies the Jackpot.
    • The triumphant reveal of Kaiji's final ron in the Minefield Mahjong game, and the revelation of the real dora of the match.
    • At one point during One Poker, Kaiji has to make a difficult decision: either use his Ace and risk it all for the chance of beating Kazuya's potential King, or play his own King and play it safe. Kaiji plays the King, comparing it to using a tank to crush Kazuya with overheming force... before revealing that Kazuya has an "attack helicopter". AKA, Kazuya somehow has an ace of his own, something that should be almost impossible, and has basically killed Kaiji.
      • Kaiji whipping around to see that he's been saved by Chang and Mario betting their own lives for him.
      • Kazuya using a seemingly impossible Ace in the 23rd round, which leads Kaiji to discover the secret of Mother Sophie's hidden tray.
      • And of course, the final hand of One Poker: Kazuya plays a 2, thinking that Kaiji played an Ace... only for Kaiji to, in fact, play a 3 card instead. This causes Kaiji to win the duel, and causes Mother Sophie to enact her "losers penalty".
  • Yakuza: The Yakuza are the main antagonists of the series. They force poor fools into debts they can't pay for into sick games, or worse, force them to become slaves in underground facilities to pay them. What's worse, is very unlikely you are capable of paying them.

    Part I 
  • Asshole Victim: Viciously subverted. 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.
    • A far more satisfying one comes at the end of the Restricted Rock Paper Scissors arc, where after Kaiji manages to get back three stars and win his freedom after Ando and Furuhata's betrayal, he roughs the two up a bit before grabbing their extra stars and all their cash and buying Ishida's freedom with it. Kaiji may not have paid off his debt, and is now in even more debt, but so are Ando and Furuhata.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Unfortunately. Kaiji was pretty much in the clear after winning E-Card and just had to leave with his earnings. But he decided to get revenge on Hyoudou and challenged him to a tissue box game he created and tried to rig. It backfired as Hyoudou saw though the deceit, turned it against Kaiji and caused him to lose pretty much everything he risked his life for through the night.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Kaiji hopes that the Yakuza don't come to collect on his debt after the first arc. They do, and he's forced to gamble again.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: 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.
  • Cool Boat: Espoir: a luxurious floating gambler den that toots in a majestic manner at the end of each episode.
  • Death by Irony: Tonegawa... okay, he doesn't die, but there was a lot of irony in how he loses the e-card game.
  • Downer Ending: 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 won money, and has been entertained throughout the night.
  • Ear Ache: 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 Spots 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.
  • Eye Scream: In the E-Card game, Kaiji gets to choose between putting his ear or eye on the line. He picks his ear, but we are still treated to some nice Imagine Spots with the mini-drill moving closer to his eyeball.
  • Ignored Epiphany: By the end, after losing his fingers, Kaiji seems to have learned his lesson about hard work and not trusting life to give you what you want when getting on the bus... only to then lament how close he was, blaming Hyodo for all his problems.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Arguably how Tonegawa is defeated; by being too careful.
  • In a Single Bound: Sahara's leap in episode 14 is at least presented this way.
  • Kaizo Trap: A particularly cruel version Reaching the window in the Steel Beam Crossing is not the end goal. As trying to open it will let out a blast of air and knock the unfortunate victim to their deaths as what happened to poor Sahara. The real end goal is a pair of barely noticeable glass stairways on the side of the beams near the windows.
  • Karma Houdini: Hyoudou escapes unscathed at the end of series 1.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: At one point during the events on Espoir, a man is taken away for flushing his cards down a toilet. This seems at first to only serve the purpose of showing the dangers of not following the rules, until they eventually realize why there's no Mr. X secretly holding on to the remaining 3 paper cards.
  • Leap of Faith: At the end of the Steel Beam Crossing, Kaiji witness his co-worker, Sahara, falls to his death upon reaching the end of the bridge and wonders if the game is even winnable. It at that point he notice light reflecting off something and realizes it's a glass staircase which leads to the real end goal. He does wonder if it's another trap since, you know, glass. But seeing no other option, goes for it and luckily for him, manages to hold his weight.
  • Lost Him in a Card Game: A good reason to avoid being sent to the Other Room on the Espoir.
  • The Man Behind the Man: For most part, Tonegawa is portrayed as the main antagonist as he manages and runs the games that Kaiji and co. are put through. Then, near the end, it's revealed that it's all entertainment for his boss, Hyoudou.
  • Meaningful Name: The ship at the beginning of the series is called Espoir, which is the French word for hope.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: The Human Derby and especially Steel Beam Crossing events work on this principal. At the least, the Human Derby has a chance of surviving since the fall isn't that far. But the Beam Crossing is up 22 freaking stories between a major gap of two buildings which is bluntly pointed out that failure is pretty much instant death. Not helped at all that the beam is mildly electrified to prevent just trying to crawl across.
  • Pose of Supplication: Done when Tonegawa is forced to do this on a burning hot iron plate to beg forgiveness from Hyoudou for failing him after losing to Kaiji.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: During the second half of the Human Derby arc, Tonegawa delivers these at least Once an Episode.
  • Rock–Paper–Scissors: They play Rock–Paper–Scissors in this story. With cards. You'll end up wondering "did I just spend a few hours seeing grown men play Rock–Paper–Scissors?". Yes you did. And you liked it.
  • Villain Has a Point: Yukio Tonegawa's speech on value of money, and how unrealistic it is to expect a huge prize without putting a lot of work into it and placing your life on the line in the process.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Tonegawa's fate is unclear at this point. Seeing as how 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.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Series 1 plays this brutally with 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.

    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.
  • The Cameo: Kurosawa is seen in the opening and Zero in the very last episode.
  • Cutting the Knot: How does Kaiji prove Ohtsuki is cheating? By simply grabbing the dice out of the bowl while they're still rolling, catching everyone off guard.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Sort of, Kaiji 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, combined with the paying of the debts of his fellow 45'ers and Ishida, he ends up blowing the rest on pachinko trying to earn some of it back. Still one of the black suits gives him enough money to go out drinking with his friends and he ends the Part happily. Plus hey, he indirectly got a win in over the main Big Bad from the first arc. So that's a plus as well.
  • Gaussian Girl: 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 Gaussian Girl recites one of Kaiji's lines from the corresponding episode in a "deep and philosophical" manner.
  • Gambit Roulette: Kaiji's plan to beat The Bog at the end of Season 2 relies on a series of convoluted plans to counter how it's rigged. Ichijo catches on to some of it and has a few contingencies up his sleeve. When it all plays out, it's a back and forth between the two where Kaiji and Ichijo both get caught off-guard by miraculous coincidences. It would almost look like Xanatos Speed Chess if it weren't for the fact that Kaiji can't change anything after he starts playing.
  • Jumped at the Call: Kaiji at the start of series 2 - to the point where it could almost be said that he knows where the Call lives.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: A ploy Kaiji uses as part of his scheme to defeat the Bog. Sakazaki trashes the Bog, damaging the flippers so that they will have to be replaced, while Kaiji has rigged the replacement flippers to fail. However, in order to make it less obvious, Kaiji launches a futile attempt to break into Ichijou's office and steal some money back while the Bog is being trashed, making it seem like that was the point of the entire ploy. It works beautifully on two fronts — Kaiji making it into the office also allows him to notice the maintenance equipment under a vent so that he can sabotage it later, and Ichijo doesn't catch on until it's too late.
  • Locked into Strangeness: Kaiji's hair appears to turn white once he's out of money at the end of episode 24. It turns out to be a Stock Visual Metaphor as his hair is fine in the next episode.
  • Luck-Based Mission: A rare non-game example. Double Subverted. Kaiji decides to take on "The Bog", a notorious pachinko machine. There is no luck involved in playing the Bog, because it's rigged to be impossible. Kaiji must use his wits to create artificial circumstances that will LEAD to his victory. But because he constantly gets caught off-guard by both Ichijo's countermeasures and other coincidences playing to his favor, the game goes back to simply being a Luck-Based Mission, except in the end everything he and Ichijou did end up tipping the odds to his favor.
  • Metal Scream: Opens the OP.
  • Mood Whiplash: 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.
  • Pet the Dog: 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 Kaiji blew what was left of his pachinko earnings on pachinko.
  • Shout-Out: At one point in the second season, Kaiji stays with Sakazaki and Endou for a night at Hotel Akagi.
  • Wham Episode: The end of the second season isn't just a wham episode. It's a series of wham episodes!
  • Wham Line: Taro Otsuki has just lost a significant amount of Perica to Kaiji and his team, due to Kaiji demolishing his cheating schemes. As he's about to leave, Kaiji points out that as the dealer for this hand, he has to play again. (Dealers in Underground Chinchinrorin have to deal twice - a rule Otsuki put in place to let him cheat easier.)
    "Sit the fuck down. You're dealing again."
  • Work Off the Debt: The start of this arc begins when Endou, now reassigned as a debt collector finds Kaiji and takes him to an underground city that Hyoudou is creating with slave labour from those in debt to Teiai. Unfortunately, since Kaiji owes Teiai about ten million yen he's forced to work back breaking labour for 15 years. Finding away out of working in that city becomes the plot for the rest of the arc.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: 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...

    Part III 
  • Chekhov's Skill: 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.
  • The Cynic: 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.
  • Dynamic Entry: 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.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Muraoka Takashi, better known as The President.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Miyoshi and Maeda, but it's justified; see Well-Intentioned Extremist below.
  • Giant Spider: In a Stock Visual Metaphor. Eek.
  • Giggling Villain: Muraoka. Kazuya to a lesser extent.
  • It's All About Me: 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).
  • Like Father, Like Son: 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.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Kaiji is fully aware that his tiles were peeked on at one point, but has no actual proof and is forced to continue the game. Which is exactly what he wanted, and he invokes this himself later when he bursts back into the room and initiates a plan to prove that Muroka is peeking his tiles.
  • Poor Communication Kills: 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.
  • Sore Loser: Muraoka, so much that even Kazuya can't believe it.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Miyoshi and Maeda did not betray Kaiji just because they could; due to a misunderstanding, they thought he had betrayed them.
    • ...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.

    Part IV 
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: Kazuya is revealed to be the "boss" character in the story.
  • Break Them by Talking: Kaiji keeps expecting Kazuya to do this to the three playing the Salvation Game. In reality, Kazuya is doing this to Kaiji, trying to break his optimism. It almost works, but Kaiji's good nature pulls through in the end and he saves Mario and Chang.
  • Breather Episode: The story that Kaiji reads, and the Salvation Game in general since Kaiji never actually places a wager, and isn't required to risk his Mahjong winnings.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: Kazuya puts on these ridiculously expensive murder games as inspiration for his novels.
  • Everybody Lives: What the ending of this gamble is, suprisingly. Mario and Chang are sentenced to death, and Kaiji spends his own money in an attempt to save them to the surprise of literally everyone that was in the room (including hinself). This proves Kazuya's ideologies about the world wrong and infuriates him.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Kaiji realises that no matter what, he can't do nothing if people are dying, and he can save them.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Kazuya is completely unable to understand why Kaiji could sacrifice his own money to save Chang and Mario.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Kaiji believes that Mitsuyama has gone mad and can be snapped out of it. He can't.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: Kaiji is taken to a cemetery at the start of the series by Kazuya to visit his own grave - telling Kaiji that this gamble will end with him rich or dead.
  • Heroic BSoD: Kaiji has this towards the end of the Salvation Game when he's asked to spend his own money to save people. Kaiji realizes to his initial horror that he can't, but the crushing guilt eventually causes him to do the right thing.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Mitsuyama, Mario, and Chang all believe that Kazuya is an amazing person for giving them the opportunity to win all this money. At least at first.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Kazuya wants to prove that the Salvation Game will never be won, because people will always betray each other. And then that Kaiji won't spend his money to save people he's never met before tonight.
  • Hypocrite: Kazuya keeps talking about how grateful he would be to see an actual selfless act during his games. And yet when Mario saves everyone in the 14th Round he comes up with excuses to explain it away.
    • He completely loses it when Kaiji saves Mario and Chang even though there's no benefit to Kaiji for doing so.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Kazuya basically says this when Mitsuyama tries to explain his logic for betrayal, noting that he's frantically trying to explain away his own greed.
  • Karma Houdini: Kazuya is revealed to have killed dozens of people in his life-or-death gambles, and has suffered no penalty for this. It won't be until Part V that he finally receives his comuppance.
    • Mitsuyama also gets his winnings for betraying everyone at the end, and leaves unhindered
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Kazuya believes this.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The trick to the Salvation Game is this, as contestants are prohibited from talking to each other, causing small misunderstandings to gradually pile up.
    • And then subverted when even with everyone explaining the situation to him, Mitsuyama refuses to save the others.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: The cemetery Kaiji is taken to is filled with those who gambled against Kazuya and died.
  • Show Within a Show: Kazuya's in-universe novel.
  • The Corrupter: Kazuya's true goal with his Salvation Games is to make people give in to their dark urges.
  • The Corruptible: Mitsuyama is revealed to be this. Kaiji is not.
  • They Knew the Risks: Kaiji decides he can't save Chang and Mario because they both went into this game expecting they could die. He goes back on his word when he realizes that they're still people, and saves them both.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Averted. One of the people who have died gambling in Kazuya's games was only 15 years old.
  • Writers Suck: Subverted with Kazuya, who thinks very highly of being a writer.

    Part V 
  • Big Damn Heroes: Chang and Mario pull this off when they agree to gamble their own lives to save Kaiji, proving that they are the True Companions Kaiji hoped they would be.
  • Born Lucky: Kaiji thinks this about Kazuya when he draws pocket aces TWICE during the game, and Kazuya thinks this about Kaiji since he draws a large number of Kings and 2's.
    • You might think it as a subversion when Kazuya uses the Aces Drawer in Hand 23 but until that moment, the game was indeed fair.
  • Call-Back: In One Poker, a 2 (the weakest card) beats an Ace (the strongest card) just like how the Slave beat the Emperor in E-Card. This is explicitly referenced.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The toothpick that Kazuya gave Kaiji comes back into play to allow Kaiji to figure out how Kazuya is cheating.
    • Also the crushing helmets worn by Chang and Mario in Part IV return, and are put to good use once again.
    • At the very beginning of this series, Kaiji thinks Kazuya's manicure is out of character. This proves to be the essential trick in how Kazuya manipulates Mother Sophie into allowing him to draw Aces.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Kaiji has already won enough money that there's no need for him to gamble against Kazuya, but he's driven to keep testing his luck and skill.
    • Invoked again with the Red Life. After losing everything, Kaiji is then offered a continue in the form of wagering with his own life. If he loses he dies, but he is still free to walk away at this point.
    • And then one final time when Kazuya is debating betting his own Red Life. Kaiji tells him exactly what he's played and that if Kazuya goes on he will lose. Kazuya does anyway. He loses.
  • Exact Words: Kazuya says that the Poker machine will deal out cards to both players randomly, it will always accurately report whether a card is in the High or the Low range, and he guarantees that the game will be fair. The trick is that you can swap a card with another card as long as they're in the same range. He switches out a 9 for an Ace during Hand 23. However, he views it as fair because Kaiji has the same opportunity to cheat as he does - as long as he figures out where the cards are hidden
  • Fair-Play Villain: Kaiji says this about Kazuya, and the purpose of the Poker machine is to ensure that neither side can cheat.
    • Both subverted and played straight in that Kazuya can cheat to draw an Ace at any time, but so can Kaiji - and Kazuya is the one who gave him the means to do so.
  • Hidden Supplies: Both sides of the Poker machine have a secret drawer that contains three Aces.
    • There's another drawer containing Queens, Kings and 2's.
  • Inaction Sequence: As the gamble goes on, entire chapters will be spent with one character debating whether or not they're going to raise or fold.
    • Taken to the extreme with the final round, where it takes three chapters for the machine to flip over the cards to reveal the winner.
  • I Know You Know I Know: The last few hands of One Poker boil down to some seriously convoluted reasoning involving this. Suffice to say, much the duel is spent with both sides deliberating whether to raise or fold, and Kazuya nearly kills himself when he gets so lost in this thinking that Kaiji manages to win.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Literally. Figuring this out is a key aspect to surviving. Kazuya ultimately loses because he's tricked into raising into his Red Life.
  • My Defense Need Not Protect Me Forever: When Kazuya starts losing, he deliberately concedes a few rounds so that he can build his hand back up to a threatening position.
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: Happens to Kaiji after he is eliminated and facing death.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: Averted. Kaiji notes that hitting the net while falling is just as likely to break his arms as save his life.
  • Take a Third Option: Seemingly impossible in a game where you have to choose between two cards. Played straight when Kaiji discovers there's a way to swap an up card for an Ace.
  • Save the Villain: Kaiji desperately tries to persuade Kazuya not to end his own life, but Kazuya thinking Kaiji is trying to trick him refuses to listen and bets his Red Life anyway. Kaiji cooperates with Mario and Chang to save his life, by creating a cushion out of a tarp and causing Kazuya to land on it without dying.
  • You Would Do the Same for Me: Chang and Mario BOTH go back into the crushing helmets from Part IV that will kill them if Kaiji loses in order to give Kaiji the chance to continue, saying they know he'd do the same for them.

    Part VI 
  • Big Bad: Yuuji Endou, who returns since his last appearance in Part 2 leading a task force to track down Kaiji, Chang, and Mario and retrieve the 2.4 billion he's won.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Kaiji attempts to pay Sakazaki back for the 3 million yen he was lent, Sakazaki refuses to listen and believes the money he is being shown to be counterfeit bills and yells at Kaiji for him to leave. However, after getting a closer look at the money, he quickly realizes Kaiji was telling the truth all along.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: This arc is a big departure from the previous so far, with no gambling involved and the main focus being managing to escape with the money won.
  • Immediate Sequel: This part starts off immediately where the last part ended, with Kaiji, Chang, and Mario having just saved Kazuya from a large fall.
  • Lighter and Softer: While the excitement and intense moments the series is known for are still there, Part 6 has a much more lighthearted tone compared to the previous arcs, even feeling like a Slice of Life sometimes.
  • Mystical 108: When Kaiji repays Sakazaki for the 3 million yen he got for the 17 Steps gamble, he repays him 108 million yen specifically. As a bonus, he believes this action will have a positive karmic effect on his luck.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Yuuji nearly captured Kaiji during his visit to his mom to retrieve his papers, with several of his men covering every exit point of the apartment building, informed of Kaiji's disguise and every person who entered and exited in the past day, and prepared to break in Itou's house the moment she leaves to apprehend Kaiji. The only thing Yuuji couldn't anticipate was Kaiji getting help from a old childhood friend with somebody in the building.
  • Power Trio: Kaiji, Chang and Mario.
  • Spoiler Title: The title gives away that Kaiji wins the gamble against Kazuya in the previous series.