There is an anime by the name of Tonegawa Middle Management Blues (TMMB) which is a spin off to Kaiji about Tonegawa, who has been a massive villain in the series and been the one in charge of most of the conflicts that Kaiji gets himself in. And though Tonegawa is drawn with the same lines and the same clothes and though you can sense that the lifestyles of Tonegawa from Kaiji and Tonegawa from TMMB probably quite comparable, the two are simply not the same.
I am a pretty big fan of the OP, some parts more than others however, and it really sets the scene for a great show, only to disappoint time and time again. Oh and of course, if you didn’t know – spoilers for both the Kaiji and Tonegawa animes and manga’s, including spin offs and one shots. Yeah you need to care a lot about Kaiji to understand this.
A Fake Tonegawa
In Kaiji Tonegawa was an absolutely ruthless monster, helped by the fact that we don’t see much of him. We only see his most vile and retched moments giving the impression that he’s pure evil. He doesn’t care about the major suffering he inflicts. Our first introduction to him is when he calls everyone trash and tells them they’re going to be slaves if they don’t win the game. He then continues to run the game mercilessly, without any care or emotion for the people involved. He doesn’t care about the black suits either, putting them in the boxes that they play rock, paper, scissors into.
Then the next time we see him he makes people walk to their deaths over a tight steel beam between two buildings where they get electrocuted so they fall to their deaths – only to give them no money for doing it because they said to cancel the challenge even though the electricity remained on for the entire duration.
Then he knowingly cheats against Kaiji in full knowledge that doing so would entirely break his ear and hearing. Tonegawa is very much evil, but his warped and delusional mind allows him to rationalise his actions to the extent that he can live like a normal individual, without any sadness for the pain he’s caused.
Through all of these acts Tonegawa is completely in control, he has an excellent poker face, knows how to get his way and is of very high intelligence. He runs these gambling games because he can win them.
The Tonegawa in middle management blues (Fake Tonegawa) is nothing like this. The show depicts him as a middle man, struggling between employer and subordinates when that wasn’t shown to be the case. Tonegawa obeyed Hyoudou (his boss) and ruled over his black suits, not hesitating to learn names or anything like that.
The real Tonegawa would not worry about the names of his men, he would learn them eventually, and would never waste a second by dedicating whole meetings to stupid concepts that didn’t matter at all – which is what happens in a lot of episodes.
They seriously stretched out a lot of aspects of Tonegawa’s potential life and consequently ruined the character. The way he behaves is like he’s weak and lost – even if the old Tonegawa felt like that he would never show it. He was a great thinker and gambler at heart and none of those things got carried over into this show.
I believe that TMMB destroys the Tonegawa character by trying to make him more funny, and more relatable, instead of focusing on his true character. In that way it retroactively makes Tonogawa less interesting, less imposing and less of a good character. Overall this anime shouldn’t exist, especially when there are still 4 more parts of the manga to adapt, and part 6 is currently the best Kaiji has ever been.
I’m Only Sort of Mad About it
Of course I’m very glad to see anything about Kaiji on TV, I just wish it was, you know, Kaiji! Why does it feel like I’m only watching this with the eventual hope that it will eventually lead to all of Kaiji’s manga getting adapted!
I just can’t shake the idea in my mind that if this show does well in sales then we’ll get more kaiji however if it doesn’t we’ll never see a new Kaiji season again.
The sad thing about this is that the two shows couldn’t be even more different. For example I’d recommend TMMB to people who wanted a light-hearted comedy about the difficulties of being a middle man – not anyone who wanted strategic mind games about life or death gambling.
The appeal of the two shows are so different that it feels like using the sales of one to predict the sales of another is so stupid. I could imagine plenty of people liking one but not the other – even though I find it hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t like Kaiji.
To give the show credit it’s not like I’m watching Tonegawa as if it’s an awful show and I just need to because I’m a die hard fan. I do actually enjoy it. The problem is that it’s an immense opportunity wasted in my eyes, not just for a Kaiji part 3 but for a different better show about the villains.
The Source Material
The original adaptation from this show is a 3 chapter manga, so essentially everything else is filler and just added on, meaning none of it was invented by Fukumoto and instead are made up by the director Keiichirou Kawaguchi. But of the source material they could have adapted this was by far the worst, it was just a boring meeting about Tonegawa trying to plan a meeting with his black suits.
And even then it felt strange to me that he would behave in that way. It seems like a comedy spin-off in my eyes instead of how Tonegawa actually acts normally. The creators of the show seemed to just take that idea and run with it.
As it turns out there was actually a far more interesting spin off they could have adapted from: The Kaiji Gaiden One Shot.
What A Spin Off Could Have Been: Kaiji Gaiden
The one shot of Kaiji isn’t nearly as good as the actual Kaiji manga but I would have liked a spin off of that nature more. This one shot shows what would have happened to Kaiji if he did not board the Espoir. It’s quite difficult to find online so I’ll just link it here. (Mangadex is the best place for reading Kaiji as it’s the first place (as far as I can tell) that the scanslation group put their manga up online – shout out to FKMTKrazy who caught up to Kaiji by translating 2 chapters a week on average)
In this one shot Kaiji risks everything to try and solve his original debt in a night, and instead he doubles it. It’s not a game about any kind of mind games at all (which is why I don’t like it as much) but I see it being able to go on to bigger and greater things.
A spin off about Kaiji trying to recover his debt through other means and random mind games in a spin off version of the world would have been much better than what we got in my opinion. It would have been original games and original gambles but it would have still interested me a lot more.
Though saying that, I would still rather have middle manager just be better than it is than getting a spin off of that nature. This is because it’s not like a spin off in this nature couldn’t be good. If they decided to change the focus of most of their episodes I think it would have been a lot better.
Weird Choice of Director
There was a show that I watched years ago that was very weird. It was a very tropy harem comedy where three sisters were in love with their brother and tried to get with him. It was very ecchi too. I wouldn’t bring that up if the director Keiichiro Kawaguchi didn’t make this.
I’m not massively familiar with Kawaguchi’s work however from the outside it looks very different to the styles of anything like Kaiji.
Kaiji has been a very psychological series but how many psychological shows has Kawaguchi directed? The answer is 0. What has he directed? 13 kinds of comedies, 5 kinds of harems and then a mix of school romance, action, drama and slice of life.
This isn’t to say he’s a bad director just that the sort of shows he directs is nothing like Kaiji. He does a lot of comedy and action and slice of life – not really what I would want or expect from a Kaiji spin off.
How about the guy who directed the other Kaiji seasons? Satou Yuuzou who not just directed Kaiji but the other insane gambling thrillers of One Outs and Akagi! He literally directed nearly all of my most favourite psychological shows!
However he is 58 years old (if MAL got his birthday right) and he’s so obscure online that I can’t even tell if he’s still directing or even alive.
But assuming you can’t have him then theirs Masao Maruyama who is most famous for death note which was very psychological. In addition to that he also worked on Zankyou no terror (pretty psychological) as well as Akagi, Monster, perfect blue and even Kaiji! A lot of madhouse stuff, which is the same studio Tonegawa is coming out with!
Then theirs Masayuki Kojima where the fact that he directed monster alone would make me confident on his ability to communicate the psychological.
Then theirs also Yuzuru Tachikawa who directed death parade and worked on zankyou no terror and Inuyashiki. Did I also fail to mention the fact that he directed mob psycho 100 – one of the best anime’s to come out in recent times.
I could continue naming examples for ages however the point is that there are better candidates for this that are more suited for writing a show in the nature of Kaiji. There are probably more logical problems for why madhouse couldn’t get these guys but I don’t even know enough about the industry to know why!
This show is not the adaptation I would have wanted by any means at all. The show that Tonegawa aims to be is nothing like what I would want it to be. But it is good at what it wants to do. It’s just my preference that I want it to be more like Kaiji instead of what it currently is.
It’s hard to say objectively which one they should have done but it’s my opinion and I have some advantages to making it more like Kaiji.
.First of all it’s a better indication of whether or not people will want to buy more Kaiji
.It won’t completely change Tonegawa’s character
.It would be a better exploration of Tonegawa’s character since he’s more used to those situations in Kaiji
.It would be a kaiji switched with Akagi (more on that later)
.We would be able to revisit the events with a new angle with new problems instead of skipping over them
I think that’s enough honestly. Tell me in the comments if you have more!
Kaiji but Akagi (or One Outs I guess)
There are only really two kinds of protagonists that Fukumoto writes about. The first is the hopeless gambler who is always losing and struggling (i.e Kaiji) or the mastermind who is in control of everything and knows every part of the game brilliantly (i.e Akagi (from Akagi))
So clearly if there was a Tonegawa adaptation we would see similar kinds of scenarios but from the point of view of a mastermind. Which is interesting and has been done well (as shown in Akagi and One Outs).
It might seem unlikely that Tonegawa would actually participate in any of the Kaiji gambling games however there are lots of ways to bring him into playing games like that.
For example he seems very skilled at gambling – what if he plays games at the casino to test people or just simply to try and win? What if the evil Hyoudou constantly puts him up against other people in gambling games to decide if anyone should overtake his position?
The Black Suits
In the old season of Kaiji there was nothing to indicate that the black suits were particularly smart or massively competent. In this regard the anime gets them right but fails in some particular areas.
First of all the job of the black suits isn’t just to help run the company but to help run the gambling games too. They also operate in full knowledge that Teiai is an awful company and slaves people.
I am willing to accept that the black suits in Tonegawa’s group are for finance and planning and therefore lack the ruthlessness of the other black suits, this is fair enough. But it does mean that the black suits in this show are not like the black suits we used to know in several major ways.
Now the possibility of a black suit being an opposition to Tonegawa is pretty much impossible. In the series Tonegawa talks about all of the black suits trying to gain his position for his job eventually but it never feels like that. The black suits never feel like any threat or competition which reduces the opportunity for psychological mind games to take place.
There is also an added factor that it’s hard to imagine any of the black suits endorsing any of the evil acts at Teiai. This creates a really huge disconnect between the Teiai of Kaiji and the Teiai of Tonegawa.
In Kaiji Teiai is a huge enemy. They are cruel and ruthless. Now Teiai just looks like a normal finance company who has some crooked values and odd things such as forced manual labour.
Essentially I hoped to see that the inside of Teiai mirrored the games of Kaiji, however instead of money they were all rooting for higher positions, favour with the boss, and to surpass the people on their level to reach a higher status.
The Teiai that I had imagined is far different from what we got. Sure it’s just my opinion against the directors but I feel like I would have like that a lot more.
Also why are all the black suits completely stupid? It makes no sense.
Hyoudou Is Wrong Too
Despite the subheading Hyoudou is one of the characters they got mostly correct. He behaves just as evilly as he is portrayed in Kaiji. He gets bored all the time, orders people to do horrible things and completely mistreats everyone around him.
So what’s the problem?
In Kaiji there is a moment which everyone should know. There is a certain raffle with a tissue box where the president of Teiai (Hyoudou) goes against Kaiji to try and be the first to draw the correct raffle ticket.
In this game Hyoudou completely demolishes Kaiji in nearly every possible way.
The plan was that Kaiji had a second ticket already planted in the tissue box and would draw it. Hyoudou however had other ideas. He found the ticket Kaiji had planted – destroyed it – and then made a way so that only he could find the correct ticket. It was such a perfect strategy, the only thing he could have done to destroy him better would be to plant a fake ticket in the spot where Kaiji had the real one.
But Hyoudou didn’t do that for one specific reason, he wanted to test Kaiji and award him if he showed convincing gambling talent, if he could work out what had happened and win despite that. This was something that Hyoudou did and it was a key part of his character.
While the show has kept Hyoudou’s evil they haven’t maintained his cunning at gambling games such as that. Instead he comes across as a child who will freak out if it doesn’t go his way. He seems like someone who makes people let him win instead of actually being good enough to win on his own.
Due to this all of the characters attitudes towards Hyoudou are different from in Kaiji. They treat him as if he’s a child, a child with extreme mood swings who could fire them at any moment. It is indeed true that Hyoudou behaves like that in the show but I think he’s a little smarter than that.
Key Plot points Skipped
All the events I was looking forward too, and anxiously anticipating were not rewarded in any way at all.
I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one who was waiting for Kaiji to show up. But it was very underwhelming since no attention was paid to him at all.
There were things to do involving Kaiji. The strategies Kaiji used would have been interesting to revisit for an episode as well as that there was a lot of events on the Espoir that would have made great drama.
Too Much Time Wasted
So I was very much looking forward to the rock , paper. scissors game. What I wasn’t looking forward to, was the (what felt like) five episodes of build up where they spent an episode brainstorming designs, then location, then concepts and etc. It was so painful to watch and get through.
The bog is the last arc of the anime, and coincidentally the worst. It’s about trying to beat a massive pachinko machine with a payout so large that it could pay ten people’s debts in forced labour camps.
Something I always wanted was for Tonegawa to face this (since we do know that he did win it from the anime) and win, but not in the rigged way that it was done in TMMB, where the casino owner let him win, but in his own way and unique genius.
There are so many things that could be done with the bog, and Kaiji took the most extreme way possible. Tonegawa should have won it on his own, and I find it sad that he didn’t.
I’m finding it difficult to come up with other ways that it could have been done, however Tonegawa is supposed to be significantly smarter than I am, so he could probably do it, and that’s the kind of thing I’d love to see.
Surely Tonegawa must gamble, surely he cannot only be involved in this kind of thing when Kaiji’s there. I just want to see more.
Not Just Tonegawa Got This Treatment
Oostuki was a foreman in the underground working facility that Kaiji found himself in at the start of season two. He appears kind and friendly, but really he’s a scumbag.
The first arc of season two of the Kaiji anime was about discovering just what Ootsuki was doing, and how he was scheming against the people he was looking after in order to get all of their money.
This anime focuses on this character in detail to give us more insight into this person’s life. However (as you might expect) it’s not nearly as good as you think.
Instead of looking at the scheming that takes place, we watch Ootsuki use his one day passes to buy food, make friends, and eat more food. A significant amount of time was wasted with this.
One of the things I did actually appreciate was the rivalry between the two different groups in the working camp, where each of the foremen tried to make the most money by stealing it from each other.
Seeing them have a game of pachinko vs watching a film wasn’t that interesting to me, but the idea could have been developed further.
I liked the scheme as well where instead of just scamming the people through pachinko, they scammed them through giving them a seriously good deal for snacks, however these snacks were nuts, and the workers didn’t really fancy eating just nuts for snacks for three months straight. And that was the idea. They would have an “all you can eat” nuts thing, and then they’d get tired of nuts, not want to get nuts (meaning they won’t spend money on nuts – meaning the foremen make a living through not having to buy nuts) and the scheme was you could only cancel it on one day, and to one guy, and that one guy would have a one day pass at the time so people wouldn’t be able to cancel.
It sounds a lot worse now that I describe it like that.
The thing is none of the things that are good are that good. They’re just like, “oh that was a cool idea”
The thing that I hated about Ootsuki was that, during the entirety of Tonegawa, we never see him get the special dice that let him win so frequently at his dice game that he plays.
I would have liked to see him try and find someone who could make fake dice, and then sneak them back into his camp without Teiai realising. It would have been cool and made sense. I was interested in that sort of thing.
As well as that theirs the idea that Ootsuki had to win on his own to get the day pass to buy the dice, he was struggling so much to do this.
I would have liked to see how he could have rigged other games in order to win. Perhaps he would have played a different game before dice, a game he could easily rig for example. For example there are certain decks which are favourable for the dealer, and he could have created a casino type system.
There were so many possibilities, and I just think that they chose wrong.
Why not have Endou?
If your adding Ootsuki, then why not add Endou as well. He’s clearly done some gambling around, and the people that he meets as a debt collector could be interesting.
Endou has some seriously twisted values, he turned his back on Kaiji, by giving him a loan with rapid interest, and he also turned his back on Kaiji once again in part 6. Which thankfully I gave a major spoiler warning for. So… read the Kaiji manga! You will not regret it!
Endou is promoted to be in charge of tracking Kaiji down and finding him. It’s interesting just how far he’d go in order to find him, but literally nobody’s read this far, so I’d rather you’d get curious by this and go read it for yourselves than actually explaining any of it.
I would have just liked to see Endou somewhere.
They Overlook the Key Point of Tonegawa’s Character
Back to Tonegawa. During the season finale of Kaiji season one Tonegawa goes through some kind of redemption.
He loses serious credit with Hyoudou, who tosses him aside. But above all that, he apologises in the most extreme way possible, by kneeling and putting his head on a huge grill that burned him dramatically.
It’s the moment when Kaiji realises that Hyoudou is the real evil, and that it’s him that needs to be stopped.
While Tonegawa is still cunning, and manipulative, and to blame, he was complacent and knowingly doing horrible acts.
This moment for Tonegwa was crucial for his character, and completely overlooked. It’s as if it never happened, because by the end he’s still in position number two.
It’s frustrating, as a fan that this happened.
I want Kaiji Season 6
This is the main argument and disappointment for Kaiji. I really want to see all of it adapted.
The issue is that I know TMMB will not lead to a sequel and probably killed the possibilities of a sequel.
Season three of Kaiji would have to be about mahjong, and not even all Japanese people know how to play that!
It’s not a particularly easy to understand game. I’ve read Kaiji and seen Akagi and I still don’t understand Japanese mahjong (though Hong Kong mahjong I understand perfectly) because Japanese mahjong is the most complicated kind of mahjong, and relies on getting certain kinds of Yaku, of which there are so many!
In HK mahjong it’s simple – get all tiles of the same kind, or all pongs, or thirteen orphans. That’s the kind I play.
But there are so many more ways to win in Mahjong and it’s confusing. As well as that it doesn’t help that they all have really complicated names and points associated with them.
I have no idea how to make a mangan hand because I don’t know (nor care) about points. You only care about points when you’re gambling (which is something I don’t do).
Then after season three, season four would be a risk as well because of how radically different it is from the other parts.
It doesn’t really focus on Kaiji, but three other dudes trying to win at their own gambling games. These characters are massively important, and continue to stay massively important, but as a first impression your like “what is happening” once you realise that this is all that’s in this part of Kaiji.
So the next two seasons of Kaiji are quite a risk, and madhouse never really skips Kaiji’s details during adaptation, so it’s not like it could really cut a lot out – just look at season 2, that final arc could have been great if it was like 7 episodes shorter! I skipped one episode of kaiji season 2’s bog arg, and they were still in the same place, no developments had happened, balls had just gone in the machine and out.
Season 5 would be better, but I’d just hope that it doesn’t get boring from playing the same game for the entire arc.
That brings me to season 6. I really want something like season 6 to exist, but it doesn’t.
The idea of an anime about guys trying to escape with a tonne of money is fascinating to me, and I’d like to see more of it.
Tonegawa Middle Management Blues was a bad idea. Kaiji season 3 might not have had a large audience, but it would have been better than made up stories about Tonegawa that aren’t very interesting.
The initial fan base for Kaiji, don’t want this, and the rest of the anime fans are quite unlikely to start Kaiji with a spin off about one of the minor side characters.
So I just don’t get where this is coming from. It wasn’t an idea that made sense.
At my uni (which I’m currently not at right now because I’ve got a three week break) there is a list of more notes about more failures that Kaiji should have solved.
However this post has been in draft for like five months now and it needs to be published. So even though I’m ignoring points that I could have made (which I probably will make and append in the future) I’m releasing this now, because it’s been so long, and I just want to get this out there.