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Gambling, an age-old form of entertainment, has been a staple of civilizations for centuries. From the ancient dice games that echoed through the halls of Mesopotamia to the opulent casinos that light up the Las Vegas strip, gambling has held an irresistible allure. In recent years, this thrill-seeking pastime has transcended physical boundaries, morphing into digital forms such as online blackjack, roulette and poker. This evolution has not only changed how we gamble but also ingrained itself into popular culture, influencing various forms of media.
One such medium where gambling has found resounding resonance is anime. This unique form of Japanese animation, known for its captivating art style and complex characters, has embraced the world of high-stakes wagering with open arms. Gambling-themed anime series offers viewers a thrilling ride into the strategic intricacies and human drama inherent in gambling, whilst weaving stories that are as visually appealing as they are narratively engrossing.
In this vortex of risk and reward, fascinating characters come alive, their destinies hinging on a roll of dice or a turn of a card. These series delve into the psychology of gamblers, exploring the impact of gambling on human behavior and the lengths people will go to for the thrill of the game.
Now, imagine the suspense of a poker game, the strategy behind a hand of blackjack, or the unpredictability of a roulette wheel, all wrapped in the rich storytelling and visual grandeur of anime. Intrigued? Then prepare to immerse yourself in the top five gambling-themed anime series that you simply must watch. Each one promises a unique exploration of the exhilarating world of gambling, guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. So, let’s shuffle the deck and deal the cards, it’s time to venture into the fascinating cross-over of gambling and anime.
1. Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler
“Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler” is a standout series among the numerous anime revolving around gambling. Originally broadcast from July 1, 2017, to September 23, 2017, this 12-episode Netflix series is adapted from the manga written by Homura Kawamoto. The story is set in Hyakkaou Private Academy, an unusual high school where students’ worth is determined solely by their gambling skills.
This unique educational institution aims to shape future leaders and professionals based on their ability to outwit their peers in a variety of gambling games. Students bring their own money and either find success or face ruin, with the less fortunate ones becoming subservient to others.
Adding an intriguing layer to the narrative, students who fail to ascend the social ladder are relegated to the status of “house pets”. This is where Yumeko Jabami enters the scene – a new, attractive student with a mysterious past. Her reason for joining Hyakkaou isn’t for monetary gain or social status but due to her being a compulsive gambler who finds genuine pleasure in gambling activities.
Unfazed by the type of game or the level of risk, Yumeko’s sole desire is to keep playing. Her passion for chance games disrupts the established hierarchy of the school, causing the student council to view her as a threat. Despite their attempts to suppress her, Yumeko’s resourcefulness makes it a challenging task.
With two remarkable seasons to its name, Kakegurui undoubtedly ranks as the top gambling-themed anime available on Netflix.
2. Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
“Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor” is an anime series that aired from October 3, 2007, to April 2, 2008. With a total of 26 episodes, it is available on the Crunchyroll streaming platform. This engaging series originally started as a manga by Nobuyuki Fukumoto in 1996 and continued till 2017, before being adapted into an anime by Madhouse. Initially, there were plans to title the series as “Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji.” However, it eventually got the name “Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor.”
Due to the positive reception it received, Nippon TV released a sequel, “Kaiji: Against All Rules,” which was also warmly welcomed by fans. The franchise didn’t stop at that; it expanded into a live-action film trilogy to cater to its growing fan base. The first movie, “Kaiji,” was released in October 2009, followed by “Kaiji 2” in November 2009. After a gap of nine years, the trilogy concluded with “Kaiji: Final Game” in January 2020.
The series has remained popular for over two decades, thanks to its captivating plot. It revolves around Kaiji Itou, a hapless man who spends most of his time drunk. He is tricked by a devious acquaintance into taking on a massive debt. This forces him to sober up and join an illegal underground gambling ring on a cruise ship. Amidst intense gambling and physical confrontations, Kaiji is compelled to adapt to this dangerous new lifestyle. This anime, rich in plot and character development, is considered one of the best in the gambling genre. Its compelling storyline and Kaiji’s inspiring journey make it a must-watch for those seeking motivation to change their lives.
3. Legendary Gambler Tetsuya
“Legendary Gambler Tetsuya,” an anime television series that aired from October 7, 2000, to March 24, 2001, originally started as a manga series titled “The Legend of the Gambler: Tetsuya” from 1997 to 2005. The story follows the traditional master-disciple arc, with the pupil eventually outshining the teacher. It revolves around Tetsuya, a proficient gambler in post-World War II Japan, who plays mahjong in Shinjuku City’s parlors. Despite his inherent skills, Tetsuya is not above using underhanded tactics to win, adhering to the philosophy, “It’s only cheating when you get caught. Until then it’s a winning strategy.”
Interestingly, Tetsuya’s character is inspired by the real-life gambler Takehiro Irokawa, also known as Hourouki Mahjong. While the anime adds its dramatic flair, its charm lies in the gritty realism it portrays. The post-war era in Japan is depicted authentically, complete with illegal mahjong parlors offering temporary solace to a shattered nation. The series skillfully juxtaposes hope and despair, with believable characters and a distinctive tone.
In the world of “Legendary Gambler Tetsuya,” professional gamblers not only cheat without remorse but consider it a skill. They would engage in a mental race to uncover each other’s strategies before they were outsmarted. This unique approach makes “Legendary Gambler Tetsuya” one of the most enthralling gambling-themed animes today.
4. Touhai Densetsu Akagi: Yami ni Maiorita Tensai
“Touhai Densetsu Akagi: Yami ni Maiorita Tensai,” an anime series that aired from October 5, 2005, to March 29, 2006, is a captivating tale of gambling set in post-World War II Japan. The narrative follows Shigeru Akagi, a prodigious 13-year-old boy who skillfully defeats Yakuza members in mahjong. Akagi’s prowess becomes apparent when he aids Nangou, a chronic gambler mired in three million yen of debt. In the face of impending doom, Nangou stakes his life on one last game against the mafia. Just when all hope seems lost, Akagi steps in with some unconventional advice that ultimately saves Nangou. When Akagi himself plays, it’s clear to all that he’s a prodigy, destined to be among the country’s most esteemed gamblers. Despite his success, Akagi has his troubles—he’s on the run from law enforcement. This anime, available on Netflix, is heralded as one of the best in the gambling genre. It presents the inspiring journey of a street kid who improves his circumstances through his mahjong skills—a common aspiration in post-war Japan. Before the anime’s 2005 debut, there were two live-action films in 1995 and 1997, followed by a live TV drama featuring young Akagi from 2015 to 2017.
“Aired from April 6, 2009, to September 28, 2009, “Saki” is an enticing anime with a focus on gambling, drawing inspiration from “Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler” and “Akagi.” The series, available on Crunchyroll, centers around Saki Miyanaga, a schoolgirl with a deep-seated aversion to mahjong due to its past negative influence on her life. However, an introduction to the school’s mahjong club by her friend Kyoutarou Suga unintentionally uncovers Saki’s talent for identifying patterns and mastering the game. Hisa Takei, the club’s president, quickly recognizes Saki’s hidden potential and unique playstyle, which gives her an upper hand but also incurs the resentment of Nodoka Haramura, a proficient club member and reigning champion from the previous year. As the story unfolds, Saki gradually sheds her initial reluctance towards mahjong, setting her sights on winning national competitions—a goal further fueled by her mended friendship with Haramura. While “Saki” has its fair share of dramatic moments, it primarily delivers a light-hearted and enjoyable spectacle, placing a greater emphasis on pattern recognition than gambling. It’s widely acknowledged as one of the best gambling-themed anime, which is no surprise considering that it was produced by renowned studio Gonzo in 2009 as a continuation of the original manga series by Ritz Kobayashi.”