Akagi is a natural gambler with big balls and bigger self confidence. He had his first encounter with high stakes mahjong when he was but a middle schooler. In his first ever match he displayed prodigious skill and became an urban legend in the mahjong world.
That’s what Akagi the anime is about. The series fully revolves around mahjong and expects you to know basic to intermediate mahjong.
The first thing that strikes you about Akagi is the visual style. The unique character designs of Nobuyuki Fukumoto are carried over from the manga and enhanced, with colour and more pronounced/sharper edges for the faces. Although the art looks aged, it’s aged well and doesn’t look bad, mostly because of its unique design. The detailed backgrounds and period-appropriate colour palette are another plus.
The audio department doesn’t stand out as much, with the acting and background score merely decent. One thing I found weird was adolescent Akagi and adult Akagi having the same voice; kinda detracts from the point they were trying to make in the second arc about his growth. The OP was nice and the ED was fine, so some marks there.
Problems arise in the way the story is handled. The pacing of the anime is slow to say the least, with the 26 episodes covering a mere three arcs. Some points drag on for far too long and the final arc is just TOO LONG. Now with all this said, you would at least expect an appropriate ending; nope, just more disappointment there.
The overall story may be inadequate, but like a sports anime, the charm is in the excitement of the games. The games, though predictable at times, had their fair share of edge-of-the-seat exciting moments. This is a good watch for adrenaline junkies (the anime kind, not the “I’mma jump off this cliff” kind). The unique focus and protagonist make it a good watch, and you’ll have that “just one more episode” feeling after most episodes (mostly game episodes, the story buildup ones are far too predictable).
Now by this point I usually review the characters and their development, but I’m really confused as to what I should say here. I know the outward quirks of the characters well enough, but their depth not so much. But keep in mind: this is first and foremost a mahjong anime. The development of the characters as players is done well. We can understand their play styles, and eventually even predict some moves. But their personal stories are lacking. Can’t blame them, as most time is devoted to the games or setup to the games. Perhaps the manga might be able to fill these gaps.
Akagi is an acclaimed and well-respected gambling anime by many people, but it wasn’t the same for me. Maybe it’s because of my lack of knowledge of mahjong, but I was unable to really get into it, outside of a few moments. This isn’t to say it’s a bad anime or you shouldn’t watch it. I’d put it in the same category as Death Note (yes I won’t stop slandering Death Note): a good show, but not for me. Give it a try.
Unique is an understatement
Middle of the road
What story? But some good plot points, and games.
Good players, questionable human beings.
Try it. You might like Akagi more than I did.