「ジョーカー・ゲーム(後編)」 (Jōkā Gēmu (Kōhen))
“Joker Game (Part 2)”

After last week’s cliffhanger there was no way I was going to just leave Joker Game at only one week of introduction, so here’s another. Joker Game (Part 2) is not quite as intense as its first half, since it serves as the explanation phase of what we can consider to be a mystery arc (with a few too many flashbacks to the first part, because I guess Joker Game doesn’t trust its audience to remember things for a week). Turns out, there was evidence to be found, and it was up to Sakuma to figure out where before he’s forced to gut himself to save face (will his blade go through those abs, though? I can play them like a marimba).

The question that gets left hanging in the air is what would have happened if Sakuma didn’t manage to figure out where the microfilm was hidden. It may have been a trial by fire for Sakuma—who knows?—but considering that Lieutenant Colonel Yuuki, the spymaster, had designs to leverage more funds for the D Agency, they couldn’t exactly fail either. Surely, D Agency was not just entrapping Sakuma to get rid of him, since he’d just be easily be replaced. It was more likely a test (a deadly one though it may be), to see if Sakuma could be a useful asset. But I think it’s a good thing that we’re left guessing as to each player’s motivations, because that’s what the Joker Game is about. And for the purposes of this anime, a certain level of mystique and uncertainty about the spies needs to be preserved. Everything seems to be part of the game, even innocent sounding social invitations to dinner. Circles within circles. These men are spooks, and their business should be spooky. I wouldn’t enjoy Joker Game nearly as much if it didn’t induce a level of paranoia.

To me, though, more interesting than Sakuma figuring everything out this episode is how he managed to do so—not by thinking like a soldier, but thinking like a spy. He had to question the game that he was playing. What was the American spy‘s game? What was his military superior‘s game? What was Lieutenant Yuuki‘s game? I’m pleased he was able to go down that road, and consider it a necessary step for his character development. I get the feeling that, as a soldier, Sakuma will need to question more and more as the series goes on. Joker Game has shown itself thus far quite a stickler for details (c.f. Gordan’s proper, American English, even if it didn’t actually match the Japanese subtitles), and it seems to want to capture the historical mood as well. As I mentioned last episode, Showa 12 was a time when support for war was high on every level, aided no doubt by the nationalistic propaganda that had been increasing in tenor since the Meiji era. The emperor of Japan was worshipped literally as a god—which is why to not revere his image on sight was sacrilegious. For a soldier like Sakuma, for whom the propaganda was something to live by, even the idea of disturbing the emperor’s portrait as part of a military inspection is tantamount to treason. ‘Duty is weightier than a mountain, while death is as light as a feather’—unquestioning loyalty above all else. But already Sakuma, in his position in the D Agency, is invited to question. In this arc, ‘honour before reason’ has already been discarded. Sakuma refuses to die as just somebody’s pawn.

Ah, but the pawn of whom, and on which board? We must remember both the soldier and the spy are no less pawns of the state. From here, I can see many directions Joker Game can perhaps go. Will Joker Game fully deconstruct Japan’s imperialistic agenda of the time? Or will it keep itself to just poking at its nationalism? Or will Joker Game simply be the story of how Sakuma fully embraces the sociopathy of the spy, and remember who’s number one? I wonder how ambitious Joker Game intends to be. We’ll be sorting out this season’s coverage schedule on Random Curiosity in the coming weeks, but right now Joker Game is fairly high on my personal list. Holler in the comments if you have any particular feelings on the matter.

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Full-length images: 06.




  1. They sure do look like they’re relishing that feeling of “I know something you don’t” or “I know you’re bluffing” kind of thought. I’m not a spy but it’s really hard to keep a straight face with this in mind lol

  2. https://randomc.net/image/Joker%20Game/Joker%20Game%20-%2002%20-%2028.jpg

    Observe the moat of the Tokyo Imperial Palace to the right.
    In those days the Palace was a much grander building. Completed for Emperor Meiji* in 1888 when he moved from Kyoto to Tokyo, the old palace had a Japanese wooden exterior, but a Western style interior with parquet floors, chandeliers and European furniture.

    The old palace was completely destroyed by USA bombs in 1945 nearing the end of WW2.
    Today’s new palace is a modern, albeit less grand and smaller building then its predecessor.

    *Meiji was Emperor Hirohito’s grandfather, BTW.

    1. Wait, really? They even had the locals do that kinda stuff too? Now that’s something not in the history book. Well, my country’s one anyway. Don’t know if they’ve updated it. Doubt they did.

      Nishizawa Mihashi
      1. Quite real. Though punishment probably varies, I’ve never heard of anyone getting executed for that particular negligence, but it’s certainly possible. It all depends on who saw it I guess.

        Not everything is deemed good enough for the history books. I still don’t know what they sell in Japanese only shops and I’ve never seen any written reference to them teaching Japanese in local schools for example.

    1. also forget the names, remember just only the faces.. Like most people do, faces are easier to remember then names, i am not right? special if you rise up in an small village

  3. Sure Passerby, a show like this is absolutely a coverage material. It’s good, it should provide enough depth for weekly post, and it’s something good to discuss since it’s both mysterious and (possibly) controversial.

    Btw, everything about Mr. Yuuki (The Spymaster) reminds me of Houzuki from AkabeiSoft2’s Visual Novel (especially some of the spoiler materials). I almost wished that he would be voiced by Norio Wakamoto too.

  4. They really did the history homework – from the indoctrination of Japanese soldiers, to institutionalised worship of Emperor, to all-permeating nationalist/warmongering propaganda…

    I wonder how will the series end since the D Agency is doomed to see their work undone by mindless military recklessly attacking the US – at least if we follow history which the show seems to be doing quite faithfully…

    1. Attacking the US at Pearl Harbor was actually not that foolish an idea from a larger Axis perspective. The real error was Hitler shortly after declaring war upon the US and drawing them into the European conflict. Western Europe was almost gone at that point. If Hitler had ignored the US, it’s possible that the US would have concentrated solely on the Pacific conflict and Nazi Germany might have been able to conquer Britain and the remainder of Western Europe, allowing them to concentrate entirely on Russia to close out the European Theatre. If Japan was able to hold out that long, which is possible, as the Pacific conflict would have been a long, drawn out affair even with full American attention, then the US might have been left entirely alone against the entirety of the remaining Axis forces.

      1. Basically, Japan had no chance of winning industrial war with the US…. look at the fleets built during the war, IJN managed to get one fleet carrier (Taiho) and one carrier converted from battleship (Shinano)…
        US churned out over 20 Essex class fleet carreirs and over hundred light and escort carriers.
        If there was ever unwinnable war, Japanese started one by enraging “sleeping giant”.
        Should Germany reamain aloof from the Pacific war, this would only be worse for Japan as US would focus their warmaking on Japan – while still supplying British and Soviets via lend-lease. I guess eventually US would get into European theatre, possibly not unlike Soviets did in the pacific in 1945…

      2. You guys made some interesting points. Cuz let’s just face it, the Americas are halfway across the Eastern Hemisphere and because of that physical isolation, the United States is capable of maintaining its infrastructure while still being able to exploit the ungodly amount of natural resources in its region of influence. Compare this to Japan where there’s almost nothing of strategic importance in its archipelago, not to mention that the colonialists had already sucked dry much of the resources from the lands Japan seeks to occupy. That and having to simultaneously build and maintain infrastructure necessary for the utilization of newly obtained resources, in addition to fighting of against the strategically more advantageous Americans simply did not allow them the ability of maintaining the war effort for long.

        Nishizawa Mihashi

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