「誤算」 (Gosan)

Everyone from the D Agency have been smirking too easily in the introductory arc, so it’s about time they go do something dangerous so that we can watch them sweat a bit. And so, as part of the standard three episode sampler for every anime series, Joker Game jumps right to 1940, when World War II has already started, and northern France already occupied. And while Japan still hasn’t joined the War yet at this point, it’s still a pretty bade time skip from 1937, and I think that from now on Joker Game is probably going to be mostly episodic in nature, without much adherence to chronology. In the short term I’m guessing each mission is going to showcase a specific spy, like this week’s… er, who was he again? Probably the short one (Kaji Yuki), but I suppose his exact identity is not actually all that important because he is a spy, after all, and ‘Shimano Ryousuke’ is not a man who exists. I anticipate trying to make out the man behind the alias will be a consistent routine every week.

For those of you who were wondering about Joker Game‘s adherence to history, the disclaimer about ‘none of this corresponds to real events’ is still there, but there is still the general dedication to realism here (dramatically-convenient-amnesia aside). There’s some evident settings research in the backgrounds, and there’s no anachronistic gadgetry to be found, instead mundane tricks like dust explosions (which may be high school chemistry to the modern audience, but back in the day was still a real hazard in flour mills operated by the less informed; it demonstrates the spies’ education). But Joker Game still dances around the history somewhat, despite making the context obvious. There is, for example, a Hitler notably missing from this photo. It may just be Joker Game being cheeky, out of necessity perhaps, for as the previous arc it’s unflattering at best about Japan’s war effort. For example while historically the domestic support for an alliance with Germany was high thanks to a dedicated propaganda effort, the spy in this episode—a man with a broader perspective, by his very occupation—is more doubtful. And hey, there was some allusion to the atrocities by the Japanese army—just one line, but it’s a mention!—which I suppose is already quite on the nose for Japanese TV.

While history and geopolitics are, of course, fascinating (for just me), Joker Game is a spy thriller and for those the focus is usually more on the psychological edge. And, of course, human drama because I think the life of a spy is always, on some level, a tragedy (or maybe The Spy Who Came in from the Cold has irreversibly set that tenor). Something about once a spy, always a spy, aptly demonstrated in his episode by the imprinting that Shimano (let’s just call him Shimano) received. I initially thought that he was acting as some sort of sleeper agent, though what we got in the end was close enough. Point in, Shinome is the consummate spy to his very core of his being, which is one hand impressive, but is it not also somewhat sad? Contrast him with Marie, who’s also a spy of sorts but she’s not a professional like he is. She did it for her family. Or how about Jean? He turns for the sake of his love. Why is Shimano an agent? No real reason. He is a spy for the sake of a spy, and although offered a choice to stay in France elects to return, and asks for a harder mission. ‘Shimano Ryousuke’ evaporates. His friendship with Alain evaporates. This episode is titled Miscalculation, but in the preview for it in the last episode, where the spies reminisce about their missions, Shimano—or Hatano, or whomever he is now—said he made the ‘right decision’. Which is the miscalculation? Which was the right decision? Joker Game leaves some room for interpretation for both.

It’s all quite interesting, and makes for quite the excellent third episode to round out an initial review of the show. By the three episode rule, where an anime has an episode to hook and three to impress, I would say Joker Game passes with flying colours. Both the writing and direction have been top notch, in my opinion, with the only real issue being that the history it plays with may be a sensitive issue for viewers both East and West. Otherwise, I think Joker Game is as good an espionage anime as it gets, and certainly one of the strongest shows of the season. Whether you’re interested in the spycraft, or the period, or just the thrills, there’s much to recommend in Joker Game. It’s definitely one worth sticking with.




  1. Why did he throw away the gun from the soldier he knocked out?
    To make the pursuers think they’re unarmed? Nothing serious, just curious.

    Love the way they did the episode preview though.

    1. It draws attention. It’s impossible to hide. What could he do with it at best? Kill one or two soldiers, draw others with sound of gunshots and get killed? Keeping the gun would impose serious risks at no benefits at all.

  2. To me this episode was not very realistic to be honest. Untying the “old lady” (tied up for what exactly? stirring up a crowd?) in front of a few armed soldiers was bad enough, but when a platoon of Nazis showed up for the raid I didn’t expect that the characters would unhurriedly discuss their plan – the pursuers even stop knocking on the door and wait for their turn to be blown up! The French guys are so cardboard. Meeting in the confessional is so cliché. Etc, etc. It is supposed to be a thriller but there is no thrill. The first couple minutes (where he is recovering from amnesia) did have good tension, the rest was rather meh

    1. Pretty sure they say that the old lady threw a stone at a german squadron. Which seems like a pretty realistic reason for getting tied up. I guess you could argue it was not that realistic in that if she did that they probably would have shot her for doing that.

      1. Well, first, I’m pretty sure they didn’t think the old woman was part of the resistance. They tied her up because they were making an example out of her for what happens when you defy the german army. It is something that was pretty standard operating procedure for the german army back then.

        Second, how would she point out the MC if they locked her up? Why would she even point him out? I thought the point was that he managed to psychologically manipulate the old woman to start of the set of events that he wanted. In that case, to her, throwing the stone would be her own idea.

    2. The resistance is not yet formed after France surrender.

      What i know after the Main German division drive through northern France. The secondary role for the German reserve is for mop up every house to house looking for weapons but no intention of looting and execution there are complete well strict discipline order by Hitler. They also setup mobile kitchen to feed the French people.

  3. This episode flew by as I watched it. To me, it’s interesting to see the intelligence industry from the Japanese perspective. We’ve all been bombarded by James Bonds, Jason Bourne, and Ethan Hunt (and Susan Cooper?) in popular media, but I don’t think I’ve seen the East’s counterpart in an international setting. Maybe because of history, as it would always bring up a sore subject? But this episode did make me realize that a Japanese spy, especially with perfect accents and all, would stick out like a sore thumb among Caucasians, especially in this era. Their choices for covers seem to be limited if they get assigned to the West.

    While history and geopolitics are, of course, fascinating (for just me)

    You definitely are not alone. I also love historical “semi-fiction”; a lot (umm…2? lol) of novels I’ve really enjoyed are set in World War backdrops. Just a few months ago, I think I gave out a little squeal when I saw that Exodus (1960) was on the flight menu, years after I finished the novel. Perfect for a trans-Pacific flight.

    1. Yeah, that’s something that’s missing a lot here in Western spy stories – a lot of such spy work.

      Probably because creators and such know that if such movies like Bond, Bourne, MI, and such were to be about actually spying/espionage/etc. the whole time, then the audience would probably get bored quickly, which is why there ends up being a lot of fast-paced action scenes going on that is usually the complete opposite of what spies would do (like chases that span across half a freaking city with gunfire and/or explosions galore), which is to remain inconspicuous, to disappear, to do things right under the enemy’s nose, and so on, and when there are times they may be forced to kill, they will still try to do so in the quietest/inconspicuous way possible (things like the briefcase gun, camera gun, garrot, shoe knife, and so on), then get away and disappear fast.

      1. The problem, I think, is that actual spycraft is not at all glamorous, make for very different movies than the Hollywood spy. They would be psychological thrillers in nature, and lend poorly to the action and explosions that sell at the box office. Even Joker Game, which arguably features ‘super’-spies, only has one explosion this episode, which is not nearly enough for a blockbuster.

      2. There’s that, too. On the top of my head, I can only think of Argo as a decent film on espionage sans-explosions. It is based on a true story, so that’s where the realism comes from. But I’m sure there could be a ton more of lesser-known examples.

        What makes Joker Game unique so far (for me at least) is that it involves non-Western spies meddling in international affairs (particularly this fragment of history). Physical features alone give Japanese spies a disadvantage, unlike when you have, say, a British spy among the Germans. I look forward to more episodes.

      3. “I can only think of Argo as a decent film on espionage sans-explosions.”

        There’s also the films based on John le Carré’s books (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy for example) which have the same tone as Joker Game.

  4. Have to give credit to the military historicity here, it’s not often you get a Sd. Kfz. 222 and proper Feldgendarmerie uniforms (complete with gorgets!) in a show, let alone anime. Although the modified Champs Elysees “photo” is annoying, at least the French surrender picture is pretty damn close to the real thing.

    Only thing irking me was why a Japanese spy would be concerned about the French resistance in the first place. French Indochina quickly wound up under Japanese control after their surrender, not to mention the colony was effectively Vichy–little reason for Japan to concern itself with the occupation of a (very) far away land after that. Probably something to do with hedging bets (i.e. if Germany loses). Guess this is what I get for hating ambiguity in my geopolitical world building, nitpicking small details 😛

    1. Sure, as ewok40k notes below, the French resistance isn’t much at this point, but just the existence of a resistance is important from a nationalism point of view. And a guerilla force is still a force. And eventually de Gaulle’s going to swallow up all these small groups and make something out of them.

      But Japan wouldn’t know about any of that if they didn’t get intelligence. If there was a big war going on, a major power has been defeated, you’d want to know what’s going on, which means sending the spies to snoop out everything. It’s always good to have more information rather than less.

  5. Resistance having relatively low support early on was historical fact.
    It was only afte both Germans showed their ruthlessness and started actually losing war that it became more popular, culminating with 1944 mass support for Allied invasion in France and Paris uprising…

    I guess the mission was part of Japanese intyelligence trying to gauge chances of Germans winning the war (and profitability of allying with them). But as our hero noticed, United Kingdom was not falling anytime soon…

  6. Why exactly did Shimano Ryousuke have to go? He already made a connection with a member of the French resistance. Though his language and technical skills probably made him a suspect. If he really wanted a challenge, staying in France would’ve given him a really tough one. A real test on how to play the Joker Game. Was the risk vs potential reward just not worth it?

    Allying with the Germans would probably make it easier to extend the visa. We know that he probably passed college already, so infiltrating from the university would most likely be easy for him. Is there really no good reason to stay? Or do they just operate on a shorter time frame?

    1. He left because he had already fulfilled the intelligence requirements of the mission. There really isn’t anything else for him to do. Spy agencies collect information at the request of the government. If there is no more information to collect, there is no point in staying.

  7. What irked me was the timeskip and complete disregard for an overarching plot coherence. I’m going to guess this is turning to be an episodic series, which I guess is fine because this episode was engrossing as it was, but…well, it’s certainly different.

  8. What I didn’t expect was Jean turning just like that. Because of love, he’s now a traitor to his country. What I’m now curious of is what role Sakuma is going to play in this show. Makes me wonder if he’s going to be fighting overseas for Japan, if he encountered a similar situation where an old woman is tied up for speaking her mind, or if civilians get oppressed generally speaking, would he tolerate it. The past episode already showed he isn’t completely a blind follower.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *