I’ve been enjoying the way Joker Game tells its different stories each week, but it’s also good that it’s turning its attention back to the spy games after more of a mystery/conspiracy last week. It’s England, 1939, in a time Winston Churchill called the ‘Twilight War’ but was more widely referred to as the Phoney War, and it’s a great time for the spy vs spy back-and-forth that make for the juiciest conflicts in this genre. All was still quiet on the Western Front, and the great powers were still poking around not sure about how to commit to this new European conflagration. And so spies and their work. It makes for an episode more akin to episode 03, and a pretty good one at that—which is to say that Joker Game continues its run of quality. Two things I enjoy about Joker Game I particularly enjoy: it’s attention to detail, and its music. Its rendition of London is the one of most realistic I’ve seen in anime (misspelt store sign aside). A recent example is the portrayal in Unlimited Blade Works, which was very pretty but Joker Game has the real London i.e. rainy and foggy. I’m a sucker for detailed settings, which combined with the excellent score (which reminds me of that Commandos videogame, for those who’ve played it) creates a strong atmosphere which Joker Game makes use of to amp up its thriller aspects.
The spy this week is the one named Kaminaga (Kimura Ryouhei), I think, but as usual his actual identity is not very important because, y’know, spy. It doesn’t really matter who the immediate players of the game are right now—I’m fairly certain macrocephalic British spymaster Howard Marks did not actually exist. As the title of this anime implies, it’s about the game. And the one where the spy is captured and endures interrogation and psychological subversion is a classic. I would argue that this is the first time that the spies of D Agency have had a worthy opponent (i.e. a counterpart agent), and I quite enjoyed watching them play their hands out against each other. While I was fairly certain from the outset that our man was not turning traitor and that he would escape, the process itself was quite gripping—which is a testament to good execution. I mentioned the detailed setting and the music before, but credit must also be given to the use of lighting. And perhaps the subject matter itself played a part, because sleeper agents are spooky. I had thought that was what episode 03, ‘Miscalculation was about, tangentially, but it is in Robinson that the concept is actually named. I do not envy these spies; to have commands that you’re not even aware of buried in your subconscious is a nightmare scenario. What is the sentiment offered in the preview of this episode? ‘Sleep when you’re sleepy; when the time comes you’ll wake up on your own’? In context, that’s actually rather chilling.
It all goes to show what a terrifying man Lieutenant Colonel Yuuki is, the lengths he will go and the amount of control he exerts. D Angency is ostensibly his brainchild, and each of its spies his personal creation. And the number of moves he is ahead by in the game is positively uncanny. I don’t particularly feel a need to know the background of each episode’s spy, but Yuuki is definitely a fellow I’d like to know more about. In fact, I’d argue that, for those who are looking for some central and stable characterisation in Joker Game, Yuuki is the one to look out for. He is the the spy. That Howard Marks chap seemed to know him; perhaps we’ll see more of the British spymaster because of that. Or maybe Lieutenant Colonel Yuuki will remain the man in the shadows forever. But the one piece of continuity behind Joker Game will always be the enigma behind the D Agency.