「追跡」 (Tsuiseki)

Ah, I’ve been waiting for an episode like this. That is, one dedicated to Lieutenant Colonel Yuuki. You may remember that I noted in previous weeks that it’s my opinion that the ‘main character’ of Joker Game is definitely Yuuki. In fact, he’s the only character of any real import, since his students in the D Agency are shaped in his image and to know Yuuki is, to an extent, to know them all. Thus a ‘Yuuki episode’ is of fundamental importance to Joker Game, and really had to happen before the end of our run.

I had conflicted feelings going into Pursuit, though, because while I was quite curious about the good Lieutenant Colonel and did want to learn more about him, I was apprehensive about what pulling the curtain back on Yuuki’s past would do to his character. Yuuki is the biggest enigma of Joker Game, and the kind of life he lead that would lead to his skills and philosophy is arguably the driving question behind the entire series. Is it alright for Joker Game to (borrowing its metaphor) reveal its hand so easily? And Yuuki, with his preternatural abilities is no mere mortal at this point; would humanising him ruin his mystique? I was certainly fooled into thinking that Joker Game was going to do the tell-all on Yuuki this episode, being too easily drawn in by young Arisaki Akira sharing the same dead stare as Yuuki, and not suspecting that the narrator was unreliable. When the deception was revealed I was at once surprised, disappointed and relieved. Yuuki was the mastermind behind the entire D Agency. Such a consummate spy should be less a man, and more a ghost. A thoroughly fabricated life story is on par with my expectations for him.

Is it all lies, though? I get the feeling that Arisaka Akira’s life story was not entirely fabricated, but in fact Yuuki’s life transplanted onto his incapacitated friend. Or at least that’s what I want to believe, because I do want character development for Yuuki and it would be too unsatisfying if we were to come out of an entire episode with nothing to show for it, having to discard all we’ve learnt in it as nonsense. It’s the same reason why one shouldn’t end a story with, ‘it was all a dream!’ because then there would be nothing left afterwards except a bad taste in the readers’ mouths. So I try to look for the little kernels of truth that may be in this story. That, even in his youth, Yuuki objected to killing. That he went to fight in the First World War anyway, and experienced its horrors. That, even back then, he was faking a limp (or perhaps it got better and he thought it advantageous not to show it). It would make sense if Yuuki’s exotic education and experiences shaped him into the paranoid spymaster he is today. But we’d never know for sure.

Perhaps more telling would be Yuuki’s actions in this episode, specifically the mercy he extended to his MI6 kouhai (assuming it’s true that one of the founders was Yuuki’s guardian). We already know that Yuuki’s thinks that an uncovered spy is less than useless, and that killing is stupid. So letting one go is no big deal. But we would also expect Yuuki to try to turn the enemy agent to their side. Instead, happy ending. Was Yuuki just doing a nice thing as a senpai? Was it collegiality with a fellow professional? Pity for a spy who should have retired long ago? Whatever the motive was, it accentuates a sad truth about the spy business. Genuine, human connections like a loving wife is, to a spy, just a liability. Living a healthy life is mutually exclusive to being a good spy. The real character development for Yuuki, perhaps, is that he can never have real character development. Alias ‘Yuuki’ is not a man. It is the shadow of a man. To be more a spy is to be less of a human.




  1. Or, it could even be that Arisaka Akira is Yuuki except that the person who brought Akira back to Japan took on the entirety of Akira’s life and persona. In the end though, we’ll never know what the truth may be.

    Nishizawa Mihashi
    1. That’s pretty much how I saw it. The switch happened when he and his friend(?) returned home, but everything that happened before was indeed Yuuki’s past.

  2. That’s the beauty of this whole thing – we simply can’t tell what’s true and what’s not. Pretty much anyone not a master spy like “Yuuki” would never be able to figure it out either. On one hand, the entire thing could be fake with nothing that was told being true, or it could be all true, or (most likely) a mish-mash of truth AND lie. Some of the best lies include grains of truth after all.

    Also, aside from the “no killing” bit ((which, let’s face it, even if he did kill his opponent(s), the repercussions would probably have been much worse than merely expulsion if he did, hence why it should not be done)), there’s the fact that “Yuuki” fought using “underhanded”/”dishonorable”/”dirty”/etc. tactics against his opponents (dirt to the eyes and a low blow) rather than in a traditional, “honorable” fashion.

    1. The principal interpreted Yuuki’s ‘dirty’ fighting as cowardice, and perhaps that’s a metaphor for his spy work. As zztop notes below, there were real Japanese generals who had pretty low regard for spycraft.

    2. And the fucking ironic thing is that they carried out Pearl Harbor anyway. ‘Cowardice’ my motherfucking ass 😛

      Though I do wonder why Admiral Yamamoto carried the attack anyway despite his concerns…

      Nishizawa Mihashi
  3. This is my personal guess but it’s more likely Yuuki was being practical about letting Price go free more than considerate. As for the biggest reason why Yuuki let Price go free besides his killing policy and beliefs in uncovered spies, Price had just lost all he’s worked for in a foreign country for 10 years and wasn’t in the most stable state. Rather than leaving him as is where he could do something completely unpredictable, it would be more practical to have Price depart the country and settle down as a normal citizen.

    1. There is very likely some level of pragmatism in Yuuki’s actions, and we may never know for sure, but contrast his treatment of his Wind Agency rival in Double Joker. Yuuki completely crushed that poor sap, who committed suicide in the end.

  4. A link to translated commentaries and interviews with the anime staff/voice actors working on Joker Game.

    Interesting bits:
    – In the novel, Gamou Jirou was the D Agency’s 1st graduate.
    – There were some real life generals in the Imperial Army who thought spywork was a coward’s job.
    – Shirahata was based on Yoshida Shigeru, who served as Japan’s PM from 1946-1947, 1948-1954. He was anti war and protested against Japan’s Axis alliance, which led him to be deemed a national security threat by the Army (coupled with his pro West ideals).

      1. A necessary disclosure in Japan. Addressing historical politics there in entertainment runs the risk of getting skewered by both the left and right wing over there. That’s why even the anime staff working on the Gate anime tried to make things as apolitical as possible.

        Even I recall the live action Joker Game movie being very apolitical, avoiding the historical discourse of the novel and anime and instead making it a typical action spy movie.

    1. It might have to do with the fact that he was using his ring to hide info, so he had to make it one size bigger to fit his finger while hiding info. although i could be wrong.

      Trap Master
  5. Would be more interesting if Yuuki was one of the other kids in this picture:
    And if Arisaka actually influenced him in someway during the Great War. Had my doubts when they noted that he didn’t graduate from the imperial academy. Not sure one could become an IJA Lt. Colonel without going through it in those days.

    Of course if Arisaka actually did influence him, it would give a major explanation on why the D Agency doesn’t want any military recruits.


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