OP: 「颯爽と走るトネガワ君」 (Sassou to Hashiru Tonegawa-kun) by ゲスの極み乙女 (Gesu no Kiwami Otome)
I want to preface this post by warning any prospective watchers that Chuukan Kanriroku Tonegawa’s (CKT) first few minutes comprehensively spoils Kaiji’s first season. For an old viewer like myself who needed to have their memory refreshed, this recap was fantastic. However, for newcomers to FKMT’s universe, you might want to skip the first few minutes if you’re planning on checking out the original series. It doesn’t actually require any prior knowledge of Kaiji, and can be enjoyed without needing any context, since these events occur concurrently with the ones in Kaiji. So with that warning out of the way, let’s move onto the main body of my first impressions.
Clarifying Minor Details from the Season Preview:
I haven’t actually read the manga for this series, so writing the preview, I’d assumed that it would flow in a similar vein to Kaiji. While the distinct art style and sadistic humour are still there, the kind of suffering is quite different. Instead of people’s lives being at stake, betraying each other to death for a chance at survival and escape, we have a group of individuals within a dubious company actively seeking to ascend the corporate ladder. In fact, this very company is responsible for organising the illegal death games that serve as Kaiji’s foundation.
So what is this all about?:
Chuukan Kanrioku Tonegawa is about the trivial struggles and triumphs of Tonegawa Yukio (Morikawa Toshiyuki), the Number 2 man who aspires to be at the top of Teiai Corporation. This involves satisfying the evil whims of President Hyoudou, an old man driven to insanity by his wealth, and lack of success in finding life’s meaning. To that end, Hyoudou begins seeking out gratification in other ways, namely through the suffering and despair of society’s destitute individuals. The unethical aspects of such a venture are completely irrelevant to Tonegawa and his black suit suboordinates, who are only concerned with satisfying Hyoudou’s wants so that they can continue climbing the corporate ladder. For Tonegawa to be successful, it will involve a great deal of middle management, a refreshingly unique perspective that is rarely explored in the animated medium. His struggles to please Hyoudou are framed in a darkly comedic manner, with all the black suits looking similar, having similar sounding names, and all sharing bowling as a primary hobby. This comedic segment asks a valid question of how villains in fiction seem to recall their subordinates names without fail, even when all the subordinates look exactly the same. But while such trifling pains are understandable, I cannot muster an ounce of sympathy for the No.2 man. We also have to remember that Tonegawa gives no consideration for the human lives that may be ruined as a result of his scheming. Rather than worrying about the moral implications behind the intense suffering of random folks, he is completely focused on making a positive impression on Hyodou, and curses how such a commitment might inconvenience his personal life. This really ties in with what FKMT typically sets out to show – that is to say the ugliness of human nature – and so far it looks like CKT is going about it just fine. When all is said and done, outside the lack of moral accountability in Tonegawa’s personality, it’s hard to deny that he actually comes across as a competent and impressive individual.
While the narrator has changed from Kaiji, I really liked what the new one brought to the table. Jay Kabira fulfilled his job as the certified hype man, and sounded a tad cornier, something that fits better with the comedic outlook of CKT. Admittedly, the comedy didn’t always hit the spot for me, and the zawas feel quite underwhelming. However, I’m feeling really optimistic about this adaptation. All the Kaiji vibes are there, even though FKMT let go of the reins by letting his protege write the spinoff, and the trademark art style looks really crisp in proper HD. The soundtrack really hit the spot, and all in all, I’m really excited that we’re going to be getting two cours of this. For people who have been hankering for something refreshing and original to come through the anime industry, now is the time! Maybe the weird art style puts you off, but I’d advise you to look past it, and highly encourage people to give CKT a chance!
ED: 「隠岐手紙」 (Oki Tegami) by 竹原ピストル (Pistol Takehara)