So before I even go into the top 2 anime gambling films, I am going to do a brief rundown of what anime even is. Although the popularity in the west continues to grow each year, there are still plenty of people in the US who have no idea what anime is, what it’s all about, or why they should care (and trust me, you should—it’s an incredible artform).
For most people in the US, especially adults, anime is something they just don’t have experience with. They might have seen it for a second or two while checking on their child while they watched cartoons after school, but they still may not know that what they saw was anime (or how to tell the difference between the anime shows versus all of the non-anime cartoons out there).
What is Anime?
The word anime is Japanese for the term “animation.” The Japanese use it to refer to all forms of animated media that’s outside of their homeland (Japan).
For those of us who live outside of Japan, the word anime refers specifically to animation that has been created and produced inside Japan, while also meaning a “Japanese-disseminated” animation style.
It’s hard to explain what the art style looks like exactly, but the most common explanation is this:
“Anime includes those cartoons where the characters, especially the female ones, all have really big eyes.”
Most people have probably stumbled across the art style at some point, even if they don’t know it, and to be honest, there really aren’t a lot of people in the younger generations who don’t at least know what it is.
The earliest commercial Japanese animated flicks date back all the way to 1917, and since then, the industry has grown exponentially. Anime started to emerge in the 1960s, and by the late 20th century, anime had spread internationally.
Anime is a distinct art form, especially when compared to other styles of animation. It uses distinct styles of production methods, combining graphic art, characterization, cinematography, and even clever and brilliant styles of emergent technologies.
When creating anime, the focus is less on the animation and movement and more on the realism of settings and camera effects including panning, zooming, and angle shots. Character proportions and features can be quite varied, including characteristically large emotive or realistically sized eyes.
Believe it or not, there are over 430 productions studios, including huge and well known names like Ghibli, Toei Animation, and Gainax. Once English dubbing was introduced into anime, there was a pretty rapid rise in international popularity. This led to international studios adapting and using it as an art form.
If you’re not familiar with anime as an artform, then you’ve probably come across it in video games. Because much of modern video gaming originated in Japan, you’ll see a lot of videos today, whether produced in Japan or other parts of the world, that have the same anime style.
And if you don’t play video games much, you’ve almost certainly heard of the biggest media franchise in the world—no, I’m not talking about Star Wars (although you’re right to believe it’s huge).
Actually, it’s Pokemon. That’s right, not only is Pokemon the largest media franchise in the world in terms of profit, but it’s also a perfect example of the anime style. If you’ve ever taken your kids to any of the animated Pokemon movies (or the recently released live-action Pokemon movie Detective Pikachu), then you’ve seen anime.
Now that you have an extremely basic understanding of anime, I want to talk about some great anime films that center around gambling and or casino life.
Gambling movies that are not anime have been extremely popular worldwide over the decades, so it’s probably not much of a surprise that gambling is big in anime as well. Gambling can be an exciting and exhilarating experience, but obviously there’s a portion of the population that struggles with it, so including gambling in a movie can be a way to come close to the lifestyle associated with gambling without actually putting your money on the table.
I think some of the draw for anime creators and movie directors is the high drama of gambling. When you have brilliant minds battling it out for high stakes while doing tricks, bluffs, and planning schemes in order to aid in the winning process, you’ve got a recipe for edge-of-your-seat action.
These movies are similar to western gambling movies, except they are anime! There are so many more films that could be on this list, but for now, I am just going to go over 2 really great anime films about gambling.
1- The Money of Soul and Possibility Control
The Money of Soul and Possibility Control is an animated series from 2011 that was produced by Tatsunoko Production. The plot of the series follow Kimimaro Yoga, a student studying economics. Living in a country whose economy is in shambles, but also being surrounded by peers who show off their luxurious lives, Kimimaro understands the significance of money.
He has been struggling to make ends meet, and then, one evening, his whole life as he knows it is completely turned upside down when a stranger with a top hat on arrives at his doorstep one late evening.
He’s introduced to the alternate reality of the Financial District, which is kind of like a real money online casino, where money flows abundantly if a person uses their “future” as collateral. In the series, the term for fighters is entres, and entres can have large quantities of money if they win, and risk having their future altered if they lose.
Yoga has to adapt in this new world if he is going to protect his wealth and his future. As the series progresses, we see Kimimaro start to realize the impact that the alternate reality of the Financial District is having on the real world.
One of the important lessons in the series is Yoga having to learn just how much money is really worth. The entire storyline was created and directed by Kenju Nakamura. The first airing of the show happened on Japan’s local station, Fuji TV, April 15, 2011. It was shortly after released on DVD and Blu Ray by a company called Toho. It eventually made it to the United States, the UK, and Australia.
What I like so much about this movie that really sets it apart from your classic gambling movie is that it’s not so much about specific, well-known table games, but rather is about the consequences that gambling itself can have, including gambling addiction. It’s a metaphor for what happens when you let gambling get out of hand and start to control your life, so I like to recommend it to people because it’s a different take on the traditional gambling flick.
Saki is a 25 episode anime adaption of the popular manga series called Saki (manga is basically Japanese comic books). The series first aired on TV in Tokyo on April 06, 2009. The anime portrays a peek into what the gambling environment might look like in China and other parts of Asia.
The game played in the anime is a popular game played while gambling. Saki is everything you would expect while watching a tournament-style sports game (minus the high levels of testosterone). The cast is predominantly female, and the story revolves around Saki Miyanaga, a high school freshman who does not like mahjong.
Mahjong is a tile based game usually played with 4 players that was developed by China during the Qing Dynasty. Unless a family is playing for fun, gambling is very common in Asia during a mahjong game.
Growing up with a mahjong-obsessed family, Saki becomes resentful toward the game because of how it would cause her family to treat her. If she lost, she would lose her gift money for New Year’s. If she won, her family and older sister would just get upset with her. In the midst of being emotionally scarred and having trauma around her family and the game, she curiously follows her friend into the schools mahjong club.
Saki then joins her friends in the national mahjong tournament, but this is where the story starts to get a little out of hand—playing the game wakes up several of her inner demons (in a literal sense).
I think again what I like about this anime is that it’s a very different take on gambling and doesn’t romanticize the experience of gambling or make it seem like more than it is. I don’t think it necessarily demonizes gambling, but it does have a lot of metaphors about the effect that gambling can have on you personally and on your family, and for that reason, I think it’s definitely an anime worth checking out.
While there are a number of anime films out there that concern gambling, I think these are 2 of the greatest. What do you think? Is there anything I left off this list? Let me know in the comments!