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 I sense no life in you. I know. I was like that a second ago.

Tokyo, 1958. A 13-year-old kid, Shigeru Akagi, drives off a cliff in an rigged game of chicken, swims to safety and walks into a Mahjong parlor, where a man with heavy debts is gambling his life with the Yakuza. Despite having never played before, and given only a few minutes to learn the rules, he proceeds to crush his opponents. This becomes his modus operandi: breaking hardened gamblers into shells of their former selves with a deadly mix of intimidation, cunning, and monstrous luck. This is the start of the genius Akagi's legend in the underworld.

It should be noted that this is a Prequel to Ten, where an older Akagi is one of the major characters. See also Kaiji which so far is the only other manga by Nobuyuki Fukumoto to get an anime adaptation.


This show provides examples of:

  • Absurdly High Stakes Game: Akagi actually refused to play unless Washizu increased the wager to ten times the usual rate. This meant each mistake was more fatal, as Akagi would lose ten times more blood than usual. Ohgi wagered an arm as well, indicating his faith in Akagi was unshakable.
    • On the flip side, that meant Washizu would lose money at ten times the usual rate as well, eventually being driven into bankruptcy and being forced to wager his own blood.
  • All or Nothing: Akagi invokes the "double or nothing" wager against Yagi/Ryuuzaki. And again after defeating Ichikawa, though his request is denied.
    • Urabe also goes the "double or nothing" route against Fake Akagi, but it backfires horribly once the real Akagi steps in.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Washizu Iwao.
  • Anti-Hero: Akagi could arguably be a straight up Villain Protagonist, considering he appears to have no morals of any kind. That being said, he never really does anything actively villainous either. At least not to people who weren't major bastards to begin with.
    • The sixth episode is titled "The Talent Of The Villain". This refers to Akagi.
    • Akagi has some standards, though - he despises people who try to gamble without risking anything, either by rigging the game or not intending to honor the outcome from the start.
  • Asshole Victim: Akagi's co-workers, who try to con Osamu out of his pay, later fall victim to Akagi.
    • Most of Akagi's opponents, really. Not only they are professional gamblers who drive people into impossible debts without remorse, all of them, save Ichikawa, also are total assholes about this. And Ichikawa gets away from Akagi relatively lightly.
  • Badass: Akagi. There is nothing you can do to intimidate him. He takes a sword to the shoulder and doesn't even flinch. He fights groups of five or more armed thugs with his bare hands and emerges unscathed. And lest we forget, he drove full speed off a cliff in a rigged game of Chicken when he was thirteen years old, and dared to blatantly cheat against members of the Yakuza. And he lived to tell about it.
    • Well, actually in the scene where Akagi gets a sword cut, he is seriously scared, because he knows that he will be killed if he refuses to back down (he lived through that due to a coincidence beyond his power to predict). You can see him sweating and hesitating, for the first time in the manga. Of course, this makes his decision to reject the demand of Yakuza who hold him at swordpoint even more Badass.
    • Ohgi. His response to being told to bet an arm on a game of Mahjong is simply, "I don't mind." His expression doesn't even change.
    • Washizu, if the prequel spinoff manga is considered canon by Fukumoto. Back in his earlier days, you could literally encase him in concrete, and he would still kick your ass.
  • Batman Gambit: Everybody uses them, usually in the form of cheating or bluffing. And when it fails, oh, does it royally screw them over.
  • Big Bad: Washizu, whose arc takes up half of the anime and three-quarters of the manga, more than all the other opponents combined. He's got no connection to them, though.
  • Black and Grey Morality: The story is focused on the criminal underground of Showa Era Japan, meaning most of the characters are either ambiguously evil, members of the Yakuza, complete monsters, or decent (and completely ineffective) normal people.
  • Born Lucky: Akagi, Washizu, and Fake Akagi, to a lesser extent.
  • Butt Monkey: Yoshioka. Every time he shows concern for his boss, Washizu, he gets scolded and/or hurt.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Averted. Akagi successfully cheats rather often. His opponents might notice, but won't call him out on it, possibly because they are cheating too.
  • Catch Phrase: The Akagi Chuckle. Oh yes. At least once per match, with a fan favorite being

  Akagi: "*Akagi Chuckle* You're a retard, Yagi-san."

  The sand in the depths of hell is magical sand!

  Akagi: You're just a coward, Washizu Iwao.

  • The Reveal
  • The Unfettered: Akagi.
  • This Cannot Be!: Usually coupled with The Reveal and a Villainous Breakdown.
    • Uttered by Yasuoka, arguably one of the good guys, when Washizu suddenly accumulates twelve dora (bonus) tiles.
  • Two Plus Torture Equals Five: Invoked by the Yakuza during a Chō-Han session; the dice show an eight but they threaten to kill Akagi if he doesn't call it odd. He insists that it's even, and would have gotten his head chopped off if it wasn't for Yasuoka and Ohgi.
  • Unsound Effect: ZAWA, indicating dramatic tension, and appearing in many of Fukumoto's other works, including Kaiji.
  • Villainous Breakdown
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: Crucifixion? Demonic Possession? MOTHERFUCKING RESURRECTION? Remind me, what game are we playing again?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Ryuuzaki and Yagi, Akagi's first opponents? Do they get their hands/fingers mangled (like Urabe), saddled with debt (Urabe again), outright killed (for life insurance money, just like what was going to happen to Nangou), or what?
    • Well, based on Ryuuzaki's thoughts, he probably gets saddled with Nangou's (cancelled) debt, and Yagi probably loses (several) fingers, based on the threats made towards Akagi.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough...?: Exactly what Urabe was thinking when he dealt the Pei (North Wind tile), knowing that everybody saw it by accident in the beginning, and that Akagi couldn't possibly be waiting for it. Guess what...
  • Why Won't You Die?: Washizu insists that Akagi should be dead by all accounts after drawing a total of 2300cc's (actually 1800cc's plus 500cc's of transfused blood. Akagi simply says that so long as the gamble is unfinished, he will remain alive.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Despite not knowing much about Akagi's background, it's obvious that he has experienced a lot for a 13-year old.
  • Worthy Opponent: After Akagi resurrects a second time, Washizu grudgingly admits that Akagi is "an emperor, just like me. We are the same."
  • Xanatos Speed Mahjong: His match against Ichikawa, where they both end up waiting on the same tiles, and Akagi has to constantly change his wait in order to avoid dealing into Ichikawa's hand, which also constantly changes in order to trap Akagi. Akagi fails, but manages to survive long enough to stage a comeback.
  • Yakuza
  • You Can Barely Stand: Go ahead, guess who says this to Akagi. See every single mention of the severe blood loss events on this page.
  • You Have Failed Me: What happens to Urabe after he loses, in part because he was the one who kept doubling the wager.
  • Younger Than They Look: Akagi in the anime, pre-Time Skip. When Akagi tells Nangou he's 13, Nangou's response is changed from "Yeah, you look it, too" in the manga to "Really? You don't look it" in the anime.
  • You're Insane!: Everyone thinks Akagi is insane for all the stunts he pulls. Washizu is also plenty insane, and he acknowledges it.
    • Washizu in particular thinks Akagi is insane for many reasons: upping the wager tenfold, all but signing his death warrant; passing on a winning dealt tile to win by tsumo (self-draw); not chasing a DaiSanGen hand (one of the biggest hands in Mahjong) and winning on a KoSanGen (a lesser variation) instead; throwing out his drawn blood and contaminating it, thereby making transfusions back into the body impossible; and many, many more instances.
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