Joker Game (Part 1)
Joker Game is a Japanese novel series written by Koji Yanagi. The series has been produced by Production I.G. This first episode takes place in 1937, during early Japanese occupation of Manchuria. The vast majority of this episode takes place in the “Greater East Asia Cultural Society.” This “society” functions as a front for the Japanese spy agency, called the D agency.
The D agency
The D agency trains spies for infiltration into other countries. The agency trains the spies in foreign languages, medicine, pharmacology, physics, communications. They hire “professional thieves and safe-crackers,” to teach them their techniques. Gigolo’s teach them the “art of seduction.” All information regarding their actual identities is top secret and unknown to even each other. They in turn use code-names.
Sakuma is the main protagonist of the series. He is the liaison from the Imperial Japanese Army. It’s clear that he initially despises spies in general. He sees them as being dishonest and manipulative. He also questions their patriotism.
The Joker game
We are introduced to the concept of the “Joker game.” Sakuma plays a game of poker with several of the agents. He “loses,” but Miyoshi quickly tells him that he was “peeking” at his cards. With the help of the other agents “signals.” He tells Sakuma that they weren’t “really” playing poker.
He explains that the “poker game, was a charade.” The intention to get people on your “side.” However, their actual allegiance isn’t certain. The signals can be false or you might alter your hand based on your opponent’s signs. The purpose is to “convince the enemy spy to betray his side and join yours.”
Sakuma questions the purpose of this, “game.” He says its “cowardly.” Lt. Col. Yuuki of the Imperial Army challenges Sakuma on his views. He asks him to image that he’s in Washington at an “international political meeting.” He says that if “your information is leaked, you’ve got no hope of winning.“
Finally, asks Sakuma “if he were a spy that was discover, what would his reaction be?” He response that he would kill or commit suicide. His answer resulted in the agents laughing. Lt. Col Yuuki tells him that would be the worst decision for a spy. He said it would only lead to a criminal investigation.
This series has been highly regarded for a while. I think the hype was well deserved. I generally gravitate towards more action anime. However, this series has peaked my interests. I enjoy the complexity the series seems to be heading for. Base on Sakuma, I think the spies are to set up to appear “bad” initially. I do think they will eventually become more highly regarded, both by the viewer and Sakuma.
One standard I have for anime is animation. This series is beautiful. The color pallet is muted, but feels like it is appropriate for the time period. The characters look realistic and so does the background. Overall, I love the series so far and will recommend it.