Profound melancholy and the traditionally unforgiving themes of living, winning, and salvation have an even deeper meaning in the land of the Rising Sun. The Japanese culture, built on a courageous and unflinching confrontation with the laws of life, generally reflects upon this world as both deeply dismal and sparkling with that old elusive hope and meaningfulness that we can never quite stop believing in…
But now, in the modern era, we have a chance to meet this magical realm filled with bleak hope and charming dreariness through one very special medium: and we call this “anime.” This form of pop-culture art has brought us a window into some traditional beliefs, culture, and perspectives on the world; often presented in the form of some modern (or sometimes even futuristic) surroundings. The main reason anime has been able to successfully seduce so many Westerners is the way so many anime storylines have managed to portray with such success such a unique blend of unimaginable bravery and dreary truths about human existence.
However, the philosophical aspects of these stories, and of course their truly ingenious plots are not the only things making anime a genre beloved across the globe. This visual aspect of anime is often quite enchanting, since the artists are able to paint in extraordinarily colors profound pain, sadness, inner strength, and the deepest yearnings of one’s soul. This creative harmony between words and visual art is then enriched by the kind of amazing soundtracks that make these masterpieces whole and complete.
Of course, in the vast ocean of anime, not every animation is a good one. So today, in this article, we’re going to be talking about those that profoundly touch your soul and settle in your heart forever. Anime is a unique part of our pop-culture, since they are not merely there for your entertainment — they are there to challenge your view of the world and shake you to the very core of your being! Of course, these animated series do manage to do that by means of their intricate plotlines, which cover a dizzying array of profound and moving themes and aspects of life. There are many genres of anime; and the most popular ones are those that feature warriors, ghosts, spirits, Yakuzas, robots, and futuristic worlds.
The Ambivalent and Compelling World of Japanese Anime
Nothing is simple and straightforward in anime — the monsters that seem so evil have unexpected traits, celebrated warriors are tortured souls, spirits that protect you show you worlds you are not ready for, and the lines between heroes and antiheroes are thin and bleak. The best anime plots are not there to comfort your soul or calm your thoughts — on the contrary, they are there to inspire you, and indeed to encourage you to leave your comfort zone and dare to confront your very darkest thoughts.
And is there an anime genre that is able to successfully transport you into the harsh world of the Japanese underground and bravely question our most fundamental assumptions about human morality at the same time? Yes: it’s the genre of “gambling anime!” Because as we’ve already mentioned, gambling has generally been a predominant element in the world of the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza; essentially gangsters and thugs. These Yakuzas started as gangs of gamblers and dealers that played strictly forbidden games of chance. They were the ones that started the business of illegal gambling in Japan. They rolled the dice, lived on the edge of society, and bowed to no one.
And then, slowly but surely, out of this sinister crowd of gamblers and con artists rose one of the most feared mafias in the world — the Yakuza. Japanese anime about gambling is clearly inspired by the history of these scary gangs; but anime creators haven’t limited themselves to simple, realistic accounts of these figures. Instead, they’ve spice it up with obscure beliefs, mysticism, and exciting, dramatic plotlines. So we’re now going to talk about the best anime of this genre — some of the most exciting anime series out there; the kind of program that can leave nobody indifferent to the charm and profundity of their intriguing plotlines!
Getting Warmed Up for the List!
Some of these anime feature disturbing scenes, and the stories are everything but tranquil and simple. Also, most of them will not spare your feelings one bit — on the contrary, they’re going to make you wonder how far humans are capable of going and what the boundaries of human immorality actually are. All of these anime series feature rich, complex characters that are going to enchant you and make you want to binge-watch all the episodes ASAP!
We hope that you are ready to dive into this harsh but magical world of antiheroes, thrilling plots, excitement, tense dialogues, dangerous feminine beauty, philosophical questions, and of course, a whole load of high-octane action. So be prepared to see your favorite gambling pursuits in a whole new light, through the exciting lens of classic anime. It seems that Japanese anime is taking gambling tension to the next level — to the point where it all becomes no less than a matter of life and death! Now that you’ve finally been briefed and you’re ready for action, let’s jump into this fantastic new world together!
14. C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control
The Japanese economy is falling apart, bankers are fleeing the country; and worst of all, for $1, you can get only 3,000 yen. In this chaotic world, a young boy named Kimimaro Yoga is trying to fight his way out of the insanely bad situation in the country. The people of Japan are losing their patience, their assets, and even their very lives as their country is confronted with an unimaginable crisis.
However, the economic crisis depicted in this anime is really not that far from being a plausible real world scenario. Indeed, this entire fictional series was actually inspired by a real crisis that struck the global economy at the beginning of this century. The economic chaos of the narrative leads us to the mysterious character Masakaki, whose experiences lead us to question how far we can actually go to fight for wealth, or even just mere survival. Is human life itself a high-enough stake for us? Masakaki gives Kimimaro Yoga an intriguing offer and brings various fascinating aspects of the mysterious, the philosophical, and even the occult into this story of the economic collapse of a once-prosperous country. So Kimimaro Yoga has to play the most dangerous game of his life, gambling upon the most valuable things he has!
This anime is exciting, well-drawn, and has a catchy opening theme. Actor Kōki Uchiyama brings the character of Kimimaro Yoga to life, while the famous Kenji Nakamura directs the whole series. Everybody who is at all interested in gambling themes and anime needs to watch this series. It really does reflect the harsh truth about how the modern world works. The economy is ruthless, and this series depicts that perfectly. Also, it explores the mind of gamblers and players in a really intriguing way!
13. Death Parade
Are you ready for a poetic comparison between gambling and salvation? Well, what about wild, wild luck and the final resolution of your existence? Well, this anime is a witty, creative, and a creepy story about the fairness of the afterlife. So basically, in this world, when you die, a roulette game decides what is going to happen to you. You’re locked in a bar with a strange and rather ominous bartender who is hosting your game.
The OST of this series can be a bit misleading, since the upbeat melody doesn’t prepare you at all for all the weird and wonderful things that are going to happen in the episode. This anime is an excellent choice for those who like philosophical riddles and enjoy mind-bending paradoxes around ideas of life, death, and the afterlife. This series is full of interesting gambling allegories to help explain the nature of human fate. It also discusses some frightening ideas about how the afterlife works, which some of the characters are reluctant to accept; no surprises there!
Death Parade is directed by Yuzuru Tachikawa. The main character, Dekimu, is voiced by the famous actor Tomoaki Maeno. The series has been out there since 2013 and is definitely worth your time. This anime has everything you can ask for — philosophy, psychology, gambling, a spooky atmosphere, and amazing artwork — what’s not to like?
12. Joker Game
Spies, manipulators, war geniuses, action, military, and a lot of poker — this is probably the best way we can sum up Joker Game. This anime doesn’t revolve around gambling, but it does feature this concept as a metaphor and a tool for creating a tense atmosphere. This series is actually about some exciting or indeed downright thrilling spy games during WWII. The storyline revolves around D Agency, a spy organization who are constantly manipulating its way through the extremely complex political situations and dangerous conditions.
Now before you start watching this anime, we advise you to remind yourself about WWII history, especially the relationship between Japan and China at that time. Because we promise you this anime is going to be twice as interesting when you finally know what historical events are depicted in this story! But for now, we can say that on the whole, this show is a really excellent choice for anyone who likes war movies, spy stories, and intriguing war anecdotes. And it goes without saying that this anime will be the perfect choice for people who are already interested in gambling games as well!
The series is directed by Kazuya Nomura. Hiro Shimono voices the character Miyoshi, Kenyuu Horiuchi voices Lieutenant Colonel Yūki, and Tomokazu Seki brings Lieutenant Sakuma to life. The art in this anime is simply breathtaking, and you have to see it to believe it! The visual aspect itself is enough to launch you back to the ’30s era and revive the tense and atmospheric spirit of the period.
11. No Game No Life
Veteran gamblers have already made gambling an important part of their lives. So instead of that, how about making your own life part of a gamble instead? The anime “No Game No Life” experiments with the idea of a “gaming realm.” The series revolves around the spiritual world — a mystical plain of existence founded upon the basic principle of gaming itself. The ruler of this world is the god of games, Tet, and this dangerous realm ends up capturing two siblings who are experienced gamers.
At first, they don’t believe the world of games is real; and so they accept the challenge without knowing what they are getting into! This is how the main plot introduces one key idea about the nature of life — human beings often welcome serious and dangerous things into their lives, purely out of ignorance. Also, the series reflects upon one more notion — that games can be a lot more serious than we think — indeed, they can end up determining the entire course of our lives!
Human beings usually associate gaming with something that is somehow unreal or illusory; it’s only for fun, or it’s just something childish or harmless. This anime, however, poses a real challenge to our conventional thinking about the entire concept of gambling; and the subversive logic of this anime ends up being a truly groundbreaking threat to our common sense preconceptions about this highly ambiguous habit of ours. The novel of “No Game No Life” was written by Yū Kamiya, while the series was directed by Atsuko Ishizuka and written by Jukki Hanada. The main characters are Sora and Shiro, and the deities that rule the realm are Tet and Azrael. As you have probably guessed right now, the series experiments bravely with various occult motifs. The show is also a lot darker that one might initially expect!
10. Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku: The Legend of Koizumi
Do you sometimes get a feeling that world leaders are just playing a game? Well, in “Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku: The Legend of Koizumi,” that idea is not some mere feeling — it’s pure reality! The leading political and social personas of the world order are all playing a game of riichi mahjong, and if that’s not an audacious social metaphor, we don’t know what is!
Fans of gambling, gaming, and politics are all going to find this anime rather interesting. It features great art, witty dialogues, and a riichi mahjong depiction that is half authentic, half exaggerated. This anime is directed by Tsutomu Mizushima and written by Hideki Ohwada and Tsutomu Mizushima.
Classic literature has often showed us there are no better methods of pointing out social issues than exaggeration and humor. “Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku: The Legend of Koizumi” does precisely this in a clever and creative way — it shines a light upon some important problems of human existence and uses laughter as a tool for executing the various exciting and thought-provoking ideas lying behind the narrative. So even if you’re not into gambling, this show is still pretty fun to watch!
This anime revolves around the game of mahjong. The plots are dynamic and witty; Saki is sure to grab your attention right from the get-go. However, what has made this anime so popular, besides the tense gaming scenes, is its sweet charm. The characters are portrayed as cute, adorable, and likable. We are talking about the kind of “cuteness level” that the Japanese alone are capable of creating!
The plotline follows the adventures of a young, cute brunette, Saki Miyanaga; she is always playing at mahjong tournaments in her Japanese school uniform. The anime is great for weekend binge-watching, as it doesn’t feature any of those sinister or philosophical themes that you can commonly find in other anime. It’s really just a dynamic, fun, adventurous story; but not without its tense moments.
The actress providing Saki with that charming voice of hers is Kana Ueda. The show itself is directed by Manabu Ono, and the story is written by Tatsuhiko Urahata. Overall, Saki is a pleasant and fun anime that transports you to a world of pure action at mahjong tournaments. This show is really exciting, and because of its fantastic artwork, it has easily earned a high place on our list. Plus, the character of Saki is so kawaii, and that really means something too, right?
8. Akagi: Yami ni Oritatta Tensai
Before we move on to some other important things about this anime, we have to begin by saying it is just amazingly directed! This is the best thing about it, even though it has a lot of other outstanding qualities too. Director Yūzō Satō and his assistant Hiroyuki Tanaka have really done an outstanding job with this show. Satō, with his amazing skills and talent, is a reason good enough for you to watch this anime.
This anime opens with a story of a gambling addict, Nangou, who has got himself into a tonne of trouble with his gambling debts. This series is a perfect creative depiction of the Japanese underground — mafia, gamblers, debts, money, crime, and cruelty. Nangou is almost ruined — he owes a lot of money to his creditors; so in his hour of despair, he wagers on his own life. He plays the most dangerous game of mahjong with the mafia when Shigeru Akagi comes in the story. Shigeru Akagi is a young boy who eventually becomes an important part of this tense game. We’re not going to reveal to you how exactly he gets involved, since that would be a huge spoiler!
This anime is one of the best choices for those who like both movies and series about gambling. It takes you to the lowest, darkest corners of society, all through that same exciting theme of mahjong playing. This is one of those anime masterpieces that is really going to please any action, thriller, or crime genre fan.
7. Imawa no Kuni no Alice (Alice in Borderland)
This anime has a pretty witty title, with some interesting wordplay. But this is not just a verbal gimmick; in fact, this particular animation has plenty of substance to go along with the style. Are you ready to embark on your thrilling odyssey to a world where losing a game means certain death? Three teenagers end up in a strange world where you have to play a game if you actually want to survive. This anime doesn’t exactly have what you’d call a classic gambling theme, but it does depict the cruel nature of high stakes games.
On one level, this anime is kind of futuristic in character; while on another level, it’s really just pure thrill and tension! In fact, it’s not at all stretching the truth to say that the world of Borderland is a cruel and exaggerated replica of the “real” realm. So at first glance, this universe really does seem very odd and strange. However, as the story moves on, you can see that it has a lot in common with how life treats human beings in the real world; as well as of how human beings ourselves, sad to say, are also capable of treating others.
This fascinating anime was directed by Hideki Tachibana and written by Ryōsuke Nakamura. If you like psychological thrillers, you are more than ready to experience this cruel world of Borderland. The visual aspect of the anime is amazing, but it’s the dialogues that are going to trigger a truly heartfelt response from you.
6. One Outs
Fans of sports betting, gambling, baseball, and sports in general are all going to fall in love with One Outs, right from the very start. This anime is a dynamic story about Toua Tokuchi, a talented athlete and a passionate gambler. One Outs is set in the world of sports, and it’s a real roller coaster of exciting plots, subplots, failings, and victories.
This is yet another anime on our list that has the good fortune to have been directed by the talented Yūzō Satō. Seeing his name in the credits pretty much guarantees you a quality anime show. The series is written by Hideo Takayashiki; and as for the genre of this particular anime, we can define it as being both about sports and gaming. The anime plays with a wide range of motifs from the worlds of sports, betting, and risky wagers.
So if you’re a fan of sports movies and adore movies about baseball, this anime could easily be an excellent introduction to the world of Japanese pop culture. The main plot is clever and interesting, and that’s the foundation of every good story. This anime is just waiting to be discovered by sports movie fans from around the world; as the atmosphere of exciting baseball games is depicted with some great attention to detail.
This anime first saw the light of day way back in 2012. Directed by Kazuo Tomizawa, it revolves around the dark world of extreme gamblers. At the very center of this chilling story is the brutal organization, Kagerou. This anime is not for the faint of heart, as it plunges you straight into the harsh world of gambling without the slightest hint of a warning!
So if you’re the type of person who is attracted to characters like mafia bosses, cunning and fearless criminals, passionate gamblers, and evil masterminds, this anime is the perfect choice for you. It’s a story of high-stakes games, manipulation, trickery, and extreme action. It’s a dynamic, exciting, and ultimately very popular Japanese series.
The main character, Bak Madarame, is trying to stay alive, while a group of antiheroes is trying to take his life in a gambling game. All in all, thrills and excitement are guaranteed with this anime, since you get pulled into a story of extreme gambling right from the get-go!
4. Legendary Gambler Tetsuya
The success of the “Legendary Gambler Tetsuya” anime series has been largely secured by the formidable talents of eminent director Nobutaka Nishizawa and renowned writer Yoshiyuki Suga. This show takes you back to the world of the post-WWII economic crisis. The lack of money and the fall of the economy are the reasons behind the increase in the popularity of gambling. This is a true gambling anime — it reflects upon games of chance from a social, psychological, and even a historical point of view! We warmly recommend this anime to all fans of contemporary history, WWII subjects, or gambling.
The anime follows the exploits of Tetsuya and Boushu-san — two exceptionally talented gamblers. Tetsuya is a regular visitor to the mahjong parlour, and a passionate gambler; not to mention he’s extremely good at it as well! However, things start to heat up when Boushu-san comes to the stage to stir things up a bit.
With its vintage style and non-stop action, this anime is easily able to charm just about anyone. It’s one of the anime classics from the beginning of the 2000s, and its shine doesn’t seem to have faded with the years. So if you like true gambling movies and anime, this one is sure to be a real treat for you!
3. Rio: Rainbow Gate
An island, an exotic casino, and plenty of witty plots — let us introduce you to the “Rio: Rainbow Gate” anime. This amazing show was directed by Takao Kato, while Mayori Sekijima wrote the story. This anime features one of the most popular anime themes — predestination! A cute young girl finds out that she is predestined to be the best casino dealer!
This strange girl brings good luck to players, is a holder of 13 legendary cards, and has a pet ferret. Due to her mysterious powers, she soon gets the nickname Goddess of Winning. Wouldn’t having a dealer that magically grants you good luck be nice? We guess all gamblers in the world would like to play at this girl’s table, even if they don’t like ferrets!
This dealer with all her incredible superpowers, Rio, is the daughter of a famous dealer who was loved by many gamblers. But now Rio is the center of the story and of numerous many plotlines. On the whole, the entire anime is rather cheerful, fun, upbeat, and humorous. It has earned a high place on our list because we believe that we do need to take a break away from serious subjects, gloomy atmosphere, and spooky characters from time to time. And what better way to do that than with charming Rio?
2. Kakegurui (Compulsive Gambler)
After that nice story, it’s time to get back to the more serious stuff again. “Kakegurui — Compulsive Gambler” is an anime that is based upon just one particular saddening thought — are the leaders of our society deliberately educated and trained to manipulate their way through life? This anime depicts a prestigious university and its students that prove themselves through gambling.
This anime is one of the best Japanese shows about gambling ever made. It also features harsh critics of modern society and an artistic exploration of human psychology. At this prestigious private academy, students compete against each other in games of chance. One may ask now, why gambling? Well, the idea of the show is that the most successful leaders will be the ones that learn how to cheat in life and manipulate others.
“Kakegurui — Compulsive Gambler” features two main themes — a popular school anime theme and gambling. The combination may seem odd at first, but it’s pretty well executed. All in all, it’s a nice choice for fans of gambling. In addition, it offers some deep reflections on how the world actually works.
1. Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
So it’s finally time to talk about our winner! Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: The Ultimate Survivor is the best written, best directed, and most exciting gambling anime so far. The story follows Kaiji, a guy who is down on his luck, poor, unemployed, and drowning in debt. However, his luck suddenly changes when he gets an offer to participate in some games of chance on the ship Espoir. The deal says that he has an opportunity to clear all of his debts.
Kaiji accepts this extreme gambling offer; however, he is not optimistic, and he doesn’t believe he will survive this challenge. The ride on a ship Espoir is anything but a smooth one — Kaiji has to protect himself by using mind games, manipulation, and shady deals. This anime takes you on an exciting but highly tense adventure.
The artwork in the anime is unique, outstanding, and quite gloomy in a charming way. For those who enjoy movies about casinos, mafia, and who really love their antihero characters, this anime is an ideal choice. From OST to the plots and storylines, this anime is really amazing and dynamic. It’s sure to grab your attention right from the start!
Before We Part Ways
All of the anime series we’ve talked about here are beautiful in their own unique way. You get to choose between historical themes, mafia themes, occult themes, and even some fun and upbeat ones. We really hope you’re going to be thrilled with some of these fantastic pieces of Japanese pop art. Just be careful; we have to warn you — falling in love with anime is so easy! They are creative, smart, and exciting, and you may soon find yourself a passionate collector. Luckily, even if you do, there are a lot of great anime that you can enjoy for decades to come!