Joker Game – Preview
Original Air Dates: April 5th, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: 1937, the coals of World War II had begun to smolder. Lt. Col. Yuuki, of the Imperial Army, secretly forms a spy training organization named “D Agency.” Those enrolled are trained in every field, taught in every way to be perfect at blending in, hidden, and unseen. But the D Agency sits in opposition of the nationalist ideals of the Imperial Army. Sakuma, an instructor, placed there by the Imperial Army to monitor the D Agency, becomes weary of the Agency and their methods as the men they churn out are now no more than monsters, with no morals nor allegiances.
1st Episode Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: The spy game is a fun topic, and Joker Game’s dramatization of it is pretty interesting, even compelling. Spies here are not portrayed as simply ordinary people doing a job, but rather people who’ve been groomed away from their humanity and culture ideals, in favor of creating monsters hidden beneath human skin. It’s dark, gloomy, a bit surreal in some senses, and I’m sure decently divorced from the reality of the period, but for what Joker Game is, I can’t help but enjoy watching as the ideals presented by the D Agency clash with those of Imperialist Japan.
Linny: You know you’re in for a ride when the show prominently displays a disclaimer, see above, right at the start of the show. A somewhat dark look at spies is a topic that’s rare in anime and Joker Game seems aimed for the surreal mystery and intrigue fans. While it may seem daunting or boring to the casual anime fan, Joker Game hints at being more than just spies and war. The story seems to be dabbling with internal conspiracies, inter personal drama and even questions of morality and ethics, all revolving around the running of a secret spy organization.
Tom: Joker Game does have one problem going for it and that’s going to be how easily western audience members can identify and understand the current lead, Sakuma. He’s a classic portrayal of a Japanese Nationalist of the mid-1930s, putting honor and country above all else. It’s hard to identify with him from a westerner’s point of view, but if you understand the nationalist mindset it makes it easier to see where his character is coming from. The rest of the cast, the monsters, and even Col. Yuuki himself are quite interesting, giving me hope that this cast will foster interesting developments that take the story in new and unexplored territory as they sit outside the norms of nationalist Japanese society.
Linny: Sakuma is the only character that we get any personal time with in this episode and as Thomas explained, he does have a Nationalist sentiment that may be alien to western audiences, but they might be able to sense in him a person who’s stuck in a situation that’s not of his choice and definitely out of his comfort zone. He’s clearly an outsider surrounded by people who feel completely alien and even abhorrent to him. And while he comes off straight laced and uptight, viewers should be able to understand the feeling of being an outsider and identify with him. His companions and coworkers play off well against him as they make for mysterious and intriguing characters. The audience gets a very limited feel of them, only knowing what our narrator tells us, thus you’re left wondering and trying to solve the very same puzzle/s he is. And that’s how the show hopes to grab its viewers and keep them watching.
Tom: When Yuuki and Sakuma’s ideals clash, it’s easily the most interesting part of the show for me. Listening as these two throw out their beliefs, which are so clearly at odds with one another, asserting why the other is wrong and they are right. I’ll be interested to see how the nationalist vs. anti-nationalist argument unfolds as we get deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of this organization that has no real allegiance to the Japanese government.
Linny: The mystery and drama of the story is further heightened by the cinematic and stylistic choices taken to often showcase and focus on the expressions of the characters, zooming in to reveal a sneaky grin or an abrasive smile.
Tom: Joker’s animation is fairly good, using a more adult style to portray its characters. I see it, visually, as a sort of darker Showa. The time period we’re looking at is drawn beautifully really reflecting that this isn’t modern Japan but the nation during a much darker time.
Linny: Joker Game is unfortunately a show with dicey potential in the west. The theme it handles is much more mature and uncommon compared to anime that has achieved cult Western fan bases. However, it’s a must watch for those who dislike the barrage of shonen and seinen, or would enjoy a break to try something that’s thematically and visually a novel experience.
Tom: I’m excited to see where Joker Game is going, on the edge of my seat like any good Thriller should have you. The one flaw I should mention, just before the end of this preview, is Joker Game has some horrid english voice acting (that’s what the image above is from), that makes you pray that, one day, Japanese studios might ask Funimation or Bang Zoom for a little help when casting foreigners.
Joker Game is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com.