Anime is one of the most popular forms of entertainment and an estimated 3.5% of the world population watches anime regularly. From Bleach to Naruto, to Death Note, there are hundreds of worthwhile shows to watch yourself. Today, we will talk about the best gambling anime out there and why we love it. Whether you love taking chances yourself, you will certainly appreciate our list of the top five anime about gambling.
1. Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler
- Title: Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler
- Aired: Jul 1, 2017 – Sep 23, 2017
- Episodes: 12
- Theme: Game, Mystery, Psychological, Drama, School, Shounen, Gambling School, Compulsive Gambling
- Available to Watch On: Netflix
Out of all the anime about gambling you may stumble across, Kakegurui hits the nail right on the head. The whole Netflix series is based on the manga series written by Homura Kawamoto. The story is set in Hyakkaou Private Academy, a high school where pupils are evaluated solely on their gambling skills.
Odd as this is, the academy’s goal is to produce future leaders and professionals based solely on their ability to beat their peers in various gambling games. Students bring their own money to the school and are eventually triumphant or ruined and become subjugated to the rest.
In an even more bizarre twist of fates, any pupil who fails to shoot up through the hierarchy becomes known as a “house pet” in Kakegurui. This is where Yumeko Jabami comes in, a beautiful first-year transfer school girl who carries a dark secret. She hasn’t joined Hyakkaou for gain or social status. She’s a compulsive gambler who gets genuine pleasure from gambling.
It doesn’t come what form it comes in and how big of a risk she carries. Yumeko just wants to keep playing and it’s this passion for games of chance that put her in a position where she threatens the established hierarchy at the school. Seeing an enemy in her face, the student council will try to shut her down, but Yumeko has way too many tricks up her sleeve.
Without a doubt, this is the best gambling anime on Netflix you can watch right now and the show has produced two exceptional seasons already.
2. Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
- Title: Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor AKA Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji
- Aired: Oct 3, 2007 – Apr 2, 2008
- Episodes: 26
- Theme: Game, Psychological, Thriller, Seinen, Gambling, Gambling Debt
- Available to Watch On: Crunchyroll
Kaiji first appeared as a manga by Nobuyuki Fukumoto back in 1996 and was published in print until 2017. Meanwhile, the franchise was picked up by Madhouse and adapted into the 26-episode anime television series Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor although for a while there, the creators wanted to call the anime Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji instead.
Following the good reception of the show, Nippon TV decided to air a sequel, Kaiji: Against All Rules, which was also hailed by fans as a worthy continuation. To feed the fan frenzy, the franchise was turned into a live-action film trilogy, with the first movie, Kaiji released in October 2009.
Kaiji 2 arrived in November 2009, and it took another nine years to see Kaiji: Final Game to get some closure with the movie releasing in January 2020. But how come the show has persisted for over two decades? The key lies in the plot.
Kaiji Itou, the protagonist, is a down on his luck no-good who spends most of his days inebriated. An ill-meaning acquaintance tricks him into incurring a huge debt and Kaiji is quickly forced to sober up and join an illicit, underground gambling ring on a cruise ship.
There is a fair deal of gambling going on and not one or two physical confrontations that prompt Kaiji to adapt to his new lifestyle lurking with all sorts of dangers. One of the best gambling animes we have seen, you will find the plot rich and engaging, and Kaiji’s character both believable and inspirational to anyone who wants to clean up their act.
3. Legendary Gambler Tetsuya
- Title: Legendary Gambler Tetsuya AKA The Legends of Gambler: Tetsuya
- Aired: Oct 7, 2000 – Mar 24, 2001
- Episodes: 20
- Theme: Game, Historical, Shounen, Gambling, Cheating
- Available to Watch On: N/A
Originally debuting as a series of manga by the name of The Legend of the Gambler: Tetsuya in 1997-2005 and later televised as Legendary Gambler Tetsuya between October 2000 and March 2001. Tetsuya has a traditional master and disciple narrative where the student surpasses the tutor.
The anime series follows the story of Tetsuya, a gifted gambler in post-World War II Japan, who plays mahjong in Shinjuku City. Yet, for all his talent, Tetsuya doesn’t mind employing all his talents to gain a victory. While you will see other animes about gambling, such as Akagi, use clever mind-games to defeat opponents, Tetsuya prefers to cheat whenever the opportunity arises. In his own word, “It’s only cheating when you get caught. Until then it’s a winning strategy.”
To add even more zest to the show, Tetsuya is actually based on the real-life story of gambler Takehiro Irokawa who won himself the nickname Hourouki Mahjong. Naturally, the anime romanticizes a bit so not everything should be taken at face value, but one of the reasons why Legendary Gambler Tetsuya works is the gritty realism infused in the anime.
Japan is depicted in its full post-war truthfulness with the illegal mahjong parlors offering hollow succor to a ravaged country. Yet, the show evokes both hope and despair, the characters are believable, and there is a different feeling to the anime altogether.
The professional gamblers in Legendary Gambler Tetsuya aren’t ashamed to cheat. In fact, in those days, cheating was considered a clear skill trait, and pros would race against each other to figure out each other’s strategy because the other party had. All of this makes Legendary Gambler Tetsuya one of the most riveting animes about gambling you will find today.
4. Touhai Densetsu Akagi: Yami ni Maiorita Tensai
- Title: Touhai Densetsu Akagi: Yami ni Maiorita Tensai AKA Akagi AKA Akagi: The Genius Who Descended into Darkness
- Aired: Oct 5, 2005 – Mar 29, 2006
- Episodes: 12
- Theme: Gambling, Mahjong, Game, Psychological, Gambling Strategy
- Available to Watch On: Netflix
Akagi is another anime about gambling set in the period after World War II. With Japan veering from the devastating bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Akagi focuses on the story of the namesake protagonist, Shigeru Akagi, a young boy who faces off Yakuza members in a game of mahjong and defeats them at the young age of 13.
Akagi quickly reveals his talent by coming to the rescue of a compulsive gambler, Nangou, who has accumulated three million yet in debt. In a desperate attempt to clear his name, he wagers his life against beating the mafia, in one last game that quickly turns to carry him closer over the edge.
Yet, Akagi arrives just on time to offer some seemingly strange advice that pays off and Nangou is free of his debt. Next, Akagi sits down to play himself and everyone soon realizes that the boy is a prodigy and one destined to become one of the most respected gamblers in the country.
But Akagi has problems of his own – he’s on the lam from the police. We believe this is one of the best animes about gambling you will find today as it depicts the story of a street urchin who secures himself a better life through his talent at mahjong, a dream to many backs in post-World War II Japan.
Before the show aired in 2005, there were two live-action movies back in 1995 and 1997, and then, the character of young Akagi was evoked in a live TV drama between 2015 and 2017.
- Title: Saki
- Aired: Apr 6, 2009 – Sep 28, 2009
- Episodes: 25
- Theme: Gambling, Gambling Strategy, Mahjong, Gambling School, School Girl Gambling, Psychological
- Available to Watch On: Crunchyroll
Saki is a great anime about gambling as it combines a bit from Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler and Akagi. Saki Miyanaga is a schoolgirl who hates everything about mahjong, a game that has affected her life negatively in the past. Yet, she is introduced to the school’s mahjong’s club by her friend, Kyoutarou Suga, and just like that, young Saki involuntarily reveals her talent for seeing patterns and excelling at the game.
Hisa Takei, the club’s president quickly spots Saki’s promise despite her best attempts to cover it. Saki’s strength lies in her unconventional playstyle which gives her an edge. That involuntarily wins her the animosity of Nodoka Haramura, a talented member of the club and the champion in the previous year.
Throughout the show, Saki quickly overcomes her reservation towards mahjong and she decides that she sets a new goal to herself – win national competitions. Her friendship with Haramura, with whom she makes up, is another driver of young Saki’s rekindled love for the game.
It’s not so much about gambling, Saki, argues. It’s about seeing patterns. True, Saki has its dramatic moments, but the anime is a light-hearted and pleasant spectacle, ranked as one of the best gambling animes of all time and with a good reason, too.
The show was televised by Gonzo and aired on TV Tokyo in 2009 as a continuation of the original work, the manga series written and illustrated by Ritz Kobayashi.
The Origins of Anime and Why Is It So Popular?
Anime is one of the biggest cultural phenomena Japan has ever produced. Whether you show interest in Japanese culture, anime is bound to hook you from the first minute you lay eyes on a show you like, whether that’s Naruto or Full Metal Alchemist. The history of the industry goes all the way back to the 19th century and can be traced back to the lantern shows known as Utushi-e or magic lanterns, creating the illusion of moving pictures.
The first anime featured movie though came out in 1945 Momotarō: Umi no Shinpei made during World War II. Things did start to pick up with the establishment of Toei Animation and Mushi Production, one of the oldest animation studios in the country, which will pave the way for many to follow.
The flexibility of the genre has allowed animes to cater to every taste, from horrors to epic sagas, to the fighting genre, to high school animes. By 2019, the anime industry in Japan was worth $19 billion annually.
Since the industry began televising series in the mid-20th century, there have been over 11,000 different series cataloged, with some often-spanning hundreds of episodes, such as Bleach and Naruto.
More Animes Where Gambling Is Touched Upon
While anime gambling shows aren’t as many as you may hope for, there are many other series where gambling and chance play some part in the plot. Gambling need not be a part of the plot for you to enjoy a well-done series which are cornerstone products of the anime industry. Let’s take a look at several such shows you don’t want to miss out on.
- Title: Naruto
- Aired: Oct 3, 2002 – Feb 8, 2007
- Episodes: 220
- Theme: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Super Power, Martial Arts, Shounen
- Available to Watch On: Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation
We can say so much about Naruto. The anime was aired on October 3, 2020, and became an immediate hit with 220 episodes following the adventures of the eponymous protagonist, his friends, and foe. The plot of the show focuses on Naruto himself, a young baby who was used as a human container to trap the powerful Nine-Tails Fox which attacked his native village of Konoha.
Throughout the show, Naruto will see many new faces, including Tsunade, the arrogant-at-first granddaughter of Hashirama Senju and Mito Uzumaki, Tsunade is also privy to a special technique known as the Rasengan, which Naruto sets out to master quickly, despite lacking the talent for it.
Tsunade also has another amusing side, she’s actually a compulsive gambler, although this is not pictured in broad strokes throughout the anime.
- Title: Death Note
- Aired: Oct 4, 2006 – Jun 27, 2007
- Episodes: 37
- Theme: Mystery, Police, Psychological, Supernatural, Thriller, Shounen
- Available to Watch On: Netflix, Hulu, HBO
Death Note is a chilling and intense anime in which good and evil battle, but the lines between the two quickly blur. A smart, young high-school student, Light Yagami, stumbles upon a “Death Note,” after he had wished to have the power to right the wrongs criminals had done.
The “Death Note” is dropped by Ryuk, a spirit of the undead who is only visible to those who have come in contact with the book. Light, watching a TV report about criminals, decides to put down their names in the Death Note. Just like that, the inmates die of heart attack, because there is a catch.
Unless the reason for death is specified, the person whose name is signed into the Death Note will die from a heart attack. While Light is at first none the wiser of his new-found power, Ryuk reveals himself and instructs him about the meaning of the item he had stumbled upon.
Young Light goes on a killing spree and soon the people of Japan begin referring to him as “Kira,” the transliterated name for the English “killer.”
Not everybody thinks he’s a hero, though. The mysterious detective known only by the letter L. (L. Lawliet) is onto Light and he is determined to catch him.
Suspecting young Light, L. asks him to help with the investigation and thus the big gamble begins. So, what’s going to be first? Will L.’s name transpire for Light to finish him using the “Death Note,” or will detective Lawliet find the proof he needs to put Light’s subtle killing frenzy to a stop?
Watch out “Death Note” to find the outcome of this gamble.
- Title: One Outs
- Aired: Oct 8, 2008 – Apr 1, 2009
- Episodes: 25
- Theme: Sports, Psychological, Seinen, Compulsive Gambling
- Available to Watch On: N/A
One Outs has perfectly captured Japan’s deeply-rooted love for baseball, a game from across the Pacific Ocean, which has run deep into the national consciousness. Entire schools have taken it as a point of pride to produce the best baseball talent and among these talented individuals is this gambling anime’s protagonist, Toua Tokuchi.
A professional athlete by profession but a reckless gambler by heart, Tokuchi get himself recruited by the Saikyou Saitama Lycaons, owned by Hiromichi Kojima. Excelling in the game of One Outs, Tokuchi shows promise and potential to take the slumming team to the very top.
Yet, Tsuneo Saikawa, the owner of the team doesn’t want his team too successful, as he’s scheming to generate income. When confronted and asked to lose on purpose, Tokuchi says that he will make Saikawa a special offer. For every “out” Toua pitches, he will get five million yet, but every run he gives up will cost him fifty million yet.
This entire anime about gambling on baseball may seem predetermined but there are a lot of plot twists to keep you on edge, so don’t miss out.
Gambling Animes: It’s Never about the Gambling
While gambling is often found as a common topic or at least a motif in anime, it’s mostly a cultural thing rather than the anime purposefully focusing on gambling. Mahjong has been an important part of the post-war reality in Japan and many people, in their desperation and destitution, turned to the illegal gambling parlors in a desperate attempt to improve their fortunes. Many have failed.
Thankfully, the gritty realism of the animes that focus on gambling go only this far, and the heroes are always triumphant, which is a neat reminder that we owe it to everyone around us not to be the reason for such folly ever again. In the meantime, there are millions of hours of great anime content to see, not least the ones we have just recommended.