Time to Gamble… YOUR LIFE

Posted by on Nov 24, 2011 in Nagasaki, Travel Volunteer Journey | No Comments
Time to Gamble… YOUR LIFE

Today we felt like a break from all the museums and the history and the real world, so we decided to duck into the cinema. As there will be on screens around the world, American movies dominated the bill here in Nagasaki, but we didn’t fancy any of that, so we opted for a Japanese original, Kaiji 2.

We love Japanese movies that make it overseas – they’re usually written very differently to American films, and as a result are less predictable. The horrors are infamously off-kilter, and terrifying as a result. Sadly, today there weren’t any to see and, this being pre-export, regardless of the genre there was the small issue of there being no subtitles. But we went in with the hope that the art of storytelling and the universal truths of humankind would override such silly notions as language. That, or the film would be so terrible, the plot would be less complex than a colouring-in book.

As the name suggests, Kaiji 2 is the second instalment of a series. While that could have potentially led to a lot of confusion for us, there were a number of flashbacks to the first movie, the events of which had led to our hero being in a sweaty underground jail where toplessness seemed mandatory. With no natural daylight, the men were left with little to do other than gamble. Inexplicably they also have access to colossal amounts of money. Anyway, the hero – who looks a bit like an elf in a dull boy band – won a game of dice, and with it his freedom.

He wasn’t free of the gambling, though, and before long, he was watching people play enormous pachinko machine. There are many names for these beasts around the world: fruit machines, slots, one-armed bandits, puggies… They are the neon cabinets that suck away your coins, your life and your sanity, if you let them. The one in Kaiji 2 is known as The Swamp of Desires, the aim of which is to ultimately get a little gold ball to fall in a hole. It’s a huge machine and requires such vast stakes that people are forced to bet their life savings just to play. They inevitably lost horribly and were dragged off to a fate unknown.

So the hero watched for a while, then someone from the first movie recognised him and he was taken off to endure a bizarre trust exercise in front of a guffawing audience. It was half way between the Running Man and Gladiator. I’m sure there was something about game theory in there, too.

As you might guess, he made it out alive. Were the other punters in the cinema enjoying this? Through the total darkness, it was impossible to tell – the few souls who were to be found in there on a Wednesday afternoon were deadly silent.

With almost an hour of the movie to go, our hero got his seat at The Swamp of Desires. And there he sat playing and almost winning, but not quite, for a very, very long time. When it seemed he was done, he’d find more money for another shot, but still lose. Meanwhile the villain – who had rigged the machine – laughed. A lot. Some of the side characters chipped in more cash so the hero could gamble on. He continued to lose. This went on and on. Gamble, lose, laugh, top-up, go again.

A draining 45 minutes later, as a ball eventually, inevitably, fell into the hole each of the characters got to unleash their best woman-in-labour-giving-it-one-last-push-face. Hooray! Hooray – it’s almost over!

As I sat there in the dark, I couldn’t help think it’d make a better anime than a two-and-a-half hour live action movie. And when I got back to our hotel I discovered that – lo and behold! – it was animated long before the cheap live action was made. Naturally it was a Manga comic before that too, and both formats suit the plot, such as it is, much better than using real, boring actors. Sadly it seems that Japan are following America in this regard: endlessly remaking things that should be left alone, rather than spending the money on new, exciting ideas.

So the good guys won – almost. Right at the film’s end, the script seemed to follow the another American trait with some unnecessary moralising. The hero had vanquished with the villain, but he’d done it through gambling, so couldn’t walk away with a fortune. No, instead they crow-barred an arbitrary plot device with a  fire in his car. So his fortune was lost, and he walked off through the busy city streets, barely a coin to his name, wiser for the experience. Unfortunately, everything seemed set up for third instalment of the series.

We couldn’t get out of there quick enough – it turns out Japanese films are as prone to being junk as in any other part of the world. But we were the only ones who were keen to leave – Japanese film-goers are astonishingly reverent when it comes to film credits, sitting in stony silence while the names of the hundreds of hard working background folk scroll past. I love films and I have a few friends who work in the industry, but I never have the will to sit looking at the names of all the crew. The Japanese punters moved not an inch – and I’m sure the movie hadn’t put them to sleep.

I’m almost certain of that.





そんな人々を見ている主人公を、シリーズ1からの登場人物が見つけ、馬鹿笑いする聴衆の前に連れて行かれる。それはRunning Man とGladiatorの中間のような光景だった。そしてご想像通り、主人公はそこでも生き残った。このストーリー展開、他の観客は楽しんでいるのだろうか?真っ暗闇の映画館で、それを判断するのは難しかったし、そもそも水曜日の午後、映画館はガラガラだった・・・