Joker Game is a show that drew some mixed reactions over its run. Early on, the dark and stylish atmosphere of the promotional videos drew attention, presumably because that’s an aesthetic that Western viewers want to see more of. Given the setting, a number of voices also expressed hopes that we’d finally have a series that seriously tackles the question of what Japan did in the first half of last century.
As the season wore on, however, most people started to complain about a range of things they didn’t like. From the explanatory monologues to the unexplained reasoning that some of the spies used to solve their cases1—I was quite bemused by these contrasting views—and the episodic nature that prevented us from even recognising which of the spies we were watching, much less form some kind of emotional attachment with any of them. Some soon rationalised the latter, in particular, as being reflective of the nature of these men: we’re not meant to get to know any of them because they’re meant to blend in and take on any role required of them. Whilst this worked for viewers interested in learning about techniques and tools of espionage, others found the lack of handles for engagement problematic.
Personally, I found Joker Game to be one of the more compelling shows I followed in the Spring season. Part of it undoubtedly has to do with the veteran voice actors, all of whom have distinctive voices. I picked out five of the eight spies from the PV itself, as well as Seki Tomokazu, and I’m sure fans of each of the other three would have recognised them immediately, too. In any case, that’s how I knew who was whom, especially after I sat down one evening to match each voice to a name and appearance. What can I say? I’m first and foremost a seiyuu fan, after all.
But the main reason that this show will make it onto my 12 Days of Anime list this year is actually due to the writing. Yeah, I know: what the heck is ‘writing’, right? But after months of reading interviews and listening to podcasts about screenwriting, I do have an answer for that, at least for the purposes of this post. Here, I’ll be talking about five character moments that got me completely invested in Joker Game. In fact, these five moments suggest that the show’s writers had a very clear idea of what the show was about: Yuuki, the spymaster holding the strings. Read more of this post