We all love to see gambling anime protagonists bluff and manipulate with wit and cunning, taking chances that others find too risky to wrestle victory from the big-wigs. When our favorite characters out-predict their opponents and deliver a great upset, it’s like a shot of adrenaline to the heart!
“There is nothing more fun than seeing characters being placed into high stakes, high tension scenarios to win or survive.”
SherylCoo, writer for ChasingAnime
There is a gambling anime for every anime fan (beginner or gambling addict). Some have a more lighthearted setting, where money or pride is on the line and the goal is to ‘win’. Others are completely and utterly messed up – I’m talking illegal gambling, lives at stake, overwhelming debt, crazy characters, and gruesome punishments galore! An excellent example of this is gambling anime Kakegurui, with its insane scenarios, over-the-top characters, and crazy plays.
Take a look! The following list of gambling anime truly embodies the phrase “mind games” and puts it into stunning animation for our enjoyment.
MAL Score: 7.31 (2017)
What’s it about: Hyakkaou Private Academy is an elite school that hosts students from Japan’s most prestigious families. Students wager against each other for money every night. Winners get a higher position in the school’s social hierarchy while losers (and those with debt) are treated like trash, forced to be subservient to their classmates even past graduation. Gamble to win – is the motto. That is until a ‘naïve’ and beautiful first-year transfer student enters the scene.
Why you should recommend it: This anime is entertaining to the extreme. The poster girl and main character, Yumeko Jabami, gambles purely for the thrill of the game. Google her name and you will probably find one of her ‘crazy’ faces, twisted with ecstasy as she trounces her opponents with tricks and manipulation. Viewers will also feel immense satisfaction as they watch Yumeko’s adversaries break down and lose their composure.
Speaking of, the art style of the characters reminds me of the “Hellsing” anime series. Facial features get so contorted that it sends chills up your spine… or brings a smile to your face – who knows? Either way, Homura Kawamoto (author and the writer of Kakegurui) did right by this anime; his choices have led to Kakegurui becoming a shining new icon in the industry.
In summary, thrill-seekers will love Kakegurui. Each episode is repeated stimulation for the senses so it will feel immensely satisfying for thrill-seekers. It might, however, feel repetitive if you are looking for a more serious, strategic gambling anime. Still, I would recommend you give Kakegurui a try, especially if you are looking for a strong female lead with a weird kink for gambling.
Also, feel free to check out the spin-off title Kakegurui Trip and Kakegurui Joker!
You probably know this, Kakegurui is on Netflix!
Check out the manga too!
MAL Score: 7.47 (2009)
What’s it about: Saki Miyanaga has bad experiences with Mahjong thanks to her parents. Because of that, she hides her true potential and holds back from ‘winning’ to get a neutral score. When Saki is made to join her school’s Mahjong Club, she discovers new friends who completely change how she feels about Mahjong.
Why you should recommend it: Remember when I said that gambling anime can be lighthearted? Well, this is it! Saki is a super cute school/slice of life/gambling anime series that showcases Mahjong in a comedic, yet totally epic manner. I’m talking awesome music and cutesy high school girls slamming winning tiles on the table so hard that smoke swirls around the arena. Even as a total beginner at Mahjong, I found myself falling hard for Saki’s amazing animation and jaw-dropping Mahjong plays!
What makes Saki stand out among the rest in this list, is how they bring well-developed characters, Mahjong and superpowers together for the ultimate gambling anime viewing experience. My favorite special power is the “anti-sensory” ability that prevents other people from reading the character’s tile! As someone who plays mahjong, These powers blend in so perfectly with the world-building that viewers will quickly grow to love the fantasy anime setting that Saki takes place in.
Again, I must reiterate this. This anime is so.much.fun! The music during the climax of each match sends tingles up my spine. The rules of the game will not overwhelm you as many strategy anime series do and the characters are ultra adorable and entertaining. If the schoolgirl, gambling, fantasy, and comedy genre appeals to you, check out Saki because it’s right up your alley!
Support its creators by purchasing Saki here!
3. Mahjong Legend Akagi: The Genius Who Descended Into the Darkness (aka Tōhai Densetsu Akagi: Yami ni Maiorita Tensai)
MAL Score: 7.94 (2005)
What’s it about: Shigeru Akagi is a compulsive gambler that takes over a man’s debt with the mafia in order to flee from the police. As the match plays on, the mafia realizes that there is more to Akagi than meets the eye. Watch how one young boy catches the attention of many terrifying individuals and defies all odds to become the underworld’s greatest mahjong legend.
Why you should recommend it: When it comes to gambling anime, Akagi is the first that comes to mind. It is old but continues to withstand the test of time. To this day, it remains one of the most iconic gambling anime with a badass protagonist you wouldn’t want to miss.
Akagi is about winning at all costs. Literally. Payment in blood and millions of yen, cutting fingers, cheating, shooting, and more. He is not above inflicting harm to others or himself just to see how far the human limits go. Truly, an apathetic genius like Akagi is one to be feared.
Akagi, as an anime, is a psychological masterpiece. Our protagonist’s strategies are complex and technical. Despite the outrageous consequences, he can look at the bigger picture and dismantle his opponent’s strategies piece by piece. If you are looking for a protagonist that lives to crush the competition, Akagi is the gambling anime for you!
It can be hard to find Akagi merch, but you can still show support to the series by watching Akagi on Crunchyroll – they pay licensing fees to the original creators of the anime!
Ultimate Survivor, MAL Score: 8.28 (2007)
Against All Rules, MAL Score: 8.25 (2011)
What’s it about: Kaiji Itō is forced to bear his friend’s 3 million yen debt after he disappeared. He took up an offer to board the Espoir, also known as The Ship of Hope, for a chance to clear his debts. Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems. As gamblers are thrown headfirst into a series of events with betrayals and hefty consequences, one thing is painfully obvious… many will not make it off that ship.
Why you should recommend it: Kaiji has the same author as Akagi. But don’t be deceived! This series is a lot more suspenseful than the latter. Our protagonist is not a genius gambler like Shigeru Akagi. He is just an everyday, average gambler who is thrust into extreme gambling situations. Every episode is a desperate scramble to survive. This makes Kaiji an excellent gambling anime series for thrill-seekers because there is always a possibility of him losing and the odds of winning are always impossibly unfair.
It is good to note that this anime is not for the faint of heart because Kaiji explores losing and its deadly consequences a lot more thoroughly than Akagi (gore and violence will be inflicted on others and our main character). Many describe it as a psychological, survival horror anime with little sprinklings of gambling mixed in. It is not about technique or talent, but about surviving with as many limbs attached as possible.
Also! Check out Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler (2009) and Kaiji 2: The Ultimate Gambler (2011) – live action film adaptations based off the Kaiji manga series; featuring popular actors Tatsuya Fujiwara and Kenichi Matsuyama from live action movies Death Note (2006) and Death Note 2: The Last Name (2006)!
Own your very own Kaiji merch now!
5. Legendary Gambler Tetsuya (aka Shoubushi Densetsu Tetsuya)
MAL Score: 7.53 (2000)
What’s it about: Amidst Japan’s post-WWII recession, gifted newbie Tetsuya Asada and other gamblers of Shinjuku (known as Bainin) gather at illegal Mahjong parlors to try and make a living. Tetsuya quickly starts a huge winning streak when one day, he loses to an old man who will be his future mentor. Tetsuya realizes that ‘skill’ trumps luck and he has a lot more to learn.
Why you should recommend it: This is a gambling anime that features a lot of blatant cheating. In my opinion, it holds some of the most brilliant strategies of deception that I have ever seen from a gambling anime, period. It’s not just about mind-games. It also takes intimidation, optical illusions, gadgets, and skillful sleight of hand to pull off these amazing parlor tricks.
This anime’s setting is also absolutely fascinating. In a dog-eat-dog post-war Japan, you need to cheat against other cheaters so that you can eat and live another day. Rules in a game are meant to be broken; the challenge is to do it without others knowing. Because Tetsuya is so willing to throw away the integrity of the game, he rises the ranks as one of the most “real” gambling protagonists that I have seen in a while. People cheat at the gambling table all the time in real life and this anime goes out of its way to explore how they do it.
“It’s only cheating when you get caught. Until then it’s a winning strategy.”
Tetsuya Asada, Legendary Gambler Tetsuya
6. One Outs
MAL Score: 8.35 (2008)
What’s it about: Tokuchi Toua is an infamous gambler specializing in a baseball betting game called ‘One Outs’. When he is persuaded to join a weak professional team, he will have to incorporate his allies into his ruthless strategies and draw out their hidden potential to secure victories. “Winning means dominating over countless dead bodies” and baseball is no different.
Why you should recommend it: Wait! Before you dismiss this with “I am here for the gambling anime genre, not sports”, pay close attention. One Outs is a gambling-psychology anime parading around under the sports genre. Strategies mostly involve intense mind games; manipulating the human psyche and causing players to sink into fear and self-doubt. Yes, there are baseball strategies involved and teamwork is a focus at some point (like every other sports anime), but One Outs is a cult classic mainly because of how Tokuchi utilizes psychological attacks instead of skill on the field. This makes One Outs extremely beginner-friendly for those just looking for a gambling-psychology thriller.
Just a little disclaimer for viewers who love sports: Tokuchi Toua is a gambler, and a bloodthirsty one at that. He is ruthless and not one for sportsmanship. For example, Tokuchi does not foul his opponents on purpose but he recognizes it as a genuine strategy to win. Yikes, that’s scary. But this is normal for Tokuchi, who believes that winning is not something ‘beautiful’ but ‘brutal’. Did I mention that he can get super philosophical too?
“That’s what taking responsibility means. However, the people in so-called high positions never see the consequences. When mistakes are made, they will casually bow their heads and apologize. They think that’s enough. Are you one of them too?”
Tokuchi Toua, One Outs
7. Death Parade
MAL Score: 8.19 (2015)
What’s it about: Welcome to Quindecim. You and another victim will awake here and be served by bartender/acting arbiter for the dead, Decim. Thereafter, the both of you will be challenged to a simple game that will decide if you get reincarnated or sent to the void. Do not resist or there will be consequences. Good luck, this will not be fun for anyone.
Why you should recommend it: Death Parade is yet another banger of a gambling anime. What stands out, is the masterful way it explores the emotions of each victim. It can differ from suicidal thoughts to murderous rage, relief to loneliness. It is such a ‘real’ gambling anime that the characters feel like genuine humans. So much that when it comes to their death, your heart will shatter into pieces. I’m not going to lie, some of these episodes forced a tear or two from me. Pro tip: prepare some ice cream in case you start feeling it too much!
I must talk about the main character as well. Decim looks amazing (the rest of the cast too!) and seems cold and mysterious on the outside. Yet what makes him a lovable character is how he takes pride in his job, hates violence, and most importantly, respects his partner, Machiko. He does not understand humans as well as he would like, hence he defers to her and listens to her opinions. He also wields threads as weapons! 10/10 character.
I highly recommend you check out Death Parade’s opening song. It’s a real toe-tapper and also deserves a list in ‘Top 10 Anime Betrayals’. And “Death Billiards” – a short film/movie that Death Parade is based on.
I found the complete series for sale here! On Blu-ray + DVD!
8. C: The Money Of Soul And Possibility Control
MAL Score: 7.22 (2011)
What’s it about: In a world where money trumps all and human lives are meaningless, Economics student Kimimaro Yoga is, albeit reluctantly, brought into the grim reality of the East Financial District. Here, players known as “Entre” are forced into weekly duels for large amounts of money. Bankruptcy results in disastrous consequences in the real world. There is no backing out now.
Why you should recommend it: This anime is thought-provoking in so many ways. When you watch it, I guarantee you will be thrown for a loop as philosophical quotes are churned out every single episode. Is money truly important? What would we be willing to risk in exchange for it? Is it best to strive for a better future or live our best lives in the present? There is no definite right or wrong answer and the characters in the anime reflect this.
Witness the slow but meaningful relationship between Kimimaro and his red-headed asset, Msyu (aka Mashu). It has a rocky start but eventually, anime fans come to admire the way they draw strength from each other even during life or death scenarios.
This anime is only 11 episodes long, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the end will leave you satisfied and hungry for more!
Check out C: The Money Of Soul And Possibility Control on Blu-Ray here!
9. No Game No Life
MAL Score: 8.15 (2014)
What’s it about: Sora and Shiro are NEET step-siblings who dominate any game they play with superb teamwork. They also have had terrible experiences with people and see real life as a “crappy game” where even winning too much has its negative consequences. After receiving an anonymous email, Sora and Shiro find themselves thrown into a fantasy world where all conflicts, even national borders, are settled through games. And thus, their fantastic new life begins.
Why you should recommend it: The 2 main characters are amazing. We empathize with Sora and Shiro who live in an unfair world and admire how they work together as a single unit. Sora is charismatic and cunning, but he has weaknesses that his sister makes up for. Shiro is an extremely intelligent little girl, but she too falls short and has to rely on her brother’s support. Both are relatable and balanced as characters, making it easy for viewers to root for them.
For a short 12 episode anime series, the world-building of No Game No Life sets the bar high. There are 16 races, political intrigue, culture, and mythology addressed throughout the anime. The colors and animation are also a feast for the eyes. In fact, the word ‘colorful’ doesn’t even begin to describe the color palette of this anime. I might be completely biased. Check it out and comment down below about your thoughts!
Most importantly, I adore how Sora and Shiro dove into their new world and never looked back. It is refreshing compared to other isekai where protagonists spend a portion of the episode contemplating about their loved ones back home. No offense, but I am here for the action, not homesickness.
No Game No Life started as a Japanese light novel series by Yū Kamiya y’all! Buy the light novel here!
“Usually, in a story, when the protagonists end up in another world, they try their best to find a way home, right? Why would they try to go back to a world like that?”
Sora, No Game No Life
“I think so, too.”
Shiro, No Game No Life
These are anime/episodes/OVA that do not revolve around gambling. It’s close, but not nearly enough to warrant being listed in the above article. I will put them here just in case you are interested in checking them out!
Yu-Gi-Oh! MAL Score: 7.20 (1998)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters MAL Score: 7.46 (2000)
What’s it about: Geeky and timid Yuugi Mutou is an easy target for bullies. One day, he finds a Millennium Puzzle and deciphers its secrets, causing an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh to inhabit his body. Larger threats start to loom across the horizon as other artifact wielders and villains want the Millennium Puzzle for themselves. Yuugi and friends will have to prepare… to duel!
Why you should recommend it: This is one dark anime. The Pharaoh is a ruthless sadist. Understandable, since torture methods back in ancient times are notoriously ‘bloodcurdling’. You might be taken aback when you read this, saying “Hey, this sounds nothing like the anime I know and love.” Well… you are 100% right.
Yu-Gi-Oh! is the furthest thing from Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters. Yu-Gi-Oh! is a lot more faithful to the original manga series, being darker in tone as the author initially planned for it to be a horror manga. Still, even though it is not as well known or beloved as the “Duel Monsters” adaptation, there is a reason why Yu-Gi-Oh! has a loyal cult following. If you are interested in watching Yuugi’s adversaries gamble with a psychopathic Pharaoh with their lives on the line, search for “Yu-Gi-Oh! Season Zero”.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters:
This is the main source of the Yu-Gi-Oh anime franchise. It is iconic for its time, spawning its very own card game franchise and inspiring many other card game anime from different animation studios. Examples include Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters GX and Cardfight!! Vanguard. You probably know all about this anime already, but just in case you haven’t, let me break it down real quick.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters has a huge focus on friendship and card games. Yuugi and friends will go on many adventures, fight many card game duels and meet countless rivals (future allies) on their quest to uncover the Pharaoh’s secrets. Every character in this anime has a well-developed story arc at some point and a stunning design. The music when it comes to card battles is intense and the story is nothing short of gripping.
My favorite terminology in the anime is “Heart of the Cards” – referring to a worthy Duelist’s ability to draw the right cards at the most crucial time because of their bond with their deck. It sounds epic, it is epic, this whole anime is amazing and you are missing out on anime history if you pass this up!
Hey hey hey! Check out Yu-Gi-Oh! vol.1 paperback here.
11. One Piece Film: Gold
MAL Score: 7.93 (2016)
What’s it about: The Straw Hat Crew arrives at the world’s greatest entertainment city. They soon meet the golden emperor and discover the darkness hiding underneath the gilded gold palace. It is a race against time, and their luck is running out. The crew must battle for their freedom or surrender their lives to gold, literally.
Why you should recommend it: Everything is gold. The buildings, parks, even the prison, and dead bodies! But don’t let that yellow palette distract you from One Piece Film: Gold’s incredible animated scenery and action scenes. I cannot emphasize how fluid and gorgeous the animation is. I could even go as far as to say, One Piece Film: Gold has the best animated fight scenes of the One Piece series. Don’t believe me? I welcome you to see for yourselves!
I also highly recommend you watch the original One Piece anime series before watching this film since there are quite a few recurring characters that will make an appearance. Spotting them will get you super hyped! However, if you want to jump straight into the action, that is fine too. You will be given ample time to know the characters, their personalities, and crazy antics before the big baddie drops the bomb.
Overall, One Piece Film: Gold is a must-watch for anyone and everyone. The characters, story, and fight scenes are insane, living up to the One Piece hype that we all have come to expect.
Click for Blu-ray+DVD+Digital!
How about a limited edited version (no subtitles).
12. Joker Game
MAL Score: 7.05 (2016)
What’s it about: The threat of World War II is brewing right around the corner. Lieutenant Colonel Yuuki of the Imperial Japanese Army establishes the D-Agency, where eight specially trained ‘monsters’ prepare to infiltrate and gather intelligence from neighbouring countries. There will be espionage, manipulation, and mind games; whatever it takes to give Japan the upper hand in case of war.
Why you should recommend it: It is an “Episodic Anime”, much like Death Parade or Violet Evergarden. Episodes are a collection of short stories, disconnected from the main plot and with the same cast of characters. It starts with an introduction to one spy, followed by a conflict and resolution. The next episode stars a separate spy’s journey. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but give it a try! You may end up appreciating what the Joker Game has to offer.
Gambling does not play a huge part in this anime, but episodes showcasing it are excellent and memorable. One particular scene from the first episode comes to mind… In a small room, characters gather for a game of poker. Except, the poker game is a charade. The true meaning behind the game is not about who has the best hand, but who can convince others to cheat and defect, without saying a word… It sounds cool, right? It stands out and sets the tone for the entire series!
The Joker Game is very cinematic. The world’s colors are muted much like an oldies movie and the locations are very well drawn. The characters also mostly wear what I can only call ‘cool spy attire’, and by that, I mean trench coats, fedoras, and briefcases. All in all, this allows viewers to be further immersed in the suspenseful lives of the spies from D-Agency.
Check out the Joker Game on BD/DVD!
Wow! There is also a theatrical feature!!
13. Selector Infected WIXOSS
MAL Score: 7.24 (2014)
What’s it about: WIXOSS is a popular card game played by people from all walks of life. But there is a special version of the game going around, where girls known as “Selectors” battle it out for a chance to fulfill their deepest darkest wishes. Ruuko Kominato is an oddity amongst them because she has no such desires. Will she find her reason to fight? The consequence for Selectors losing is death, so the stakes are unbelievably high.
Why you should recommend it: I’m not going to sugarcoat it… this series deserves a place in “Top 10 Anime Betrayals”. Just like the original Yu-Gi-Oh manga, Selector Infected WIXOSS takes our favorite card battle genre and adds a really dark twist to it. Cutesy girl characters are enhanced with a charming art style and mixed with a heavy sense of psychological/emotional pressure. Seriously, no one expected this anime to be this intense and messed up… but here we are.
Also! Okay listen, I know that I should list the other card game anime that we all know and love like “Cardfight!! Vanguard”, but I feel that this particular anime (and the original Yu-Gi-Oh series) stands out much more compared to the others. The stakes are much higher and it allows viewers to experience jaw-dropping thrills – much like a real gambling experience, except this time, with your life.
The concept is also super cool. A card game that has special avatar cards called LRIGs – containing real characters trapped inside with unique personalities and abilities (as shown in the image above). The game is full of deceit and betrayal; even your own avatar card can trick and turn against you, so it is not easy to find someone you can trust. Ruuko has a traumatic past that does not allow her to trust anyone easily to begin with, so her journey of discovering friendship is all the more treacherous, yet rewarding. It makes your heart flutter, knowing that our favorite girl will finally open her heart to good people.
Selector Infected WIXOSS has multiple sequels and side stories. You can start here!
14. Mardock Scramble
The First Compression, MAL Score: 7.46 (2010)
The Second Combustion, MAL Score: 7.36 (2011)
The Third Exhaust, MAL Score: 7.43 (2012)
What’s it about: Rune Balot suffered through sexual abuse when she was very young, later becoming an underaged prostitute in Mardock City to make ends meet. Eggnog Blue Casino manager, Shell Septinos, generously takes her in… only to turn against her when she discovers his dark secrets. A doctor turns her into a cyborg to preserve her life. Rune is now equipped with the power to hack and fight beyond a regular human’s capabilities – at the expense of her voice. Now she needs to protect herself so she can live to testify against Shell Septinos.
Why you should recommend it: “Dark” does not even begin to describe this anime. I watched through the entire series so that I could write this review… and I found myself turning away from the screen several times. The anime shows and addresses many disturbing subjects such as child trafficking, rape, murder of adolescents, intense violence, and more. It is all deeply disturbing. Yet I must admit that they did a good job with it.
Readers empathize with Rune and are deeply invested in how she overcomes challenges despite being mute and heavily scarred. Bad things still happen around her, and she is not the only youth suffering in this world. But now that she has been empowered with her newfound abilities, she has become the ultimate anime babe survivor. It just feels incredible to see what society deems “broken” become so badass. #girlpower
Let’s get to the gambling aspect of the show. Shell’s lair, the Eggnog Blue Casino, is a major plot point in the latter part of the 2nd movie and most of the third movie. Our main characters will have to partake in a battle of wits against other gamblers in games like roulette. The characters are not super ‘hardcore’ compared to other protagonists mentioned in this list, but it is still very entertaining to watch.
The Mardock Scramble series also contains hints of ecchi and nudity aside from the glaring horror/psychological genre plastered all around the place. The art is beautiful – many fans claim that each scene can be a screenshot for their PC backgrounds – and the characters are beloved. It’s a great anime that deserves much more attention.
Check out the Director’s Cut here!
Special (Special) Mentions
I’m not done! These are MANGA that darn well deserves an anime adaptation of their own! With high MAL ratings, amazing plots, and quality plays, it would be a crime if they are not listed in this article.
MAL Score: 8.02 (2006)
What’s it about: Madarame Baku has a reputation for his gambling prowess. Known amongst many in the underground as Usogui (The Lie Eater), he knows all the cheats, tricks, and mind-games needed to win a game. He also has an unhealthy obsession with “Kagerou” – A powerful organization that serves as a neutral referee for gambles, ensuring that losers pay what they bet – even their very lives. Still, Madarame is more than happy to take up the challenge.
Why you should recommend it: It is criminally underrated. Gambling and action-packed combat has never been utilized so well in any storytelling avenue before! How on earth can a manga combine genres on completely different sides of a spectrum?
Kakerou as an organization… embraces one of the most interesting gambling concepts ever. They have over a hundred game moderators who can enforce physical authority upon players on a national level (the police will not interfere). But here is the kicker – they will not interfere with affairs outside a game. They will ensure that the loser pays his dues but the winner could very well get mobbed, robbed, or killed right outside the room and they won’t blink an eye! This is the reality of gambling; Winners need strength to protect their earnings. The manga takes this idea and uses it to integrate combat with gambling seamlessly. Seriously, it’s awesome.
By the way, it doesn’t need to be the usual game of mahjong. Usogui will take even simple games like Hangman and make a huge deal about it. Exiting the building? Let’s make a gamble out of that too! It sounds insane but that’s what makes the manga so cool.
The art is amazing too! Expressions stand out, character imagery sets the mood and fights scenes are fantastic. Also, the way characters are drawn initially comes off a bit crazy at first but starts changing and improving every arc. So if you are turned away by the art style at first, hang in there! You won’t regret reading through Usogui, I promise.
Buy the manga here!
16. Mudazumonaki Kaikaku: The Legend of Koizumi
MAL Score: 8.05 (2006)
What’s it about: Mahjong meets political leaders on the world stage! U.S. powerhouses like George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Trump face off against famous Japanese representatives and more from around the world. All bets are off when gambling tiles decide the fate of the world. Wait… the Pope is involved too? And Kim Jong-il? Vladimir Putin?! And they are betting on war machines! Everybody, please calm down. Let’s not start yet another world war here.
Why you should recommend it: In this universe, every political leader is a master at mahjong, mind games, and intimidation. Best of all, they all reflect a real-life politician! Have you ever thought of what play style your country’s leaders will bring to the mahjong table? Witness the chaos first hand with the power of political satire done right.
The one thing this ‘political’ manga does right, is using comedy to strip down any political barriers that may hold readers back from enjoying the experience. For example, each character has mahjong skills and actions named after their real-life statements and policies. We are introduced to George W. Bush in the first chapter, who uses “Bush Doctrine Riichi” to declare his tiles. The prime minister of Japan, in return, has no choice but to use the “move that built Japan”, which is basically a cheat method, to switch tiles without Mr. Bush noticing. And the characters were taking this so seriously, gambling with the fate of their countries on the line.
What else can I say? The art is amazing. The comedy is on point. The characters are so badass, I ended up rooting even for politicians who went down in history as “controversial”! I cannot bring myself to hate any part of this manga. Trust me when I say, that you will not regret reading this.
17. Gamble Fish
MAL Score: 7.28 (2007)
What’s it about: Transfer student Tomu Shirasagi has set his sights set on Shishidō Academy, renowned for raising elites and future politicians. His haughty peers are not welcoming, with many wishing for his expulsion to outright murder. Yet, fueled by the thrill of a good gamble and a mysterious motive, Tomu swears to destroy the academy and challenges all brave enough to a game of wits. Why did he choose to come to this school and what is he planning? Only time will tell.
Why you should recommend it: “Hold up! The anime’s synopsis is similar to Kakekurui!” you might be saying. Well, sort of. But what sets Gamble Fish apart is character motivation. Our transfer student protagonist, Tomu Shirasagi, is a thrill-seeker with a background that motivates his actions and a progressive storyline that unravels through his journey. Kakekurui, on the other hand, is what I like to call “pure thrill no chill,” in a good way!
Gambling realism is also something that stands out in Gamble Fish. Other protagonists may have an uncanny tendency to pull epic wins out of nowhere. But Tomu Shirasagi keeps it real. You could very well pull off his wins in real life! So when Tomu explains his thought process after each victory, readers like me always go, “I knew it!” or “Dang, I should have thought of that.”
Unfortunately, Gamble Fish has yet to have an anime or live action adaptation as of 2021, and it’s such a waste of potential. In my humble opinion, Gamble Fish’s plot is so intriguing and “anime adaptation worthy” that it deserves as much attention if not more, than current trending anime in the market right now. I give this gambling manga a strong, biased 10/10 rating. Just know that the manga borders on harem and ecchi territory as well.
Definitely not to be mistaken for “Banana Fish”, an action-shounen anime by a similar name…
18. Liar Game
MAL Score: 8.34 (2005)
What’s it about: Nao Kanzaki is a pure college student who is honest to a fault, believing in the best of others regardless of circumstance. When she opens a mysterious 100 million yen package, she unknowingly consents to compete in the Liar Game Tournament, where players do anything to win or risk crushing debt. Will Nao retain her innocence? Or will she cave to the ugliness of humanity?
Why you should recommend it: If you are a fan of Death Parade, you definitely will fall for Liar Game, and vice versa. Both thoroughly explore the inner workings of the human heart, causing viewers to relate to characters on a deep, personal level. Liar Game, in particular, takes a real close look at the darkness inside each one of us; how a common man can easily be reduced to a criminal under the right circumstances. It can be unnerving, but that is the beauty of this manga’s premise.
I really like the protagonist, Nao Kanzaki. She is a pristine white slate amongst morally grey wolves; almost like a child in terms of naivety and innocence. So imagine my excitement when gullible Nao has to seek aid from a criminal after a betrayal. I loved her character growth. Seeing Nao start to experience the darker side of humanity, yet grow empathy and compassion for hardened individuals… She is surprisingly strong! I really hope you read this manga and see for yourselves!
The manga was adapted into two TV series and also inspired two live action films: Liar Game: The Final stage in 2010 and Liar Game: Reborn in 2012. So why isn’t there an anime adaptation yet!! We can only eagerly await…
19. Gin to Kin
MAL Score: 7.56 (1992)
What’s it about: Tetsuo Morita gambles because he never succeeds in anything else… Only that he keeps losing when he gambles too! One fateful day, he meets Hirai Ginji – a fixer who operates in Japan’s underworld. Morita admires Ginji’s ability to earn money and follows him into the dark underworld filled with corrupt politicians and high-stakes gambling. Thus, begins Tetsuo’s journey to surpass Gin (Silver) and be called Kin (Gold).
Why you should recommend it: Gin to Kin pays special attention to crime and political corruption, unlike other gambling franchises that provide a more competitive gambling perspective. I especially love how we see Ginji’s ruthless wins through Morita’s perspective. Since none of us are shifty individuals pulling strings in the black market (fingers crossed), we relate to Morita’s wide-eyed awe as his ideal role model showcases his cunning talents.
Feast your eyes on horse races, casinos, stock markets, and author Fukumoto Nobuyuki’s iconic mahjong games! Gambling is, of course, a prominent aspect of this manga and it’s amazing. Thus, deserving a spot on our list.
Unfortunately, the manga is incomplete with only 108 chapters to its name because Gin to Kin’s publisher changed its content to pornography and hentai (really). Still, the manga has left a strong mark on the world, with seven direct-to-video movies and a 2017 television drama adaptation. These shows are amazing in their own rights, but I strongly encourage you to check out the Gin to Kin manga first!
20. Tobaku Haouden Rei
MAL Score: 7.99 (2007)
What’s it about: Ukai Rei is a righteous and kind young man. He uses his skills to help victims of corruption under code name “Zero” even though he could very well use his intellect and wits for selfish reasons. A heist goes sour one day and to protect his friends, Rei is forced to join a gambling competition with a one trillion prize pool. Although he is obviously more than capable of winning the whole thing, his compassion for others will prove to be his stumbling stone.
Why you should recommend it: Its English title “Gambling Emperor Legend Zero” suggests that our main character would be cold, powerful, and intimidating. Well, Zero is actually your typical shounen character. Young, morally upright, self-sacrificing, and charismatic. He is not only a genius gambler but an outstanding human being – the kind that will always extend a helping hand no matter the circumstances. It is rare to find this type of character in the gambling genre!
What is also really cool in my opinion, is the context behind the gambling competition. The mysterious host of this tournament is on the hunt for a “King” – a gambling force to represent him and gamble on his behalf. Instantly, I knew that Ukai Rei is the top candidate to take the crown. However, upon reading the manga, I realized that things might not be so simple. Often, he will help stragglers and lead them to victory alongside himself. How long can he keep this up? At some point, he will need to ruthlessly triumph over the rest to win and gain the power to better the world. Furthermore, the host of the competition is looking for a “King”, will he accept a ruler that is so self-sacrificing?
Overall, this gambling manga is perfect for fans who love the shounen genre. If you are interested, please check out its sequel, spin-off, and live action TV drama as well!
Amazing plots, inspiring characters, and exhilarating games; You don’t have to be a real-life gambler to appreciate what these anime and manga have to offer! Just pick a few from this list that catches your eye and give this genre a spin. Then, do come back and explore our other genres as well!
Scroll up and start exploring. You will get hooked, 100%.