Series Review – Joker Game

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Production I.G

Expectations can make or break pretty much anything in life.  In terms of anime, expectations can drastically alter how the audience perceives a show.  A show with a lot of hype might be actually good, but the failure to meet those hype levels could lead it to be considered a lot worse than it actually was.  For this week, my failed expectations were largely caused by a misleading story format.  As a result, I did not enjoy this show nearly as much as I would have otherwise.  Joker Game was an entertaining, but heavily flawed take on the world of espionage.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime review.

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Story & Characters

This is a series that no one expected to actually be an anthology.  Joker Game has no overarching plot other than the growing need for espionage in the years leading up to the Second World War.  Each episode follows a different spy’s situation as they take on a variety of issues ranging from finding another spy network or escaping interrogation.  This is the inherent weakness of an anthology; some of the scenarios presented are great, and some manage to be very uninteresting.  For the ones that work, they showcase a multitude of twists and turns, with a big reveal of the spy’s strategy towards the end of the episode.  When it works, navigating through this plot is highly entertaining.  When it doesn’t though, it can lead to a very convoluted chain of events that does not seem to come together nicely.

There is also another problem concerning the characters.  Besides Yuuki, the leader of the D-Agency, there really isn’t an interesting character that the audience can get behind.  All of the spies are interchangeable.  They only shine in scenes where they all manage to meet up with one another and this rarely happens.  Some people praise the show for this aspect, but I am not one of them.  They say that the spies being interchangeable enhance the overall theme of a spy’s adaptability.  I agree with this sentiment.  The problem lies with trying to tell a great story with characters that do not really receive any sort of development.  It puts a lot of pressure on the scenarios themselves, which I mentioned were relatively hit or miss.  I put a significant amount of emphasis on story and character when I watch an anime.  When an anime has difficulty getting me to care about the characters, then it’s not really for me.

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Animation & Sound

For the most part, this series features some solid animation.  They absolutely nailed the tone of this time period with the art and the action scenes that show off the talents of the spies are also beautifully animated.  There actually is some very impressive choreography here.  The major problem lies with the character design.  As I mentioned earlier, the spies are interchangeable.  The character design certainly exacerbates this problem.  They look so similar that I have a very difficult time differentiating between them, not like it matters anyway.  On top of that, there are some ridiculous looking characters in this show.  What were they thinking when they were designing some of these characters?  I’m sure the clip of the other spymaster has gone viral with how disgusting he looks.

Thankfully the sound design is top notch.  I consider it to be the best aspect of this series.  The voice acting is phenomenal.  Yuuki’s voice actor deserves a special mention with his perfect performance as an aging spymaster.  He really steals the show with some of his rather devious scenes.  The music is also amazing.  The series features a wide array of jazz which gives it a similar feeling to Baccano!  Overall, the animation had some significant problems, but the sound design was rather good.

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Final Verdict

It’s quite obvious that while I will admit that I enjoyed some moments of Joker Game, the series was disappointing overall.  The lack of character development limited my interest in the anthology nature of the plot.  The animation was great, but the character design was lacking.  The sound design was a highlight with excellent voice acting and an equally excellent soundtrack.  I give this series a Don’t Watch rating.  While there are some great moments, it never really comes together.  I’ll be back next week for another review and thanks for checking out this one.

Don't Watch

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4 responses

  1. I’m with you. While there are some events and moments in Joker Game that really are worth watching, as a series it doesn’t work. Each story could have been told better if given a longer run time and not connected to the others as each one is essentially self-contained.

    Like

    • The strongest episodes were mostly the two part ones. It’s unfortunate because I really wanted to love this series. I love period pieces especially with this 1930’s aesthetic, the anthology nature just didn’t work. Although right now, I am getting my my fix with 91 Days.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I also wanted to love Joker Game after the first two episodes but then it just consistently made me start over in a totally new setting with a new character I didn’t care about and it just didn’t build a cohesive story in any way.

        Like

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