Or “it’s halfway through the new season and I still can’t think of much to say about these shows.”
Basing a series on a tyre-slashing, out of work bum who attempts to pay off his debts through high-stakes gambling might not sound like the most auspicious character to use; however that's exactly what Kaiji does and even at the ends of society, the show exudes a manly fragrance that's hard to shift. Dense with dialogue, the first three episodes are a tense, sometimes tortured look at a man pushed to the edge.
To say that the series is heavy on confabulation would be an understatement; most all of the introductory episodes are taken up with overwrought monologues either from the narrator, the delightful Fumihiko Tachiki, or from Itou Kaiji's many foes describing everything from what happened in the last episode to the byzantine logic used to win the most recent gamble; it's initially comical but surprisingly, rarely feels protracted. While most of the monologues are posturing and chest-beating, each episode is pocked with tiny victories and defeats which keep things moving along to what can only be hoped is a monumental climax. What the series lacks in visceral action is more than made up for by the most animate of faces; each one able to convey a range of emotion above and beyond what's ordinarily expected of anime characters. Only the most tertiary of characters are left stoically straight-faced yet even then the art style adds volumes to what could have been merely perfunctory.