Games of real money poker have often been featured in American films and television series to emphasize the settings or give the character depth. Sometimes poker or other casino games provide the primary narrative to media. How about in anime? Originally from Japan, anime has been relevant on a global scale for many years now – but is there any anime series with real money poker-related themes or storylines?
Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler
Many anime series started life as a manga series (Japanese comic book style) and Kakegurui follows suit. The anime is now widely available on Netflix and follows gambling activity that takes place at a prestigious private school. Yumeko Jabami is the primary character and prompts multiple games of poker throughout the series to settle various outcomes during the storyline – if you wanted to try and experience this yourself you can find some great real-money poker sites here and test your luck in real-money poker in real life.
No Game No Life
The primary narrative strand of No Game No Life lasted 12 novels, with the last edition of the manga only being released in 2023. However, the anime series has been on Japanese screens since 2013. The story follows a group of competitive gamers who take on the respective ‘gods of gambling’ and embark on a war against said antagonists through all manner of games. Poker makes a few appearances throughout the series, especially at the start of the overall narrative.
The original manga series was a particularly long-running narrative as 36 volumes were published between 1998 and 2018. To date, only one 26-episode anime series has been commissioned but has since been made into a television drama series too. The series follows the life and gambling habits of Akagi. While he typically plays Mahjong throughout the show, there are several references and scenes where poker is visible.
Based on the struggles of the Japanese criminal underworld, Usogui follows issues a slightly unhinged protagonist who looks to bring down the organizations that threaten the safety of Japan. However, through his involvement and gambling stakes, he gets embroiled in the war between rival organized crime groups. Poker features as a prime narrative mover with some interesting variations on it (Air Poker being one) throughout the manga and anime series.
One of the more contemporary entries is High Card. The original manga series was released in late 2022 and the accompanying anime show debuted less than a year later. The show follows a collective of budding gamblers each with a unique skill, who form their group ‘the High Card’. Their quest is to collect mythical cards scattered around a fictional kingdom and to do so must successfully defeat opponents and challenges through the medium of poker or poker-inspired activities.
Ok, the concept for Death Parade is a little strange but there are some connections to poker and gambling. The idea is that after death, the majority of people have no set destination with the two options being heaven and hell. In order to send them on their way, all newly ill-fated people must participate in the ‘Death Games’ to determine where exactly they’ll spend their afterlife eternity. So instead of wagering casino chips or cash, they’re betting with their very souls. Poker isn’t at the heart of the series but is visible within some points of it.
Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji
While Kaiji might not enjoy international acclaim like other popular anime, it’s been a staple of the manga world since first being introduced in 1996. The original written format is known for its longevity having multiple series and volumes. However, the anime product to date has only had one season albeit with 26 episodes. To get an understanding of the popularity, there’s been three live-action movies, a stage show adaptation, and multiple video games released based on the original manga, highlighting the enormity of the demand for Kaiji.
The storyline shows the namesake character, Kaiji, who graduates high school and moves to Tokyo in order to find employment. Unfortunately, he’s unsuccessful in his quest, therefore to pay his rising overheads he begins to gamble. Poker and card games are relevant throughout the show, especially in the fifth series of the manga in which the primary narrative is based on a new variation of the game ‘One Poker’.
Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z
Arguably the most popular or well-known anime series outside of Japan, the Dragon Ball series enjoys global recognition. The narrative might not focus on gambling or poker, moreover, it follows the plight of the Z Fighters protecting the world from dangerous adversaries. However, there are a few select scenes in which characters like Krillin, Maron, and Yajirobe can be seen playing poker.
Poker Pretty Girls Battle: Fantasy World Edition
Ok, this one might not technically be an anime series but it has all the hallmarks of one. Poker Pretty Girls Battle: Fantasy World Edition is a video game available for PC and PlayStation in which users play poker. The game looks and feels like an anime series as all the characters resemble those normally associated with Japanese media. Elaborately decorated and flamboyant, gamers can enjoy Texas Hold’em rules and all the aesthetics of anime without dedicating the time to watch a full episode.