More moral ambiguity is in the air in this week’s episode of Joker Game. Truth be told that’s been the case with every episode of Joker Game, and these episodic stories about the individuals of D-Agency continue to be excellent stand-alone episodes of anime. We are getting to the point, though, where I’m beginning to really worry that we’re simply not going to have enough time to see this series really tackle the larger issues it’s raising with these episodes.
The agent on the spot this week is Amari (Morikawa Toriyuki), whose amiable baby face seems to be hiding a certain old soul weariness, if I’m reading him correctly. He’s aboard a civilian steamship headed from San Francisco to Tokyo, on the hunt for a British MI5 officer posing as an American – an encryption expert who’s been central to Britain’s attempts to break the Nazis’ Enigma code. But as it happens Amari isn’t the only person on the ship hunting for that man, and that’s where things start to fade to Joker Game’s usual shades of grey.
I don’t know about anybody being able to call up wild dolphins from the deep by whistling, but Amari is certainly a charming fellow. So is Jeffrey Morgan (Tanaka Hideyuki) who as it happens is his target. Morgan has had extensive plastic surgery done, but Amari knows certain things (both physical and otherwise) can’t be altered by surgery. He uses his keen eyes and a custom crossword puzzle to make Morgan, but the other stalker has already done so – a woman with a small child and a dog, out for revenge against Morgan for a personal affront. When the champagne turns out to be even more brut than usual, it’s Amari the dying Morgan assumes is “Cerberus”, the one on-board who intended to kill him, but it’s actually that woman.
There are several interesting elements to this drama, and as usual it’s tense and taut spy thriller material – though perhaps not quite as tense or taut as the previous two eps have been. While I’m not aware of any instances of British Intelligence intentionally getting one of their own ships sunk in order to crack Enigma (as Morgan did), it’s well-known that once Alan Turing’s team had cracked the code, they allowed their ships to sail their planned routes knowing some would be sunk, not wanting the Nazis to realize their code had been broken and change it. War is a nasty business, but the widow of the first mate of that sunken ship certainly wasn’t wrong for feeling personally betrayed.
Once again we see, at least superficially, that the D-Agency is working for the direct benefit of the Imperial government. I remain most interested in the question of when that changed, assuming it did, and what was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Was this something Col. Yuuki always had planned, and he just needed to bank a good deal of successful intelligence first in order to gain the army’s trust? Or did he reach a personal breaking point where he realized his goals could no longer be compatible with that of his commanders? I sincerely hope the anime version of Joker Game at least begins to answer those questions, but I’m starting to worry that we’re going to run out of time before it does.