Joker Game – 11

Joker Game - 11 -1Joker Game has certainly wound up being one of the strangest shows of the season.  Objectively it’s very well-done, and it represents a refreshing change from the sameness that is 90% of the anime landscape.  I just can’t shake the feeling that when it’s all said and done, it won’t have any reason to have existed.  Maybe I’m overstepping my bounds in looking for a point to all this, but for a series like Joker Game – mature, historically focused, generally serious – one expects a certain introspection, or even reflection.  Maybe it’s as simple as a cultural gap that’s too wide for me to overcome.

Joker Game - 11 -2This episode certainly had potential, given that it was set in Germany.  And this was clearly very close to the beginning of full-throated warfare in Europe, certainly the latest episode in the series’ chronological timeline so far.  As you’d more or less expect from Joker Game, this is a pretty sanitized Germany – it’s not presented as distinct from any of the other European countries depicted in the series, nor its military men as any different than the French or English.  It’s not an abdication that surprises me by any means, but it’s still disappointing not to see Joker Game at least flirt with the awkward and difficult reality of just who it was the Japanese were allied with in the war.

Joker Game - 11 -3Rather than any musing on that uncomfortable topic, we get a straightforward and politically neutral spy story of the week – and that means Japanese spies outsmarting European spies.  The key players here are a German colonel (in the regular army, not the Gestapo – I don’t think it would have been possible to whitewash them) with a long-standing “white whale” grudge against Yuuki, and a Japanese spy named Maki.  Maki is of course Miyoshi, and the one curveball this episode does throw is that it shows us that “Don’t kill, don’t die” only goes as far as circumstances allow.  Spying is a dangerous game, and sometimes the second part of that mantra isn’t up to the agent to enforce.

Joker Game - 11 -4The question of what exactly Yuuki’s aims were in spying on Germany when Japan and Italy have already allied with them seems an obvious one – the German colonel’s attache asks it.  But of course this being Joker Game that question is never explored, for it would involve both taking political stands and exploring character motivation, and this series just doesn’t go there.  But there’s also the fact that in war – and in peace – allies spy on each other all the time.  Information has many different kinds of value, and using it against one’s enemies is only one of them.

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5 comments

  1. J

    I more or less agree, I think – I enjoy every episode and I’m glad a series like this actually got made but it has no real plot and no apparent ‘endgame’, either. I’m totally expecting next week’s episode to just be another standalone like always. The thing that strikes me most about this series is how absurdly apolotical it is. It’s as if the author was just going out of his way to try to remove any kind of political statement about World War II and just make everything about some kind of abstract ‘spy ideal’, regardless of nationality or allegiance. It’s an interesting take in a way, but it leaves things feeling pretty emotionally empty, and all of the characters besides Yuuki pretty much feel like the same guy.

  2. It’s an interesting take in a way, but it leaves things feeling pretty emotionally empty.

    I think that’s about as well as it can be summed up in a sentence.

  3. Once in awhile I may not have the same take on an episode / anime as you. I do think this episode does have some links to other episodes . The ending to Miyoshi who in EP 1 put Sakuma on the spot with a double cross, The most brash spy meets his demise.

    I also think it links more of Yuuki’s past from EP 10 to this one . Yes it doent leap out at you but there is connection

    Overlooked for me / prolbally a lot of us is Japan and Germany were enemies in WW1 / Also how the Japanese army was in favor of joining the Axis in WW 2 where the Navy didnt thus all this suspicion going on also doesnt leap out at you.

    I also surmise is that you link all the spies in D-Agency as easy link as you dont want them exposed thus the single episode stories. If anything it all revovles arounf Yuuki. Maybe we just dont see it.

  4. S

    I don’t know what you were expecting from the nazi but in the beginning of the episode they sold an innocent man to the Gestapo just to have a scapegoat for the train crash. This sounds ‘evil’ in my book.
    I think this show just wants to be a clever spy story set in the 30s rather than make any political statements.

  5. S

    Emotionally empty? Myioshi died with a smile and everybody thinks he is more alive as a corpse than then, when he was actually alive. Nobody wondered about his well-being or made a call to the hospital. If Yuuki hadn’t shut his eyes, the only merciful gesture he received, his cover would had been perfect even after death. I found this episode the embodiment of Yuuki’s prophecy in ep 1. Apart from that , it is true that the D-Agency characters are too much alike in terms of personality, Myioshi was the only one I empathise with, due to screen time. I would have labelled him as the ironic type, a proud and nonchalant man.

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