Well, I finally understand what the show is about. It’s about the Japanese government realising that every other government is spying on them and that they have no answer for it, so they create a top secret training facility for spies and eventually end up with 8 highly intelligent and skilled spies. And as if to sweeten the deal, the story takes place in 1937, i.e. right before WW2. That is, of course, not a thing that’s guaranteed to be interesting, because stories can be told in so many different ways, but in the case of Joker Game, the spirit of the times and politics are heavily referenced. Hell, the entire premise relies on the state of international politics. So in that way, this show is turning out to be a proper historical drama, and I am very happy about that.
I’m also happy about the fact that the main character, or at least I assume he’s the main character, Sakuma, has ethical qualms with the idea of spies. This means that although the 8 spies have dialogue that is very “edgy”, so to speak, they don’t take it to the level of, for instance, Gangsta, which I disliked mostly because of the dialogue and the “gangster accents”. Joker Game has Sakuma there to bring the conversations back down to earth (though he can’t quite bring the spies’ individual lines down with him). The impression I get from this is that Joker Game is trying to be a serious and dark drama, possibly even a thriller, but that it’s also actively making sure that it doesn’t become a caricature of itself. Or, at least, that’s what I thought after the first episode. Who knows what’ll happen later.
As for the technical aspects of the show, they’re pretty stellar. The visuals are fantastic both when it comes to background art and atmosphere. The character animation is not extravagant, but then again the story doesn’t call for extravagance. The music is mostly good. At the very least, it doesn’t overpower the dialogue. The voice acting, on the other hand, is really good. I did notice that the cast contains many A-list voice actors, and I recognised their voices, but it also sounded like they tried to dial back the distinctive aspects of their voices. What I mean by this is that I think this show has remarkably good acting. It’s just a pleasure listening to the characters talk. I’m really excited about this show.
Verdict: Excellent premiere. I’m not sure I know where the show will be going after the first episode, but everything I’ve seen so far has impressed me.