|Name (Romaji)||Akagi Shigeru|
|Age||13 (debut), 20 (Washizu Arc), 23 (Tehonbiki Arc), 41 (Ten debut), 53 (at time of death)|
|Voiced By||Masato Hagiwara (anime)|
Takeshi Kusao (game)
Tomokazu Sugita (Sengoku Taisen)
Akagi Shigeru is a supporting character in Nobuyuki Fukumoto's manga work Ten and the protagonist of its spin-off/prequel, Akagi: The Genius Who Descended Into the Darkness. A white-haired gambler, he is portrayed as an aloof genius who has reached a superhuman level of wit, intelligence, intuition, luck, force of will and all the other elements necessary to win at gambling, especially in the game of mahjong. Throughout the story, Akagi utilizes techniques other gamblers don't dare to in order to sway his opponents: brazen cheating, extremely risky maneuvers, far fetched bluffs, and blatant disregard for his own life.
Akagi is a Japanese young man with a rather lean build and very sharp facial features (particularly his nose, a recognizable trait between him and Itō Kaiji). He has pure white hair, which he already had by the time he turned 13, and eyes of bottomless darkness that compel people to imagine the short life he has lived up to that point.
During his early teens, meeting Nangō and having a match against Ichikawa, Akagi wears a white short-sleeved button-up over a darker tee-shirt, a belt and dark pants, the button-up shirt being typical of the time period. Because he first appears coming out of a storm, his shirt is messy and a little dirty upon his first appearance but it is cleaned by the time of his match against Ichikawa.
After the first timeskip, Akagi appears again in a polo shirt with breast pockets. In the anime, the color of his polo shirt is consistently blue while the pants and sneakers are white/pale, but the original manga also features volume covers where his colors are less consistent, showing him wearing orange and occasionally pink. After the second timeskip, Akagi's appearance has not changed much if at all.
In his middle years, as shown in Ten, he is wearing a tiger print dress shirt and white suit. He briefly appears again with that outfit in the final scene of the series.
Akagi's lack of concern for life and death, profit and loss, and common sense, and his stance on the games themselves and his desire to maintain his beliefs, is unique among Fukumoto's works, which tend to depict extreme battles for big money and survival. His brilliance, mentality, luck, and prowess are all so out of the ordinary that he is often compared to the devil. He is a genius at mahjong and other forms of gambling, but he does not have a greed for money or materialistic desires, and even if he wins a lot of money, he readily squanders it. He does not like to get along with others, and at a young age, he is a lone wolf who has built a legend of his own by going through many scenes of carnage. He has his own unique view of life and death, and he understands that he is a heretic who has no desire for life and no fear of death, to the extent that he describes himself as a "half-dead man".
Despite this, he has shown consideration and concern for Osamu after the latter begins to tag along within the three year timeskip following Akagi's match with Washizu Iwao. A few times over the course of volume 36, he has repeatedly tried to convince Osamu to turn away and get a normal life as not to get involved, though it can be argued that he did this for the sake of preferring to be alone and trying to make it so.
In the main series/sequel Ten, he is portrayed as a legendary gambler who lived his life with no support, relying only on his own abilities. Although he is said to be invincible when it comes to gambling games, there are times when his luck is slightly worse than it used to be in his heyday. It is also said that his elegant mahjong tactics are very popular with the ordinary gambling enthusiasts (not the yakuza). He reigned at the pinnacle of the underworld for about three years, but retired early because of his principle that position and fame constrained him. He has been called "Man of the Divine Realm," "Fierce God," "Once-In-A-Century Genius," and "The Infallible Akagi," and has countless legends to his credit. Just as he did in his youth, his sincere approach to the games and his conviction that he prefers earnest battles above all else has not changed. However, the sharp, pointed personality that seemed to be pregnant with madness that he had in his youth has been softened somewhat, and he is now comically portrayed as forcing a chef to cook fugu sashimi late at night and only eating one bite of it, and traveling to Hawaii with Washio and Kanamitsu and indulging in a round of golf there. He also became more eloquent compared to his younger days, when he was less talkative, by giving Hiroyuki lots of advice as his guide and gently persuading Ginji, who was on the verge of death himself but was terrified of dying.
Akagi at different ages
The series is set up with four major time skips, showing Akagi at different points in his life. He is introduced at 13, again at 19-20, then at 22-23, and finally appears in Ten, from ages 44-53.
Youth and adolescence
Akagi's parents, siblings, and other biographical details are unknown. His assumed birth year is 1945. In 1958, at 13 years old, he survives a game of chicken and stops at a mahjong parlor in the outskirts of town to avoid a storm. Nangō, who was playing a life-threatening game of mahjong, senses Akagi's unusual talent and asks him to play for him. At that time, Akagi didn't know how to play mahjong and was only explained basic rules by Nangō, but his natural talent blossomed and he overwhelmed the skilled player Ryūzaki in the blink of an eye. The opposition also decides to put its faith into a professional rep player, Yagi Keiji, but they can't stop the awakened Akagi, who ends up winning twice in a row. It is also during this time that he meets Yasuoka, a delinquent detective who was searching for the survivor (i.e. Akagi) of the chicken game.
Five days after the Yagi fight, he battles one of the top five big guns in the underworld, Ichikawa, for eight million yen, and wins in a fierce battle, making his name known in the underworld overnight. However, after that, Akagi goes into hiding.
Six years later, while working at a toy factory, Akagi was making a name for himself as a brawler among hoodlums (and seemingly continuing to play life-threatening games for those six years as well). He later faced off against Urabe, a professional rep player who had defeated Hirayama Yukio, a "fake Akagi" set up by Yasuoka, and won against an overwhelming disadvantage. Afterwards, he plays and wins a match against Nakai Junpei, who challenged him to a fight at a mahjong parlor downtown, but then he disappears again.
One year later, Akagi is accused of winning a gambling game at a yakuza den and is almost killed. Yasuoka and Oogi Takeshi rush to the scene and are able to save him, but he is injured in the shoulder. At the hospital where he is treated, he is asked to play a match against the dark king who ruled Japan from the shadows after the war, Washizu Iwao. Akagi senses that Washizu is a heretic of his own kind and agrees to this. What awaits Akagi is a special kind of mahjong called "Washizu Mahjong", a game invented by Washizu to watch his opponents die in fear of death, in which he bets on blood and hundreds of millions of yen.
During the long game of Washizu Mahjong, Akagi was dominant from start to finish, but he fought in an extreme mortal struggle in which he straddled the line between life and death, such as when he lost 1,800cc of blood and fell into a coma. In the end, Washizu fainted due to massive blood loss, which resulted in Akagi winning according to the rules, but based on the nature of the fight, Akagi said that it is Washizu who actually won the fight and that he was the one who lost, and walked away without accepting the money he was supposed to get from the confrontation.
Three more years after Washizu Mahjong, the curtain comes down on Akagi as he and his colleague from the toy factory, Nozaki Osamu, wander around the local gambling dens.
In addition, since the manga was not finished at the time the anime aired, the anime ends at the fourth East-South session in the Washizu Arc and states that the battle with Washizu is "passed down as a legend, and Akagi will later reign in the underworld as a man of the divine realm."
Prime of life/Middle aged
Three years after his retirement from the underworld, Akagi faces off against Ten Takashi, when Murota, who was his rep player, is defeated by Ten. He overwhelms Ten from start to finish, but withdrew from the East-South session after 30 games because of one loss. Two years after his match with Ten, he participates in the East-West tournament where the best mahjong players in Japan get together to have a showdown. He joins the East camp headed by Ten, where he takes on Harada Katsumi, the strongest active rep player in the game, and Soga Mitsui, Akagi's rival in the world of Ten, who was the strongest player in the underworld before the emergence of Akagi, and he becomes the driving force for the East camp's recovery by showing off an otherworldly level of strength (at the very least, it is suggested that Harada was afraid of Akagi's abilities to the extent that he was forced to accept the special rule that Ten had proposed, which gave a slight advantage to the East camp, when Ten hinted at Akagi's re-entry into the tournament before the finals of the East-West battle). In addition, he often gives advice to Igawa Hiroyuki, a young, inexperienced man belonging to the East camp, and the two develop a teacher-student relationship.
Nine years after the East-West game, Akagi suffers from Alzheimer's so severe that he is unable to play mahjong and decides to die a natural death by euthanizing himself before his "identity as Akagi Shigeru" disappears. He is desperately urged to change his mind by his comrades and rivals in the East-West battle, and at this time, he is challenged by the priest to a final gamble to keep him alive and to settle the score, but even there, he shows his intuition that defies the odds. In one of his last conversations with his friends, it was mentioned that he was in debt to several people in his later years. The creditors are said to have "not been in the mood to lend the money" and that he forcibly repaid it but got it all back again from the funeral offerings, but it is unclear if the debt was due to gambling. He added, "When you build up too much success, you tie yourself down. So every time you succeeded, you break down," so when he got a lot of money from a gamble, he quickly dissolved it.
Akagi was touched by the sincerity of Ten, who tearfully begged him not to die and swore that he would look after him as his family even if he became amnesic and disabled, and expressed his gratitude with tears in his eyes for the first time in the series, saying, "I didn't have a family, but I had friends." Nevertheless, his determination never wavered until his death, and he peacefully passed away on September 26, 1999, after being taken care of by his friends. He was 53 years old.
After his death, a grave was built in his honor where his many fans have brought him offerings. However, it has also become a tradition to chip pieces of his gravestone for good luck, therefore causing his gravestone to become misshapen. Although this angered Ten, he eventually felt happy that it felt like everyone was gambling with Akagi, keeping his legacy alive.
- Masato Hagiwara (2005 anime)
- Hagiwara is also the voice of Kaiji Itō
- Takeshi Kusao (2002 video game Akagi for the PlayStation 2)
- Takashi Kashiwabara (V-Cinema)
- Kanata Hongō (TV drama)
- Tomokazu Sugita (Sengoku Taisen game tie-in)
- Eisaku Yoshida (Ten TV drama)
- Fukumoto says he is "the ideal male figure" and "a spiritual being."
- His last name was taken from Keiichirō Akagi, the late actor who carried a cool image. The name Shigeru was chosen simply because it felt like a good fit.
- In the V-Cinema film adaptations, he is 17 years old in 1958, making 1941 his presumed birth year in that continuity, and has black hair.
- In an interview with "Weekly Shonen ___" in 2003, when asked who is the best gambler in Fukumoto's works, Fukumoto replied that "it's either Akagi Shigeru or Ten."
- On September 27, 2009, the tenth anniversary of his death, a memorial service for the opening of the Akagi tombstone was hosted by Takeshobo. After the memorial service, the tombstone was displayed at Bar Scarab in Kichijōji, Musashino, and for a limited period of time, from April 1, 2010, at the Mahjong Museum in Misaki, Isumi District, Chiba Prefecture. The tombstone was then permanently displayed inside the bar SurpasS (closed) in Kichijōji, and as of July 2015, it is currently on permanent display at the Hungry Boy restaurant in Yokosuka.