Kaji Ryuusuke no Gi is one of a kind. You are unlikely to see anything even remotely similar in the future because such an era has now passed.
Released in 1992, this was released when the manga industry was truly wild west.
This manga takes on politics from inside rather than outside. This itself is very rare as most manga view politics from outsider’s view which is almost always seen as corrupt and, thus, bad.
Let me rephrase: This is the most realistic manga about politics. The author even worked with a former prime minister and other prominent figures (all retired and some probably dead by now in 2020).
The main character of this 20 volume manga is Kaji Ryuusuke whose father was a renowned politician before his untimely death in a car accident along with his elder brother. He was a second son. Therefore, any burden of him carrying on his father’s legacy was not placed on him.
However, with his father and brother’s death, the burden is now suddenly placed on him.
Now, this is where I really liked about the series. Ryuusuke being in mid 30s is an adult, a proper adult. He has a wife and a young son. He has a career. When he receives news that both his father was killed and elder brother was on his deathbed in a car accident, his reaction is subtle. He is shocked, yes, but he does not overreact. He does not break down. He does not cry.
In fact, he has no reason to moan for their death, for he was never really close to them.
And he simply carries on, performing funerals for them. It can be understandable since he was a second son who is often neglected in favor of the first son.
As soon as their funerals are over, Ryuusuke is met with people who have supported or worked for his father. They want him to carry on the legacy; they want him to enter politics.
Rightfully so, Ryuusuke is very reluctant. He thought he was free of the burden. Well, he was. Initially, he is firm on his stance that he is simply going to live a civilian life. However, those around him are persistent. They are very firm on the idea that Kaji-ke (House Kaji) should not vanish.
In the end, Ryuusuke agrees to enter politics, and he quickly learns that what he thinks is good ideas are frowned upon by potential voters. His ideas are bold for conservative Japanese voters.
He wants to open borders for trade deals, thus potentially damaging Japan’s fragile agriculture. At one point, he is thrown hundreds of tomato at him at a speech stage.
He learns quickly that a politician has to lie. What is unrealistic is perhaps that Kaji does not lie enough. Indeed, I find him the most honest politician I’ve ever seen. He does lie but only to a small extent, and most of his lies are, to my eyes, considered white lies.
What is realistic is that Kaji is not a perfect man. His marriage was arranged, meaning there isn’t really passion between him and his wife. Therefore, he has a mistress. An arranged marriage isn’t something that’s rare even now in 2020 when it comes to powerful families. For them it’s rarely about love and affection but positions.
Now, what is unrealistic is that he has only one mistress until the end. Or perhaps the mistress is his true love. I reckon she probably is, given how he literally breaks down upon hearing news that she passed away from cancer in the last volume while he is being debated to become the prime minister of Japan.
Kaji’s road is a long one which takes him to numerous countries as a foreign minister including North Korea. A lot of sensitive and controversial subjects are handled in the manga.
This manga wouldn’t probably survive today due to people being easily triggered nowadays.
What I find really intriguing occurs in the last volume where Kaji asks his wife and now adult son whether he should become the next prime minister of Japan. He certainly has an option to pass since he is still in mid 40s. He will have other chances for sure.
To his question, I find his wife’s response really fascinating. She says that the reason she married him in the first place was a distant hope of becoming the wife of a prime minister. She claims that she was fully aware of the slim chance, given he was the second son. Regardless, she confesses that it was a main factor in marrying him.
The thing is that Kaji has had a loose suspicion that his wife may have been behind the car accident which took his father and brother’s life. He never gets to find any firm evidence behind this though.
If his wife was indeed behind the accident, she is probably the most cunning and ambitious woman, not to mention power hungry. She does have her faults though as she is found out that she was having affairs behind Kaji’s back. He forgives her though since he was having an affair of his own and, for his political career, a divorce is not an option.
What decides his mind to become the prime minister of Japan is last words from his deceased mistress on a crumbled paper which she wrote in her dying moments. The writing is bad but it clearly says, “Become the prime minister”.
Thus, he becomes one.
It’s hard to grade this manga because it truly is one of a kind. As I said in the beginning, I can safely swear that you are not going to see anything remotely similar in the future. Such manga authors no longer exist, and such manga culture is dead.
In a sense, this is a slice of life instead of politics. Yes, it is about politics but you view politics through Kaji’s life. You will see his thoughts, daily events, and even his sex life.
Kaji is not a perfect man but then no one is. And, as a politician, his ideals are flawed in some aspects but then, again, no one is perfect.