Tomodachi Game is the anime version of Squid Game

The following contains spoilers for Tomodachi Game Episode 1, “Huh? Is Yuichi-kun Suspicious of His Friends?”, now streaming on Crunchyroll.

High-stakes gaming has become a common narrative in anime, video games, and live-action shows. Many of the most popular of these titles pit complete strangers against each other in a series of deadly competitions or some kind of mutual death battle royale. Tomodachi gameone of this season’s newest thrillers, it offers a similar structure by forcing high school students to play each other’s fates on the line.

However, compared to many of his contemporaries, Tomodachi game It has two big differences. First, instead of the characters gambling their survival, they risk their future in the form of life-ruining debt. Second, the participants are all the people you thought were your best friends.

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The series begins with unassuming protagonist Yuuichi Katakiri and his close-knit group of student friends. This gang consists of the carefree rich kid Makoto Shibe, the stern class vice president Shiho Sawaragi, the smart boy prodigy Tenji Mikasa, and the caring wallflower Yutori Kokorogi. While the five share a deep bond, suspicion arises around them after two million yen of the class’s school trip funds are stolen.

After this incident, the five of them receive a letter in the middle of the night to meet at school, at which point they are accosted and kidnapped. After waking up in a whitewashed white room, Manabu-kun, a creepy childish pet, informs them that they must participate in a series of games to pay off a sum of 20 million yen, a debt that supposedly belongs to one of them. . Although Yuuichi initially doubts the reality of the setup, he is surprised when the other four quickly agree to these demands. His horror is reinforced by Manabu-kun’s mention of an entrance fee paid by the debtor equal to the exact amount stolen from the class.

Manabu-kun presents the terrifying Tomodachi Game

It is this looming sense of secrecy that creates a unique tension in the elements of Tomodachi game. The anime masterfully conveys the events from only Yuuichi’s perspective, setting the audience apart from the other four in much the same way Yuuichi himself does during the games. All five are equally burdened with the divided debt at the start of the contest, despite the fact that only one of them is responsible for its existence. In addition, the activities are structured in such a way that the amount owed by each character can increase or decrease based on their actions, but is never verified by another participant.

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The first game, based on Kokkuri-san, the Japanese equivalent of a Ouija board, has players collectively answer a series of yes-or-no questions by moving a coin without speaking. The board itself, slated to move in the direction of minority response, initially appears to be a largely innocuous roadblock. Still, once the seemingly simple questions are proven wrong, it seems that sabotage may be the only explanation.

The first round of the Tomodachi game is the Kokkuri-san ouija board.

Many viewers have compared the show to death game series like alice on the border either squid game. The latter parallel seems particularly apt because of the promise of prize money to pay off a massive debt. Besides, squid gameSurvival combat is largely based on childhood hobbies. Tomodachi game‘s Kokkuri-san certainly fits perfectly into that action genre, as does the presence of the brooding Manabu-kun, who hails from a children’s anime set in the world of Tomodachi game.

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However, it is the relationship of the competitors that brings home the stage pain. One would expect to be sidelined by rivals in a game where none of the members know each other. Unlike, Tomodachi game it attacks the emotional base of its characters by confronting them with the reality of a traitor among their dearest friends. Likewise, by making the contest about money instead of death, he puts them in a situation where the consequences are morally grayer. While debt can be a dire consequence, it’s much easier to foist that on a friend than it is to put them to death.

Tomodachi Game is all about trust and betrayal

That said, there’s no telling where future matches will take the group. The show has already revealed a shady behind-the-scenes organization, scrutinizing their every move. If all five make it through this first round, they may be forced to wager more than just money as their bonus limits are tested. But no matter what happens in their collective trials, it’s clear that the relationship between Yuuichi and his friends will never be the same.

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