The Manga Netflix's 'Squid Game' Seemingly Swiped
When Netflix dropped Squid Game this summer, it quickly became the apple of the internet's eye. The memes flowed, the think pieces piled up, and every aspect of the show was broken down to explain how and why it had become the most-watched Netflix show ever. Maybe it was the casting? Or the cinematography? The writing? No one's sure- the only thing universally acknowledged is Squid Game was set apart by its original, genius premise.
Which was a bit of a shock for anime nerds because to us, Squid Game sounded, to be polite, pretty familiar.
If I may quote its Wikipedia entry, the premise of Squid Game is a lowlife "festers in his apartment, biding his time with cheap pranks, gambling, liquor and cigarettes" until "he is paid an unexpected visit from a loan shark" who offers him one chance to completely pay off his debt. The show then turns into a series of "ingenious games...devilishly clever depend as much on the psychology of the players as … strategy". You could say that "the theme of the series is the rich always screw over the poor and the games could be seen as a direct form of social commentary." Yeah, that about sums it up, I'd say.
Except that's not from Squid Game's Wikipedia … it's all from Kaiji's.
Kaiji is a long-running manga first published in 1996 (with an anime adaptation in 2007) and follows Kaiji Ito, a gambler who seeks to pay off his debts by playing childish games way out in the ocean where if you lose, you die, all for the entertainment of the rich. Hwang Dong-hyuk has even talked about reading Kaiji while conceiving Squid Game. Which is kind of like conceiving Legos while playing with Mega Bloks.
Now, I know the internet is absolutely full of Squid Game stans who are probably frothing at the mouth to hear that this show didn't spring fully formed from Hwang Dong-hyuk's head like Athena from Zeus. You might concede that they're similar but not be convinced yet that they're the same.
For that, there'd have to be some kind of similarity between the games, particularly one of the unique games, not Tug-of-War or Red-Light Green-Light. But even the biggest Squidhead would pause if I told them that Kaiji even has a scene in which the characters must cross a bridge over a huge chasm, and the only way to successfully navigate it is to take a leap of faith on to glass. Somewhere an anime-Leonardo DiCaprio was watching this and pointing at the screen:
Honestly, I loved Squid Game, and it definitely has plenty of twists that make it unique. Like having an old man be the ultimate villain because his wealth put him out of touch with the people around him? That … actually, ok, that was in Kaiji too. But using bathrooms as a place where players could get privacy and concoct schemes to gain advantages? That was … oh, wait, no, Kaiji had that. Hm. Well, having a modern live-action title is something that Squid Game definitely has over … oh no.
Top Image: Netflix