There's a certain class of manga that focuses on tricks, gambling and misdirections, that includes Liar Game, Kaiji and Gamble Fish.
Gamble Fish, by Hiromi Aoyama (writer) and Yamane Kazutoshi, Grade: B-
I actually read Gamble Fish about a year ago on Manga Fox, when they just had the first 40 chapters or so. They're now up to 81, and I decided to give it a try again. The number one drawback to this class of manga is that the main characters all know more about a particular trick or game than the readers do, so the readers are led around by the nose until the author chooses to explain what's going on. This is compounded by all of the characters in a given scene acting in severe shock when a revelation is made. In small doses, these reactions are amusing, but given that they occur roughly once a chapter, it gets old really fast. And that's my biggest complaint with all of these kinds of stories. That, and the amount of expository explanations of the tricks just drags the story down. As a result, I just skip several pages at a time to get to the parts where the story starts moving again.
Of the three titles, Gamble Fish has the better artwork. The faces of many of the characters are a little too cartoony and stylized, but the backgrounds and body art are very polished. On the other hand, in terms of clothing details and etchi body designs, Yamane is on par with Oh Great's Air Gear. Again, though, with all of the times the characters get shocked, surprised, or just stripped down to their bare skin, per chapter, it gets kind of old.
Even the title, "Gamble Fish", wears poorly on this manga. It sounds too much like a girl's love story manga, such as "Banana Fish". But, there s a logic to it - the main character is a gambler, and he sees his targets as fish to be caught in a net and exploited. As for the story: Middle schooler Tomu Shirasagi has just transferred to the elite private school, Shishido. He immediately sets out to badger the most headstrong students into gambling against him. Initially, the stakes are just 100 yen, but with each game he vows to double it and wrap up by getting several million dollars out of everyone and shut the school down. However, since many of the students come from rich families, they bump the stakes up fast themselves, and they all lose. So far, the games include hide and seek, pool, cards, dice and survival "capture the flag". Pretty soon, the demonic sadist head teacher Abidanai surfaces as the main antagonist, and the games include riders for Tomu either being expelled if he loses, or dying. Tomu takes gambling to extremes, with his plans including having a finger lopped off with a chainsaw, or his eardrums punctured with a stick. In the case of the finger, he did spend a month in the hospital having it reattached. No word yet on how his hearing will be restored.
The real question then becomes "what is his motivation for all this?" So far, the details have been slow in coming. His family dates back at least 400 years, to the age of Toyotomi, when they were powerful advisers. When they were betrayed by other families, their crest - a sword hilt guard - was seized and the members either fled or were killed. The crest is now in the hands of the headmaster of the Shishido school, and Tomo has reason to believe that his father is Abidani's prisoner. So, one of Tomo's goals is to get either the hilt guard or his father back. Currently, Manga Fox has 10 of the total of 19 volumes uploaded and translated. Depending on the release schedule, the end may be in sight. Or maybe not.
I'm torn over this title. On the one hand, it's stupid and juvenile. On the other, the artwork isn't that bad, and the plots twist around so much that I can't guess where they're going to end up next. I do consider most of the female characters to be shallow, predictable stereotypes, and their falling in love with Tomo after being "conquered" is a lazy writer's gimmick. But the "reader service shots" are part of the appeal of this kind of story. At least it's not as mentally insulting as Air Gear.
Summary: A middle school student enters a private school with the intent of using his gambling skills to bring the place to its knees. Lots of mind games and cheap tricks intermingled with the reader service. In the same vein as Liar Game and Kaiji. Recommended only if you have too much time on your hands.