- "Freeter" - is a Japanese expression for the people between the age of 15 and 34 who lack full-time emplyoment or are only looking for part-time job. 26 year-old Kaiji Ito (Tatsuya Fujiwara) is quite simply, the quintessential freeter. He leads a hand-to-mouth existence working half-heartedly at his part-time job at a convenience store. He has no ambition, no plan for his future, and he always keeps putting things off - telling himself "one day" or "soon". Every now and then, he relieves his frustration by jealously kicking and vandalizing expensive cars that he cannot afford. Although he doesn't admit it, he is the typical loser of today's society.
One day, a mysterious and beautiful woman named Rinko Endo (Yuki Amami) comes to see him. She works for a shadowy financial conglomerate, the Teiai Group, and demands that Kaiji clear a debt that he casually co-signed for a friend previously. Of course, that "friend" has also casually disappeared and with the company's exorbitant interest rate, the loan amount has since grown to 2.02 million yen. Kaiji, with his lackluster professional life, has absolutely no way of repaying such a sum of money!
Endo then sweetly informs the desperate Kaiji that he can not only clear his debt overnight, but can also make a lot of money for himself at the same time. Without much explanation, she only reveals that everything will become clear if he boards a cruise ship that leaves Harumi Port in a few hours. The ship's name is Espoir, which means "hope" in French. Kaiji is skeptical at first but when Endo tells him that "this is his ultimate chance to change his life", he makes up his mind to accept the invitation, but without realizing he has taken Endo's bait...