- Alt. Name
- Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler
- Release Date
- Summer 2017
- No. of episodes
Many people will think of watching movies, reading books, or even listening to music when it comes to entertainment. While all these forms of entertainment are great, there may be something that one can experience, and that’s gambling. Patrons gamble their money in the hopes of winning to either: gain more monies, power, or for the sheer thrill of the ride. Though some may enjoy the cash and most definitely bring them a fleeting bit of happiness, the real gamble is what the game is on. Anything would be at stake sometimes, even if it were not stated beforehand.
Kakegurui is a 2017 High Stakes Psychological Drama anime series by beloved Japanese animation studio Mappa. While this anime studio has created some highly followed anime series, the year that they released this series was the most significant release year for the studio up to that point. They released a phenomenal amount of series, totaling nine series, including specials and Original Video Animations. A vast majority of casual viewers won’t care about the number of releases a studio has in a year, and that’s a fair opinion to have. However, too many releases in one year can quickly tell viewers that its probability of being terrible is multiplied when it comes to animation. Though, sometimes greatness comes from something that people expect one to fail.
When written on paper, the story seems somewhat dull, but this is expected when it comes to a High Stakes series. Unlike many schools, attending Hyakkaou Private Academy prepares students for their time in the real world. Since many of the students are the children of the world’s wealthiest people, the academy has some quirks that separate it from the others. It’s a regular school by day, educating its pupils in history, languages, and everything a young student needs in education. But by night, it turns into a gambling den, educating them in the art of dealing with money and manipulating people. This school follows a straightforward rule: Money is power, and those who come out on top in the matches stand at the school’s ultimate top.
Though everything changes when Yumeko Jabami enrolls in the academy, she may seem naïve and a beautiful transfer student, but don’t underestimate her. Yumeko is ready to try her hand at Hyakkaou’s unique curriculum, and she truly enjoys the extra credit. Unlike the rest of her peers, she doesn’t play to win, but for the thrill of the gamble, and her borderline insane way of playing might bring too many new cards to the poker table. Can Yumeko fill her ever-growing thirst for a thrill? Or will she crash and burn?
When it comes to the story, this series seems to have aced the perfect illusion of judging a book by its cover. Kakegurui has one of the more exciting narratives within the High Stakes genre, and even to a lesser extent, Psychological. The series follows a standard live-and-death situation that most series follow within the genre, but unlike other series, these gamblers can’t die, but they sure wish they could. This series seems to have eradicated the problem most series have, and that’s because if one loses the game, they like all money lenders want, the person must pay back the debt. Any means necessary.
Another positive this series has within the story is that it’s easy to get into, mostly by focusing solely on the main female character. Doing this instead of focusing on other characters lets the viewer know more about the characters realistically and straightforwardly. Simultaneously, some may consider this a negative; many series that steer away from this tactic tend to have more action but less overall enjoyment.
However, when it comes to negatives within this anime, there seems to be a decent amount of them, both from larger and smaller aspects. For instance, if one could describe this series in a simple sentence, it’d be: A monster-a-week type series, but with gambling that is more female-centered than anything. If that doesn’t entice someone, then this series isn’t for them, but if it does, please get ready for the gauntlet. This type of anime series has been done countless times, more often worse than good, but that doesn’t mean it’s a terrible thing. It’s just important to get that main element out of the way before one dives headfirst into the deep end of the pool.
One of the biggest problems with this series is that the series doesn’t add any real dangerous feeling. Kakegurui has the interesting factor locked down, but when it comes to the immediate threat of losing each risk, they skimped on the section entirely. Sure the characters tell the viewers what happens, but they don’t show us the real danger. A good story shouldn’t have to disclose to its audience what happens; it needs to show them. Unfortunately, having this type of problem also comes with others, including somewhat bland secondary characters, plot holes, and even uneven pacing.
Though these problems are saddening to a series that had an interesting premise, the biggest problem is that the climax was built up so high, it couldn’t reach its mark. Whether that’ll be developed more in the sequel or what have you, the primary and only problem with that tactic is that if the viewer doesn’t enjoy the series where the season ended. Then why would they waste time in continuing the series? If any series uses this tactic, it’s an immediate sign of problematic storytelling.
However, even with all these problems, this series has something rather fantastic: the art style. This sleek and stylish artwork is one of the better aspects of this series, which isn’t shocking from studio Mappa. The characters are uniquely designed and equally as colorful, almost like a stage performance. If one is looking for anything outside of Mappa’s artistic style, Kakegurui will sadly disappoint them. However, the most significant positive that this series’ art style is that each of the characters’ designs is unique and perfectly matches their personalities. This positive may not sound much to some, but when it comes to animation in general, this is a huge plus.
Though the art style is spectacular, it is a bit bland for the different genders. While the females within this series look beautifully created, each having various features ranging from hairstyles, makeup, etc. The men, on the other hand, are very dull and generic but somehow still look creative? This series seems to have surpassed the male generic role, and yet somehow always Kakegurui finds ways to shun creativeness towards any gender outside of female.
Perhaps if the art style were one side of a coin, the other would have to be the animation production. Unfortunately, Mappa didn’t
disappoint when it came to the opening and closing animations. The opening animation, along with the theme, is something that sounds like it should’ve come out of a postmodern nightclub that was once a speakeasy. It’s very reminiscent of studio Orange’s Beastars season one opening. However, the ending theme is the polar opposite, which is a grand mixture. This Europop has a lot of power that perfectly matches the series, but the animation is even more beautiful. Though not as perfect as its predecessor, the animation throughout was stunning, but don’t skip this beautiful creation.
The animation within the ending segment was parallel to a runway fashion show, which was very pleasing. Though compared to the opening, it’s very minimalist, which can be a positive to some. The opening theme is appropriately titled “Deal with the devil,” which Tia performed, which also did a few other anime themes. However, the ending theme song wasn’t as good in some areas, but that’s merely the law of averages. D-Selections performed the ending theme song, which is weirdly titled “LAYon-theLINE” perhaps if one is getting into anime, these two songs will be potentially be praised, but outside of that, the clear winner is the opener.
However, when it comes to studio Mappa’s characters, it’s a mixed bag of expectations, though this series seems to have the right mix. Yumeko Jabami is the main female character who mysteriously transfers into Hyakkaou Private Academy, and she appears to be a modest, pure-hearted young lady upon first impressions. But that soon changes as her real personality seeps through, showing her maniacal passion for high-stakes gambling, and if that wasn’t enough, when she gets really into the game, her eyes glow an eerie red. She is smart and cunning and interestingly sufficient; she hates games where the outcome is predetermined.
Ryota Suzuki is the main male character within the series, and unlike his female peers, he is a destitute gambler. Although he is the class president at the beginning of the series, if the viewers don’t remember that, then it’s quickly forgettable due to it not being mentioned ever again. Though he is loyal to Yumeko, he can’t help but think negatively about the potential outcome of losing. While this may be a positive for his character, overall, this character is rather dull and unoriginal, almost to the point of shoehorning him into the series to save space. Though he is a kind and straightforward mindset, focusing more on helping others versus having fun is amendable for a simplistic character.
The last main character within this series is Mary Saotome, a student within Yumeko and Ryota’s class and surprisingly is one of the top student gamblers. Though she comes off as mean or even a little stuck up, she is more down to earth when it comes to gambling than Yumeko. She is smart and analytical but does tend to overthink the outcomes, no matter if it’s in her favor or not. Overall this character is interesting but needed a little more character development to reach a better remark.
Now throughout the entirety of the series, there were plenty of rivals and exciting characters. However, within this anime series, we must talk about one character: Kirari Momobami, the main antagonist, and the student council president. She is a compelling character that she created the entire hierarchy that turns students with large debts into house pets upon taking office. With her grey hair and piercing eyes, and makeup, she is one fierce person to mess around with. Much like Yumeko, she loves to gamble, but she also loves power. She understands the calculated risks within every pawn in her arsenal and never misses anything that may pose a threat to dethrone her. If one is looking for a western counterpart, the closest villain would likely be Maleficent, with her elegant, dramatic and powerful villainess role.
Upon first viewing this series, the audience will undoubtedly notice the immense bisexual and lesbian undertones throughout this series, and a majority of them aren’t even subtle. Whether the director did it for pure horniness due to hormones or for the use of power, this was an exciting touch and very unexpected. Please don’t underestimate the power that runs through this series, with its beautiful artwork and animation to the somewhat intriguing plot device. This series can potentially become someone’s favorite, don’t watch with one’s parents.
However, I must mention the clear homage to the Saw franchise, which was unexpected. Though the character that it was with would make jigsaw creeped out, she was a pleasing addition and freaky character all at the same time. With every component added to the plot and characters, this series continuously sparked multiple interests within so many areas.
With so many high stake anime series being created, the probability of them being desirable is very small. However, when it comes to this series, they somehow beat the odds and made an interesting – though sometimes predictable – anime. Don’t underestimate series based on genres or posters because sometimes there are series left behind that need to be watched. This series isn’t so much of a hidden gem, but it’s worth watching if one enjoys high stake games with a tremendous amount of psychological elements.
Cody Senpai is the creator of BakaNow, an anime review website that specializes in spoiler-free reviews for everyone. He is an avid anime watcher who has traveled to Japan numerous times to not only experience the culture and history but also to build friendships with people through a common interest. He is an avid animation fanatic from birth and even went on to major in communication to help share the importance of the stories we love to watch and listen to. Cody lives in Denver, Colorado and loves to do anything adventurous.