By Christopher Kinsey
When I say “Gambling anime” you probably think of a few titles. Mostly titles by Nobuyuki Fukomoto like Akagi and Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji. Perhaps the earlier chapters of Yu Gi Oh. Maybe even really offbeat spectacle gambling manga like Gamble Fish which pitted Barack Obama, sorry, “King Omaha” against an evil man supposedly brought back from the dead in a combination of poker and Russian roulette.
Yes, this happened in a different gambling manga. Read Gamble Fish for this alone.
In this case our protagonists are not down on their luck folk caught up in gambling for their lives, nor are they kids playing card games on motorcycles. They are in an upper crust high school filled with people who find their worth in gambling, but the twist this time is all our major gambling players are psychotic gambling addicts who get off on this stuff. I will talk more about this aspect of the series later but let’s have a bit of a synopsis first.
Hyakkau Private Academy is ruled by gambling. Future leaders of Japan and even the world are produced here not merely on their merits, but by flinging around huge sums of cash and winning games. Sometimes traditional, sometimes not, what you earn gambling determines your worth in school. Fall into debt and the student council will seize your entire life, plan it out for you so that politically and economically it will benefit the school itself and, as a by-product, the members of the student council. Those that fall are called the “Pets”, with males being known as dogs and females being known as cats.
This is my Stand! HullanOates Maneataaaah!
It is in this setting we meet Yumeko Jabami. A prim and proper girl who loves to gamble for the thrill of it. She snags our viewpoint character, Ryota Suzui, and helps him out of debt. He is the carbon copy boring guy we all want to be, surrounded by popular beautiful girls. Admittedly he doesn’t have a lot of the “Oh no, what a pervert” moments that these bland characters tend to be drenched in nor is he seen drooling in lust. He’s just a nice, normal guy who is there. It’s the rest of Yumeko’s hangers on who are interesting. They usually consist of students and council members she has defeated in a contest of gambling taken to the limit, and then they have these “Friends/not friends” thing going on every single time…
It’s not much to go on. Honestly I don’t understand the appeal of such series. Something needs to be a hook to make it more than drawings of people sitting around a deck of cards glaring at each other. In many of these cases they introduce unique games of chance to gamble at, of which there are an abundance in this series but they lack the spectacle of the life or death challenges of those mentioned above. In the case of Kakegurui the hook is all the ladies pretty much orgasm when they complete some really difficult gamble with everything on the line.
That look she gives you when she raise, draw four and chill.
Now I give series like Food Wars a pass on things like this because everyone had the “foodgasms”. Men, women… they passed on children which just oozes with class in the current anime scene. But in Kakegurui it’s only the ladies who are THAT impressed by amount of wealth, health or prosperity to be won or lost. The few times we see Yumeko gamble with a man the most emotion we get from them is shock when they lose or gloating when they look about to win. And the imagery isn’t even trying to cover up what’s going on. You thought masturbating on the corner of a desk to the princess in Code Geass lacked subtlety? Watch an unhinged girl who admitted she tore out her own eye after a bet drop “fluid” on the desk she climbs over. Thank you Kakegurui. Thank you ever so much for that.
Where was the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth shattering kaboom…
But OK, it’s story is a wash and an excuse to make pretty anime girls look all bothered in the nether regions… is there anything good about this series? Actually, yes. This series is gorgeous in art direction. MAPPA, the art studio behind Rage of Bahamut: Genesis and Yuri on Ice, did a really great job with color, tone, impact, character design and an opening which actually sticks with you with it’s metaphor of gambling being a buffet of delights. Sound production, music and everything else livens up what is essentially a very bad excuse to animate some manga-ka’s fetishes.
MAPPA is currently working on an adaptation of Banana Fish as an anime and will be producing a new version of Dororo in the future. If they put half as much care into those projects as this one I have high hopes. There is a second season of Kakegurui in the works too, but I wouldn’t bet on having to watch that one.
You see, bet… because gambling. The lesson is don’t let dads write anime reviews.
-Wonderful art design
-It’s on demand so you don’t have to demand it
-Some of the games they come up with are clever
-Boring plot hinging on raw maniacal sexuality to keep things interesting
-You will feel unclean after the Russian Roulette episode (AKA, where are the stupid adults here?)