I have never understood the appeal of gambling, which makes me wonder how I have managed to survive a decade working for online casinos. Gambling isn’t like playing a video game, were you part with cash in exchange for a good story or fun entertainment. In my experience gamblers only derive satisfaction from a big win. Why then trap yourself in a loop of spending cash to make cash? If you want to accrue money, squandering savings on games (were the odds are stacked heavily against you) is illogical. Watching a character stake everything on the roll of a dice can make for tense situations though, which is something that works of fiction like Kakegurui thrive on.
Hyakkaou Private Academy is the school where the wealthy elite sends their offspring to study. When you are set for life there isn’t much incentive to earn qualifications, so the students there spend much of their time gambling against each other. I thought that gambling was illegal in Japan, but I guess when you are rich the law doesn’t apply to you. In the words of Seto Kaiba – “screw the rules, I have money.” Those who get lucky at Hyakkaou will prosper financially and make connections that will serve them in good stead later in life. Unfortunates, who go into debt, however are branded pets and condemned to an existence of humiliation at the hands of their peers.
Kakegurui is a twelve-episode anime based on Homura Kawamoto’s manga. The series follows transfer student Yumeko Jabami, as she competes in games of Poker, Concentration and Janken. At first glance Yumeko appears to be a sweet and courteous young lady. Whilst in the midst of a match however her dark side manifests. Games of chance are her biggest pleasure in life and she is darn good at them, thanks to an exceptional memory and ability to read people. Her success catches the attention of the student council who proceed to challenge Yumeko for control of the gambling den that masquerades as a school. Will her luck hold or will she “bust” out… and no I’m not referring to the chest she exposes in the ED.
My rating for Kakegurui is four and a half stars. When it comes to gambling anime this series is leagues ahead of something like Rio: Rainbow Gate. Both those shows have a fair amount of fan service, but Kakegurui stands out because it has substance to go along with the aesthetically pleasing visuals. The encounters between Yumeko and the student council are thrilling affairs filled with suspense, strategy and mind games. The outcome of a match is never certain. Perspective Yumeko triumphs sometimes, in a rigged game, by noticing how her opponent cheats. Other times however Yumeko loses and is only able to recover by courting the aid of rivals that she has previously vanquished.
The eccentric cast is another reason why I enjoyed Kakegurui. Hyakkaou’s student body, for example, contains a one-eyed gunslinger named Midari Ikishima. She doesn’t care one iota about currency so when it comes to wagering she elects to stake her life in games of Russian roulette. The student council’s ranks also include a loli gamer, a pop idol and a masked vice president. Ryota Suzui, who Yumeko liberates from bankruptcy in episode one, is the only character I would describe as plain. In any other show he would be the dull male protagonist, but thankfully in Kakegurui he is just a sidekick. Enigmatic Yumeko is the star of the show and the chief reason why I eagerly anticipate the release of season two. This show’s gambling sequel bet-ter arrive soon.