Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler = A new girl attends the Hyakkaou Private Academy where the primary focus is attaining social status via gambling.
Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler
US Release Date: Netflix 2018
Writer: Homura Kawamoto
Creators: Homura Kawamoto, Toru Naomura
Production Company: Square Enix, Yen Press
What You Should Know:
A more adult themed anime than I expected, following the exploits of a new female student entering a preparatory school of rich kids who gain status by gambling.
What You Will Watch:
The story is narrated by Ryota Suzui who introduces us to the power structure of the Hyakkaou Private Academy. Classes are not really important or even featured and the primary focus is on various types of gambling games. Your social status and prestige are set by the amount of wealth you have and record with the school’s student council. If you fall into debt in the lowest 10 places of rank in the class you become a pet of the student council subject to control, ridicule, and public humiliation.
To preface, I expect animes to be sexual sometimes or mildly incoherent. Kakegurui rather stretched the limits of what I was willing to accept for the level of sexuality from an anime while not quite falling into squid monster territory. If you are looking for a mild or tame family-friendly anime, this is not that show. The gambling fix somehow is simultaneously graphically orgasmic for basically all the female characters which… is really unnecessary after a while and got pretty old fast. But hey! If that is your bag, this show is definitely for you.
The incoherence for me stems from the fact that Yumeko Jabami, the new student who is initially befriended by Ryota Suzui and becomes his crush, idol, tormentor, and love interest seems to befriend and defriend her fellow classmates at will. Yumeko will face off against one student for a high stakes round of gambling in one episode usually ending in that classmate’s downfall sometimes immediately followed by her being best of friends with that same character with little to no explanation or accompanying logic as to why they are now amicable allies seeking to destroy the power structure created by the student council. The implied premise is that everyone must resent or hate the power of the student council and while they may lose to Yumeko, they would rather destroy the student council than suffer alone as a humiliated indebted pet.
Yumeko arrives at the Prep School seemingly innocent and inexperienced with gambling in general and naive as to the social status set up amongst the first year students. She immediately challenges the class year’s residing queen bee, Mary Saotome, to an intense game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. A theme of the series presents itself when Yumeko discovers and counters the methodology Mary has been utilizing to cheat at the special game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. It seems Yumeko derives double the pleasure by not only defeating Mary by risking all her Yen but also by uncovering the scheme Mary has put in place to cheat.
The basic story format is set: A new gambling game is explained to the viewer as the characters play, Yumeko generally challenging someone to a gambling duel. Yumeko will seem to be losing and game stratagem is simultaneously discussed usually by Ryota’s exposition. Yumeko will then uncover the method by which the person she is challenging has been cheating and Yumeko will become very, very satisfied by this reveal and generally will not care if she wins or is defeated and indebted by the gambling match.
In this instance, Yumeko trounces Mary by outmaneuvering her via game theory and making predictions based upon Mary’s pattern of cheating through the earlier rounds of the match. Yumeko, thus victorious becomes the new “it” girl in school. Mary, however, is relegated to a class pet as she falls into serious and shaming debt much to her chagrin. Ryota is stunned all around which seems to be his go-to emotion.
ROUND 1 = Victory Yumeko! (As the gambling bouts seem to mirror the battles I’m more familiar with in other animes)
Yumeko, unsatisfied with just destroying Mary, the former most popular girl of her year, decides to challenge the most junior member of the student council: Itsuki Sumeragi.
The episode revolves around of all things a match game. They explain the concept of a match game which is as it sounds: matching one card to another. Of course, Itsuki cheats and initially wins. Everyone in school cheats as it is permissible so long as it isn’t exposed. Yumeko, however, is dead set on exposing the cheating methods of every opponent and outsmarts Itsuki by discovering that the playing cards Itsuki uses, react to heat, especially making them marked cards. Yumeko identifies the markings and ends up trouncing Yumeko soundly in a rematch where Yumeko seeks recovery of her losses at the risk of losing her fingernails.
That’s right, fingernails. Itsuki is obsessed with fingernails as a perfectly rational kink to have in an anime. Itsuki displays her huge collection of fingernails she has collected from opponents who had failed to identify the cheating scheme. Itsuki had planned to rip off Yumeko’s – with pliers presumably and not just the overlaying acrylics. Oh, toenails too, because that’s not at all gross. Risks are taken, Yumeko and Itsuki get super excited graphically at various points, Itsuki generally with her nail fetish featuring heavily. In the end, Yumeko saves her nails because it would be odd to have our protagonist’s nails torn off in our second episode.
ROUND 2 = Victory Yumeko!
Continuing her quest to defeat the evil student counsel, Yumeko almost immediately challenges the treasurer Yuriko (not at all a cause for homonym inducing confusion to a casual watcher). Yuriko, it turns out, is obsessed with tradition and therefore traditional dress and traditional gambling games. However, not with the tradition of being honorable and not cheating apparently.
So, the game this time is a weird dice game with swords that I would call ersatz roulette, but in the episode, it’s called “Life or Death!” because it’s life or death stakes! Ohhh on the nose. So in general as you would expect an insane amount of money is thrown around and casually mentioned for each bet, but it doesn’t really matter because the amounts aren’t really pivotal to the overall plot, yet they keep on bringing up the amount of money as if it’s relevant after a certain point and not just insanity. In this case, the bet at issue is ¥2.17 BILLION because that’s entirely a reasonable amount of money for a high school student to bet. Anyways, Yuriko feels… well, that face is shown above about the ¥2.17 at play for the episode.
Yumeko unveils the horrible gambling scheme involving metal magnetized piercings of the roller altering the miniature swords that are used as a dice equivalent in the game. If the sword lands upwards the result is different from when it lands down and the roller will alter the sword based upon the stakes involved and the bet predicted. In essence, if it were roulette the roller will change the result from red to black in order for the house to win. The irony being of course that this magnetized piercing is in no way traditional garb despite Yuriko’s tradition obsession/kink and that the piercing is placed in the hand seems to make the cheat obvious even to an uninitiated viewer. The piercing also acts as a sign of ownership for Yuriko and she intends to make Yumeko her submissive by forcing her to get this hand piercing instead of having her nails plucked because everyone in this show has some weird dominance related kink.
After the exposure and seeming impending three-peat of victory for Yumeko, the sword still fails to fall as expected and she loses big. Everything. Her autonomy is gone, she has lost so bad on this roll of the magnetic toy sword that she will become a class year pet to the student council and general student body. Ryota loses his narrative mind as his hope of a defeated student council has so quickly died in the one roll and his love interest has become a house pet.
Yumeko, unperturbed by her fall in funds and status makes a rhapsodic discovery of a double cheat by exposing that there was a secondary magnet in use underneath the playing board as was typical in traditional gambling houses of some centuries past. Despite losing to Yuriko, Yumeko still has a slight victory as the secondary cheat required the intercession of the evil-seeming student council president and as such Yumeko does not have to get the odd hand piercing.
ROUND 3 Victory two-fold: a near save for Yuriko, an overarching victory by the president against the upstart Yumeko and keeping Yuriko in her place.
After becoming a pet last episode Yumeko and Mary – who became a pet in episode 1 – are informed of the student counsel’s debt alleviation plan. The repayment of the debt to the council involves following the plan for what equates to an arranged marriage to powerful, presumably icky and older men against their will.
Misogyny seems to be the theme of this episode as the girls, after discovering their presumed future marital servitude fate, are assaulted and almost raped by a true font of masculinity named Jun Kiwatari. The rape is prevented in the knickers of time by Midari Ikishima, who is basically a bat-shit crazy girl who wants to play Russian Roulette and is packing a hugely phallic piece.
Anyways, awful rape averted, how will our heroine get her revenge? Teaming up with Mary of course! Because who better to team with than the girl you made into a house pet indebted slave in episode 1. They have become fast friends as one does with your tormentor because Jun is a real dick: figuratively and literally. They end up playing Indian poker. Jun cheats, Mary cheats, Yumeko cheats. Everyone cheats but thankfully Mary and Yumeko outcheat Jun and rescue his subservient girlfriend in the process for a total triumph of enraptured femininity.
ROUND 4/5: Victory Yumeko and Mary!
Crazy Midari is back and decides to confront the upstart Yumeko by calling in her debt to the student council with the option to recover via a casual game of Russian roulette as one does. Midari is legitimately crazy and sets up a Saw-style scenario in the basement interrogation rooms which all prep schools have missing only the voice of Jigsaw intoning “I want to play a game!”
Midari really, really wants to die. She wants to die so much that the thrill of almost dying gets her off constantly and you will get to deal with that the entire two-episode arc in addition to her insane ramblings, how fun! Anyways, Ryota is actually somewhat relevant in this episode and has to try to play game theory in order to anticipate how Yumeko will play the game so that they all survive.
Ryota and Yumeko’s telepathic rapport overrides Midari’s craziness and ultimately our heroes prevail. This is where the show ultimately lost me. Are there no adults in the school? I cannot even recall seeing a teacher. There are torture chambers in the basement for legitimate reasons I am sure. The theme of the show seems to be to place rich students into economic slavery and dependence upon the powerful student counsel yet here they must also be killing people. Midari and the fashion club act as if they’ve done this setup before so why isn’t anyone missing the people who failed the Russian Roulette game? There’s really no logical explanation and it is just supposed to up the ante while showing a crazy girl getting off on her special kink vis-a-vis the hostage situation which ultimately fails.
ROUND 6-7: We all lost for having seen this episode pair.
The student council president leaves campus to attend to presumably more important rich and powerful things on the homefront after Midari fails to snuff out upstart freshman gambler Yumeko. The student counsel refuses to continue to stand for such effrontery and two members decide to team up against Yumeko in the form of teen pop idol Yumemi and bookish sole male student council member Kaede. If you aren’t an orgasmic female character you must be a misogynist like Jun or Kaede unless of course, you are Ryota who is too much of a narrator to become a full-on misogynist but I imagine the anime creators would make him equally misogynistic if at all possible.
Anyways, Yumemi’s challenge to Yumeko is an American Idol-style fan vote based singing competition which involves fashion, singing, and dancing. Yumemi seeks fame over everything and the impaneled audience is her cheat as the crowd is to be comprised of entirely just her fan club. Yumeko, however, is just so cute and hot and has that je ne sais quoi that the audience, who were once staunch Yumemi fans, allow Yumeko victory. Yumeko also exposes Yumemi for actually despising her fanbase.
Rounds 8-9: Victory Yumeko!
In our two-part climactic season finale, we have Kaede taking on Yumeko himself as somehow Yumeko has now befriended Yumemi after Yumemi recovers from the reveal to her fanbase that she loathes them. The fans love Yumemi despite the fanboy hate because she is just that compelling as an idol I suppose.
Our poker based battle intensifies with Kaede upping the stakes until Yumeko has to ask for a loan of funds from her previously defeated and yet somehow best buddy financier Itsuki. Itsuki has the cash and things seem to be over for Kaede, yet Kaede wins his hand and eventually, even Itsuki cannot keep up the money required for the bet. Yumeko convinces Itsuki to bet her life marriage contract on the game driving Itsuki into gushing hysterics that ultimately result in her shattering her nails as she decides to risque it all. This makes misogynist Kaede man-cited, but not quite orgasmic as a straight male jack flush would be crass and in poor taste I assume. Anyways, Kaede is as excited as a male character on the cusp of victory in this show gets until he is ultimately defeated by a combination of the council president’s intercession and Yumeko’s gumption. Kaede, in turn, is now subject to whatever the male equivalent of a forced marriage contract horror would be which is never really described but a horrible fate nevertheless.
Round 10-11: Victory Yumeko
After the spectacle of the last three episodes’ idol show in the school auditorium and following lightning poker match between Yumeko and Kaede, the student council president Kirari decides it is time to take on Yumeko herself with the stakes being Yumeko’s expulsion from the school if she loses. There is a vague attempt to show that Kirari and Yumeko love gambling in a sexual sense so much that they are made for each other as their kinks seem aligned (or maligned, whichever). Ryota is there to provide man goggles to the sapphic seeming challenge of the female leads. I would, however, be more satisfied if in season two Kirari and Yumeko do end up together as Ryota is basically useless as a gambler and really has provided Yumeko with no finances or gambling acumen the entire show.
The game in the final anticlimactic episode is based on tarot reading. The rules are convoluted but it basically comes down to if Yumeko or Ryota draw the wrong card Yumeko is expelled from school, but if Yumeko wins her debt to the council is forgiven.
ROUND 12: Victory: Draw. Tune in next season!
Final Thoughts: The show based on gambling would be fine, but for some reason, it has to be overtly and unnecessarily sexual simultaneously. The male characters are mostly awful and the female characters are all ecstatically concupiscent compulsive gamblers as the title forewarns. Its redeeming quality to me is that the animation is on point and the stories are decent at replacing typical battles with betting scenarios.
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