Kakegurui is an anime set in an elite private school in Japan. The series is based on the popular manga titled Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler.
The school is different to others: the pupils’ social standing isn’t determined by how strongly they perform in school or the status that their parents have achieved, but by how well they do in the gambling network at the school.
It’s one of a few gambling-related anime series which have appeared recently, in part due to the increasing success of online casinos and the legalisation of gambling within Japan.
So, how good is the Kakegurui anime and does it manage to live up to the expectations placed upon it from the well-received manga it’s based on? Join us as we take a look at it, to give you an insight into this unique gambling-based show.
The Hyakkaou Academy
The show is set in the Hyakkaou Academy, an elite school where people at the very top of society send their children. It’s here that the main premise of the show is laid out: the social hierarchy within the school is based entirely around gambling.
Winners become the most popular and the losers are forced to act as slaves. If students aren’t able to clear their gambling debts by the time they graduate from the school, they have to pay for them over the course of their lives. A bit harsher than the traditional high school experience, I think you’ll agree.
The show is centred around a young student named Yumeko. While she appears to be just a regular student at first, it’s soon revealed that she’s addicted to the thrill of gambling. Her poker skills are on a whole different level and her addiction to the thrill of the game is huge. While other students gamble in order to move up the social ladder, Yumeko is a compulsive gambler and does it purely for the rush. She is playing poker like a professional and would definitely embarrass some of the world’s most successful poker and card game players.
She has an innate ability to spot cheats and scams, and uses this to her advantage. This talent soon puts her on a collision course with the students at the top of the hierarchy.
What’s the animation like?
Because the anime was created by MAPPA, the animation is of a very high standard. It was also picked up to be shown in the west by Netflix, which is another indicator of the series’ outstanding visual quality — Netflix very rarely orders shows that incorporate weak, amateurish visuals. All of the characters are designed and drawn brilliantly, although in typical anime style the characters are overly-sexualised.
This is even more problematic because the show is based in a school. It’s something that a lot of Japanese manga and anime tend to focus on, which can sometimes take away from the story.
Strong female lead
Yumeko, our protagonist, is a very strong character. As the Hyakkaou Academy is a mixed gender school, this isn’t a choice that needed to be made, so it’s nice to see the lead character mixing it up with both boys and girls.
She has more skill than the other players in the school, which instantly makes her stand out. However, her love of gambling can sometimes be portrayed in a sexual way, which can make for some uncomfortable viewing.
Despite this issue, Yumeko regularly gets the better of her peers and it’s her skill as a gambler that allows her to do this rather than typical female-lead tropes. This is a positive to the show, which does slightly make up for some of the questionable content.
Overall opinion of the show
Kakegurui is definitely a mixed bag. On one hand, it boasts a very strong female lead, a unique plot and superb animation. This comes together to give the show a lot of potential for the future. It could almost be described as Yu-Gi-Oh but with a touch more realism.
However, there are some issues that bring it down a little.
The games are sometimes a bit complicated and the explanation of how the game is played often takes up more time than the storytelling does. On top of this, there are a lot of off-screen events leading to regular Deus Ex Machina situations within the show. This drags the series down a little.
If you like gambling-themed anime, this is definitely a show worth trying if you have a Netflix subscription. If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief about the plot holes, you’ll enjoy it too.
But, if you like your shows to be tight with a logical story, Kakegurui is probably not the right choice for you.