Take a Chance and Roll the Dice on Kakegurui: A Must Watch for Anime Fans

Kate Godunov, Assistant Editor

A warning before reading this review! There will be major plotline spoilers within this review. Please watch the first season of Kakegurui to have a spoiler-free viewing before reading this article. Also, a maturity warning must be placed. The anime in question is TV-14, but there are some scenes/themes that push that rating. If you are not allowed to or do not wish to watch an anime with more mature themes then this would not be a recommended watch.

Kakegurui, meaning “Compulsive Gambler” in Japanese, is an anime adaptation of the original manga written by Homura Kawamoto and illustrated by Tōru Naomura. The story follows a deranged high school student, Yumeko Jabami, as she enrolls into Hyakkaou Private Academy, which is a school known for its elite students with severe gambling addictions. Though, if a student is unable to repay their tremendous debt, they are forced to become a housepet.  A housepet is the show’s equivalent to a personal slave.

The first season follows Yumeko and her housepet friend Ryota as Yumeko’s major wins and crazy behavior gain the attention of Hyakkaou’s infamous student council. By the third episode, Yumeko is defeated by council member Yuriko in a rigged game of “Life or Death”. Having been defeated, Yumeko takes on the rest of the council, one by one, beating them in order to get to the president. After defeating nearly every member of the council, Yumeko challenges the president of the student council to a match. The season ends with her defeated by the president and is seen walking off of Hyakkaou’s campus forever—or is it really forever?

When first watching Kakegurui, the first thing that hits you is the art style. It may come across as a typical anime art style, but within minutes the style can twist and contort as a scene grows with intensity. A notable moment in the episode titled “A Woman Named Yumeko Jabami” is when Yumeko and Mary play a modified version of “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. Mary has the game rigged in her favor, but Yumeko, as always, is able to sniff out tricks and cheats in a game. Yumeko confronts Mary as she wins the game, haven figured out Mary’s strategy, and her manner becomes more deranged to show the character glimpses of Yumeko’s crazy personality. As this happens, the art style changes from a standard, simplistic anime style, into a more semi-realistic style. 

A screen cap of the intense scene between Yumeko and Mary

This change gives the viewer a more unsettling viewing experience because Mary and Yumeko’s face have more realistic and uncomfortable features. The mouth contorts into deranged shapes and the eye’s pupils shrink as wrinkles and sweat form around it. This occasional change in art style really works in developing the atmosphere in a scene that creates a more pleasurable, albeit creepier, watching experience.

The story of “Kakegurui” is very unique and isn’t a concept I’ve seen done before, because the story progresses in surprising ways that put the viewer on the edge of their seat. A notable example is in episode 11, during the intense match of “Choice Poker” between Yumeko and council accountant Kaede Manyuda, Yumeko calls on her new ally Itsuki to bet her life. That meaning, to bet her entire life value. If Yumeko and Itsuki were to lose, Itsuki’s life would be decided on by the council. 

Kaede Manyuda objects to this notion, saying to the dealer who wished to allow this bet of Itsuki’s life, “Neither you nor anyone else here has that authority!”. The dealer then proceeds to remove their mask, revealing it to be the student council president. This reveal was such a shock as the president was believed to have been gone from campus on a business deal. For her to appear like magic makes you wonder how long she had been among the cast.

The reveal of the student council in the 11th episode.

The only negative thing I could say about this show is that it’s not a “public friendly” watch. There are certain scenes that would not only make the viewer uncomfortable but also those who may catch a glimpse of your screen as well. Adding on, the “fanservice” trope can give a twisted impression of the person watching or show to anyone who happens to pass by at the wrong time. Fanservice is the depiction of breasts, buttocks, or any sort of “lewd” imagery for the sake of fans. Not to mention that the voice acting can come across as strange or sexual to those who are within earshot of the show. Since everything is in Japanese, unless you listen to it with an English voice-over, there is no auditory context to what is going on within a particular scene. This combination can create incredibly humiliating moments for the viewer in public. If you do watch this anime then please just watch it at home and save yourself from any awkward moments.

Overall, Kakegurui was a thoroughly interesting watch, to say the least. If I had to give this show a rating out of 10, I would give it a 9/10. It lost that last point since it isn’t “public friendly”. I would highly recommend this to anime lovers looking for a fresh storyline in the anime world or maybe to those who don’t necessarily watch anime but want a “taste-breaker” in their watch list.