Kakegurui, the exceedingly entertaining manga that we’ve previously reviewed, now has an anime adaptation, and we couldn’t be more excited!
At Hyakkaou Private Academy, after-school activities are a bit…different than what you’d expect at a high school. Sons and daughters of powerful politicians and businessmen gamble with one another in a vicious battle for power, with the exceedingly skilled Student Council reigning over all. The ill-fortuned Ryouta Suzui finds himself in staggering debt, and a class “pet”, after losing a poker game to an influential and popular girl named Mary Saotome. With his reputation destroyed, now only known as “Fido”, things seem hopeless for Suzui until a newcomer arrives and promptly begins shaking things up. That newcomer’s name? Yumeko Jabami!
Immediately after getting a general sense for how the school works, Mary invites Yumeko to challenge her in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors…but with a bit of a twist. You see, everyone in the class picks one of the three options, then places it into a ballot box. The players then draw 3 sheets from the ballot box and can draw from that “hand” for their play.
I commended the manga on breaking down the games in an interesting way without it getting too drawn out or boring, and I’m surprised that the anime is able to preserve a lot of the explanation while keeping the show moving at a decent pace.
Once familiar with the rules, Yumeko is excited to play, and it seems as though our newcomer is in for a swift and rude awakening after Mary’s rigged voters help her sail to an easy victory in the first match. Yumeko, however, isn’t going down that easily. In fact, in true gambler fashion, she raises the stakes significantly.
Mary is initially thrown off by the excessive bet, and is even put off for a moment, wondering if Yumeko has her figured out. Still, her confidence gets the better of her as she agrees to the second game. Yumeko utilizes some impressive psychological warfare to sow uncertainty before driving the point home and producing the one card Mary thought she wouldn’t be able to in order to win the game.
In a flash, Mary goes from being a popular student to being yet another one of the school’s “pets”. Meanwhile, Yumeko makes her arrival well known while piquing the curiosity of many of the students…including the shadowy student council.
Suzui is astounded by Yumeko’s ability, and asks her to explain how she figured it out. After going through the details, Yumeko thanks Suzui for being so helpful and kind during her transfer, and hands him a thick stack of cash to pay off his debt and free him from being a “pet”.
Episode 1 does a great job of establishing the world of Hyakkaou, and introducing the viewers to their unorthodox main character. Yumeko Jabami is a blast at the helm, and it’s refreshing to see such an intense and confident female lead. We get to see even more of this gambling-madness in episode 2, as she begins to work her way through the student council.
Following her victory over Mary Saotome, Yumeko quickly finds herself on the student council’s radar. Their newest member, Itsuki Sumeragi, feels as though she needs to educate Yumeko on “her place”, and episode 2 is basically cataloguing how that doesn’t end up as well as Itsuki thought it would.
The heir to a multi-million dollar toy company, Itsuki is known as an expert on card games. From old maid to poker and beyond, she’s a fearsome card shark that used her skill in gambling combined with her significant wealth and influence to buy her way onto the student council. She introduces herself to Yumeko and challenges her to a game of “Double Memory”.
Using two decks of cards, double memory requires the player to make an exact match, number and suit, in order to collect the cards and win points. This obviously escalates the difficulty quite a bit, as Suzui laments how either of them can compete at such a high level.
Of course, Yumeko and Itsuki are able to do just that – and the first game is very close. That is, until Itsuki reveals the ace up her sleeve: the back of the playing cards have a unique pattern that only she’s aware of. Using this cheat to her advantage, she secures a win in the first challenge. Yumeko pleads for a second game, confident that she could win if given another chance. To help her out, Itsuki offers to loan her 20,000,000 yen for the 2nd game if she gives her a rather macabre trophy: her fingernails.
Yumeko accepts the disturbing challenge, and no sooner are the cards laid out on the table that Yumeko reveals her own ace: she’s onto Itsuki, and already memorized the patterns. Before Itsuki can even take her turn, Yumeko has matched 27 pairs.
Faced with a staggering loss, Itsuki is paralyzed with shock and disbelief while Yumeko gets up in her face and asks her for another round, suggesting that maybe she wager her own fingernails and toenails.
After a disturbing description of the pain that occurs once the nails are removed, Itsuki is overwhelmed and screams for Yumeko to leave her alone, thoroughly defeated by this unstable gambler. Yumeko, having dethroned a student council member, has now officially made enemies of many of the student council members, and it’s only the first day of school.
In both episodes 1 and 2, I was very impressed with the animation style. It’s able to expertly capture the various facial expressions of individuals running an emotional gamut from deranged, devastated, confident, and victorious back to the depths of sorrow and despair that comes with a crushing loss. The movement of simple items like cards and chips are also well-done, and as the series progresses and the games get even more intense, I’ll be eager to see them come to life.
Overall, Kakegurui is off to a fantastic start! With terrific animation, an intense and engaging main character, as well as a faithful adaptation of the manga (so far), Kakegurui is sure to capture a lot of fans and likely result in more interest in the manga.
I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of this season’s adaptation! Let’s go gambling mad!