NOTE: Since the gambling obviously involves money changing hands, and the series uses Yen, I’ll be doing loose conversions to USD for the sake of comparison.
While I wasn’t completely sold on the first volume, after the impressive character development and compelling storylines in volumes 2 and 3, Kakegurui continues to impress with a strong 4th arc surrounding yet another member of the student council: Yumemi Yumemite. The chapters aren’t organized into cohesive volumes just yet, but you can pick up these chapters on Amazon individually.
Chapter 17 starts out by introducing the bubbly idol and student council member: Yumemi Yumemite.
A YouTube celebrity with millions of followers and dedicated, almost cult-like fans, her success following graduation is all but guaranteed. Much like the other characters we’ve met so far, however, she has ulterior motives and other goals beyond the path laid out for her. Even though she treats her fans cordially in the spotlight, her real thoughts on her fanbase are laid bare early on:
Yumemi is an interesting rival: while the “pop idol who actually hates her fans/is a terrible person” isn’t an earth-shattering archetype, the story they flesh out regarding her childhood and how she was told that her dreams of winning an Oscar were pretty much impossible. I found it interesting that the manga actually touches upon a conversation that is pretty recent for us here in the states in terms of Oscars and race. In short: “They only give oscars to white girls.”
Chapter 17 goes by pretty quickly, and lands us in chapter 18, as we get some great insight into the politics within the student council. Things are especially tense because at the end of chapter 17 the President of the student council abruptly left for a meeting following Midari’s catastrophic loss to Yumeko at the end of volume 3. In the vacuum of power left in her brief absence, the student council members all make their respective moves to either seize power, or help secure the President’s position. Power dynamics are organized by year, which is what’s motivating 2nd year student Yumemi Yumemite to take the lead and try to take down Yumeko in order to consolidate more power for the 2nd year “faction”, so to speak.
I really appreciated this closer look at the student council. The scene is brief, but tense. Up until this point you had this image of an intimidating and ruthless student council that was unified in its ambition/mission. As soon as this scene is over you realize that the power of the student council isn’t nearly as stable as you originally thought. I might be off/reading a bit into it, but I will say this whole student council structure and plot is reminding me a lot of Kill la Kill. I’m wondering if after Yumeko defeats all of them and essentially recruits them to her side, including the president, that we’ll actually get a peek behind the curtain at the real enemies of the series. Who knows? Exciting to think about though.
While the student council is at each other’s throats, Yumeko makes odd bedfellows with former student council member and rival Itsuki Sumeragi. Apparently she’s given up on collecting human nails and wishes to secure a position on the student council if and when Yumeko successfully topples the current President. Yumeko gladly agrees, leading Suzui to wonder if she’s quite all there.
While the plot-point was brief, it was well-timed as Kakegurui continues to build up to Yumeko’s inevitable encounter with the President. Not only that, it shows a good consistency in the attitudes and strategies of the students. Even though Sumeragi has been beaten and cast out in disgrace, hearing the rumblings of Yumeko’s impending rebellion, she makes a bet to go “all in” with Yumeko as her leader. If Yumeko loses, Sumeragi is certainly in a hopeless situation. However, her shrewdness will pay off in a big way if Yumeko is ultimately successful. The continuation of gambling in the major decisions of these students’ lives provides an appreciated consistency to the story.
The gamble begins properly in chapter 19 as Yumemi makes her official challenge to Yumeko. The terms are…strange to say the least. She insists they each put down $500,000 as a wager to start. If Yumeko loses, the amount of debt she’ll owe to the student council will be enough to dictate the rest of her life. Her cruel fate should she lose to Yumemi?
At first this seems like a joke – but as Yumemi points out, constantly having to fake enthusiasm or happiness around fanatical fans can take an emotional toll. Not to mention having every hour of every day scheduled: constant diet restrictions, dance lessons and more dictating the way that you act in the public eye, with only brief moments of private respite. Of course, Yumeko isn’t one to be taken for a fool, and reveals to Yumemi, following their conversation of course, that she’d been recording the whole time. Since Yumemi said some..disparaging things about her fans to say the least, this could easily destroy her professional career. Yumeko utilizes it as a bargaining chip, promising to play it for her fans if she secures a victory.
So, what sort of games do you play with a pop idol? Well, you try to beat them at their own game of course! Yumemi provides Yumeko with a program for their competition –
Chapters 20 and 21 cover the competition, with 9 different games ranging from singing and dancing competitions to guessing which hand an item is in. The game is decided by the roll of a die, and the winner gets to place their symbol on a 3X3 board – basically a large and intricate game of Tic-Tac-Toe.
Yumeko surprises everyone by stepping out in her best idol costume and impressing with a simple but effective rendition of the school anthem to take home the first victory.
However, Yumemi’s career as an idol hasn’t all been for show – she quickly gains on Yumeko, locking down key wins and nearly securing her victory. The final game comes down to a game that lands solidly in Yumemi’s favor:
Having memorized the birthdates of all her fans, Yumemi is certain that victory is hers. However, there’s one fan that she hasn’t accounted for –
Ah yes, Mary to the rescue! While the drama isn’t completely dismissed, Yumeko has made yet another thrilling gamble and ultimately succeeds in guessing Mary’s birthday, securing her win over Yumemi. As part of her terms, Yumeko plays the tape she recorded of Yumemi making fun of her fans, which elicits an unusual (though I can’t say unexpected) response:
Yes, her dedicated fans don’t love her any less for thinking they’re all disgusting and annoying. Yumemi gets to enjoy a more “authentic” pop-idol career, her fans still love her, and Yumeko walks away with the top prize. It’s easy to see how Yumemi could be won over to Yumeko’s side following their encounter, but we’ll see if that pans out.
Overall, the Yumemi arc did some great things for the series as a whole.The pop-idol championship “game” was okay, but lacking in the same excitement or tension as her earlier match against Midari. I was more impressed by the earlier plot-points in the arc such as the student council power dynamics and Yumeko’s continued strides towards her ultimate encounter with the President. The strength of these story elements carried Kakegurui to new heights for me. Check back on Thursday when I review chapters 22-27 and we get all caught up on Kakegurui!