Is Kakegurui as Good as They Say?
You may have heard of Kakegurui, which is Japanese for “compulsive gambler” from the popular manga comic or, if you’re a fan of anime, you may have been bombarded by Netflix recommendations telling you to check it out.
Either way, it’s undoubtedly a phenomenon worth exploring that is equal parts Joker (the Dark Knight, obviously), Cruel Intentions, and deliciously caustic social commentary. So, does it live up to the hype? Let’s see.
What it’s all about
Welcome to Hyakkaou Private Academy where the world’s elite children come to be educated, risking their very lives in elaborate gambling matches.
Instead of what we would think of as “normal” high school experiences with social order and rank, the social class is replaced with money and who controls it. Money does make the world go around after all, and how do high schoolers get their money? Why, gambling, of course.
The entire school is set up in a mob-like gambling hierarchy where the best gamblers with the most cash rule as the elite of the student council and those who can’t pay their debts are essentially sold into slavery while in school and even after graduation. They’re forced to do whatever the debtholder says, are called “pets”, and are given animal names.
This is where our heroine, Yumeko enters. She’s a compulsive gambler… but with a Sherlockian level of logic that makes the status quo nervous about her presence as she shakes up the system.
Currently licensed by Yen Press, you can catch the latest release as they become available through digital download directly from their website. They’re currently at around 70+ issues that are perfect to binge.
The anime series
The anime series is currently streaming on Netflix and has all of the classic art, razor wit, and goosebump-inducing psychological battles as its manga predecessor.
The live-action drama
The subtitled live-action version can be found on Netflix with two full seasons to burn through. They do a pretty impressive job bringing the characters to life in a very dark and gritty school.
How about that hype?
Despite the hyper-sexualization of high schoolers and weird S&M undertones, the premise of Kakegurui is pretty interesting.
The characters are a little one dimensional so far, but there’s still room to grow. An odd thing you might notice in the series is that despite this being a co-ed school, you don’t really see a lot of male gamblers in the big showdowns. It’s Yumeko and whoever she intends to take down at the moment. Apparently, all the guys lost early on and are now somebody’s pets. There’s a clear overt level of social commentary built into the story, but it feels like it’s written from the perspective of Jigsaw from the SAW movies. If Jigsaw just came from a gamblers anonymous meeting of course.
In most anime/manga, you’ll get 20 minutes of villain monologuing about how they’ve rigged the game in their favor and it’s always a fun puzzle to try and figure out how the characters are going to exploit a loophole to get out of it.
Behind the crazy yandere faces of the characters, you also get an interesting take on society. How would a society function if you can’t pay your debts? Should you be forced into servitude until you can pay for it? Can you think of any similarities to our own society? Yikes.
Kakegurui has a unique theme, but they’re definitely pandering to their audience. Their opening credits center on the anime and the rampant camera angles let you know that their target demographic is decidedly male.
Kakegurui isn’t going to win an Emmy anytime soon. That being said, however, Kakegurui is a delightful guilty pleasure. We’ve all been on the wrong end of a bet and maybe wish we had the skills to shift the odds in our favor.
It’s grossly dark and horrifying. There are even a few scenes with the loser of a bet having to rip off their fingernails. I won’t spoil how that one ends but I can’t seem to stop watching. There’s just something oh so satisfying about seeing someone take the house for all they’re worth and turn the prevailing social structure on its head.
Need more Kakegurui?
Anime has taken popular culture by storm and now you can find great examples of your favorite characters in film, TV, slot machines, and video games.
If you’ve read the comic, binged the show, and are looking for more — it’s you’re lucky day. Kakegurui has plentiful spinoffs (a movie) and mountains of merch to get your hands on.
If you haven’t… well, then you’re in for a treat. The uniforms are buttoned, the chips are down, and the stakes have never been higher. Strap in for dark, deranged, and no-holes-barred drama.