Episode 1 of Kakegurui delivered an amazing first episode. With a clear premise and a lovable (?) protagonist, it wants to deal you one of the strongest hands of the season. The thrill of risk, the math of statistics, the madness of gambling. Kakegurui is all that and so much more.
Money is everything here
Japanese Title: 蛇喰夢子という女
What is this Anime about
The premise is simple: Hyakkaou Academy is a peculiar school. Not only it houses the wealthiest and most privileged students of Japan, but it allows them to determine the student hierarchy through a gambling system. This school after all is housing a lot of the future leaders in politics and business; they don’t need regular classes. They need a proficiency in tactics, mind reading, and competitive strength. This is what real modern survival is all about.
Kakegurui is based on a manga by Homura Kawamoto (story) and Tooru Naomura (art). The manga is currently being serialized in Square Enix’s GanGan Joker with 6 volumes currently available.
The anime is produced by MAPPA and premiered on 1 July 2017. Yuichiro Hayashi is directing, Yasuko Kobayashi is handling the scripts, and Manabu Akita is handling the character designs. TECHNOBOYS PULCRAFT GREEN-FUND composed the music. The opening theme is ‘Deal with the Devil’ by Tia. D-Selections is performing the ending theme ‘LAYon-theLINE’. The series will air 12 episodes and there are no legal simulcasts yet.
I don’t want to delve too much into the plot from the first episode because what I saw was much better from what we’ve seen in the trailers. Usually, I take the opportunity to analyze the plot and share some of my thoughts, but so much happened in this episode that I still feel a little dizzy from all that madness I saw in the two protagonists’ eyes.
Yumeko Jabami, the undoubted diva of this series, arrives as a second-year transfer student, but I don’t think that her transfer was a coincidence. She didn’t need the warnings from Class President Ryota Suzui, who is so much buried in debt that he’s now Saotome Mary’s slave. Jabami is a gambling monster, a compulsive gamer who takes joy in raising the stakes and playing with statistics. She is a highly-intelligent woman who will go to great lengths to find the most stimulating gambling experience. For her, the thrill of the risk is not something to be avoided but a way of life to be embraced.
Unlike regular gamblers whose reduced intelligence doesn’t allow them to rationalize their addiction, Jabami is conscious of her actions. ‘In capitalism, money is life,’ she says to Mary as she brings to light her real self. ‘A sane person wouldn’t entrust his life to luck. People derive pleasure from this insanity.’ Pleasure and a false sense of hope if I may add, and Kakegurui doesn’t seem like a series that will deal with this matter superficially. Its protagonist will not allow it to.
Madness is the essence of gambling, isn’t it?
Opening Theme: The soundtrack of the series seems amazing, but there was something special about the opening theme, ‘Deal with the Devil’ by Tia. The jazzy tune reminded me of two of my favorite anime of all time, Cowboy Bebop and Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. That sexy and seductive rhythm that can only play with your senses, much like gambling plays with your mind.
Ending Theme: At first I was like ‘WHAT IS THIS,’ because if you have been following my articles, you probably know that fan service is not my cup of tea when it’s unwarranted. But a few seconds into the sequence and I was already contemplating the episode. I have to admit that the bouncing boobs and random panty shots did distract me at first, but there is something about the combination of gambling and eroticism that gives the ending a purpose. I don’t really dig ‘LAYon-theLINE’ but the ending is a one-woman show that defines her character. Jabami is a strong and crazy independent woman who walks under the rain and doesn’t care about anything but the thrill of the game. Her sexuality is hers and her desires are hers. And before I start sounding like a SJW feminist, I want to say that I really like the protagonist. And that red-tainted still at the end of the sequence; how awesome.
Twisted [Games]: Let’s start with the first twisted highlight of the episode. We already know most of the games played in casinos. I’ve never been to one but I still know about poker and roulette and black jack. Kakegurui turns the gambling knob to eleven and creates some interesting mash-ups of known games. Rock-Paper-Scissors with cards? Hell yeah.
Twisted [Facial Expressions]: While the rest of the anime is not that impressive when it comes to the animation, there is one thing in which it shines: the facial expressions of the characters. Call me a scaredy-cat but I almost felt myself shivering at the site of red Jabami and yellow Mary. I literally left a little screak of agony at one of the close-ups, and since I’m not into gambling, I also felt a kind of thrill at the moments of tension. Damn those close-ups.
Twisted [Protagonist]: And sexy. Definitely sexy. Jabami is insane. She is so insane that she might be the representation of true personal freedom. She knows what thrills her and has the guts to go after it. She is neither evil nor good. She knows her poison and recognized her weakness. She strives to take what makes her happy and rewards those that help her achieve it. Is she a psychopath? Maybe, but that remains to be seen.
Themes & Trivia
Fourth Wall: This is one of the most common themes in my reviews and for good reason. Breaking the fourth wall is not usual in anime and it can be either weird (can’t think of an example right now) or wonderful (like Episode 13 of Re:CREATORS). Mary took a few seconds to address the audience and underestimate her opponent.
She is an idiot. She is digging her own grave
For a single instance of fourth-wall breaking it seemed a bit disconnected to the rest of the episode. If Mary continues the tradition in later episodes, it could be a good foreshadowing event for Mary’s own streak of madness.
I haven’t read the manga and I don’t know if the anime is going to follow an episodic format. It would make sense, though. A game-of-the-week episode that deals with a specific game twist and at the same time maybe advances a more central plot.
Shall we gamble?
I don’t think I need to tell you that gambling is bad and that you shouldn’t head straight to a casino after watching this anime. I’m sure that you are not taking up guns or swords after a fantasy anime or try your hand in dangerous driving after Initial D. With the warning out of the way, I must say that I really liked Episode 1 of Kakegurui. The set seems confined to the academy and the protagonist trio will allow for some cool character dynamics.