Anime is a medium that brings stories and concepts to life no other medium provides. Whether it be a school dedicated to cooking where the students compete in tournaments or explore the existential implications of rapidly growing technology. Anime explores unique topics in such extraordinary ways. One of these topics is the high stakes game. Characters competing in a game that means literal life or death. Sometimes the characters must fight aliens after dying to stay alive as in Gantz. The only reward for surviving is getting to fight aliens again. Then you have No Game No Life, where the protagonists are transported to a world that is ruled by games. Logically, gambling would easily fit into this genre. This is where Kakegurui comes in, an anime where an entire school participates in gambling. Every student partakes in gambling activities. Social ranking is decided by how much money someone wins or how much in debt they are. A transfer student named Yumeko Jabami shakes things up by challenging the powerful student council who set up this system. Sounds interesting right? Well, you’d be wrong. Kakegurui fails to make high stakes gambling compelling in any way. Yumeko makes for a boring protagonist who is always perfect. The games themselves lacked the tension needed to make them entertaining. Perhaps my biggest gripe with Kakegurui was how it failed to make me suspend my disbelief.
For an anime like this to work, the protagonist must be an interesting character. The protagonist needs to drive the plot. We the audience need to care about their fate. Yumeko makes for an extremely boring protagonist. Sure, she seems to orgasm at the thought of gambling and makes many yandere faces, but we learn nothing about her. Yumeko pulls out victories without us learning about her strategies or thought process. The anime almost never reveals anything about Yumeko’s actions. She never displays anxiety or fear. Almost as if she’s a robot designed specifically for gambling. Part of the enjoyment in anime like this is understanding the thought involved in every move. All successful tournament anime involving games clearly display the strategies involved on both sides. Kakegurui fails in this regard. The games are so lifeless and without tension.
Kakegurui fails to create enough tension to hold my interest. Each game Yumeko plays follows the same formula. Her adversary decides on a game, cheats in a way that rigs the game, Yumeko somehow already knew they were cheating and proceeds to win. It was all part of her “strategy.” Even when she loses she’s perfect. She loses out of bad luck rather then a mistake she made. It’s a colossal failure by Kakegurui for not being able to foster the tension necessary to make for an entertaining watch. No real strategy, just psychotic girls getting off on the thrill of gambling. Even that got boring quickly. This would probably work better as a hentai.
From the start, Kakegurui struggled to suspend my disbelief. How does this school exist? What parent would send their child here? Where is the staff? There is no way a school like this could actually exist. There would be lawsuits up the ass. I don’t see how the system set up the Student Council President would be allowed. The whole “Mittens” and “Fido” thing is disgustingly degrading. Treating students as if they are subhuman was impossible to take seriously. Not to mention all the racketeering going on. Its one thing if this was done behind closed doors but all of this is on display for all to see. This would be a PR disaster for any school. All of the activities going on in this school are highly illegal. Not a lot of learning going on either. Is there any teaching going on at all? Everything about this school is laughably stupid.
Gambling could easily work as a thrilling anime. There have been several examples of good gambling anime. Kaiji might be the best example, despite having not watched it. I need to get on that. Kakegurui does not come close to being a good gabling anime, or a good anime for that matter. Boring characters and no tension makes for an uninteresting affair. I had very little expectations for this show. At the very least I thought I could at least laugh at it if it was bad. It failed to even meet my low expectations. All I got were a few chuckles, but mostly I was waiting for the episode to end, wondering what a better use of my time would be. I wouldn’t even recommend this anime ironically.