- Year: 2017
- Number of Episodes: 24
- Studio: Mappa
- Duration: 2 years
- Status: Waiting for season 3
Kakegurui Compulsive Gambler is one of those anime that don’t have a lot of action going on. Luckily, this anime easily replaces action with fantastic plots and psychology.
Gambling Anime — Kakegurui
The world of anime has become a force to be reckoned with in the past couple of years — the number of genres it covers is immense. Moreover, the anime industry obtained so many followers over time that it became a whole new culture. People started to identify with it, and even live through it. So when you’re walking down the street and see those “weird dressing people,” try to understand them. What you don’t realize is that it is much more than just dressing to them. It’s a way to identify, feel like a part of the community, and convey a particular message.
The industry of anime is so powerful that only last year, it brought nearly $20 billion to the economy of the country. With so many topics it covers, it is no wonder so many people enjoy watching what comes out of studios. And all these people have very different interests too.
There is one particular topic that only a few anime have covered — gambling. The good thing is that nearly every anime that opts for gambling as its central theme ends up being very popular. But what is the main reason studios try to stay away from gambling so much?
The Japanese View on Gambling
There are obviously a handful of legitimate reasons gambling is often not the topic of many anime shows. And the minor audience is only one of them. But next to these conspicuous reasons, there’s another one hiding deep under. For a very long time, the Japanese hated gambling and were firmly against it. This stance on betting comes from centuries of the country’s rulers trying to portray gambling games as something only the worst of people did. Gamblers were often isolated from regular society and were forced to live in the underground.
The good news is that this has been slowly changing. Japan has legalized gambling, and its people are getting more into it with each passing day. But what does this even have to do with anime you might ask? Well, thanks to this widespread change of heart, the animation studios in Japan are not afraid to play with this topic anymore. And the results are amazing. One of the most popular gambling animes by far is Kakegurui, the Compulsive Gambler.
The story takes place in the Hyakkaou Private Academy. It is a high school where only the children of the most influential people in the country get to go. I know what you’re thinking — is this just another high school anime? It’s not, but the studio worked very hard to convince you it was — at least in the beginning. It’s actually a gambling school anime, and the creators based the manga (the comic that prequels the anime) on gambling addiction and compulsive gamblers.
Inside the Mind of the Protagonist
Every anime needs a main character, and in case of Kakegurui, it is Yumeko Jabami, a second-year transfer student. See, before Yumeko came to this weird, gambling high school, things were done a certain way. And just like in real life, anime characters are also slaves to their habits. There was a hierarchy that everyone was fine with.
However, the way things work in Hyakkaou Private Academy is a little bit odd. If you wish to enroll, the academy won’t look at your academic achievements and grades. Instead, it will consider your family background, your wealth, and most importantly, your gambling abilities. At Hyakkaou, things can only go two-ways — you’re either one of the top students, or you’re someone’s slave.
This anime lets us see what lies deep inside the minds of many rich gamblers. At some point, it is not about the money anymore. The characters who go to this school don’t bet for money — they have plenty of it after all. They gamble for reputation and the highest spot on the hierarchy pyramid in their school. If they gamble and continually win, they get to be one of the most respected students in the school. And this comes with many privileges and benefits. But if they gamble and lose too much, there is a high price to pay. The school puts them into a life-debt. That means a student must spend their entire life paying their loan to the academy. Also, during their studies, they become “pets,” or simply, slaves to top students.
And being a pet is something no student in this anime wants to be — as slaves, they have to do the most excruciating tasks. They even serve as something for top students to rest their feet on, or they serve as chairs. No matter how you put it, the things you put at risk in this academy are the essential human rights.
Yumeko Changes Everything
Once Yumeko comes to the academy, she immediately shakes the system — something the most powerful people in the school despise her for. While everyone else gambles for the sake of reputation, Yumiko gambles simply because she is a compulsive gambler. She loves to risk, and gambling even gives her sexual thrill. So obviously, she is really into gambling — which becomes evident the moment she goes through a near-orgasmic experience during a game.
Being a compulsive gambler, Yumeko is ready to do anything to play the game — she doesn’t even have to win (she still does though). Even if she loses, she can just leave the school and continue with her life. But this is an anime about a gambling school, so obviously, things won’t follow the most logical order of events. Yumeko decides to stay in the school, but not only because she loves gambling — she also wants to play with the minds of her peers.
Her physical appearance is something you can regularly see in an anime — a beautiful girl who behaves innocently and gives out that “Lolita” vibe. But this is just her exterior; Yumeko is actually a very dangerous and somewhat wicked person. This gambling anime gives us a clear image of a gambler’s inner world and mindset.
The Games of Life
The games the characters of this anime play are quite fascinating — not because of their entertainment value, but for what they symbolize. Moreover, most of them are very similar to regular casino games one can find in any brick-and-mortar.
For example, in one of the episodes, the characters play the so-called “sword game,” which actually resembles the regular roulette game quite a lot. They put 10 small swords in a cup and shake it. On the table, they set a couple of slots — if a sword falls face up in one of the slots, the contestant wins 30 times the amount they’ve bet. If the swords are faced down, the player loses 30 times the amount they’ve bet. It’s worth mentioning that the amounts are usually billions.
Additionally, in one of the final episodes, Yumeko plays against one of the most prominent members of the council. The student council is basically a couple of the most powerful students from the academy who set the rules for others. And now you’re probably thinking the same thing I was — “Is this school more powerful than the government itself? Because this is quite illegal.” But this is anime we’re talking about, so remember to leave reason right at the door.
The game Yumeko and the council member play is basically poker with a somewhat different set of rules. The person who bets more money gets to guess if the opponent has a stronger or weaker hand. If your opponent has a stronger hand, as you predicted, then you win. If your opponent has a weaker hand, you lose all of your money. So it is evident that the characters exclusively play games of chance.
This gives even more edge to Yumeko because she is ready to put everything at risk without much strategizing. For a compulsive gambler anime theme, she just might be the perfect protagonist with all the right characteristics.
Do You See Any Similarities?
I personally adored watching Kakegurui, a very odd yet somehow interesting gambling high school anime. And although anime about a gambling high school with underage students who adore risking their lives might be a bit of a stretch, it does have some valuable lessons to offer. Many gambling anime try to teach one thing — a gambler’s world is much darker than we could have initially imagined. More often than not, bettors gamble on much more than money. Very often, it is their lives that are at stake. Sometimes, it is also their reputation, the lives of their family members, and even their sole existence.
The point of the anime, or any gambler for that matter, is not to tell you that gambling is dangerous and that you should run away from it. The point is to make you realize that gambling is a hobby and should always remain as such. Kakegurui, the Compulsive Gambler tells you precisely what happens when you let gambling consume you and your entire life. It might be just a silly anime with a gambling school as its whole plot, but it’s much more than that if you look deep enough. The Kakegurui anime comes from a place where people don’t find this hobby so harmless, so maybe it’s best we all learn from that.
To me, writing this Kakegurui review brought a lot of clarity, even as I was embarking onto this long text-writing journey. Nearly half-way there, I realized the painful yet very realistic message this anime conveys — so many people in this world are obliviously doing something that can be harmful. Kakegurui gambling anime is just one more story in the sea of others with the goal to warn you that you need to approach everything cautiously. If you’re an anime fan, you should definitely give this one a chance. And in case you’re not, it won’t harm you to become one — I promise you will love it.