And here is the ‘two’ of the one-two punch. Another of those very harsh private academies animes, this one is truly a classroom of the elite, but that’s not what we are trying to accomplish with “Kakegurui” (or “Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler”).
We are now at Hyakkaou Private Academy, which houses the wealthiest and most privileged students of Japan. Many future leaders and professionals will be graduating from the school and will lead the nation in the years ahead, in their specific fields. In this school, the student hierarchy is determined by a series of games in which students bet their fortunes against one another, and those in debt become slaves to the whims of those who hold their money. And a more overweening grouping of bullies, liars, deceivers and morally bankrupt people you will not see outside of a political system.
One day, a new student appears, Yumeko Jabami, (black hair in the center). She is one who gambles for the thrill of it, and, because of this approach, actively begins to disrupt the hierarchy of the school, while the Student Council tries to find ways to shut her down. With the exception of the guy in the lower corner (Ryōta Suzui, who fell into the debt trap pretty quickly), the rest of the folks up there are on the Student Council, led by the ever deceptive, ever dangerous Kirari Momobami (sharing space with Yumeko). The series looks at how Yumeko dismantles the Council, member by member.
The biggest problem I had is how lacking all these people are. They pull out the old trope that anyone in a position of authority has abused it to their own ends and purposes and will continue to do so. That gets tiresome quickly, especially with the hopelessly psychotic Midari Ikishima (eyepatch, back row). She lost her eye to pay a debt to Kirari, by removing it herself! She just became too much of a caricature of things than something more substantial. The games themselves are intense, as this is a style of play that I was not familiar with. One was Double Concentration, which was easy to understand. Another was a kind of Liar’s Poker. But it all deals with distrust, chicanery and fleeting friendships, so you are never quite certain whom to trust and when to break it off.
Despite how I felt about the academy in general, it was a compelling show. Please pay special attention to the opening credits, as that is how the show unfolds in the timeline of events. As to the food references in the opening credits, I leave that to your imagination as to what it is to me (I failed symbology in film class, so don’t ask me to clarify). I assume we want these folks arrogant, so when they are served a cold dish of Up Yours, it sticks in their craw. It also unfolds in a calculating manner, but I wouldn’t trust any of these cheaters with a credit card in a hardware store. And the second season intimates more social mayhem afoot.
Oooof. This is a show that is heavy with tension and stress and anxiety and I am not fully certain that binging will work in its benefit. Yes, if this was a real school, then this kind of strain is endemic, unforgiving and inescapable, as you live it every single day. You are in a better state. For me, I need a breather, so I will give a qualified condition to having it all.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (Too damn many close-ups!)
Plot 8 (Challenging and daring)
Pacing 9 (Almost claustrophobic)
Effectiveness 8 (Good sense of balance and tease)
Conclusion 6 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)
Bingeability 8 (If you’re up to the challenge)
Overall 8 (They shoved in all the chips)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. I love the thrill of it.