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GENRE: Anime ORIGINAL AIR DATES:July 1 - September 23, 2017
// review by FlagrantWeeaboo

A real gamble.

Kakegurui is a Japanese portmanteau word meaning "excessive gambler", a more apt name than it may first appear when the show begins. Truly how excessive can gambling get in a high-school anime? This animated series is what would happen if you cross Death Note with Ant n Dec's PokerFace. Kakegurui is set it in a high-school packed full of gambling obsessed delinquents with a penchant for blackjack and poker. The story takes place at Hyakkaou Private Academy, a prestigious school where the children of the world's financial elite go to study. Every student at this academy is filthy rich and cat flap. After lessons are over, the students drop all niceties and the gambling begins, as at this school a person's worth is ascertained based on how good a gambler they are. The traits one needs to be an exceptional gambler and the traits needed to be a great ruler have quite a significant bit of overlap after all.

Those at the top of the chain are treated like royalty, while those with millions in debt are treated like slaves, worse than gutter trash, the "house pets" of Hyakkaou Private Academy. This is the fate of Ryouta, male lead and voiced by Griffin Burns in the dub. He owes millions in debt to Mary, a blonde bombshell voiced by Kira Buckland. However, Ryouta's luck changes when new transfer student Yumeko (voiced by Erica Harlacher) smashes Mary in a little game of Janken and turns the tables on Ryouta and Mary's dynamic. Yumeko becomes quite famous among the students after decimating Mary in a duel, and this draws in the attention of the corrupt student council who implemented this awful gambling system in the first place.

What happens from here is a series of gambles, some truly life-threatening. A person's fingernails, their future or even their lives, are up for the taking.

Have money, will travel.

One thing I love about Kakegurui is that it makes great use of what I like to call the "Anime Asspull". You know when a situation seems hopeless and then a character triumphantly claims "you activated my trap card" or "this isn't even my final form"?. Every single gambling duel in Kakegurui is like this. Even when all hope is lost and a character is staring a loaded revolver in the face something will still come along to get them out of the situation. The Anime Asspull is Kakegurui's specialty, and if you're a fan of it like I am, you're going to love the convoluted ways the main cast escapes physical harm.

Another one of Kakegurui's greatest elements is the facial expressions. Seeing characters either extremely devastated or sporting the world's most smug shit-eating grin makes this show so exceptionally enjoyable. Combined with the brilliant dub, it's so satisfying to watch when a character who is bragging in their head about their totally undetectable cheating is verbally destroyed and has their cheating backfire on the spot by their opponent, accompanied by the glorious facial expressions and over the top voice acting.

And over the top really describes this entire show better than any other phrase could. Seeing characters practically getting off on the thrill of gambling could be seen as this transparent comment on the batshit crazy nature of the aristocracy. Once money has no value, whatever in this world will? In this respect, Kakegurui is perhaps a blatant criticism of the rich who see the poor are slaves. Without knowing the intention of the author Homura Kawamoto I couldn't say for certain this is the case, but with how the students in this story are portrayed I'd find it impossible to interpret the show any other way.

This is a window into what I'm sure may even go on in the world's most prestigious private schools. How else will those with enough money to make all their dreams come true find any form of satisfaction when even outrageous sums of money are just chump change to them? For fans of outrageous characters and even more outrageous stakes, you should bet it all on Kakegurui. This is a show that comes highly recommended to those who love ridiculous concepts and even more ludicrous asspulls.

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