Compulsive Gambler
Keywords: , , , , , ,
Notables: Animation - MAPPA
Hyakkao Private Academy is an exclusive school that serves wealthy students and which employs an unusual curriculum: gambling is encouraged and used as a means of teaching students how to manage risk and exploit opportunity. The reality is that bankrupt, indebted students are little more than slaves to the winning ones. One day a transfer student, Yumeko Jabami, arrives and procedes to teach the high rollers of the academy that they don't know a thing about true gambling.

12 episodes
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Rent Stretch [series:3391#628]
(All episodes watched):

Well, definitely unusual; as I watched episode one I had little idea where this story would go. It took awhile to say who was the hero, or for that matter if there would be any hero at all, since it seemed more like a battle between two bad guys--actually, girls. The hideously ugly facial expressions which the two dueling girls displayed at times were a little disturbing. Still, the show seemed kind of clever, and the manner in which Jabami figured out that her opponent was cheating and turned the tables on her made some sense. I was guessing that Ryota, who had been a lapdog of the cheating girl until she herself got her comeuppance, would ally himself with this newcomer. I didn't know if this premise and the technique with which it was being handled could last more than a couple episodes or so, but so far, so good.

I hoped it wasn't just an episodic sort of show in which each week Jabami demolishes another arrogant bastard. Fortunately, while each episode followed a similar broad outline, I never got the feeling that they were so similar as to be boring. Different, unusual games are played in each one and you need to pay close attention to detect signs of cheating. At first Jabami tends to lose, but during a rematch turns the tables and defeats her opponent, because the opponent was cheating and Jabami has figured out how. She doesn't always win, however. Early on, the wholesale greed, sadism and hatred that seems to pervade everyone makes it hard to see how any good ending can come about other than cheaters getting what they deserve. Jabami herself is somewhat off kilter, with an apparent addiction to gambling that makes it kind of hard to sympathize with her. But if she's bad her opponents are worse. I was hoping to learn how she wound up this way, but we never do. Does she have a virtually unlimited supply of money to burn? And who are all these strange characters serving positions in the student administration? The story might turn out to be intriguing, or it might turn out to be just ridiculous.

A nice touch was that Saotome, the girl Jabami humiliated in episode one doesn't just disappear, and far from plotting revenge, she allies herself with Jabami in episode five as they take part in an extremely high stakes card game. The game was all a matter of who could cheat best--cheating is considered perfectly OK as long as you don't get caught. If you get away with it, the person who was swindled is considered to blame since they should have caught on. This episode was a lot of fun as a battle of wits between four players, all colorful. Perhaps what I liked was that the trick that ultimately won the day made sense even to me. And the villain was extremely repugnant and fully deserved what happened in the end. A bonus was that the school council member who refereed the game reached the same conclusion as I had about Jabami: that she is quite insane and cannot be reasoned with. But that, paradoxically, seems to make her an especially effective, winning gambler, and the school administration does not want to be humiliated by her. I almost shelved this show around halfway through, because (as usual) I had fallen far behind the latest anime fansub releases, but this far-out, twisted mind take on gambling taken to its most extreme is fun and somehow I couldn't give it up. This show is fucked up, in a good way. The characters are very over-the-top. Sometimes a show can have so many freaked out characters, who are just weird without much of an explanation why, that you cannot take the show seriously. Early on, I feared that that might happen here, but the whacko characters have enough depth to them that I can suspend disbelief and accept them. Perhaps in a way I'm addicted, just like Jabami.

But what is the theme of this show? Perhaps that the school council members are bad and will get taken down by Jabami? The girl who wears an eyepatch and carries a .357 Magnum seemed more insane than evil (and Jabami is kind of scary herself). I wish it had been made more clear (and earlier) that the school council deserves to be overthrown and that there are a few people at this school who are not total assholes. Fortunately, the plot becomes more clarified as the show nears its end: Jabami works her way up the chain of command, taking on higher and higher officials of the student council and somehow defeating each of them. She does this not because she wants power but because she is truly addicted to the thrill of gambling and wants the highest stakes possible. I was giggling during the final episode, when she finally challenges the President herself and undergoes an orgasm-like experience. At first I thought the way it ended was kind of a cheapshot, being rather inconclusive. But on second thought I decided that I didn't mind since this was a happy ending of a sort. You can't help wondering if Ryouta has become attracted to Jabami, and in this final episode we sort of get an answer, which is definitely better than nothing. And the path to a second season is wide open if the anime does well enough. In the end, Kakegurui struck me as a colorful, outlandish, engaging show and one of my favorites of the Summer 2017 season.

Last updated Saturday, November 11 2017. Created Sunday, July 30 2017.

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