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Kakegurui×× Anime Cover

Score: 7.43/10

Kakegurui×× [DUB]

Alt Title : Kakegurui 2nd Season, Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler 2nd Season

JP Title : 賭ケグルイ××

Year : 2019

Genre : Drama, Game, Mystery, Psychological, School, Shounen

Season : Winter 2019

Status : Complete

Rating : R - 17+ (violence & profanity)

Episodes : 12/12

Duration : 24 min. per ep.

Studios : MAPPA

Synopsis

As Yumeko Jabami's fame grows and the reputation of the student council dwindles, Kirari Momobami decides to revolutionize the group. To this end, she announces an election for its next president. The rules are simple: each student in the school receives one chip. Whoever has the most chips by the end of thirty days becomes both the new president and the head of the Momobami clan. Upon receiving news of this development, the Momobami branch families spring into action. Eleven transfer students arrive at Hyakkao Private Academy, each aiming to lead both the school and the Momobami clan. Equipped with unique talents, they will compete to get as many chips as possible—but their chips are not the only things on the line. [Written by MAL Rewrite]

Ever thought of taking a risk, a risk that’d even put your freedom, life into jeopardy just for the sake of THRILL? Well, anyone who’s sane enough wouldn’t do such a thing, that’s what the majority of people would think/say. BUT what if the word sanity itself didn’t exist among the most privileged/rich/ruling families of the world? And everything was just decided on a single game of chance?

Kakegurui features a similar setting in the form of a unique school that prepares its students for such upcoming reality they’d face in their world, that is gambling, while also teaching basic education like normal schools.

However, this isn’t it! Kakegurui undoubtedly has one of the best “realistic” facial expressions that normally people wouldn’t make in front of you, and you know precisely why ;). But this show is honest, straightforward and amusing. Plus, those expressions completely add to the mood and make the series more enjoyable. Moreover, it has an impressive execution, and the soundtracks totally enhance the experience! The details included to the expressions like the visual effects in the eyes, etc. further contribute to the experience. And the facial expressions of the characters are very well expressed. Furthermore, the show is very innovative when it comes to the games played during a match. And the mind games and cheatings performed during those matches are very enjoyable. And the games played are pretty straightforward and easy to understand.

Alright, now to the important events that took place prior to this season…

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS

Jabami Yumeko, the main protagonist, transfers to the Hyakkao Academy, a school that prides itself on tradition and prestige, being more than 100 years old is a school where money and your gambling skills are all that matter. And once you’re down on money, you instantly cease being a human and are taken as a “housepet” according to the school rules. And once you’ve plunged to these depths, you can never climb up again and remain the same for the rest of your life. And on her first day, she is challenged by Saotome Mary, the best gambler in her class, to a “friendly” gambling game. Who is later defeated by Jabami, after she figures out the whole scheme behind the game and becomes a housepet after being indebted to her for about 9 million yen. And later she frees Ryouta Suzui, Saotome’s housepet and who helped Saotome during the whole game as to make her win against Jabami, as a slight token of gratitude for making that game stimulating for her.

Now the system of the school works like this, that is… all of the student body donates money to the student council which regulates the gambling throughout the school. The amount you contribute determines your rank, and the rankings are typically announced on an irregular basis. And if you’re in the bottom 100 of the 3,000 student body, you become a housepet. Hence, why the skilled gamblers are the most popular and those who aren’t become the object of oppression. And this all began two years prior to the transfer of Jabami, when Kirari Momobami, the current student council president, took office after transferring to the school and defeating the previous president by gambling for the position. All the elite gamblers were taken into the student council. And by pushing through reforms, the donation and the housepet systems were created. Thus, explaining as to why and how Ryouta and Saotome became house pets. While Saotome’s case being severe, since she was defeated by Jabami on the same day as the donation deadlines.

Itsuki Sumeragi, the only first-year member of the student council and the daughter of one of Japan’s biggest toy makers, who contributed a lot of money to the student council to become a member, takes notice of Jabami after her win against Saotome right after transferring to the school. And challenges Jabami to a card game with the stakes being 20 million yen. But Jabami is defeated and had to pay 20 million yen to her which was impossible for her to and so she again challenges Sumeragi. However, this time the stakes being all of her fingernails and toenails! Nonetheless, Jabami wins this time and also exposes her trickery.

Now with the defeat of Sumeragi, the student council takes notice of Jabami and begins to see her as a threat. And shortly, Jabami challenges Yuriko Nishinotoin, one of the members of the student council and also the president of Traditional Culture Research Club, to a game. But in the end, Jabami losses the game due to an alteration caused by the student council president. And now having a debt of 300 million yen she becomes a house pet. Noting how she was intentionally defeated, Jabami decides to gamble with the mighty president.

And soon after, all of the housepets are given their life plans by the student council. However, they’re once again given an opportunity to repay their debt by participating in the “Debt Swap Game”. For the game Jabami gets paired with Saotome, who had been further debted to 49.6 million yen after her defeat against Yuriko in the same game which took place right before Jabami’s match with Yuriko. Sayaka Igarashi, the secretary of the student council, becomes the judge for their match. Jabami and Saotome play against Kiwatari, who had assaulted Jabami earlier as she was a housepet, and Tsubomi, another housepet, who also used to get bullied by Kiwatari. After an intense mind game, Kiwatari losses and gets 310 million yen in debt to the student council. Which he has no choice but to pay or become a housepet. After receiving the money they had won from the Debt Settlement Party, Saotome becomes a “human” again, however, holds a grudge against the student council for what they had done to her. Meanwhile, Jabami doesn’t repay the debt and decides to remain as a housepet.

Midari Ikishima, one of the members of the student council and who somewhat saved Jabami from getting raped by Kiwatari, challenges Jabami to a gamble before she could challenge the student council president, which ends up in a tie. Meanwhile, we also see the student council president trying to persuade Saotome to join the student council. Which she outrightly refuses to accept.

After the match between Ikishima and Jabami, Kirari leaves the school for the time being to resolve some matters among her family. Acknowledging Jabami as a huge threat to the current student council and the whole school system, and due to the disappearance of Kirari, Yumemi Yumemite, one of the members of the student council and who also works as an idol, takes on the task to crush Jabami with Manyuda Kaede’s assistance, the accountant of the student council. And she soon sends Jabami a letter of challenge… After the dismissal of Itsuki Sumeragi from the student council due to her loss against Jabami, she joins Jabami after hearing the rumors that she was going to challenge Kirari Momobami and asks her to let her be a member of the student council after she becomes the president due to her own personal reasons. After the meeting between Yumemite and Jabami, the stakes are decided that is, if Yumemite won Jabami would’ve had to become an idol while if Jabami won she’d reveal Yumemite’s true personality towards her fans by making them listen to her conversation between both of them, which would end her career as an idol. After a close match Jabami defeats Yumemite and reveals her true personality towards her fans. However, the fans accept her… And then Jabami asks the culprit, who had delivered her the things to threaten Yumemite, to show up. For which Yumemite accuses Manyuda. To which he refuses and urges Jabami to prove it and stakes his position if proven guilty. And then Jabami demands Manyuda to settle it by gambling with the winner being the correct one, which he declines. However, Jabami, who had remained as a house pet, now challenges him to a formal match; a formal match is the one right given to a house pet. With this right, a pet can challenge anyone to a match once, which happens to be a tradition for members of the student council to accept. Manyuda accepts the offer, admitting he had underestimated her and would no longer make the same mistake. The vice president of the student council becomes the judge and decides on playing “Choice Poker”. A game similar to the normal poker, but the one betting more money would get to choose the winning hand, the weaker or the stronger. And placing no limit to how much money one could bet.

After winning the first turn, Jabami loses all of her chips on the second turn. To continue the game, Jabami asks Sumeragi for help, since they were “friends”. After an intense betting to win the choosing decision, both Sumeragi and Manyuda end up betting their own lives, both for the game’s sake being worth 10 billion yen. Which is decided by Kirari herself, and it’s revealed that the vice president, the judge, was Kirari all along. Hence, Manyuda decides to choose the winning hand, but ends up falling into Jabami’s “manipulation” and loses. And thus, the match concludes with him being fired from the student council. And as a result of owing more than 10 billion yen, he becomes a house pet. And going through all of this, Jabami and Kirari finally end up gambling with the condition being that the one who loses leaves the academy. With Yomozuki Runa, the best loli in the whole series (and one of the best lolis in anime), being the judge. And the match ends up with a tie. After this Kirari dissolves the student council.

Now the second season directly picks up from where the first season ended…That is with the defeat of more than half of the members of the student council (5 members) and a tie between Jabami and Kirari. Kirari dissolves the student council and decides to conduct elections for the seat of the student council president, of course through the traditional way i.e. gambling. Moreover, the one becoming the student council president would also rule the Momobami, the chief family of the Momobami clan. And in this election, everyone’s offered an equal chance. Even the human pets can participate.

And since ruling the Hyakkao Academy also means ruling the nation, all of the heads of the -bami families that form the Momobami clan send representatives to take part in the battle. Thus, an all-out battle among all the students begins! In addition, we get to see more of Yomozuki Runa! What more could one ask for?! And we also get to know a bit more about the vice president <3. And the second season retains all of the elements of the first season which made it great to watch, and it even reassures its viewers by featuring Ikishima in the first episode. And the whole season only focuses on the elections.

And the show doesn’t forget about its characters from the previous season. However, some are in detail and for some we only get a glimpse of what they’re doing, which I do think is alright since it’d be unnecessary anyway. And the show tells us all the necessary details we need to know regarding the characters, new or the old ones, and the school. And doesn’t tell us anything which it deems irrelevant like the normal education system in the school, what the teachers do after teaching the students, the adults in this world, etc. And I do think there’s nothing wrong with this, since those details are rather unrequired and add nothing to the plot. So now is the plot the issue? I wouldn’t say so. Since, like I’ve said before, students from powerful families in the political and financial world attend this school and since Momobami Kirari’s family is the ruler of the nation, while she herself being the head of the clan. It’d make sense about the funds of the academy or the rules, etc. Not only this, in Hyakkao Academy students are evaluated through their social status, since studies and extracurriculars aren’t necessary for people who are destined to have power over others. For them it’s rather important to be well versed in tactics, reading an opponent, etc. which are abilities they have to prove and obtain through gambling. So such details are unnecessary and not needed, and criticizing the show because it doesn’t provide these details about something/someone is rather stupid and indicates you never paid attention to the show. Furthermore, the new characters are reasonably decent. And if you like the characters of Kakegurui, in general, you’ll certainly like the new characters as well. And the character development is also decent. It doesn’t leave any of the characters introduced previously behind, but doesn’t show them much either unless they’re involved with something which would somewhat have a significant impact on the plot.

Although the new characters are appealing, in general, they aren’t as good as compared to the previously introduced characters. Unlike them, most of these don’t leave any significant impact on you and are there just for the “sake of gambling”. And once they lose, it’s over, they become irrelevant as if they were never there. And despite having entertaining games the thrill factor has quite dropped compared to its prequel. Moreover, Jabami’s character has been reduced to a “gambling freak” which wasn’t the case in the first season. Despite her love for gambling she did have some other motives too which now have been completely ignored. There’s no depth to her character, and she’s there just so she can gamble and experience the “thrill” and nothing else.

The second season, just like its previous season, has impressive soundtracks and voice acting. Especially the voice acting, the way they instantly change their tones with respect to the situation and convey the character’s feelings is really remarkable and astounding. And if there’s something memorable from this show, it’s definitely the voice acting. Plus, the OSTs played during a gambling match or at any situation completely intensify and compliment the mood. Moreover, the opening and the ending of the show don’t disappoint either.

The animation of the show is of a decent quality and doesn’t have any negative effect on your enjoyment. However, the amounts of details on the faces and other such aspects are impressive. Like the extra little details they add on the faces to make them look more realistic like the nose, the wrinkles, the shading, etc. And this even goes for the eyes. And it’s not frequent when you see these aspects in an anime series. And such detailed faces really add to the excitement and the enjoyment of the viewers, and they can sometimes be really hilarious.

However, those insane faces are not for everyone. But simply discarding the show by using buzzwords like “edgy”, etc. is rather stupid and immature to some extent. And I’d recommend you to pay such people no mind unless they are able to explain how and why it’s bad, etc. I recommend watching Kakegurui to those who enjoy psychological thrillers. And to those who can handle savagery/sadism to some extent and as explained before, to the people who highly appreciate soundtracks, visual effects, etc. And if you liked the first season, you’ll definitely like this one too.

“When it comes to gambling, there’s always a risk involved.” – No one in particular, FACTS and LOGIC speak for themselves here. Gambling is a concept we should all be able to relate to. Maybe not as the premise of a series or with having ever put one's own money on the line, but wagers are constantly made in our own minds regarding quality when a new show comes around. A mere glance at the seasonal lineup will inevitably lead to first impressions being made despite how little is known about an anime. But make no mistake, this is to our advantage no matter where in the life cycle of anime fandom you lie. Slowly but surely these thoughts act as effective tools to determine whether an anime will be to our liking. However, for this to happen, gambles must be made. From newer fans learning of disappointment for the first time by not ‘dropping shit like it’s hot’, to hardened viewers having learned what garbage lies amongst every season’s dark trenches – we all made bets one time or another, and we all suffered for our ignorance. As Kurt Cobain said: Nobody dies a virgin, life fucks us all. Kakegurui was one anime that served this purpose for me. I had hopes for the show to be the standout of its time, only for that hope to be taken and buried six feet under its own morally bankrupt excrement, all while the protagonist stared back at me with a smug, crazy-eyed look on her face. Jesus may not have wept when he felt betrayed, but I could not follow his example. I felt the need to release these pent-up emotions; I wanted catharsis and the top review of last season is where you can find it. I detested Kakegurui for the suffering it put me through and have now seen hundreds of anime to have awakened my third eye. So naturally, one may find themselves asking me “hurr durr poohead, if you don’t like, why still watch?” And to that, my answer is simple: I am Jesus, or at least I like to believe such. One value Jesus promoted during his time on Earth was forgiveness, and like Jesus providing us the ability to atone for past sins, I approach Kakegurui in the same fashion. This is Kakegurui’s chance at redemption and despite already disappointing with the title clearly missing one more “X”, it deserves at least that much from me. **THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS** Following last season’s anticlimactic finale, Kakegurui x(x)x was put in the awkward position to follow a plot and characters left with practically no conclusions nor a clear sense of direction. Instead of establishing clear intentions of how this season would approach the narrative, no time is wasted introducing viewers back to the main appeal of the series: gambles featuring raunchy females and their sadistic facial expressions. The academy still appears to be lacking in faculty members to ever properly function as an academy, although we are welcomed with new faces. After Yumeko single-handedly decimated the Student Council’s stranglehold over most gambling-related affairs, an election looms over the school for main antagonist Kirari Momobami’s position as president. This causes the emergence of a new threat in the form of the “Momobami clan”, all family member related to Kirari with their objective being to banish Kirari from their family. It’s also revealed that Yumeko is related to the family in some way and also becomes a target of the clan, challenged to a series of gambles throughout this season. It’s an admirable attempt to drastically shake things up and deliver on more creative, unpredictable moments to keep fans invested. Unfortunately, the intentions still fall short as Kakegurui x(x)x comes across more like a rehash of the first season than otherwise, unable to move away from issues that plagued the previous season. Kakegurui x(x)x as a series thrives on its gambles as they are the easiest way for the series to create any sense of thrill and excitement. This season puts a greater emphasis on them specifically by decreasing the number of gambles taking place and in turn increase the amount of time and focus given to each gamble. Most games take two episodes to complete instead of one and do better in allowing more character development and motivations to take centre stage. In theory this should be a more successful way to structure this season compared to last, however these changes manage to come across in practice as a detriment to the show overall from my perspective. Aside from removing the idea of stakes from their gambles almost altogether, using several episodes to explore the inner workings of games is usually effective when the games themselves have a certain level of complexity to them. Here's the problem: barely any games shown in the series thus far have that level of depth purely in their construction, with games like the “Finger Cutting Guillotine” only being effective as a game of chicken. It also does no help for this show that every gamble is extremely predictable in their outcome, with Yumeko only allowing for games to end in her favour, as proven from S1 and is the way of the Mary Sue. For a piece of entertainment, these drawn-out gambles are unable to adequately capitalize on the initial suspense and excitement viewers wish to feel each episode. Because Kakegurui x(x)x is always following the almighty Yumeko and her deus ex machina abilities, it’s the other characters who are required to do the show’s heavy lifting. She may be the main character, but their perspectives are the ones always shown when standing opposed to Yumeko and end up changing as a result. In the first season they were barely more than obstacles for Yumeko to swiftly overcome but they still contained something about them that defined them as a character besides their design. Yumemi is an idol singer, Itsuki had a fingernail obsession, even edge-queen Midari had her revolver fetish of all things. In Kakegurui x(x)x, we have a clan full of new characters that we know little to nothing about regarding personality or motives aside from the their clan’s objective. Sorry, but simply having a cool-looking design does not make them any more interesting as characters. They just look cool. Sure, these new characters do break away from the stereotypes birthed from last season; no longer are all the females psychotic or grotesque, and the introduction of new male characters breaks the idea of males in the show being no more than pathetic beta males. But that’s far from a high positive for the season. So far these new antagonists have been relegated to just fulfilling mandatory roles as Yumeko's opponents. There still lies development present here for secondary characters that is noteworthy, but the way Kakegurui x(x)x treats these characters so sparingly in the narrative does it no benefits. I’m not fond of seeing a side character to return for two episodes looking like Ken Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul before being pushed to the side again for however long the narrative demands. With how the series handles both its plot and characters with such recklessness, Kakegurui x(x)x is the kind of anime one can find easily detestable. Not to say one cannot find enjoyment anywhere here, but when trying to depict characters created clearly immoral as admirable in a story centred around malevolent aspects of gambling, I’m left asking myself serious questions. Who is this being made for? What is this show trying to say? Clearly the show's focus is on addiction – why else would the anime title be translated to “Compulsive Gambler”? It’s not shocking that the characters with the most plot armour are the ones with the worst cases of addiction. But what has the series done so far in 24 episodes to really delve into this theme? Yumeko has yet to show any signs of distress or psychological torment while the punishment for losing is constantly raised to astronomical proportions. Is she a sociopath? If so, how is anyone supposed to know when it’s not even remotely close to a realistic depiction? Kakegurui x(x)x seems to be the kind of show that likes to have its cake and eat it too. It wishes to be a commentary on the dangers of gambling whilst holding the act up proudly on a pedestal, unabashed in sympathising with those clearly contemptible of such deeds. A show that sets up stakes and never follows through with them. Trying to impress with intellect and logic while simultaneously having the Tower of Doors arc end with the loser jumping out the “correct door” because she’s apparently so smart that she SUBCONSCIOUSLY CALCULATED what door was the one that wouldn’t kill her. The show has so many glaring holes, I could probably order it on the menu at Subway. Kakegurui x(x)x from a visual standpoint is likely to either make or break the experience for viewers, and it’s almost solely because of the facial expressions. Once again Studio MAPPA tries to bring out as much insanity from these designs as humanly possible. While it does convey the kind of lunacy viewers are in for when watching characters lose themselves in their games, it’s still far from aesthetically pleasing and will no doubt have its fair share of detractors. Although if you’re already this far into the show I’d assume you can tolerate it. The character designs for the main cast are certainly eye-catching especially compared to new characters. Background art is usually typical and unimaginative but fits perfectly fine during games. The visual effects are still a strong part of the series and CGI usage is improved upon from last season. As for the soundtrack used, it never particularly stood out throughout the season but I was pleasantly surprised with the new opening and ending themes used here. Honestly I found myself preferring both themes over those from S1, despite the first from my perspective working as a better introduction to the comical madness this series indulges in. The voice acting also felt like an improvement, not coming across as off-putting when it came to the crazier parts of the script. They all do a great job in their respective roles, with Yumeko Jabami’s performance by Saori Hayami capturing a wide array of emotions in her voice to match the character’s absurd behaviour. At first, I called Kakegurui pretty awful and feeling like it wasted my time. Now having given the series a second chance my thoughts haven’t changed that much. Making a second season that blatantly imitates key events of its predecessor only to fall victim to its shortcomings is not what I had expected or hoped for, but I still found a silver lining to this season. While Kakegurui initially felt more of an insult in what it set out to be, Kakegurui x(x)x has a clearer identity about it that I can respect. Instead of trying to encapsulate far too much in so little time for its own good and as a result failing in every way, this season is more inclined to take a step back from the intensity in order to bring more detail and focus on something grander. Whether this is a significant improvement remains to be seen, but the potential is there, building to something hopefully greater than anything the series has shown us yet. I still dislike the series, but I cannot say that I haven’t developed more respect for what it sets out to be. And for that, I do not consider Kakegurui x(x)x a complete waste of time.

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