Gambling for the sake of gambling. Gambling for going deeper into madness. Gambling for the thrill of losing everything with one wrong move. This is what Kakegurui which literally translates to Compulsive Gamble is all about. In a way it is a love letter to gambling and the madness that entails it.
Kakegurui starts out with the main protagonist, Jabami Yumeko, enrolling in Hyakkaou Private Academy. The academy’s most centralized of traditions is gambling as it helps their students who come from rich and influential families learn how to negotiate and read people better. Jabami Yumeko looks like an ordinary beautiful girl but all that changes when gambling is involved. She suddenly becomes a sociopath that easily gets off from the thrill of gambling and becomes so enraptured in it that she can easily swallow those around her to take the bet with her. She can easily read all the possible tricks through deduction and all in a calm manner but she is by no means perfect as she can also lose even by luck.
In the academy, the student council reigns supreme and imposes a tax law for the gambles. If the participants are unable to pay the tax then they become “livestock” which is basically the lowest of the lows in the academy’s social hierarchy. Since the students come from very well-off families, the amount of money being gambled start off at really high amounts and the debts can even go into the billions range. It doesn’t stop at just money as even more can be placed on the betting table.
Watching Yumeko-san read her enemies and beat them is as fun as it is erotic since nearly everyone in the academy is nuts in one way or another but Yumeko takes the cake 40 levels higher than the limits. The anime is much more depraved and entertaining than Kaiji which is a gambling anime from a decade ago. It would be fun if the two ever meet in some crossover though most likely that will never happen.
The characters are quite questionable especially the viewpoint main character Suzui, Ryouta, as he is quite the opposite of Yumeko-san and is the only truly sane person in the whole anime. The relationships between them are also quite odd and does not make much sense except for one of them who is just using Yumeko-san for their own ends.
Gambling has never looked so animated before and I mean that in both a figurative and literal sense. The animation quality is so high that it easily trumps those action oriented anime to shame. This has been the most impressively animated non-action anime I have ever seen that is not done by the legendary KyoAni, so kudos to MAPPA. The level of art was also as equally impressive as the characters would show off their gambling faces which showed so much emotion and detail that it was downright disturbing. Even the iris had so much detail to it that I couldn’t help but wonder how much did the producers pay for this level of detail, though with Square Enix being one of them I wouldn’t really be surprised how they managed to achieve this quality. This animation style was the closest I have ever seen to be a match to hentai animation as I felt like I was literally watching hentai in many scenes. The level of eroticism in this anime is so prevalent that some characters got so wet and drooled so much, they were an open book. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen an ahegao (intense amount of sexual pleasure that is translated in facial expressions) in this anime, the frequency made this the number one anime of all time (to my knowledge) to have so many ahegao.
The OST was also quite exceptional as they were very distinct and matched the mood so well especially at the height of a gamble. The opening was one of the most, if not the most, animated opening sequences I have ever seen. It didn’t take me long to guess what theme they were going for with the animation which is “devour.” Gambling can easily devour anyone, so the opening fits quite well with it. The ending was also fun to watch since it shows Yumeko-san’s descent (or ascent) into madness in a very erotic catwalk. The voice acting was also very well done as the characters felt so alive whenever they talked and especially when they showed their gambling faces. The most exceptional case was Hayami Saori’s voice of Yumeko as it was one of her most memorable performances ever.
So if you are ever in the mood to watch a thrill, some gambling, or girls getting wet and show ahegaos in a non-hentai (or even hentai) way, then go ahead and descend into the madness that is Kakegurui.