Notes on Streaming: KAKEGURUI, Compulsive Gambling in Japan

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas (@peteramartin)
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Notes on Streaming: KAKEGURUI, Compulsive Gambling in Japan

Gambling has nothing to do with luck, or so I've been told by a loan shark friend.

Now streaming on Netflix.

Wildly screeching on the edge of unwatchability, Kakegurui could fairly be described as 'anime on acid.'

Its sheer playful intrigue drew me into the first season of 12 episodes. As I wrote in March 2018, "Two episodes were sufficient for me for one sitting, but I could see watching the series further to see if the characters or the school dynamics are explored further." After a second season was announced earlier this year, I plunged back into the first season to see if that potential had been realized.

My conclusion: no. Yet the whiz-bang style really caught my interest this time, and I ended up binging the remainder of the first season as well as all 12 episodes of the second season over the past few weeks.

The first 12 episodes introduced a private academy in Japan, known for its wealthy and privileged students, and also for its unofficial endorsement of gambling as a means of training its students for the cutthroat worlds of business and politics. It's based on a manga, Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler, and the 'compulsive' part especially applies to newly-arrived Yumeko, who gambles for the thrills it gives her, rather than any possibility of winning riches or power.

The second 12 episodes sees a mob of transfer students arriving, all associated with a notorious crime family and all intent on taking down the powerful student body president. Nearly every notable character is given a backstory that ties into a particular game of chance; the rules are nearly impossible to follow. Everything leads to an epic confrontation.

It's all ridiculous, of course, and sometimes dips so deeply into a seemingly endless pool of noxious anxiety that it becomes a slog to endure, and thus the delay in writing about it. I believe I needed to finish the show, though, in order to reinforce all my reservations about the potential addiction of gambling and thus drive out any desire I might have had to roll the dice, so to speak, on anything in real life.

Summing up: Perhaps needless to say, your mileage -- and desire to binge -- may vary, depending on whether or not you feel lucky.

Note: A live-action version of the manga is also streaming on Netflix, so make your selection accordingly. I barely finished one episode of the live-action series before abandoning it.

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