Having run out of content from the original manga series, this second season stretches six high-stakes gambles into 12 episodes, with the least satisfying ending I’ve seen all year. Yes, even worse than Dangerous Lies.
Kakegurui is an anime (that’s Japanese cartoon, for those unaware) set at a prestigious private school where everything is decided by gambling. The anime piqued my interest with its interesting premise and unique art style. Characters are shown going from their usual display of simplistic kawaii caricatures into highly detailed, overtly ugly close-ups, as they experience a range of emotions when their gamble appears to be paying off – or not.
Backtracking a little bit – transfer student Yumeko Jabami is a pure gambler – she never cheats, unlike most of the school, and she derives actual pleasure from the risks involved in a high-stakes gamble, especially ones truly left to chance. After freeing house-pet Ryota Suzui (a position you get to if you lose so often that you’re unable to pay your debts), she goes on a mission to take down some of the more popular students, and expose the cheats that made them successful.
In this second season, the student council disbands and an election is called. Everyone is both a candidate and the electorate – each student gets one vote, represented by a poker chip. You’re expected to gamble your way to victory. I’ll spare you the rest of the frankly confusing and unsatisfactory plot.
What I liked about this show was how it explored different games – some of them simple card games, others more complicated and involving higher stakes than money alone.
The opening of this season sees Yumeko participate in a sadistic game involving a guillotine. It’s held up by one string – but there are twelve strings in total. Players, three of them, stick a finger into a hole under the guillotine and take turns cutting the strings one by one. It doesn’t matter who cuts the string or in what order – if the guillotine falls, they all lose a finger. It’s a game of chicken.
The game’s inventor, one of the participants, knows there’s actually no risk of a severed finger, as she’s inserted an iron plate that protects everyone from the guillotine. She is used to revelling in the torture experienced by other participants when the odds of the guillotine’s string being cut get smaller and smaller. But Yumeko senses foul play, and asks the neutral overseer (who set up the strings out of sight, to keep it fair) if she ‘removed it, like I requested’. ‘Yes’ she replies, albeit not referring to the iron plate. It doesn’t matter. The inventor is now bricking themselves. Suddenly, it’s game on.
Moments like the one I just described are the best parts of this show. Unfortunately this season was bogged down in a terrible plot and an ending where literally nothing happens. More seasoned anime viewers have told me this is known as an ‘anime original’ ending, because it’s not in the manga series from which this anime is derived from. Let me declare myself not a fan of ‘anime original’ endings, then.