Unlike many schools, attending Hyakkaou Private Academy prepares students for their time in the real world. Since many of the students are the children of the richest people in the world, the academy has its quirks that separate it from all the others. By day, it is a normal school, educating its pupils in history, languages, and the like. But at night, it turns into a gambling den, educating them in the art of dealing with money and manipulating people. Money is power; those who come out on top in the games stand at the top of the school.
Yumeko Jabami, a seemingly naive and beautiful transfer student, is ready to try her hand at Hyakkaou's special curriculum. Unlike the rest, she doesn't play to win, but for the thrill of the gamble, and her borderline insane way of gambling might just bring too many new cards to the table.
“Part of it went on gambling, and part of it went on women. The rest I spent foolishly.” – George Raft.
To those of you who have watched Kakegurui I ask: Why did you watch this anime? Were you intrigued by the aesthetic look of the show? Or maybe what drew you to Kakegurui was the concept; gambling! The latter was what caught my eye, as past experiences with gambling anime have proven that they hold some of the most entertaining and exhilarating moments I have ever seen. These shows have given me goose bumps from sheer awe and admiration while watching psychological battles of wits
and strategy between people willing to risk their very lives on even the simplest of games. Unfortunately, these kinds of anime are extremely rare to come by, as nearly all of them are practically unknown to most of the anime community and nearly impossible to watch any of them legally. So when I saw that Kakegurui was airing this season and also happened to be the most popular show of Summer 2017, I was pretty excited. I had heard good things about the manga and it was being produced by Studio MAPPA, a studio that I have high hopes for despite not being impressed with any of their previous works. All that was left for me to do was watch it, and this is where the hype for this show died for me. I was disappointed with Kakegurui from episode 1, because even after just one episode, it is obvious to see that Kakegurui is a terrible gambling anime.
Kakegurui takes place in Hyakkaou Private Academy, a prestigious school where the student are the most wealthy and privileged students in all of Japan. I use the term school lightly because there seems to be no actual classes or learning happening, instead the school is more like a gambling den, where every student partakes in gambling. They bet their fortunes against one another regularly, and those who become in debt are practically slaves to the holders of their wealth. The show focuses of Yumeko Jabami, a new student who gambles for the fun of it and is really good at it; too good, in fact. Her actions end up disrupting the student hierarchy of Hyakkaou Academy, causing the Student Council to come up with ways to stop her. Throughout the show, Yumeko befriends beta cuck bitch-boy Ryouta Suzui and fellow gambling gal Meari Saotome who help her as she gambles to her heart’s content. Ironically, Yumeko’s first gamble at the academy is against Meari, and it is here where the first major problem of the show lies.
The game Yumeko and Meari play is a card-game variation of rock-paper-scissors where the crowd of people watching them write the symbol of “rock”, “paper” or “scissors” on cards, where they are collected and put into a box for both players to draw three cards and play the game. Meari manipulates the majority of the class’ votes to her advantage, however Yumeko still wins decisively and reveals exactly how Meari cheated. Throughout the entire game, the audience is given no insight into what Yumeko is thinking or even a hint as to how she was able to figure out Meari’s scheme until it is given through exposition after she has already won. As such, viewers are forced to believe Yumeko was able to piece everything together without fault. Doing this is lazy of the writers as it solely relies on having to tell the audience what happened, rather than show it as it is happening. This problem is apparent in every gamble in the show and kills the opportunity for viewers to engage with the gambling games and the characters playing said games. The games themselves are also poorly constructed; some come off as unnecessarily complex, others are just too simple and easy to beat. Being marketed as a gambling anime makes the show look incredibly dumb and retarded, taking away the chance to get excited for how these games play out. And that leads to what I feel is the 2nd biggest issue with this anime: no thrills.
As you watch Kakagurui, you begin to notice a couple patterns with each gamble: High-stakes are never fully realised, every female character is bat-shit insane and “Yumeko wins LOL”. Seriously, even when Yumeko loses like in episode 3, she has no repercussions from losing. Because the audience is always watching from the perspective of either a mere onlooker or one of Yumeko’s opponents, she always comes across as too good for every situation she is placed in. Because of this she rids the show of any tension it could have had. And when you figure out that most of the time Yumeko gambles, she barely even uses a complete strategy, relying on pure luck to win at random times, which feels like a slap in the face to anyone expecting consistency and/or intelligence from this show. The fact that there are no actual punishments fulfilled from losing a high-stakes gamble also hinders the joy and excitement viewers get from watching. Now while there are consequences for being in an extreme amount of debt (e.g. house pet, Meari’s “Life Schedule”), you never actually see the show go through with these consequences and even then, the punishment for losing rarely ever matches the reward for winning. And in Yumeko’s case, the money she wins never really matters to her at all. She is the kind of sadomasochist that would throw countless amounts of money away to feel satisfied with how high the risk of losing a gamble is. Yet the show never goes through with these risks. So I’m left here after watching each gamble asking myself “What’s the point?”. A lot of fans of the show have been saying that Kakegurui is not a gambling anime, but a great thriller, and I just cannot agree with that statement at all. It is a mediocre thriller at best and that is only if you turn your brain off.
Speaking of which, this show stretches one’s suspension of disbelief so much that you would think this has the quality of fanfiction-level writing. Not just with the gambling aspect of it, but the entire setting is fucking retarded. From the very start I was always curious why there were so many students at Hyakkaou Academy and why they would all gamble. But as I continued watching, the curiosity turned into frustration because it became apparent that there is no proper reason why so many students would stay there or continue to engage in gambling than to make Yumeko even more perfect than what she already is. Yumeko exposes a lot of the games played in gambles as cheat ways to get other in debt, yet that never changes the amount of gambling that takes place within the academy, and that is because most of the students in the background are ignorant buffoons. I would also like to know why only one adult to my memory has appeared in the entire 12 episodes. ONE! I cannot imagine such a prestigious academy to only have one adult working at the academy, but it makes sense with the amount of betting that takes place so regularly. And how in the world are guns and kidnapping allowed? And why does being in extreme debt eventually lead to a life sentence that dictates you to a wealthy future? So many questions that are never explained because this show is not about logic. It tries to look smart but just comes off as a dumb piece of shit. Calling this show psychological is pure lunacy; if anything, it is psycho-sexual because any real sense of logic got thrown out the fucking window!
Nearly every character in this show pissed me off. I have already stated how Yumeko is convoluted out her own ass and is like a vacuum sucking all the excitement away from the show, but she seems like God’s gift to this show when compared to every other character. Meari, who seemed like she had potential, starting off as a cocky bitch that is humbled by Yumeko before being humiliated by the student council. Sadly, she turned out to be a weaker clone of Yumeko by episode 4 and is only used as a way to explain other games Yumeko plays as the story goes on. Fucking waste of potential. Ryouta is their other friend, but honestly he does nothing in this show. He just reacts to shit happening around him and nods in response and is a waste of space. Fuck him. The only other characters that matter are the one-note members of the student council that only matter for the one episode they are in before getting pushed to the side. Dishonourable mention to eyepatch-girl with the revolver fetish and a chronic masturbation habit, edgy bitch. Although, there is this one supporting character who literally tried to rape Yumeko that was unironically my favourite character purely for that one moment. If a bitch was lowkey killing the quality of my show I’d tell her to bend over and take it too. All kidding aside, every character is awful in their own way and make the show even more predictable and boring.
Regarding the production, from a company like Studio MAPPA I was really disappointed. The art style is not impressive, most of the female character designs are generic, backgrounds are fairly basic and visual effect are for the most part impressive. The most controversial feature of the animation has to be the facial expressions and I have mixed feelings about them. On one hand, they showcase how broken and mentally unstable these characters get at times, but these faces just do not fit the visual look of the show and come off as cringe-inducing to me. The fan-service used is also off-putting to me, seemingly thrown in at random intervals in each episode. Yumeko pretending to be a cat was a definite low point for my enjoyment and did more to prove to me that it cares more about sex appeal than anything of substance. The music used was fine to me, with the OP being perhaps the best part of the entire show, which is not a hard feat. The ED however, was nice to listen to once but afterwards was always skipped, as I don’t see how Yumeko walking for 90 seconds as her breasts bounce constantly is worth seeing more than once. The voice acting was fine until characters went into their crazy stage and felt artificial and forced, but I suppose that fits the show unintentionally.
In conclusion, Kakegurui was pretty awful, filled with formulaic, villain-of-the-week gambling matches that felt like a waste of time once it was all over. In the end it was only trying to entertaining on a superficial level; it was never attempting to have a real identity, besides being yuri fapbait. Now I have no problem with anyone who liked the show; you are free to like and enjoy whatever anime you want to, but if someone were to ask me if I enjoyed it? HELL NAW. Lemme put it this way: If you liked Mirai Nikki and Akame ga Kill, you’ll probably enjoy this. But if you are anything like myself and thought those two shows were terrible, Kakegurui ain’t gonna be worth your time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch something that is actually worth my time.
I’m not a fan of using buzzwords but it’s hard to ignore the edginess when watching Kakegurui. Based on the manga of the same name, this adaptation translates to a gambling story. I can’t help but think of a wicked thriller when watching this show. It basically takes the idea of gambling and transform it into madness with its characters, setting, and ideas. However, does it live up its hype and worth watching? The answer is quite the opposite.
Getting into this show for some people will likely not be easy. It’s not a recommendable show for anyone unless you really fancy a psychological thriller that
deals with a crazy cast of characters. The show itself takes place at Hyakkaou Academy. It’s a peculiar school that prepares students for proficiency related to strategizing, mental strength, and of course gambling. To survive, you have to outsmart your opponents and become part of the hierarchy. In other words, it’s survival of the fittest.
The first episode definitely will get you into the mood as we meet Yumeko Jabami, the main protagonist and new transfer student. While Jabami may seem like an ordinary girl at first glance, it’s easy to notice how far she is from normal once she gets herself involved in gambling games. The show chronicles her school days as she takes on opponents with high risk. I mean, it’s gambling. There’s always risk but what’s peculiar about Jabami is that she gambles for the thrill of it rather than for fame or money. In addition, the show makes it clear that Jabami is intelligent as she quickly learns the inside and outside of the school’s gambling games. In fact, there are episodes where Jabami beats her opponents at their own game. However, I can’t firmly say that Jabami’s personality is one that people can appreciate. She is highly unpredictable and truly enjoys the thrill of gambling. From every episode, she has orgasmic reactions when she thinks about gambling. To a certain extent, the show truly wants us to accept Jabami for who she is but I find it difficult to do so. The reason she gambles is irrational and I can hardly find her relatable to anyone. Not to mention, this show doesn’t do an adequate job of getting viewers to understand her better. Her morality regarding gambling is absurd and really lacks reason. She just wants to gamble and treats it as the most exciting thing in the world. I also have to confess that Jabami’s character change from an elegant beauty to a psychotic freak to be difficult to watch at times. In retrospect, Jabami has a lot of flaws in her character and this show doesn’t do a decent job at repairing them.
Beyond Jabami, the majority of the cast isn’t far off from their psychotic characteristics. Mary Saotome, the first gambling opponent of Jabami at the school shows her own crazy antics. The majority of the student council has various characters ranging from the mysterious president Kirari Momobami, the violent head of Beautification Committee Midari Ikishima, the calculating Kaede Manyuda, part-time idol Yumemi Yumemite, nail loving Itsuki Sumeragi, and among others. The show tries to make them appealing by injecting their personalities in the most devious way possible. What we get as a result are weak background stories, generic characteristics, and abominable morals. To me, these characters are pretty much all the same and serve as an obstacle to Jabami. The show has Jabami fighting against some of the key members of the student council but the result usually ends up being extremely predictable. To be quite honest, the anime itself is nothing short but predictable from the start. Even though Jabami isn’t invulnerable to losing, it doesn’t make us feel anything about her situation when she does. Jabami herself doesn’t even seem to care and in many ways, the show tries to express offbeat ideas that come out as uninspiring.
Character relationships in this anime is also very questionable. The most normal character at the school would probably be Ryouta Suzui, one of Jabami’s very few allies. He has a very lack-luster personality and I honestly feel like this show would be much better if he didn’t exist. His relationship with Jabami is easily forgettable as the two are very polar opposites. Others also make him look like a fool and to be quite honest, it’s pretty much what he is. That being said, the show makes it clear that the society has many fools. Thanks to the hierarchy that the student council president has made, there are those that are labeled as “house pets”. Essentially, house pets are those that sink into large debts and are mistreated by the public. Why? It’s the simplicity of social status. Unfortunately, we never really get a full understanding on why this system exists as the show focuses way too much on Jabami’s gambling adventures than anything else. It’s one of the major weakness of the show as everything seems to be about Jabami. The show is like a loop with the same formula. Jabami faces off against an opponent, plays against them at their own game, and gets the orgasmic thrills of it. It becomes tedious fast and lacks substance because of Jabami’s morals. I also don’t really find the games themselves to be thrilling as most are predictable. The games puts emphasis on psychology rather than strategy so don’t expect this show to be smart in any way. I mean, a good majority of the gamblers cheat, manipulate, and do anything to win. Then, there’s Jabami who just wants to enjoy the ecstasy of gambling. On the plus side, adaptation standards remain mostly faithful as the show captures the expressive faces of the characters. Each chapter is adapted carefully with panel by panel storytelling. However, it’s still an incomplete adaptation because manga itself is ongoing. A 1-cour adaptation like this really leaves open a lot of questions and doesn’t tie any loose ends in the end. There’s also original content added in for this adaptation.
Adapted by Studio MAPPA, the producers apparently went all out to bring out the sheer entertainment value as much as possible. First, there’s the character expressions that really borderlines inhuman insanity. The art shift is pretty noticeable for almost every gambler in this anime. One minute, they look normal but as soon as gambling business picks up, they go full facial with highly stylized features. Jabami is the guiltiest of this with her psychotic eyes, intense blushing, and body language. The show decorates itself with fan service although this sometimes looks like a satire. Also, it seems this show can’t sometimes hold back on the violence so don’t be surprised if you see blood, vomiting, etc. It’s a crazy world after all.
By technical elements, Kakegurui’s soundtrack, music, and voice acting is impressive. The theme songs are very stylistic with piano chords, eerie beats, and haunting lyrics. Both theme songs also have a clever tempo that matches the momentum of its creativity. Plus, it’s also hard to ignore the show’s OST during any gambling match when it’s at its highest point. Finally, I have to admit that a good amount of character personality comes from the voices. This could likely be Saori Hayami’s best role to date as Jabami. She had a lot of different voice acting roles in the past before but to me, her character in this show stood out the most. If there’s anything to take away from this anime, it’s to remember the talents of the voices.
In the end, Kakegurui turned out to be a cheap cash grab that serves as a giant advertisement of the manga. It’s hard to forgive this show when the storytelling is so blend and the characters are brutally depressing to watch. The anime tried far too hard to sell whatever it intended to and ended up delivering a nakedly dumb adaptation. Some of the visual elements, music, and voice acting saved this show from total catastrophe. However, it still makes this show look like a crude joke.
Gambling is a fairly common topic in manga, though it is seldom adapted into an anime. There is good reason for this: there is little in the way of action that would benefit from adaptation, and exposition really drags on when it needs to be voiced rather than just read. And alongside these conceptual problems, there's the moral repugnancy that Kakegurui revels in, which should serve to further alienate any potential audience. But despite all of this, Kakegurui has somehow won against a stacked deck, and in this review, I'll take a look at how this oddball became a mainstream success.
This anime covers the first
27 chapters of the manga, and then adds on an anime exclusive ending. These chapters essentially serve as an introduction to the world of Kakegurui, establishing the characters and the rules that the world follows. It’s really just setup for the much more interesting second arc, though considering the events of the new ending, I wouldn’t hold my breath for a second season.
In gambling, there are always two games going on. There’s the game that the characters are playing on the table, but there’s also all of the mind games and cheating that are going on surrounding it. Pretty much all of the games played in Kakegurui are original, though simple and straightforward enough that the audience can quickly understand them. On the other hand, some of the tricks employed are poorly explained, which can be frustrating. But despite the occasional misstep, the gambles generally succeed in remaining tense throughout.
In general, the cast of Kakegurui are terrible. And by that, I don’t mean that they’re terrible characters, but that they’re terrible people. They’re manipulative and sadistic, and with few redeeming traits. But while their actions are regularly cartoonishly evil, there is actually a bit of humanity behind them. For example, there’s a scene in episode eight where one of the villains talks about her ambitions of becoming an actress, and while it in no way justifies any of her behavior, it begins to make her understandable. This pays off when once-villains return as allies, which happens twice in the territory covered by the anime, and a lot more in the next arc. These are easily my favorite games in the series, because Yumeko isn’t actually a very interesting gambler. She can fix dice rolls and memorize things to an insane degree; she’s too good for there ever to be any worry of her losing, and she lacks motivations that the viewer can get behind. Luckily, the show seems to understand this, and often adopts the perspective of her opponents, which keeps tensions high.
But while I may not particularly like Yumeko, her portrayal by Hayami Saori is easily the highlight of the series. She seamlessly transitions between ladylike calm, playful teasing, and manic edge, and I could not imagine any other seiyu being as perfect a fit for the character. Besides that, the rest of the cast also delivers nicely, but Yumeko is a step above. In terms of the OST, background music is a near-constant jazzy presence, and does an excellent job of setting the mood for any given scene. Similarly, the opening theme sets the tone for the entire series, and also looks fantastic. My only real gripe would be the ending theme, which falls far short of the standard set by the rest of the show.
There’s been a lot of praise given to this anime for its faithfulness in recreating the wild facial expressions from the manga, and I’m not sure that I agree. These faces worked great as single frames, but when they need to be put into motion, they lose the sharpness that made them so iconic. In addition, by focusing so much on faces, other details can suffer. In particular, hands are regularly animated with 3dcg, which is really off-putting once you begin to notice it. Kakegurui is always visually ambitious, and when it works, it can be fantastic, but more often than not, it’s more than Studio MAPPA can handle.
In the end, Kakegurui has its faults, but it has also demonstrated that it’s possible to make a gambling adaptation work. I would love to see more gambling shows in the future, and hopefully Kakegurui's success will pave the road for that to happen.
As the players take their seats, excitement fills the air. Cards, gathered up in one quick swoop, become the weapons of this match, as each fighter tries to gather their wits under the intense stress and tension at play. Pulse quickens, the heart accelerates, at the sight of their weapons, as each fighter stares at their enemy in silent anticipation, awaiting any indication into the contents of their hand. As time passes the air grows all the more incredibly heavy and thick, sweat adorning both of these brave warriors, as, suddenly, the signal to throw down their cards to determine the victor is called. Who
will receive Lady Luck's blessing this time?
Gambling! High octane stakes and tension! Narratives surrounding the use of gambling are supposed to be exciting, tense, give us a sense of utmost euphoria, and, most of all, be entertaining as fuck! Kaiji is a series that excels in this department, and, while I haven't seen every episode of the show yet, the first eight episodes that I have seen have been everything I look for in a gambling-centric narrative. The stakes are high, being that each game involves the consequence of death if someone were to lose, it's easy to care for our main character after the huge debt that has been left to him and each game is insanely interesting since it becomes a huge psychological battle with players trying to deceive and outwit each with other, with the great animation and soundtrack enhancing each element. Watching the show is essentially like having one giant adrenaline rush, which makes you want to keep watching episode after episode, which is a sign of well-crafted and written thriller around the use gambling. However, Kakegurui (or, if you prefer, Bukkakegurui, which is what I'll be referring to the show as for the rest of the review) is one of the most downright boring shows I've ever had the displeasure of watching, despite having similar ideas and premise to that of Kaiji. But, why is that? Why does Kaiji succeed where Bukkakegurui does not? Well, let's find out! Let's grab a chair, bet some insane amount of money, and remember to have about twenty orgasms as we play, since gambling, for some reason, gets us completely wet!
Bukkakegurui's narrative is set inside a prestigious academy which is a tad bit different than conventional schools. While, during the day the school adopts the typical lessons that any student from any school undergoes, at night the school becomes a gambling den, where those who are seeking power and money go to gamble. The series sees our protagonist, Yumeko, an obsessive and insane gambler who experiences an orgasm every time she plays, gamble her way through the student council until the climatic game with the student council president at the very end of the series. In terms of narrative structure, the series is incredibly linear and straightforward, and adopts a "monster of the week formula", whereby Yumeko will play off against a new member of the student council of increasing difficulty before coming to the big finale. This structure of storytelling is not inherently bad, and since the focus of the show, and the appeal is based around the games itself, I don't mind the narrative being rather simple. However, there is one problem I have with this formulaic structure, and that is, that Yumeko never grows or learns throughout the duration of the series or in her matches. She never acquires any new tactics or skills during the games that could be applied in later scenarios, and she wins more so because the script tells her to win rather than putting any actual effort into her character winning through clever manipulation, strategy, or anything else that would be remotely interesting. For the sake of argument, let's compare Bukkakegurui to the 1995 series, Neon Genesis Evangelion, which also adopted a "monster of the week" formula for much of its duration. The reason why Evangelion succeeds is because during every Angel encounter and fight in the series, we are learning as an audience, both about the nature of the world, and of the characters, in their mental state and emotions. Shinji, Rei and Askua grow, not only in their physical abilities against the Angels, but also as people as well, as they begin to grow to like themselves as the series progresses, and work together as a team. By doing so, it grounds the characters in a more realistic way, and makes them feel far more like actual people, which Yumeko fails at completely, as she is more akin to an over powered Mary Sue who wins just because. While her personality suggests that she gambles so much for the thrill and excitement it brings, which is a fine motivation for her character, it also makes her feel rather boring and one dimensional as we never learn anything about her beyond what is presented at surface level. While there is a mini flashback that suggests that Yumeko is gambling in order to raise money for her sister's operation, or something along those lines, we're never given any more information regarding that aspect, and this idea should have been introduced at the very start of the show, to give Yumeko's matches some actual emotional weight and narrative stakes, but they didn't do that so each match feels incredibly inconsequential. Speaking of narrative stakes, let's dive into that next!
In Bukkakegurui, the school is divided into sub sections dependent on how much money you have, with those losing money and being in debt at the bottom, being treated as house pets, while those with money get to rule at the top. If, at some point, you get into enough debt while at the school, the student council will write you out a life plan which determines every element in your life in the future, all planned out for you, from who you will marry, how many children you will bear, among other things. So, there are elements that are at stake here, such as your entire life being ruined forever by this life plan or crippling debt, but the stakes presented in the matches don't work because the characters are all completely one dimensional and it's hard to care for anyone at all. Who cares if Yumeko becomes a house pet or gets a life plan written up for her, when she'll pay back her debts anyway through her gambling? Who cares that someone like Meari ends up with a life plan when she has been nothing but a horrible bitch throughout the show and gets what she deserves? WHO CARES? It's one thing to have narrative stakes, but another thing to have characters who we care about having those stakes inflicted upon them.
In order to better convey what I mean, imagine a scenario in which I have two rocks. The first rock, rock A, represents the characters presented in Bukkakegurui; they're all horribly one dimensional, lack personality and are hard to care for in the slightest. We don't learn anything about them as actual people, despite the fact that they're all hungry for power or vast amounts of wealth, nor do we feel any connection to them on any personal level since there is no time devoted for fleshing them out. The other rock, Rock B, represents a character that we have had time to care for. They're here not, because they find thrill for gambling, but because they have no other choice. Perhaps they have a large debt to pay off, or have to gamble for money for an operation to save a love one or something, but what's important is that we learn about this character in order to feel some kind of connection, and the fact that they're an underdog will make the audience root for them more, and will make the games more exciting as the character will have to come up with new strategies constantly, driving more investment in the narrative. The audience should experience the world through this character's eyes, so not only do we become more attached to them as an actual person but also so that we can see how they grow and think. Now, with both rocks categorised, let's say I bring in a sledgehammer, thus introducing the concept of death and smash them both. Now, which rock do you care for? Obviously the rock with more of a personality, back-story, and have had time to care for. And this is why I find no excitement whilst watching the show and why I don't care about anything that is happening.
Now, people may argue against me by suggesting I am taking the anime too seriously and should just shut my brain off and enjoy the series as a rule of cool, dumb show, since there are plenty of pretty silly elements, and the games in the anime are the reason why I should be watching it since that is the main appeal of the show. Now, this isn't necessarily a bad stance to take, and I want to clarify now that I don't begrudge anyone who has actually managed to derive entertainment from this show, but I can't see the show in this light since I found most of the elements to pretty boring, especially all the games, which, for a show that is focused completely around this idea, is a pretty bad sign on the quality of the work!
Each game in Bukkakegurui is boring, lifeless and we don't learn anything during the match about either participant involved, other than, sometimes, very short back stories consisting of only thirty seconds or so. Most of the games are essentially just Yumeko winning by either complete luck, or figuring out how her opponent is cheating in some way and the way she determines this and discovers how they are doing so feels so contrived and stupid that I want to slam my face into a wall. Now, luck is a HUGE aspect of gambling, so therefore her wins through luck are not necessarily that bad (even though it really pushes it in plenty of places) but there's no attempt at creating anything interesting. Aside from the games being incredibly simple anyway, there is no psychological battles taking part, none of the characters are attempting to outwit one another and there is hardly anything present that made Kaiji's games interesting. You never really get that cathartic feeling when you witness an intense match go on for ages when a character outsmarts another in some creative way as you say to yourself, "Ah! How clever!" The few times they do try and throw a curveball into the games or when Yumeko tries to outwit her opponent it feel so weak and dry since the in-the-moment logic is incredibly shallow and the way the story tries to awkwardly implement in these elements is so insulting to the intelligence of the audience as the show thinks that by throwing some random curveball at the final moment is a plot-twist or a smart way to deceive the audience since they didn't see it coming, because it appeared out of thin air. The only time the anime ever comes close to being somewhat entertaining during a match is in episodes six and seven where Yumeko gambles against someone who, believe it or not, is even more insane than she is, by the name of Midari Ikishima, a girl who finds pleasure in harming herself through the use of gambling. During her match with Yumeko, they both decide to play Russian roulette, which raises the narrative stakes and tension since it introduces the consequence of death into the game, although it is hard to care for anything that is going on, because, as I've said, the characters are dry and boring, and also because it's pretty obvious that nobody will actually die during the match anyway, but still the scene comes the closest out of any to actually entertain me, and, even then, the scene is still incredibly weak.
The characters, as I've previously mentioned, are all incredibly hard to care for, and are pretty much all absolutely insane! Most of the characters take the utmost pleasure in laughing hysterically at their enemies, smiling and looking down upon them during a game if it is going in their favour, which makes everyone feel like an unlikeable, one dimensional asshole. The show often utilises cheap victimisation in a pathetic attempt to manipulate us into feeling sorry for these cardboard cut-outs, and nowhere is this more evident than in episode nine, where, a student council member who also happens to be an idol with a huge following, has her secret revealed to all of them, in which, recorded on a tape, she proclaims that she finds all of her fans to be absolutely disgusting and she hates the fact that she has to even shake their hands since it makes her puke. Despite that already sounding incredibly horrible anyway, she as a person is a complete and utter cunt, with no redeemable qualities, hiding behind the facade of being a wonderful idol. During the episode, when the secret is revealed, she breaks down crying, as she comes to the realization that her dream is now ruined. I expect that the creators of the show wanted the audience to sympathise with her, but how can we when she is such a horrible twat who got everything she deserved? And, if that's not already bad enough, the audience gets a direct kick to the nuts straight after when all of her fans forgive her! That's right! If you're a horrible person with no likeable traits who gets what they deserve, all is forgiven if you simply have a dream you want to uphold!
I could go on more and more about each one of the other characters, but at that point I'd be beating a dead horse since they all suffer from the exact same problems I've talked about before. Perhaps the only character who doesn't fit into this mould is one of our main protagonists, who offers so little to the narrative that you could omit him from the plot entirely and it wouldn't make a single difference! Now THAT'S a good main character! I suppose his main purpose is to act as the voice of reason and rationality in the story since he is the only sane character, and the one the audience can relate to the most, but if that's what they were attempting to do with his character, then they failed horribly since I honestly forget this guy is even here half the time. They try and make it out that he and Yumeko have this deep friendship, since she helped him recover from his debt in the beginning of the series, but their relationship feels superficial, as if the only reason they're even friends in the first place is just because the script dictates as such. His main purpose in the show is to deliver random expository dialogue and that's pretty much it.
If there's one thing that Bukkakegurui gets right, then that's in the animation and art department. The show is very visually appealing, with pretty attractive and striking character designs, that blend well with the rather unique school uniform designs too. Not only that, but the show has plenty of super detailed close-up shots of character's faces to convey, not only the insanity of each one, but to also represent the sexual euphoria each character attains whilst in the games, and Bukkakegurui does a good job in that area. It's clear that the animators put a lot of work into making the show as visually interesting as they possibly could, but it's not without its inconsistencies however. CGI is sometimes used during close-up shots of the player's hands when dealing with cards, and it not only looks terrible, but is so jarring as well. Luckily CGI isn't used all too much aside from this one instance for some odd reason, so I can let it slide for the most part. The music is overall fine, and pretty forgettable, mostly consisting of free-from jazz that is way too suave and sophisticated for a show at this level of trashiness. The opening and ending tracks however are both damn great! The opening especially I love, with its use of stylish visuals and fantastic music, which almost tricks you into thinking that the actual show will carry the same energy and charisma. The voice actors as well all do a pretty stellar job in their respective roles, perfectly capturing the voice of someone who is insane!
In conclusion, Bukkakegurui was a massive disappointment, and I think that's what makes the show ultimately more aggravating for me. While I dislike using the word to describe anything, I feel it is pretty appropriate when talking about this one, and that word is cringey! The show reeks of desperation, and tries way too hard to be edgy, and ends up just being embarrassing instead since many of the scenarios presented in the show, such as a scene in which Yumeko acts like a cat on all fours, feel as if they were written by a twelve-year-old. It fails as an intense thriller, it fails as a character study, it fails as a gambling show, but most importantly it fails at the most basic level to achieve any emotional connection with the audience. Bukkakegurui is a show more interested in over blown theatrics than it is in characters and the actual games itself, and the reason why this show is so bad. I can't even recommend this to be people on the grounds that it is "so bad that it's good". Just watch Kaiji instead...
Bukkakegurui is a word trademarked by the great NFMaster! All credit goes to that sexy bastard!