Netflix sure knows how to pick them and it was like they knew Kakegurui is going to be the next big hit. In Japan, Kakegurui was already popular when Netflix found this gem and turned it into an anime series. They knew it was going to be loved by many fans all around the world.
Kakegurui, however, didn’t start as a series, but rather it was a traditional manga that was and still is a big hit in Japan. It is written by Homura Kawamoto and illustrated by Toru Naomura, and it is even published in English by Yen Press. It started publishing in 2014, and in 2017, it became an anime series released by MAPPA in Pajan. Then, in 2018, it was picked up by Netflix and became a major hit among various audiences.
Popularity in the West
It took some time for this anime series to become popular in the Western part of the world. Even though it was a huge success in the East, rarely did anyone recognize the quality of it when Netflix bought the license.
However, the series got a bit of an overnight boost and success thanks to several celebrities. In 2019, for example, Elon Musk was seen wearing the Kakegurui t-shirt. We all know that he is a big anime buff and his fans simply hopped on this trend and checked out what Kakegurui anime is about.
Another boost for this anime was the singer Poppy. We all know her for her slightly weird YouTube videos and music, but now everyone knows that she is a major Kakegurui fan as well. She performed during NXT’s Halloween Havoc episode and she showed up as Yumeko Jabami in her trademark red school uniform. This was well needed marketing from Poppy and Elon Musk and they seem to have brought the fame of Kakegurui to the Western part of the world overnight.
The manga and anime plot is set at an elite Japanese high school Hyakkaou Private Academy. The series follows Yumeko Jabami who is a compulsive gambler ready to shake things up.
Yumeko Jabami is a transfer student and the hierarchy in her new school is built on gambling. This is where children of Japan’s richest families are battling each other through gambling to climb on top of the hierarchy system. However, when they get into debt they are punished and have to become pets to other students and are given generic names, such as “Doggy” or “Kitty”. In case they cannot pay their debt, their punishment goes beyond the school and are considered pets outside of it.
But when our heroine arrives at the school, she is ready to shake up the status quo. We see Yumeko maneuvering this new system and she is driven by her inner desire for the thrill. However, she’s not like her peers and is not looking for popularity. Instead, she is an actual compulsive gambler with a high thirst for danger.
One thing is important – the anime doesn’t feature the classic gambling games that we all know. Instead, in order to be more dramatic and bring the intense atmosphere and absurdity of the entire hierarchy system, the games are much more dangerous and rely on fantasy elements. Some of the games that students play include Indian Poker, The Election, Nim Type Zero, Choice Poker, Double Memory, Greater Good Games, Finger Cutting Guillotine, Tower of Doors, and other (well, Finger Cutting Guillotine is quite a name for the ’innocent’ student gambling game).
And even though Kakegurui is all about some wild and dangerous gambling, it can scratch an itch for all adults that love gambling in real life. In reality, however, in order to enjoy the thrill of the risk and gambling, you don’t have to risk your life, like those beloved characters. You can casually try some basic not-so-life-threatening games such as the classic slots Mega Moolah, for example. And according to the Mega Moolah review, this game has one of the highest wins in the history of all slots, so you don’t have to worry about losing your status in the hierarchy. Unlike in Kakegurui, with slots like Mega Moolah, your winning chances are a lot higher, and you can enjoy the game more, since there is no threat of dying. But in the meantime, you can always watch Kakegurui, enjoy the thrill, and hope for those games never to come to life.
Kakegurui is a niche for itself when it comes to anime series. Especially the ones that are popular outside Japan, because in the Western parts, people tend to enjoy more shonen, battle, mahou shoujo, or isekai anime genres. Gambling anime is an unusual and unique concept and some may not know it exists. Luckily, thanks to a few big names in the celebrity world, this anime became a hit among much wider audiences, and for a good reason.