「賭ケグルイの女」 (Kakegurui no Onna)
Well, certainly a conventional ending for the insanity. No denying Kakegurui gave what us what we wanted in plentiful crazy faces and ridiculous mental wrangling again, but I cannot help feeling something was missing for this finale. The great final showdown, the one thing teased heavily for over six weeks, came down to a set of tarot cards and a little Suzui magic? Sure we maybe have been spoiled with the dual episode games and outrageous bets, but I was hoping for something a little more sophisticated. It makes sense in terms of encouraging viewers to read the manga and leave space for a sequel if deemed necessary, but goddammit we had two perfect people for the ultimate match of betting doom! Leaving the academy is somewhat crazy (for a girl like Yumeko), but couldn’t we have received just a little more crazy?
For all my sadness though, it wasn’t that bad an episode. Every important character had their moment in the sun, Suzui found out what happens when you let Yumeko take the wheel, and the Jojo references (intended or not) were very real. We also had a game which more or less came down to chance (Runa conveniently hid the evidence) and let both poster girls literally go wild. It may not have been the best episode to date, but there’s no denying Kakegurui still knows how to put on a show.
Out of everything I covered this season, Kakegurui had to be the best entertainment-wise. This show was pure ecstasy, giving us more reaction faces than we know what to do with and showcasing some downright nasty suspense and psychology. While there were themes on the dangers of compulsive gambling and the tricks behind games of chance, this was one show where the flash was meant to replace the substance. Pure popcorn entertainment, no holds barred.
What particularly helped Kakegurui succeed was its emphasis on psychology. Everything always came down to the players’ mentalities and how they best coped with uncertainty and changing circumstance. The games might be important in determining how victory is achieved, but unlike say Kaiji they were never more than window dressing; this show was all about how the players mentally dealt with and figured each other out. Considering Kakegurui as only a gaming show would be missing its entire purpose and likely lead to disappointment. A lot of the games did not make sense or seemed poorly thought out because they never had to be perfect or realistic. So long as each game could set up a situation that let its players’ personalities shine and get us wanting more, it had accomplished its goal. Much like the school setting (which is pretty ludicrous), we were not meant to take any of Kakegurui’s background material seriously—this show was all about the suspense. As with horror series, it’s a love or hate thing.
Now while I may be singing Kakegurui’s praises, the show is certainly not without its flaws. Yumeko for example could be considered Mary Sue-esque in terms of victories. Little miss crazy largely faced off against single minded opponents who she would beat after a little foreplay. The script did change at times (i.e. Yumeko losing, draws occurring, or third party interference), but Kakegurui was more or less linear in nature. Normally such things grow boring after a while, but Kakegurui also successfully kept its material varied. Each game was radically different from the previous, so while Yumeko may have “won”, the experience always felt unique and fresh. Sure the single season run helped in condensing the material and keeping the pace up too, but a good chunk of Kakegurui’s weekly staying power was in its vivid imagination. It’s not often we get raving, masochistic immolators alongside realistic idols and nail-obsessed wannabes in the same show after all. Because the entire package provided a fun overall experience, the issues of story setup or character quirks/problems (looking at you Midari) could mostly be overlooked.
It may not have been the best show this season, but Kakegurui will definitely stick with me for a while to come. This was suspense and intrigue done right, an example of how to be fun and entertaining without worrying too much over the details. I’m not sure it could pull it off again should we get a sequel in the future (only so many game setups or character types out there after all), but I definitely wouldn’t turn my nose up at a round two. Sometimes you just want a bit of crazy, and Kakegurui gladly gives that in spades.