First Impressions – Kakegurui

Let me first state that I get why a lot of people seem to have enjoyed Kakegurui.  But for me, it’s a very well-executed iteration of a template I generally dislike.  Awful, despicable characters, distorted faces nonstop, a preposterous premise totally divorced from reality, and an almost fetishistic love for humiliation.  These sorts of high school stories have become a sort of genre unto themselves, broadly speaking – and it’s not one that holds a lot of appeal for me.

Be that as it may, I do get it, as I said – by the second half of the episode I was sort of getting swept up in the tension of the moment.  But Kakegurui is going to have to prove it has a lot more to it than it showed in the premiere if it’s going to keep my attention.  The scam was almost laughably simple to figure out, yet was played off as something devilishly clever and subtle, seemingly without irony.  If we’re looking at week after week of schoolgirl gambling grifts played off as high drama that’s going to get old pretty fast.

But you know, it’s midnight as I write this, I’m exhausted, and tomorrow is an even crazier day at A/X.  I’ll take another look at this series when I’m in a better position to step back and really puzzle on just what kind of series it’s trying to be.

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16 comments

  1. G

    Enzo, this is really sad man. At first I though that you’re trying to appease the deranged philistines who enjoy this piece of excrement but it’s not just that. You’re not that cynical. Your problem goes much deeper than that and you earnestly believe that this is a matter of uh genre preference? You opt for the most cowardly cop out one can think of because you cannot explain to yourself why so many people like this shit. Instead of brutally shaming them for participating in this grotesque spectacle you pretend that you must have missed something so as to not have enjoyed this putrid cacophony.

    The final sentence here is laughable. Sure my dude, rewatch it 3-4 times and try to salvage that pure, elusive nuance….

  2. Bad day?

  3. M

    Brutally shamed? Are your alright dude? What is to be gained from shaming people? How is that productive or positive for anyone involved?
    Enzo has covered & criticized time and again anime’s creatively self-destructive tendency to rely on templates that appeal to niches. It’s literally the main thematic of the summer season, of 2017, and of anime’s downwards trend as a whole. We’re all weary. You’re just late to the party.

    Nobody’ll gain anything from criticizing this genre in particular. It appeals to whom watches it, and people do watch, which is why it self-perpetuates. If you’re trying to label it particularly “wronger” than other self-serving show patterns, then you miss the point, for it’s a different shade of the same cancer.

  4. I will reveal you a secret: the people who are protagonists of the amazingly contrived and outlandishly cruel happenings in this show *are not real*. Shocking, I know. These events are in fact fictional and whatever one’s take on the enjoyment that can be derived from witnessing them, to do so does not equate with being a sadistic psychopath who actually would be happy for them to take place in real life.

  5. G

    “We’re all weary. You’re just late to the party.”

    The patronizing and dismissing attitude of your post reveals that your weariness is extremely weak and your tolerance for bullshit suspiciously high. If you care about anime then this conciliatory attitude with garbage should infuriate you.

    You and Simone reach some particularly confused conclusions here. It’s not incorrect to think that Enzo’s post about this specific series triggered my response but it’s clearly not the first time he’s done this. Being sort of lucid about the state of the anime industry and then immediately and eagerly lapping up atrocious series is what he does on a regular basis. Kakegurui is obviously not the only offender here but it’s still a good, unambiguous indicator of a more generalized rot that Enzo pretends is nothing more than ”a matter of preference” or about ”unappreciated nuance due to a busy schedule” thereby making his world weary pose about actually existing anime a complete farce.

    Simone it honestly boggles my mind that you though it would be a good idea to write what you wrote. It’s probably not even maliciously dishonest. You are fighting a different battle in your head , talking to some imaginary person who believes the outlandish things you think I believe.

  6. D

    Goh, dude, you have mental problems. You call people ‘deranged’ because they happen to enjoy something you don’t. Seek help, for all of our sakes. It’s bad enough that you’re a mentally sick individual, but you’re also an incredibly arrogant sick individual. Worst combination of all.

  7. You’re done here. Next time it’s the spam folder.

  8. S

    This is my favorite series recently and your harsh review just puts me off… You clearly didnt’ read the manga at all, which is on-going over 8 volumes. how can 12 episodes sum it up nicely?
    –First, you need to know that the original art of the manga is freaking magnificent. The female characters are crazy and still beautiful. I do agree with you that the anime art is nowhere near that level, with distorted faces etc.
    –Secondly, you say the characters are “despicable”. No they don’t, at least most of them. Itsuki Sumeragi, the girl biting off her nails to show her determination, appeared to be a coward at first. That is “character development”. Dont take it as ” fetishistic love for humiliation” , this series is definitely not one of those series that teach you how to look down on people. Almost every side characters have something admirable. Read the manga carefully and you will understand what I say.
    (Seems like you just watch the first episode, dont judge it so soon man. You clearly dont get what the author is trying to write about at all. You will need a few times rereading the manga for better understanding , trust me on that bc I was too)

  9. D

    This isn’t my thing either. There’s just not a lot of pleasure to be had in watching awful people doing awful things to more awful people. Not saying you can’t have a good story to tell with that description, but it has to be well thought out, and I don’t think Kakegurui has what it takes to be something good. Not to mention, crazy people/people gone crazy in anime tend to tick me off many other archetypes, it’s not really good storytelling and most of the time, it’s a cheap way of creating a character without relatable motivations. At least that’s my take on it. I could be wrong, but those are my current feelings.

  10. M

    Shameless plug, but I’d say the Hateful Eight of Tarantino is a neat twist on the “awful people doing awful things to more awful people” scenario, done right & uniquely. By comparison, Kakegurui lacks the guts to depart from its formula to be that original and allow the “potential” of its premise to breathe. And it certainly lacks the characters that are the trademark of Tarantino.

    But we’ll see.

  11. Well, the Hateful Eight is also a beatiful commentary on the deep roots of hate and mistrust in US history. It works as well as it does because its conflict is entirely grounded: everyone is awful but everyone has a believable reason to be so due to past events, yet of course all that hate only begets more hate (and whatever hope is to be found is only in romanticised but ultimately mythical figures, as exemplified by the fake Abe Lincoln letter).

  12. M

    Tarantino actually explained in an interview how the commentary emerged out of the material between the Hateful Eights, since “Western reflects the America era” better than almost any other genre. And of course it works because it’s grounded; that’s a basic storytelling principle. Nothing contrived will feel real.

  13. D

    This series seems to be borrowing a lot from Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji, one of the last great Madhouse shows which was about gambling as well. However it lacks the “social” aspect of Kaiji, since the characters here are gambling for fun while Kaiji was gambling for survival.

    I did enjoy that episode a lot, this is simply a show that you are not supposed to take seriously. The fact that it cannont happen in reality is what makes it fun, the plot can go wherever it wants (I don’t know if it will, I didn’t read the source material). Think of it as a much more cynical, distorded version of Death Parade.

  14. Yeah, not buying that comparison – sorry!

  15. J

    I don’t know if Kaiji borrowed influence from anywhere else, but to me that Rock Paper Scissors game was a direct reference (or a stolen idea) from Kaiji’s Rock Paper Scissors, especially given how similar the cards looked.

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