Kakegurui: The Franchise of Gambling Girls

Just a year ago in Summer 2017, the Western anime community is introduced to the world of Kakegurui (adaptation produced by MAPPA), where it was immediately compared to Kaiji (though in the manga community, I would compare it with Liar Game and especially Gamble Fish, the latter actually being in a school setting).

In MyAnimeList, it is one of the top animes of the season when it comes to anime fans taking notice of it and it attracted many due to the crazy faces when they end up gambling their inheritance & personhood away if they lose. But unfortunately, the anime is stuck with Netflix, where viewers can only watch the full series in this year (this is almost 6 months after it ended), and in Japan itself the DVD sales ended up being a flop, which is a surprise to me.

So why is it surprising? Cause (or maybe because of it) in Japan, and especially in its magazine, Gangan Joker (Square Enix being the publisher) utterly milk this series for all its worth.

How much is this milked? The legally published mangas (not those yuri fanart that the artist wanted to do) alone under the Kakegurui universe would have been comparable to an above average Shonen Jump series, and it has enough canon content in under 4 years to create an analysis that could reach 5,000 words if one is willing to become analytical or chatty.

Sit back, and watch the craziness unfold after imagining that you are watching the op of the anime while listening to the song.

Note: Since I’m just talking about the mangas of the franchise itself, I will not be talking about the anime adaptation & its original ending, the light novel where the cast went to a poolside resort, a mobile app game where you cheat to win and the upcoming live action adaptation just a year after the anime has concluded & they are adapting from the main manga instead of a spin-off that really should get some love.

Warning: Spoilers Abound, and the covers chosen are the one that I liked the most in this series.

Homura Kawamoto: The author of Kakegurui, and its many spin-offs

While there are many artists who worked on this franchise, all of them stems from one big mastermind, Homura Kawamoto. Looking at his work, it seems that he has 2 specialties-psychological mind games, and Kakegurui. He is also a very busy author, since aside from the Kakegurui franchise, he also worked with other artists with his other psychological stories (where works include being a laywer in another world, or using death as a weapon to gain an advantage in a mind game since everybody will ressurect after the game ended anyway).

Amusingly, the Kakegurui is actually his first serialized work as an manga author. Too well that it would utterly overshadowe everything else after corporation finished milking Kakegurui dry.

Author: Homura Kawamoto. Artist: Tooru Naomura
Serialized in Gangan Joker

Hyakkaou Private Academy. An institution for the privileged with a very peculiar curriculum. You see, when you’re the sons and daughters of the wealthiest of the wealthy, it’s not athletic prowess or book smarts that keep you ahead. It’s reading your opponent, the art of the deal. What better way to hone those skills than with a rigorous curriculum of gambling?

At Hyakkaou Private Academy, the winners live like kings, and the losers are put through the wringer. But when Yumeko Jabami enrolls, she’s gonna teach these kids what a high roller really looks like!

Why I Chose This Volume (6): Granted, most of the cover in this series are insanely well-done (well except for volume 8, I felt Kirari’s hair color is too saturated and don’t have volume). But this is the only standalone cover aside for 1 & 2 (3-5 & 7-9 are in a group, but they are also striking as well), and I like this because Jabami is staring at us offering a flower, while trying to goad me into gamble with her (and have us read the manga), the color use of red (lens, shirt, flower, fingernails, technically lips?) is done well and she looks like a high fashion model.-

The series that started it all, having 2 big arcs where Jabami goes against the Student Council, and then having a Presidential Election to become the Student Council president where she has to compete against her distantly related clan, and the Student Council President-Kirari Momobami who she manages to impress days later she enrolled in the academy.

The premise is rocky at first, since the main character-Jabami is not a character that you felt like rooting for since her founds herself in a game, she makes sure that the games are balanced for her as possible and you never really hear her thoughts, just through the eyes of her first random friend Suzui Ryota (many readers thought that he should just go away, but I think that he’s fine and at least doesn’t mess up things that bad). Most of all, even when she actually loses she just doesn’t really care, instead she relishes the loss like a tamed devil that knows that eventually, it can escape in no time. Which while it makes sense as a character, it would be struggling to invest in a character that just looks 2 dimensional in the first glance.

But then came the game with Midari Ikishima, where the author eventually decided that he wanted this manga to be about the characters that are playing the game, where the game itself while centered around Midari and why she became this way, it’s also a breakthrough where Jabami shows a rare emotion in rage and gratefulness towards Suzui who turned out to be a person that she can be friends with for a period of time & Mari who is starting to become her own character that is able to shine in the Presidential Election.

Speaking of Saotome Mary…

Kakegurui Futago (2015)
Author: Homura Kawamoto. Artist: Saiki Kei
Serialized in Gangan Joker (Yes, a prequel that is serialized in the same magazine with the original, one year later)

Set one year before the main story and centred around Saotome Mary.

Saotome, a bright young girl born into an ordinary family, has passed her transfer examinations and started to attend Hyakkaou Private Academy. It’s an elite school with a twist: gambling has become a central part of its academic activities. Saotome adapts quickly to this outlandish system, and will soon succumb to the gambling mania that she comes to be known for in Kakegurui.

(By the way, I just only found out that I can read the Chinese scans at the start of 2018)

Why I chose this volume (5): The shows one of the member of the Student Council (she a 3rd year in this series, so Yumeko will never get to meet her) strangling Mary in the neck, signifying her own domiance (and the dark tone in her skin seeping) towards her due to her own overwhelming gambling skills that causes Mary to fall into despair for a while (hence Mary’s dead looking eyes while she tries to get away from her influence). The history about that member is that she has a personal masohistic slave that is jealous of Mary being noticed over her, to the point that the slave is willing to help Mary pay off Mary’s debt after Mary lost against her master so that her master will pay undivided attention to the slave only. Lost? If you can read Chinese, you’ll get what I’m talking about.-

While it is definitely because of her popularity after working with Jabami, it is also because she would take too much screen time from Jabami when she is able to gamble, therefore Saotome Mary has her own series starting her first year (which is a year before Jabami transferred to this school and Midari before her eye is gouged by herself). Whatever it was, it paid off big time (though not enough for the scantalators or licensers to translate this series).

This is a series that MAPPA (or any other production that worked on Kaiji or whatever, I didn’t read or watch Kaiji anyway) should try to do it next. This is a series that Yen Press should try to license it for the Western manga readers.

Why? It goes to show that the author actually know how to write a more complex gambling game to compensate for an   that says spin-off at first (though it definitely gets better, just not for the enjoyable levels of Kakegurui), and a stronger story where the protagonist Mary gathers up friends (who we may never saw in the main manga itself) to become winners by creating a gambling den from the lowest point & training themselves to win against ordinary students that look down on her plebian upbringing and higher-ups that are interested in her personality & skills.

Some of the gambling matches are also more fun to watch than Kakegurui. For example: blind date where the girls needed to reject the boy in order to win the money, treasure hunt where the clues are a set of numbers, and having a tournament to win a prize by comparing test results. The variety alone sometimes even overshadowed Mary’s opponents, who are not really interesting (and some even feel like cardboard cutouts of the characters in the main series) until the latter chapters where recurring characters are able to appeal us into knowing about them.

I’m also not positive how the author will wrap everything up to match up with the timeline of Kakegurui regarding Mary. I’m sure that she would eventually fail in her quest and had to start over starting by controlling her class. And I don’t really know how will Suzui fit into this timeline that made Mary having an (obvious, you can’t deny it yuri fans) crush on him.

(One of my theory on why she will fail is because Suzui is the one who made her fail by crushing her bond with her best friend, making her despair & insane without knowing the true culprit. Furthermore, Suzui would try to encourage her by having her gamble against other students to rebuild her up, and willingly ended up being her pet to go against the Student Council. obviously, that’s a crackpot theory of me, but it’s fun right?)

Before I get to the other spin-off, I had to compare between the 2 works, since despite both of them are from the same author (as with his other works), both of them are quite different.

In Kakegurui, it’s strength comes from the artstyle, not only are the covers amazing to look at, the artist is willing to show a range of ugly pretty faces and managed to pull off the sexual prowess about being too vulgar. While I did felt that Jabami is a weaker character than Mari, Jabami presence & character is utterly needed for this plot to work, since she just bring out the crazy in everybody that gambles with her. Thus, it has a stronger ensemble cast in the main cast, the Student Council and the Momobami clan where the first 2 are able to realize their personality after the author has decided that what type of gambling series this manga is going to be.

(Unless your name is Nishinotouin, which, get well after being poisoned)

While in Kakegurui Futago, it has a better main character (won the popularity contest for the best girl) and better games that Jabami would have wanted to play. I also have to mention those games, as due to the difference in difficulty I’m surprised that it comes from the same author (which admittedly, had games that are rather simple to understand, especially when it is solved by Jabami). The losses are more crippling as well, while she never found herself become a housepet (for now in this series), she has way more self-doubt on the ability, understandable since she’s just a newbie who’s just barging in the gambling world with her wits and guts.

Overall, Kakegurui is more towards performance, where the readers would read it for the artstyle and how crazy the characters will develop due to the main character. While Kakegurui Futago is more towards technique, where readers would read it for the creativity of the games and how the setting control the main character.

Kakegurui Kakkokari (2016)
Author: Homura Kawamoto & Taku Kawamura. Artist: Taku Kawamura.
Serialized in Gangan Joker & MangaUP!

4-koma comedy spin-off of Kakegurui. So no favorite cover from me.

To be honest, the comedy itself is very hit-or-miss, since a part of the humor comes from misunderstanding (which can be quite repetitive) and the artsyle, while has its own flavor, can be seen as crude.

There are still some gems here. One of the better chapters comes from Mary wanting to train gambling skills, so she gamble with Jabami with eating sushi. Another strong chapter comes from the main cast playing the King Game, and suddenly, Kirari appeared & played with them. Interactions that are unable to realized in the main mangas itself is the charm here.

Kakegurui Midari (2017)
Author: Homura Kawamoto. Artist: Yuuichi Hiiragi.
Serialized in MangaUP! (A web app magazine from Square Enix)

Spin-off that focuses on Ikishima Midari and her past.

Why I Chose This Volume (2): Excuse me, this is gorgeous. Putting her in a corpse like pose with her gun as a favorite weapon for her afterlife while she’s close to eating one of her bullets, and she’s one of the only people where placing a flower onto her eye socket that makes sense. Also, given that she’s naked it seems that this series is more willing to be sexier than the main work. Ironically considering that Midari is not the most conventionally attractive of the cast.

Probably due to how impactful she is when she showed up and the 2 games she played in the main manga being quite short (she is eliminated very early on in the Presidential Election), the magazine decided to give her an exclusive spin-off about her, shows the start of Midari’s role in the student council and her not as suicidal state when it comes to gambling. unfortunately, the Chinese scans that I’ve read is currently very short (3 chapters in and it is still the first game).

Kakegurui Yorozu (2017)
Anthology Series featuring vaious authors & artists.

Kakegurui – Yorozu: Official Comic Anthology is the exciting anthology edition spin-off of the popular gambling girls franchise, Kakegurui! With 32 of today best artists all bringing their unique skills to the table there even more fun to be had with this collection of original manga stories.

When the first chapter of this anthology comes from the 2 main female characters kissing each other, you are in a good ride of character interactions (if you felt that the artsyle of Kakkokari is off-putting) that would never fit in the main story itself (especially since it is monthly). Though for me, my favorite (out of the 4 chapters in Chinese) is the one where the cast are in a fire drill program.


Kakegurui Ai (2018)
Author: Homura Kawamoto. Artist: Tooru Naomura.

The official Kakegurui Fan Book. Given that some people tagged it as Yuri, read it if you are able to get the scans on. It can be also be seen as a thank you book for everybody who has been supporting this series.

There you go, the Kakegurui series that is still recent in everybody minds.

Plus: Apperantly, Kakegurui has been announced that there will be a second season (or having some thoughts about it since it is not verified yet). Some viewer think that it will be about a continuation of the series (which might be for a good reason), though for me I prefere that they have some interest towards adapting Kakegurui Twin, which is very underrated narrative wise and should be known to the public. It’s a gamble, so why not, Mappa or the other anime production companies?

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