Image source: TVアニメ「賭ケグルイ」公式 on Twitter

This past weekend, the first two episodes of Kakegurui — Compulsive Gambler were shown at a special premiere event in Japan and Anime Now! was there to check it out. Welcome to the depths of gambling addiction madness.

The story of Kakegurui takes place in the Hyakkaou private school, an elite school where rich children go. What makes the school special is that gambling between students is encouraged and a hierarchy exists. The bottom 100 students are designated as “livestock” and treated as slaves. The livestock boys are called “pochi”—a generic name for dogs—and the livestock girls called “mi-ke”—a generic name for cats.

We are introduced to this world through the eyes of Ryota Suzui, a boy who, after losing over five million yen to his classmate, Mary Saotome, begins the story as the lowest ranking livestock with no hope of ever getting out of his debt hole.

Things change when Jabami Yumeko, a new transfer student, arrives. Yumeko is immediately targeted by Mary, who challenges Yumeko to a simple game…

Image source: TVアニメ「賭ケグルイ」公式 on Twitter

Format-wise, Kakegurui is not a particularly new setup. It’s the “mysterious ace transfer student” template. What makes the series interesting, however, is the games and the characters.

The games are fairly familiar but with a twist. There’s your standard rock-scissors-paper or Concentration, but all with added elements that change things up to make them more difficult or restricting—like outside influences that dictate what hand you can play. No game is without its cheaters and fun comes in trying to find out how someone is cheating and how they can be beaten despite their obvious advantage.

The character of Yumeko is both entertaining and fascinating. She’s a yandere character whose obsession isn’t a person, but the act of gambling itself. She dives headfirst into situations where she knows she’s at a disadvantage, not to win or to lose, but just to play the game.

Image source: TVアニメ「賭ケグルイ」公式 on Twitter

One of the appeals of the original manga is in the facial contortions of the characters. Even the cutest characters’ faces will twist into gruesome and animalistic expressions at climactic scenes, and the anime recreates them perfectly. The true madness of the characters is conveyed in almost horrifying intensity in the way their faces twist and sound of their teeth grinding. It’s one of those morbid fascinations where you’re repulsed, but can’t look away.

Image source: TVアニメ「賭ケグルイ」公式‏ on Twitter

Overall, Kakegurui serves as high-pressure entertainment. The intensity of the stakes are matched only by the intensity of the characters themselves for a nail-biting ride into the depths of gambling madness.

Don’t play with fire unless you’re willing to get burned.

Kakegurui — Compulsive Gambler is scheduled to air in Japan from July 1, 2017. There is currently no announcement of a simulcast.

Image source: TVアニメ「賭ケグルイ」公式 on Twitter

Edit: This article was edited to clarify Ryota’s role in the story.

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