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

There are no heroes in Kakegurui, but we would be forgiven for thinking that the the main character, Yumeko, represents divine justice for the architects and participants in an abusive system. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Although she “rights wrongs” along the way, and she seems to believe in fairness and friendship in her own way, Yumeko is no revolutionary, and she never was. For those that find fault in the “heaven or hell” system, Yumeko is no savior

Yumeko’s Twisted Insanity Makes Kakegurui Both Fascinating and Terrifying

[This article contains spoilers of the final episode of Kakeguri — Compulsive Gambler.]

Like many other student council, “level boss” style series, we are introduced to Jabami Yumeko as a heroine on a mission. She arrives as a transfer student into an elite private high school where there largely appears to be only one real educational concept: gambling. We see almost no club activities, no school events, and no classes—though classrooms are used for gambling between classes, during lunch, or after school.

Almost all of the students are from extremely elite backgrounds, and it’s unlikely they would really need any kind of typical high school education. Their purpose in the school seems to be to learn the kind of negotiating, risk-taking, and indeed gambling skills they would need in politics or a board room. In addition, it allows for a creation of an extensive system of patronage, owed favors, and hierarchical control that could eventually be carried out into the adult world.

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

Suzui Ryota is the straight-man character that serves as our narrator. There is no explanation of how such a “normal person” has even entered the school. He doesn’t seem to be particularly financially well-off, we never learn his background, and his sole purpose seems to be to represent us. We will never forget just how insane everyone else is because his presence reminds us that everything is very strange. Therefore, since he clearly exists to remind us that none of this is normal, ultimately, the series is not about him. 

Why Ryōta Is a Necessary Character in Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler

The series is about Yumeko. Ryota constantly reminds us, by reminding himself, that while Yumeko seems fully capable of kindness, compassion, and genuine affection, she is no more sane than anyone else in the school. Yumeko does save Ryota, Mari, and Itsuki—and arguably helps improve several other situations during her gambling battles with the student council—however, at no point is that her actual goal. It is often simply a component of how she achieves her goals—or is a happy, additional outcome.

Yumeko is not a heroine nor does she see herself as one.

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

Yumeko is also not an “anti-heroine.” She fits none of the “anti” characteristics. While she often aids her friends in ways which serve to benefit her own desires, she is absolutely incapable of seeing her desires are merely her own self-interest. She genuinely believes that her goals—in pursuit of the ultimate gambling thrill—are completely normal. For her, if there is any wrong to be found, it is that some (especially those in the student council) place some other concern or motive above the simple thrill that comes from gambling. 

Indeed, Yumeko is best thought of as a non-heroine. If such a thing can be spoken of in regards to protagonists. After her battle with the school’s student council president, we see that the two are not so dissimilar. And for those who would wish to see the student council president’s position removed, her system abolished, and the school return to some kind of sanity, we see a true gamble lead to a tie. Instead of ending the system, Yumeko becomes a willing participant in its continuance. The only thing that has changed is perhaps the commitment to the thrill amongst those who remain in positions of power.

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

Ryota himself points out that while there have been changes at the school, as some characters have improved their positions and some have had disastrous falls, Yumeko has never changed. She has not grown as a protagonist. She offers us no lessons. The school remains in a system of “heaven or hell.” And rather than its destroyer, Yumeko will likely be its protector. As long, of course, as the risk is real and thrill is great. 

Kakegurui Isn’t about Gambling, It’s about Social Engineering

Kakegurui — Compulsive Gambler will air internationally on Netflix beginning on November 7, 2017.

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