Episode 44: Kakegurui (2019)

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kakegurui live-action

We had the pleasure of covering Fantasia Fest 2020. By attending the virtual international film festival based in Montreal, we got the rare chance to watch a variety of manga and anime adaptations. The first of our coverage began with Wotakoi and now, we’re reviewing the live-action original story: Kakegurui. Based in the world of the manga, published in English by Yen Press by Homura Kawamoto and Toru Naomura of the same name, which was also made into a Netflix Original anime. The Kakegurui live-action had a lot on its shoulders and in this podcast review, our hosts dig into how it succeeded and where it could have improved.

The Kakegurui live-action first and foremost is an original story, which means it is able to push aside existing source material plot points and do its own thing. This is the first thing that the film does right. Directed by Tsutomu Hanabusa, and written by the mangaka Kawamoto and Naomura, with Hanabusa and Minato Takano as additional writing credits for adapting it to a screenplay, this film is fresh. By removing expectations of existing narratives, this film is able to set to play with the tropes and characters of Kakegurui without being stifled by them. In our last live-action review from Fantasia Fest, the deviations from the source are what cause a lot of failings. Here, it’s what makes the Kakegurui live-action thrive. Instead of trying to retell something, this film works to maintain the core of the source material while weaving a new story.

If you’re unfamiliar, Kakegurui takes place at Hyakkaoh Private Academy, where gambling determines the school’s hierarchy. Those who lose all their money and wind up in debt are “dogs” for the other students, and those with the most money run the school, with those at the top making up the infamous or illustrious (depending on which character’s perspective) student council.

Our main character is Yumeko, a transfer student who is in constant search of the ecstasy that gambling provides. This has led her to challenge the student council and beat all of those who have crossed her path. While fans of the source material will enter this film knowing Yumeko’s purpose, Kakegurui quickly recaps her wins, explains the school’s system, and reintroduces characters we would have met in the live-action series all within the first 20 minutes. Then, The Village enters. The central dynamic in this film is the Student Council and gambling versus the Village, a group of students who have fled the school’s hierarchy to escape debt and sworn off of gambling.

Additionally, by utilizing the actors from the existing live-action series, currently on Netflix, the Kakegurui live-action is able to provide a quick recap of past events by utilizing footage from that series. But that isn’t all, having worked together already, there is palatable chemistry between the characters that just works. Most importantly in the character of Yumeko Jambami played by Minami Hamabe. Her power on screen is everything we need in a live-action Yumeko and more.

Click the audio above for our full review.