FANTASIA FEST 2021: ‘Kakegurui 2: Ultimate Russian Roulette’

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Kakegurui 2- But Why Tho

Kakegurui is a trip. It’s an absurd series that embraces ecchi elements and pushes the envelope by putting its characters in unsettling, hilarious, and over-the-top situations. But it does all of this within the walls of a high school. For the live-actions that have come out, the ecchi has been almost completely removed but everything else that makes the series what it is shines. Now, Kakegurui 2: Ultimate Russian Roulette is here to expand on the world Kakegurui’s existing live-action series and film.

No stranger to manga and anime adaptations—especially with his recent take on Tokyo RevengersTsutomu Hanabusa serves as the director and co-writer of Kakegurui 2. Additionally, the film is co-written by Minato Takano and is based on the manga by Homura Kawamoto and Tôru Naomura. Like the first film, Kakegurui 2 is an original story using the characters and world created by the mangaka to great effect. In the film, we’re back at Hyakkaoh Academy, where the students engage in compulsive gambling in order to climb the social ladder –and like virtually no academics at all. Following Yumeko Jabami’s (Minami Hamabe) victory in the last film which paved the way for a revolution in the high school, the student council led by Kirari (Elaiza Ikeda) does everything in its power to provoke her and dethrone her winning streaks.

To make matters worse, gambling debts are causing a proliferation of new”pets” (students unable to honor a bet) and they’re being consigned to forced labor. Worse still, Kirari makes a pact with the comedically evil Shikigami (Ryusei Fujii), an academy alumnus suspended who she two years earlier. But when his comeback raises the bar, putting students physically in harm’s way as he manipulates his opponents with real-world consequences, pushing them to fold. When Yumeko finds herself at the center of his obsession, she finds herself in a one-sided match that she must ultimately lose to prevent Shikigami from harming her friends and other students. And while that may seem like a spoiler, that’s only the beginning of the film’s conflict with the final act pushing Kiari and Yumeko to join forces once Shikigami positions himself to become the new President.

To say that Kakegurui 2 ups the ante doesn’t even begin to cover how far off the deep end this film goes. And I mean that in the best ways. Much like Tokyo Revengerswhich also screened at Fantasia Fest 2021, Hanabusa has gone to great lengths to focus on what makes Kakegurui, well, Kakegurui. And that friend is Yumeko.

As Yuemko, Minami Hamabe is amazing. She’s alluring and chaotic and confident. She holds attention and the center of the story well. Yumeko’s intelligence and ability to read people is on full display in Kakegurui 2 that makes her compulsive gambling even more intimidating. Hanabusa also takes the time to realign the characters around her. Suzui, played by Mahiro Takasugi, was my biggest complaint of the first film. He was too loud and distracting but here, in Kakegurui 2, Suzui exists to support and uplift Yuemko. Additionally, we see Kirari in an expanded capacity in this film. Played by Elaiza Ikeda, she offers a cold and controlled foil to Yumeko that pushes the story not only in a narrative sense but an atmospheric one as well.

Another one of the key elements of this adaptation is capturing the exaggerated facial expressions and close-ups that the source material is known for. While this is achieved through the actors naturally exaggerating their smiles, their grimaces, and their eyes widening in shock, this is also pushed forward by the use of lighting. That said, the use of lighted tables also helps cast shadows on the characters’ faces that help evoke the facial aesthetic the series is known for. Additionally, the costuming in Kakegurui 2 works extremely well. While some hairstyles have been simplified in style or color, others maintain their signature looks perfectly, mainly Kiaria’s double braided loops. Additionally, the eccentricity of the student council is brought to life extremely well while Shikigami is somehow eccentric in his simplicity that works.

Finally, the way that exposition is incorporated into the film is balanced. At the beginning of the film, we get a simple reintroduction to Hyakkaoh Academy that helps new viewers get up to speed. Additionally, during the games, there are overlays and explanations that work to lay out the rules for the spectators in the movie and for the viewer as well. This helps keep the viewer from getting lost in the sometimes complicated rules and keep pace with the flow of the gambles.

Overall, Kakegurui 2: Ultimate Russian Roulette is perfect for fans of the manga and anime series without feeling repetitive. It’s an original story that nails exactly what makes this chaotic property a fan favorite. And with this, I want Hanabusa directing every anime/manga adaptation he can get his hands on.

Kakegurui 2: Ultimate Russian Roulette premiered at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.

Kakegurui 2: Ultimate Russian Roulette
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Overall, Kakegurui 2: Ultimate Russian Roulette is perfect for fans of the manga and anime series without feeling repetitive. It’s an original story that nails exactly what makes this chaotic property a fan favorite. And with this, I want Hanabusa directing every anime/manga adaptation he can get his hands on.