What I personally define as a thriller is the illusion of engagement. The idea that we’re able to think on the same wavelength as the characters on screen makes us feel as though we’re just as intelligent as they are when in reality the series doesn’t give us any room to think about it on a psychological level. Kakegurui is a fair example of this. For instance, Yumeko and Meari are playing a game of rock, paper, scissors but the innovative touch is that they are playing it in a card game format. There are a variety of issues with this game but the easiest contradiction to point out is the method in which Yumeko found out that Meari was using the crowd to cheat.
Throughout the entirety of the game, the viewers have no knowledge as to what Yumeko is thinking or even given hints as to how she plans to figure out Meari’s scheme. In the form of an inner monologue, Meari tells us that 21 of 30 people in the crowd are her slaves who are, not only voting for specific cards in favor of Meari, but are also signaling to her what cards Yumeko has in her hands. Not that we could tell how many people were in the room in the first place as Kakegurui has this visual idea that the room should be endless and dark for the sake of setting the mood. But yeah, apparently it’s 30 and the only choice we have is to believe it.
Regardless, Meari concocts this plan that results in there being less scissors and more rocks and papers, lowering Yumeko’s chances of having scissors. Again, this whole plan is explained to us through Meari’s inner monologue, so, if you ever watched Yu-Gi-Oh!, you’d know that this only results in Meari’s plan being shattered when Yumeko luckily draws a scissors card.
By the way, when pot of greed is activated; it allows you to draw 2 new cards from your deck to your hand.
We’re not exactly shown how Yumeko was able to see through Meari’s scheme and that’s ultimately because the anime didn’t want us to engage in this Yumeko’s thought process. They just wanted us to *feel* engaged. But Yumeko eventually explains that she had a hand mirror she used to see the person behind her which was the same person signaling to Meari about the cards in Yumeko’s hands. Where did she hide the hand mirror and how was she able to take it out without nobody noticing? I do not know, but it happened and we just have to believe it.
The same problem appears in the second game in episode 2 where Yumeko wins because she noticed that specific cards had a small change in pattern, which to be honest, I would’ve been ashamed if she did lose this one. I mean, Itsuki’s trick wasn’t all that great. Any observant gambler would easily pick up on something like that. But the viewer wouldn’t be able to simply because even if we know Itsuki has a trick up her sleeves, there’s too many different scenarios that can take place. There’s hardly any guidance as to what her plan is until she eventually tells us via inner monologue.
That’s the main delivery of what makes Kakegurui a thriller or in lesser terms “light entertainment”. Furthermore, the characters are hardly impactful. Yumeko ,for one, is just a chick who gets off at betting large sums of money and is relatively harmless because despite her love for taking risks she’s hardly someone who’s willing to put another person in debt, she’d much rather pay them solely to gamble with her. I just don’t see myself following the adventure of someone just looking to gamble, especially when there’s nothing else to the character. But I think what I disliked about the characters the most is that I was associating them a lot with Danganronpa characters. Because the one thing I can appreciate is the uniqueness of the games and the association with their respective characters.
But where this concept falls short is how pathetic the character designs are. Most of them are just high school girls with different colored hairs. Heavy restrictions around the clothing department is what breaks it for me. Danganronpa follows a similar formula of associating the characters’ personalities and design with their talent and while some do wear parts of a school uniform, it is often heavily revamped to look more relatable to their specific talents. Kakegurui just opts to throwing uniforms on nearly everyone and it looks like there’s almost no effort in associating the designs with the game those characters specialize in. And I think it doesn’t help that the Danganronpa characters are just straight- up better characters- but hey… That’s… irrelevant.