Ep. 61 – Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler, by Kawamoto and Naomura
Are you ready to try your luck on Kakegurui? All it could cost you is millions of yen… or your fingernails? David guides the team through this smash hit seinen manga that pits trust-fund-teens against one another in battles that cause embarrassment and ecstasy, skirting the line between schadenfreude and sadism! Place your bets on what Chip will think…
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Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler Volume 1
By Homura Kawamoto and Toru Naomura
Translated by Matthew Alberts
Lettered by Anthony Quintessenza
Published by Yen Press (Print/Digital)
Show notes by Christopher Woodrow-Butcher and Deb Aoki/ Audio editing by David Brothers.
Before We Get Started:
Hi, it’s Christopher. I literally started writing the show notes to this episode from Las Vegas, Nevada, gambling capital of the world. It was an unplanned coincidence… Or was it? I actually DID plan a trip with a friend before this episode, but just after we recorded it, Deb and I were chatting and I invited her to come hang out for a few days and she totally took me up on it… we both like Vegas. Anyway, between recording this episode talking about ‘compulsive gambling’, and when you’re listening to this, we just up and went to Vegas. A Nice Time Was Had By All.
Luckily, very little gambling took place, we escaped unscathed, but it did make for a lovely… confluence. Enjoy this episode.
01:45 Here’s what the Publisher, Yen Press, has to say about Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler
Hyakkaou Private Academy. An institution for the privileged with a very peculiar curriculum. You see, when you’re the sons and daughters of the wealthiest of the wealthy, it’s not athletic prowess or book-smarts that keep you ahead. It’s reading your opponent—the art of the deal. What better way to hone those skills than with a rigorous curriculum of gambling?
At Hyakkaou Private Academy, the winners live like kings, and the losers are put through the wringer. But when Yumeko Jabami enrolls, she’s gonna teach these kids what a high roller really looks like!Yen Press
02:15 “In the Jojo’s genre…” So as mentioned previously, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure by Hirohiko Araki is a long-running manga series in the Shonen Jump family of titles in Japan, and published by VIZ Media in English. It’s about a family with superpowers who keeps getting fucked-over through generations by one total asshole named Dio. The manga is divided into different ‘parts’, With the 8th part, ‘JojoLion’, having recently wrapped up in Japan and comprising volumes 105-131 of the series. Part 9 is supposed to start ‘soon.’
As for the similarity to Jojo’s, the “You think you’ve won, but actually I figured you out 6 moves ago and you don’t even now you’ve already lost’ that David mentions? That’s totally a thing, in Jojo’s, though I don’t know that it can be traced there. If you’re more of a superhero comics fan, think of it a little like Ozymandias’ speech, and reveal, at the end of Moore & Gibbons’ Watchmen, if that helps. But, as a frequent plot device. Very frequent. 🙂
Deb also wanted to mention that David’s comparison between Jojo’s and Kakegurui has some ‘official’ backing: The anime for both series’ are on Netflix, and the site recommends the one anime to fans of the other using their recommendation algorithm as a 96% match!
03:30 I think it is absolutely wild that David digs into a tangent like this, that actually points directly to media experiences that were formative to him as a young man that led him to this episode of the podcast. I love when we talk about this kind of stuff, where we draw all kinds of lines from North American culture to Japanese manga, with zig zags through our personal experiences along the way.
Here’s more about the Poison Ivy series of films, if you’re into that particular brand of ‘lurid’ cinematic content.
08:00 As David and Deb mention, in addition to the animated adaptation of Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler, there’s a live-action adaptation as well! Here’s a trailer for you to compare and contrast!
But wait, there’s more! It didn’t just get a live action adaptation, it actually got a two season television dramas, and TWO theatrically released sequel movies, the most recent of which was released just last year.
It is wild to research this stuff, I knew this series was popular, but not HOW popular.
Interestingly though, and here’s how you can really figure out how a series is doing, it looks like Wikipedia hasn’t been updated since the announcement of the second film in 2020… so there’s nothing (on English Wikipedia) about how the second movie did, updates to the manga, etc. I think when you look at fan-driven and user-driven things like this, it can be a good indication of the passion of the fans of something on the whole to see when Wikis and the like stopped getting updated. So judging by that, this is still a somewhat popular series, though clearly not quite as hot as it was at one point. Pretty neat.
Also, uh, when I went looking for a trailer to include on YouTube, I came across both movies uploaded in full, with unofficial English subs on that site. So at one point its popularity was uh… pretty huge.
Oh, and since we’re just going with this right now, I also found THIS video, a comparison put out on the official Netflix Anime channel, which compares the anime to the live action.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen an official source put something like this out before. Is this a thing? Is like, Crunchyroll doing this for their J-drama series’?
10:15 To clarify, the Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler manga series runs 14 volumes in English at present, with Volume 15 out now in Japan and scheduled to be released in English from Yen Press in September 2022.
Also, as Deb mentioned, there is a spin-off series coming out right now as well. Kakegurui Twin is by writer Kawamoto, with a new artist, Kei Saiki. It’s still ongoing in Japan, with 12 volumes out. A prequel to the main book, it has almost as many volumes. Just wild.
10:45 Yeah, I think David was really onto something with the sort of teenage/adolescent sexuality angle here, as there’s a pretty obvious sexual excitement to the gambling, at least for Yumeko…
[Deb:] Little nihongo note here: “Yume” means dream, so Yumeko’s name has the literal meaning of “dream child” — very appropriate, since gambling really is about chasing a dream of winning big (and the nightmare when you lose a lot).
12:15 Y’know, it’s not for me to say and I should probably stay in my lane, but while yeah, it’s all women doing things to other women, it’s also a bit like lesbian porn directed by and intended for men. The dude writing the series… is a dude. Heh. Like, he’s aware of what he’s doing.
Speaking of which, it didn’t come up on the podcast, but this writer also had a series debut, and then be cancelled after one chapter, in 2021, which may account for his drop in popularity? It’s a wild story, and I’m not sure exactly where I come down on it, but it’s… very funny, at the very least.
18:44 Chip’s dad swimming in that Scrooge McDuck money.
18:50 This whole story is awesome.
23:30 I gotta be honest, I never read much of the manga Ikki Tousen by Yuji Shiozaki, aka Battle Vixens as it was called when it was published in English by Tokyopop in the early 2000s. I sold a lot of it though, straight dudes love manga where girls fight and also their clothing gets torn. Lol. It sold very well at the beginning, but maybe reader enthusiasm for this series waned as it went on, at least among my customers, back in the mid-2000s. Admittedly, it’s 24 volumes and a VERY thin premise. How popular could it be…?
I was mid-writing that sentence, and then I went to Wikipedia to see how popular it actually got. According to Wikipedia, Ikki Tousen got FOUR SEASONS OF ANIME, and a bunch of OVA’s (original video animations, like mini-anime-movies, or occasionally anime mini-series). There’s a FIFTH ANIME SERIES debuting later this month. So pretty safe to say that IKKI TOUSEN is massively popular, and has remained consistently popular since the year 2000!
Man. Man. Teach me to underestimate the power of a high-school-fighting-anime.
24:00. That ‘Nipples’ thing, as I was saying it, I was like “This is not an original thought, Christopher. Where did this come from?” And like all things good and deeply cynical about manga, I thought it came from Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga, by Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma. But I just paged through, and… nope. It’s not there.
Anyway, if you know where I stole this from, let me know in the comments. 🙂
I did, however, come across this particular gem in that book.
Man, someone’s really gotta get on republishing this in English. This isn’t a hint btw, I think Deb and I would both love to do it, but it’s not currently on the horizon.
24:22 Once upon a time, in 2004, the biggest controversy in all of manga was centered around the manga Tenjho Tenge, by manga-ka Oh! Great (that’s his actual pen name). It’s another sexy battle-manga about high schoolers kicking each other’s asses, with scantily clad girls at the center of it. It ran for a whopping 22 volumes as well. The controversy came because the popular series (published in Ultra Jump Magazine in Japan!) was licensed by DC Comics’ short-lived CMX Manga imprint, that, after licensing the series because it was super-popular and highly-desired by North American fans, realized that they’d basically licensed a borderline softcore title, and DC was not cool with that at all. And so a campaign of covering-up the panty-shots and ripped clothes, ‘adjusting’ the cover art, and even wholesale cutting content from the release began. Fans lost their shit. DC basically cut an M-rated book (by a creator whose previous work in English was hentai published by Eros Comix) down to a ‘teen’ rating. The hubris of American publishers is basically unmatched.
I never got the real answer on this, maybe someone will pop up in the comments with some inside dirt, but I know at least one poor dude, editor Jake Tarbox, lost his job over it. If I had to guess, it wasn’t because of the censorship, but because the outcry made it to the real-world news and made DC execs look bad, and that’s way, way worse than censorship.
Anyway, manga scholar Jason Thompson wrote allll about this dumb censorship fail in his column House of 1000 Manga, I highly recommend you check out this whole article.
There is a silver-lining though, as a few years later, Del Rey Manga would publish the first 17 volumes of Oh! Great’s next series Air Gear, and Kodansha would take over the license and complete the series in 37 volumes. It’s now completely out of print, but you can read it (legally!) on Azuki.
Perhaps even better for fans of well-drawn, scantily-clad action manga, VIZ went back and did a prestige two-in-one release of Tenjo Tenge in 2011, a completely uncut, M-rated comic, that actually did alright for having come out after the manga boom sorta/kinda busted. It’s even still in print, and in digital, if you wanna see what all the fuss is about.
26:55 Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, is a food/battle manga created by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki, with the contribution of Yuki Morisaki, which ran for 36 volumes in Shonen Jump. Basically, it takes the shonen manga formula of defeating opponents and making them into allies, and makes the battleground “Kitchen Stadium” from Iron Chef. Oh, and the food is frequently SO GOOD that it causes the people who eat it to orgasm, and be displayed on the page in the throes of nude delight.
The whole thing is up on the Shonen Jump app to read, and the first three chapters are free.
[Deb:] To see the foodgasms and the mouthwatering dishes that inspire them in full color, check out the Food Wars anime series. It’s available on Netflix, Crunchyroll and a bunch of other streaming sites.
“Hey Christopher, why does it take you so long to do the show notes?” Maybe it’s because while writing them over the past two days, I’ve actually read more than 300 pages of manga for ‘background’. Hahaha. Including the first few chapters of Food Wars.
Reading it again, it really is a lot of fun. Maybe for the next time I suggest a book to Chip, I should actually take a page from David’s Tsutomu Nihei episode and actually suggest 3 or 4 first-chapters of manga instead. All stuff that’s available LEGALLY free online (which does cut down my options somewhat, but…), so everyone can read along, and then let him choose which of those titles he wants to read.
Hm. That might be a good idea!
Okay, Mangasplaining fans, lets get you involved. I’ll make one of my picks the first chapter of Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma. What are three other manga first-chapters I should recommend to Chip for my next ‘pick’? Remember, first chapter has to be online and free to read, LEGALLY (no scanlations etc.).
Sound off in the comments here (from our blog or Substack newsletter!)ーBest ones will be revealed on our June 21st episode.
31:10 Yeah, this continues the VERY manga/anime/young-adult-novel theme of “Rich kids doing stuff with no adults around and accountable to no one.” And like we mentioned on our Beastars, episode (Episode 13), it’s VERY Cruel Intentions too.
32:50 As Deb says, this is a kind of an… awkward translation. Let’s go GAMBLING MAD!
It’s weird too, because I think this is a moment where I personally would have left it in Japanese and glossed it, or instead gone with a waaaaay less literal translation. Like “I LOVE HIGH STAKES INSANITY!” or something that conveyed the intention, if not the literal translation. I dunno. Either leave it alone, or go full-SABAN on if it doesn’t make sense. Lol.
34:55 [Deb:] So I didn’t realize it at the time, but the other guys didn’t catch my reference to Fred Flintstone’s gambling addiction. In some episodes, Fred would get really excited about gambling, and he’d go into this state of involuntary hysteria / gambling madness where he’d start babbling “Bet bet bet BET BET!” and sirens would go off in the background, etc. Here’s a clip so you can see what I mean:
As some commenters on this YouTube video mentioned, this aspect of The Flintstones is from “the 1960s, when it is okay to laugh at a man’s gambling addiction.” This was also parodied on Family Guy:
36:45 Yeah, so this is one of the craziest parts of the book, ACTUALLY. The double page spread lamenting capitalism, along with the bible verse Matthew 13:12.
Here’s the best part: That line from the bible doesn’t mean what you think it means, at least not in context. Here’s Matthew 13:11-13
11: He replied, “The knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12: Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13: This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.’The KJ Bible
It’s about basically speaking in parables so that the people that believe in Jesus, I think they’re called believers? They get to understand the parable. But people who don’t believe, they take a different, wrong meaning from the parable, and think they got it right. Which.. Is actually what’s happening in the manga? This writer dude, Kawamoto, might be clever.
Or not, I mean maybe I’m the unbeliever who is misreading the parable, y’know?
38:50 This is a weird week in the show notes.
Black Lagoon by Rei Hiroe is a very-nice-looking seinen action manga published in English by VIZ. It’s about a group of reasonably kind-hearted riverboat pirates led by a girl who looks kinda like Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, but like the original one, not the new teen one. Anyway, a Japanese salaryman gets kidnapped, goes Stockholm Syndrome and joins the team, and a manga action adventure comic is born!
If I’ve messed this up, please, Derek, feel free to sound off in the comments with a better description. 😉
39:10 An UR-GENRE! F*ck, I was on fire with that one.
But yeah, “I want my protagonist to be a sexy lady in revealing clothing” really does transcend manga genres.
I Just remembered this image from Kaz’s recent strip for us on Mangasplaining Extra, and I thought I’d pop that on in here. “The world’s full of manga for straight people, right?” That’s an understatement, hahaha.
41:00 Chip didn’t care for the colours!
It’s weird because on those initial colour pages, I agree with him, they’re really basic and not great, but David is ALSO right when he says the chapter 3 title page from mid-way through the book is much nicer.
Also, huge shout-out to Yen Press for paying for a mid-book colour page! Very cool, a lot of publishers would’ve run that in B&W.
42:00 Here’s what I meant about the gaming chips in the opening sequence, page 11, next to the roulette wheel. This almost never happens, they’re never lined up like that, which makes this really discordant. It’s better later in the book, but it highlighted the artificial nature of the environment in a bad way.
42:40 Yeah, OMG the problems with this particular scene in the dining hall are… awful? Like I don’t usually wanna go in on a manga this hard, but this series made several hundred million dollars so I think we’re firmly in the territory of ‘fair game.’
- The characters are too close together, because
- The chairs are pushed too far into the table. If you follow the line of chairs from left to right, you see they’re pushed in all the way on the left, and line up perfectly with the chairs on the right, which means those students must only be 2-3cm deep
- And the fact that everything is in perfect rows has created the uncanny valley of chairs
- And those are the stiffest, most awkward-looking chairs I’ve ever seen
- The characters, perspective-wise, are not sitting across from each other. They’re 2-3 seats apart, but meant to LOOK like they’re sitting across from each other, but the artist doesn’t seem to know how perspective works.
46:00 Since Chip mentioned his Daredevil artistic collaborator Marco Checchetto, here’s a few pages where you can see how his figure-work interacts with computer-drawn (or assisted) backgrounds. I think Chip’s right, it’s well-integrated. The colouring helps a lot too, lots of mood in those two scenes. Good job, team Daredevil.
49:10: Gambling Apocalypse: KAIJI is the other big gambling manga out in English right now, created by Nobuyuki Fukumoto and published by our pals at DENPA Publishing. The publisher describes it thusly:
Ne’er-do-well Kaiji Itou’s shiftless existence is suddenly rattled by a visit from the yakuza. Burdened by debt and resentment, Kaiji is coerced into gambling for his worthless life. As the stakes grow higher and the rules become increasingly more bizarre, Kaiji must finally take the future into his own hands!DENPA
We couldn’t cover this one because it’s not available digitally, unfortunately! But maybe go buy yourself a copy.
[Deb:] If you want to get a flavor for what high stakes gambling is like in Kaiji, go take a peek at the anime, which is now streaming on Crunchyroll.
And that wraps up Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler! What did you think? Let us know in the comments!
50:12 THE BREAK! After this point time stamps are approximate.
And we’re back! This week we’re picking books to read! I think we all give some great picks very… diverse!
Deb picks In the Clear Moonlight Dusk, Volumes 1-2, by Mika Yamamori and published by Kodansha. Actually she picked volume 1, but after the episode she changed it up and asked us to read 2 volumes, because there’s a good twist in the second volume. Who are we not to agree?
Christopher picks Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It, by various artists, and published by Fantagraphics. Available in print and in digital! Reader discretion is DEFINITELY advised. This will be an NSFW episode on par with Dick Fight Island, probably.
David picks All-rounder Meguru Volume 1, by Hiroki Endo, and published by Kodansha. We actually discussed this last week in the show notes a little, and it’s an MMA manga. Our third sports manga! We’re gettin’ goin’ now…!
So that makes the upcoming lineup:
- Ep. 62 – My Love Mix-Up Volume 1
- Ep. 63 – All My Darling Daughters
- Ep. 64 – Blue Giant Volume 5 & 6
- Ep. 65 – Dai Dark Vol 1
- Ep. 66 – Cross Game Vol 1
- Ep. 67 – In the Clear Moonlit Dusk vol 1 & 2
- Ep. 68 – Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It
- Ep. 69 – All Rounder-Meguru Volume 1
Go out and get your copies today! 😀
59:24 I love that David and I both said “Shaman King” at the same time there. Haha. A manga that needed to have a LOT of pot leaf design motifs edited out of it the first time it came out. I think the current Kodansha omnibi are unedited, so you can check that out.
Anyway, yeah, that was an episode of Mangasplaining alright, we hope you enjoyed it! Thanks so much for listening!
Please support your local comic and manga specialty shop when purchasing these books, and you can find one near you at comicshoplocator.com. You can also check your local library for print and digital lending options, they have TONS of manga! Also, check us out at MangasplainingExtra.com, we’re doing cool stuff over there, like that Kaz comic up top. Finally, thanks to D.A.D.S. for their musical accompaniment this episode.
Ikkitousen is, tbh, one of my faves. It’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but shitty. ^_^ The sexy eyepatch character is the chinese hero Lu Meng. (a fact that broke my chinese literature friend’s brain.)
I’ve watched both the 1st season anime and first live-action and yeah, I’m with Christopher on this. It’s crazy, and OTT, but not…relaxing or fun for me. The revenge isn’t what I need – especially as their families aren’t harmed, just they are.
That said, I had a guest reviewer on Okazu who did such an incredibly brilliant review that I was motivated to watch the anime and live-action, so if it hits, it clearly hits!
For Chris’s first chapter suggestion, I’ve been hoping the crew would read Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 1, which is excellent, but they haven’t yet, and chapter one IS free online to read, so…
I will say, after reading the first chapter I was pretty much all-in on the series, and the cliffhanger at the end of Vol. 1 really cemented that opinion. As a bonus, Shirahama is another mangaka who very clearly LOVES drawing.
Kakegurui’s a blast, though I prefer how -extra- the anime version gets.
As to first chapter recommendations, so many to choose from but I’d love to see more people check out Kokkoku in the hopes that someday Kodansha will bless us with a print version. Dysfunctional family vs cult in a fight for control of time itself, with some great sci-fi hooks, terrible people on both sides, and creepy monsters.
Chapter 1 of Witch Hat Atelier and One Piece
Trying to think of something that would pair well with Food Wars, and the only thing that really comes to mind is men in the kitchen across the genres? Food Wars for shonen, the first 3 chapters of Sweetness & Lightning are free through Azuki for seinen, the first chapter of Otomen for shojo, and josei kinda has me stumped. Mr. Bride, maybe?
Whie this manga is really not my bag, the episode and discussion therein was thoroughly enjoyable. As Christopher mentions, you kinda started out on a tangent, but it felt all connective. Christopher, these show notes were truly amazing, I think I learned something new with each section. Just for that I’m grateful you discussed this manga. Really liked your theory on fan engagement vs. popularity. Kind of related to that, is mainstream success versus popularity. I feel like I see more ads for Kaiji’s multimedia tie-ins than I do for Kakgurui. (When this title was first brought up, I thought I had misremembered the title and premise of Kaiji, in fact!) That could just be because Kaiji’s film distributor is Toho and Kakegurui is distributed by the much smaller Gaga.