This Week in Anime
Does Kakegurui twin Hold Up To Its Sibling Series?
by Steve Jones & Christopher Farris,
Kakegurui twin, a prequel series to Kakegurui following the exploits of Mary Saotome, has dropped on Netflix. Chris and Steve go all-in to determine whether this short series lives up to the original's unhinged thrills.
This series is streaming on Netflix
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Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Chris, I know it's outside of our usual purview, but I say animation is animation, and there's a cute new show on Cartoon Network that I'm dying to check out. Although I must admit, it seems to have a lot more arcane gambling schemes and lesbian BDSM than the cartoons I remember from my childhood.
This isn't too far off from the look of things when I covered Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt with Nick a few weeks back. And hey, the cutesy CalArts look might not be a bad fit for something that's effectively Kakegurui Babies.
And while the whole show doesn't look like that cuddly cartoony intro we just sampled, don't worry! The girls of Kakegurui remain as... cute... as ever.
It's worth noting too that this is Mary as we see her in the first episode of Kakegurui, i.e. gleefully bankrupting the male MC and turning him into her personal ottoman.
So it's extra funny that she begins Twin by desperately trying to make a single friend. She's got a long way to go.
But it is interesting to see this prequel open with Mary having a more socially optimistic take, before whatever occurred to drive her to simply buy as many friends as she wanted. We don't even get close to completing that character arc in this scant six episode run, but it creates a compelling unspoken implication even at this early stage of Mary's story.
A very gay partner in crime.
Seriously though, not only does Twin ditch the presumptive-POV dude from the regular series, but I need to stress that the only instances of heterosexual courtship in this show are 1) a rigged dating game entirely designed around the participants winning money off of each other, and 2) an arranged marriage that one side is only interested in from the angle of cynical political power.
Everything else is, uh
Mary, too, is a much different protagonist than Yumeko, who waltzes into Hyakkaou already a fully formed gambling demon raised exclusively on FKMT manga. By contrast, Mary is still getting her sea legs, and part of the fun of Twin is seeing her be fallible. She gets played a lot, and she has to think on her feet in order to spin the situation around and come out on top in the end.
With some heartwarming backup from her new friends.
As with so many other elements of Twin, the dynamic between Mary, Tsuzura, and Yukimi feels like it's just getting started due to how short this is. The opening act skims some details, notably how Mary and Tsuzura became childhood friends. But nevertheless, they provide that humanizing anchor for this slightly kinder, more trusting version of Mary, even as she's still clearly being, you know, Mary.
Obviously, the big question is where Tsuzura and Yukimi disappear to by the time Yumeko transfers. We're inclined to believe it can't be a happy ending, given Mary's state at the start of the main series, so that sense of impending tragedy is another compelling point in Twin's favor. It makes those scenes of genuine camaraderie all the more bittersweet.
Obviously, that ended up not being the case, and love triumphed after all in that situation, but it reinforces that this is a series with a built-in shoe ready to drop. I did look up later and discover that Twin has been going for 12 volumes and counting! But it's also notable that it's written by Homura Kawamoto, who is behind Kakegurui Prime, meaning this is all designed with some canon-compliant plan in mind.
"Oh, there it is!"
Juraku is a hell of a lot of fun. A blatantly sadistic dominatrix hell bent on manipulating every student into weeping submission, and relishing every single minute of it.
Plus, with those eyes, she's probably literally a demon. Wouldn't put it past the franchise.
Compared to the surprisingly wholesome gambling support group throuple of Mary, Tsuzura, and Yukimi, Juraku represents that less rosy sapphic element.
She actually makes for an interesting overarching antagonist for Mary, since as we see in the future series, Mary won't be opposed to person-ownership herself following her gaslight-gatekeep-girlboss-ification.
She also provides the setup for one of my favorite absurd cuts in this series.
Please do note that, in-story, that liquid is just Mary spilling the tea, but.
I understand that part of this series is seeing the process of Mary working her way up the school's hierarchy to even be able to compete with the higher-level insanity we've seen Yumeko handle. But both the stakes and execution feel disappointingly low a lot of the time, with nothing approaching the characters risking losing fingers or engaging in convoluted Russian Roulette spins.
On the other hand, we do get a sighting of a still-binocular Midari Ikishima living it up with her harem of bra-out gals, so all is forgiven.
Thankfully, I think the gaming action does come more alive when the show trots out a two-parter focusing on the most cutthroat, high-risk activity of all: dating.
And it only comes at the cost of Tsuzura's innocence.
This and that earlier maid-café mind game set up the arc for Mary where she starts to realize that taking rubes for rides feels kinda... good.
Part of me could read that as a cynical counter to any social movements supposedly against oppressive structures, arguing that people should only look out for themselves and their own. Especially since Mary is proven 100% right about Aoi's own self-interest by the end of this anime.
But then the other part of me knows this is all very early on in the actual story, and Mary still has a whole lot of ups and downs awaiting her on her journey.
In the meantime, we're treated to the high stakes drama of an old-fashioned treasure-box battle instead.
This one also gets close to the Kakegurui absurdity I know and love, having the characters puzzle their way through the kind of Dante-Must-Die Mode escape room problems that seem totally unintelligible until they explain everything at the very end.
And more importantly, it brings Sado back for more fun.
Which is just as well since the last gamble is yet another god-danged dice game!
Still, I like the part where Mary calls Tsuzura her real treasure. Women stay winning.
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