A Girl Named Mary Saotome Arrives at Hyakkaou Private Academy
Kakegurui was one of those works I did not think much about at first. I watched an episode on a whim and I was done with Season 1 in a weekend. Season 2 brought back all the high-stakes gambling and edge-of-your-set thrills that made the series so addicting. Kakegurui Twin continues with that formula but with its own flare.
Kakegurui Twin is a spin-off and prequel series that follows the rise of Mary Saotome. While we know how it will end, it’s less focused on the outcome and more on the path taken. At the same time, we watch how one of our favorite characters became the person they are.
It should be noted that I’m anime only, hence this review will not be comparing Kakegurui Twin with the manga but will rate it based on its own merit. Also this review is based on the dubbed version of the series.
A Targeted Girl
The series takes place at Hyakkaou Private Academy, a school in which one’s social status is based on their gambling ability. Those with a net gain are at the top of the hierarchy. Students in debt are socially reduced to the role of “housepet”. One year before the Yumeko Jabami arrived, Mary Saotome has transferred to the prestigious school.
We are introduced to the series by its narrator, Tsuzura Hanatemari. She is a kind-hearted student who is also shy and lacking confidence. Because of this, she has been reduced to a housepet. Everything changes for her when Mary Saotome arrives and beats one of her tormentors in a game of Speed President. Together they set about trying to rise the ranks and bring down the system. However, their sudden rise get the attention of numerous student councils. Some are out for blood while others want to recruit them into their faction.
Right away, I have to commend how excellently casted the series is. Everyone naturally fits right into their respected roles. Kira Buckland once again showcases her ability to play a character who can command the room, even when the deck is stacked against them. Natalie Hoover’s performance as Tsuzura Hanatemari is also one that is well done by capturing that feeling we’ve all had at some point. Aleks Le really does capture the personification of a charming leader you should absolutely never trust.
An Honest Girl
If you watched Kakegurui then you already know everything about Hyakkaou Academy. Kakegurui Twin knows this and doesn’t waste any time retelling a familiar story. There are no callbacks to Season 1 or familiar moments. Instead, Tsuzura Hanatemari just gives us the cliff notes about how Mary Saotome arrives and starts making a name for herself. We know she becomes one of the top students so time doesn’t need to be wasted on hazing and small stuff.
Given that we know what happens to Mary, the stakes are not really that high. The series writers know this and are instead more focused on building suspense and tension. To do this they have to play against the viewer’s expectations. You won’t know who the traitors are or if Mary has hit a roadblock. Thus you have a more thrilling series with surprises around every corner. All of this makes this an exceptionally written season that avoids many of the pitfalls that most prequels hit.
The quality of the animation has always been good but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be shaken up. Kakegurui Twin keeps the quality of its predecessors while also playing around with the color settings to help set the mood. These all work to its advantage by conjecting the right tone for the moment.
A Traitorous Girl
One issue I had with Kakegurui Twin is that some episodes were not properly paced. By this, I mean transitioning from one moment to another was not properly paced. A few episodes would end at the worst point. This can be attributed to the show’s 30min runtime not being factored in when creating some of these episodes.
A Resisting Girl
This is a series that knows it can’t be another season of Kakegurui. Instead, it works to play against expectations with a solid cast. It also doesn’t forget about the thrills of gambling and how intense a high-stakes game could be.
With its focus on Mary Saotome’s story, Kakegurui Twin does everything right when it comes to being a well-done prequel. The high-stakes thrills are still present but the tension is focused elsewhere in the moment. At the same time, we see the return of so many iconic characters.
Disclaimer: I watched this on Netflix, which I pay for.
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Kakegurui Twin (Netflix)
- It doesn't waste any time retelling a familiar story.
- Excellently casted as everyone naturally fits right into their respected roles.
- Tension is more thrilling as it will throw you off.
- Visually appealing with its play on colors.
- Some episodes were poorly paced and ended abruptly.