FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF ANIME: NEW (10) YUMEKO JABAMI – KAKEGURUI (2017)
“Gambling is more fun the crazier it gets!”
— Yumeko Jabami
And now for a new tenth place entry in my Top 10 Girls of Anime. Sadly, my new entry replaces that hot slice of crazy, Future Diary’s Yuno Gasai (and they don’t come more hot slice of crazy than Yuno Gasai, a character that makes Harley Quinn look balanced and sane in comparison). Of course, I always have a soft spot for the crazy ones (which is why Yuno will now rank among my special mentions) and fortunately my new entry is another hot slice of crazy, Yumeko Jabami from Kagegurui or Compulsive Gambler, one of 2017’s most popular anime.
She’s even got crazy eyes to match those of Yuno Gasai, although Yumeko’s eyes are red rather than Yuno’s pink. Even more so as Yumeko’s red eyes are literally her crazy eyes – her natural eye color is brown and it’s only when she is consumed by her madness for gambling that her eyes glow red as artistic symbolism rather than a literal color change. (Whereas Yuno’s eyes were naturally pink, along with her hair – neither of which being unusual in anime. It was her expressions that made them her crazy eyes).
As in so many anime, the setting is high school (seriously, there are high schools even in anime set in the afterlife) – and not just any high school, but one of those fabulously weird schools that you only find in Japanese anime. In this case, it’s Hyakkaou Private Academy, school for the very richest students of Japan, numbering many future leaders and professionals among its graduates.
Unlike other schools, where the main curriculum is such mundane things as academic study or sport, the focus of Hyakkaou Private Academy – or at least its absurdly powerful student hierarchy – is on gambling. Or perhaps rather, the art of gambling – “the art of reading others and taking advantage of chaotic situations”. In fairness, I’ve had something of the same thought myself – that everyone should be taught the two games that are the best games of skills for life, chess and poker. However, at Hyakkaou, the stakes are absurdly high – students are encouraged to bet their fortunes against one another, with the losers becoming slaves or house ‘pets’ to the whims of those who hold their money (typically the student council, or its unscrupulous President, Kirari Momobami). And those are just the penny ante bets – as the series continues, students make bets that are distinctly hazardous to life and limb.
Enter the main protagonist (literally entering the school as a new transfer student) and titular compulsive gambler – Yumeko Jabami, who plays not so much for the win but for the thrill of putting everything on the line.
In the words of TV Tropes:
“Into this cutthroat environment, where survival of the fittest (and luckiest) is the law, enters Yumeko Jabami…whose disarmingly innocent facade belies a psychotic gambling addict, specializing in working around rigged schemes and beating her opponents at their own game, simply for the thrill of it all”.
As such, she actively begins to disrupt the hierarchy of the school, while the school council tries to find ways to shut her down – embarking on increasingly insane games with the movers and shakers of the school, working her way through the school council with her goal set on a match with the President.
I was particularly won over to Yumeko by recent lush cosplay of her, red eyes and all…