Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Kakegurui Twin’ on Netlfix, A Stylish, Adrenaline Rush of a Prequel

Kakegurui is one of the most stylish, arresting anime series Netflix ever thought to stamp its name on. It takes place at Hyakkaou Private Academy, a school where gambling is everything. Students live and die by their gambling prowess, and progress through life according to how much they win at the games they play or how much they owe. End up losing a game with high enough stakes, and you gamble away your entire life, becoming a “housepet”, no better than an animal. There are two seasons of the main story right now, with Kakegurui Twin expanding the narrative in a meaningful way. And it does so with plenty of style and panache.

Opening Shot: We see exterior and interior shots of Hyakkao Private Academy as heroine Tsuzura Hanatemari walks us through the rules of how to make it at this school, where gambling is your only way to make anything of yourself. Her narration is interspersed with a cartoon version of her as she explains the “housepet” system for those who lose money and owe debts at the academy.

The Gist: The first two seasons of Kakegurui on Netflix are a wild, fantastic ride. Kakegurui Twin is more of the same, and that’s great news. It’s a prequel to those two series, introducing regular and protagonist Mary Saotome (Kira Buckland) and how she made her way to the Academy in the first place. We also meet a new character, Tsuzura Hanatemari (Natalie Rose), who sees Saotome as something of a “prince”.

Saotome is new to the Academy and doesn’t know her way around, nor does she understand why she’s not making friends, despite her beauty, kindness, and how well she’s handled her gambling challenges. Hanatemari is infatuated with her, and lends Saotome money to tackle all comers in the gambling world. She comes from a rich family, but remains in “housepet” status despite her extra cash.

The pair are outsiders at Hyakkaou, and Saotome especially wants to take over to earn power at this bizarre school. Together, Saotome and Hanatemari will work to make others respect them, no matter what it takes. And Hanatemari is hoping for a romantic relationship between the two – making Saotome the girl she’s been looking for all this time. Of course, none of that is going to be simple. Not when everyone cheats and looks out for themselves. It’s going to be a long road.

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Since Kakegurui Twin is a prequel series to Kakegurui, your next viewing should be the main series, especially if you haven’t seen it. Otherwise, you might find yourself reminded of series like Death Parade or Future Diary, both series where there are significant stakes and tons of planning involved as well as those who cheat to get ahead.

Our Take: Kakegurui Twin is comprised of everything we love about the mainline seasons. Even though it changes the perspective to deuteragonist Mary Saotome, it delivers the dark humor, disturbing commitments to gambling, and the compulsions everyone has at Hyakkaou Academy to light and does so with excellent animation and voice acting.

Trying to play the straight and narrow at this school is impossible. Everyone is cliqued up, everyone cheats, and the games that people gamble in are sometimes borderline nonsensical. But there are always explanations, and even the outlandish ones make sense when you sit and think about it.

The ghoulish, ghastly expressions that come across the students’ faces when they’re worried, angry, or cheating are second to none, and reason alone to watch Kakegurui Twin. Otherwise, it’s a complete trip that comes with romance, drama, mystery, and slice of life elements. And if you like poker, dice games, card games, or high-stakes bets, you’ll feel at home here.

Sex and Skin: There’s no skin in the first episode, but there are heavy sexual undertones when it comes to Juraku’s housepet Mikura Sado (Suzie Yeung). It’s clear the two are engaged in a sadomasochistic relationship, even beyond that of what takes place at Hyakkaou Private Academy. There are brief scenes where Mikura writhes in pleasure and fantasizes about kissing and/or licking Juraku’s stocking-clad feet, for instance.

Parting Shot: As Hanatemari takes Saotome’s hand and holds it close to her. They peer into each other’s eyes as Hanatemari thinks about how lucky she is: she’s found her “prince”, or so she thinks, and it’s clear her future looks bright. The pair are going to team up and make something of themselves at the academy, and maybe even fall in love.

Sleeper Star: Amber Lee Connors is positively chilling at times as the sadistic Sachiko Juraku. She’s sweet as honey when she wants to be, with a dramatic sexiness to her voice, but completely heartless the next moment. She gives Juraku a compelling personality that’s absolutely perfect for the character. Because of this, I instantly fell in love with Juraku, despite how terrifyingly cruel she can be to those she decides she wants under her control.

Most Pilot-y Line: “She’s my dream girl! I don’t know where she came from, but I know she rode up on a white horse to give me her chivalrous hand! I think I found my prince!” Tsuzura Hanatemari has fallen deeply for Mary Saotome before the episode even ends. We don’t see Hanatemari in either season of Kakegurui proper, so it sets the stage: what happens to her throughout Kakegurui Twin?

Our Call: STREAM IT. Kakegurui Twin is beautifully animated, compelling extension of the main Kakegurui series that colors in some much-needed context for fans who watched the first two seasons. It may not include series favorite Yumeko Jabami, the veritable gambling demon, but Kakegurui Twin is an adrenaline rush all its own that should hopefully tide us all over until another season begins. MAPPA’s animation remains visually arresting, the English dub cast is near-perfect, and there’s more drama here than in the LBC. Don’t gamble your time away elsewhere. Be sure to watch Kakegurui Twin.

Brittany Vincent has been covering video games and tech for over a decade for publications like G4, Popular Science, Playboy, Variety, IGN, GamesRadar, Polygon, Kotaku, Maxim, GameSpot, and more. When she’s not writing or gaming, she’s collecting retro consoles and tech. Follow her on Twitter: @MolotovCupcake.