Fantasia 2021: KAKEGURUI PART 2: DESPERATE RUSSIAN ROULETTE Review

Just last year I wrote about the crazy manga adaptation Kakegurui (translated to “compulsive gambler”) which was shown at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal. A year later the madness is back Kakegurui Part 2: Desperate Russian Roulette, a title that adequately indicates the increase in exaggerated, anime-inspired craziness from the first entry in the series.

Tsutomu Hanabusa returns as a director, with the main cast repeating their roles as rich kids in a posh high school that focuses 100% on gambling rather than actual school work. Sure, there are classrooms technically, but there’s no teacher in sight and all these brats will ever do is play in every possible way.

A short time after the events of the first film, the power dynamic of the academy is completely out of whack after Yumeko’s victory over the student council. In a last-ditch effort to regain control of the student body, the council enlists the help of Makuro Shikigami (Ryusei Fujii), a former college student previously suspended for his violent tactics used to win the games played. After using a few dirty tricks to eliminate multiple potential threats, Makuro faces off against Yumeko in a deadly Russian roulette game.

If you saw the first film, which is a must-have to really understand everything that is going on here, you are in familiar territory. The overstimulation comes into its own, with Hanabusa doing its best to bring the live action as close to the animated version as possible, complete with insane overhands and visual flourishes that exaggerate the characters’ emotions and reactions to the greatest extent. It’s a method many will find, and something that viewers of many anime-to-live-action adaptations know and either love or hate.

While the craziness of the first film didn’t bother me, the level at which things escalate in the sequel got on my nerves more than once. Makuro is a wildly annoying character who every utterance his mouth makes is so exaggerated and intense that most of the time I just wanted him to shut up and play the game. Makuro also has this strange ability to see people’s emotional state and seems to descend from the desperation of others. This isn’t really thoroughly researched and may come into play later in the series, but it does seem pretty insignificant on the whole.

That said, the actual games are fun, and the colorful characters are enough to ignore the more annoying aspects. Compared to the first entry, there are significantly fewer games that the children play, but the Russian roulette, which takes up a decent portion of the running time, is sufficiently exciting and significantly increases the stakes compared to what takes place in part 1.
Kakegurui part 2 Leans heavily on the concept that a sequel has to be bigger and bolder than the original; and while this doesn’t always work in its favor, this is still a fun piece of live-action anime craze, and I’ll sign up for Part 3 when that inevitably falls in a year or so.


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