With episodes four and five’s plot of Mary and Yumeko teaming up to regain their humanity and lives, I figured that now is a great time to drop a theory I have on two possible narrative theme elements of Kaegurui; The theme of power and freedom. Both episodes (including manga spoilers) and the ED provided me with more than enough evidence and clues to support these claims. Hell, I’ll throw in some theories I have about Yumeko’s personality because why not.
The first phase of the ED opens with separate, close focus shots of Yumeko’s ass and bouncing breasts; branding Kakegurui as a series of near hyper sexuality. Next, we see Yumeko walking in the rain unprotected. She doesn’t appear to mind the rain, or the problems it brings. This tells us that Yumeko is carefree: She loves taking risks and finds comfort in being reckless. In short, she marches to the rhythm of her own beat.
In the background, there is a peony flower – the Japanese symbol of daring bravery and wealth. People with bravery and wealth are powerful. Yumeko is a brave girl; she’s not bothered by high risk stakes or manipulation by outside sources. In fact, she enjoys it. To say she gains pleasure from it is a statement not far from the truth. Hyakkaou itself is rich in wealth, bravery, and power. Seeing the peony flowers in various Kakegurui manga covers and promotional materials is no coincidence in that sense.
The peony cycles through four colors: red, green, yellow-green, and purple.
In color theory, red is use for power. Now, what are the Hyakkaou students gambling for? Status and power above all. But, before you get the power, you must get the money. This leads us to the next color – green.
Green – most associated with money – and greed. Money makes the world go round. Money never sleeps like Wall Street. If gambling is the backbone of the school than money is the lifeblood. The student body is made up of the children of some of the richest and most powerful connected families of Japan.
Power is everything. Money rules all.
‘You gotta get the money first. Then when get the money, you get the power.’
-Tony Monata, Scarface (1983 American film)
‘All my life I want money and power.’
-Kendrick Lamar, Backseat (2012 American hip-hop single)
Next is yellow-green. We already analyze green, so let’s focus on yellow. Yellow represents logic, analysis, and brain stimulation. Gambling itself is a mental game; As you much analyze and read your opponent’s moves. Logic can greatly dictate the flow of a gambling match (if you’re extremely smart and/or know how to play the system that is). Yellow can also represent joy and happiness – something Yumeko tend to indulge herself in a lot through gambling.
Finally the color purple. Purple represents royalty, power, luxury, and nobility – four things in which the upper-class students either have obtained or inherited. The lower-class/livestock yearns for these four things they lack. Purple is also a mysterious, yet beautiful color. This works with Yumeko, as we do not know neither her origins, nor background. She’s also rather beautiful as her male peers were captivated by her beauty at first sight (and it’s implied Ryota has a crush on her based on her beauty).
This phase of the ED continues for a few bars of music, which builds up as the vocalist and instruments are layered in the melody.
There are quick, close focus shots of Yumeko’s chest, skirt, opened shirt, and finally, her lips. The animation of her lips sync with the vocalist singing “tagitte shimau wa!, or, “I’m overflowing!” in English.
Now, we’ve heard Yumeko say this line before in episode 2; as she gets aroused through gambling. Gambling excites Yumeko profoundly. Perhaps a bit too much however.
The ED transitions into phase two. The peony flower has exploded into red pedals. The pedals start to rotate around Yumeko. Now, remember that red means power. Who has the power in Hyakkaou? The student government has the power of course. Now, could that possibly mean that Yumeko will break up the student council’s power game, and have them wrapped around her fingers as the series progress?
These lyrics of the ending theme seem to suggest so:
‘So have your way with their souls.
Make them dance in the palm of your hand!’
Then again, this could also be a reference to how the student council control the lower class; removing their humanity, treating them as livestock, and dictating their lives through the Life Schedule Plan (more on that later).
After that, Yumeko tosses her blazer aside carelessly; her dress shirt open, revealing her cleavage and pink bra. Her arms are spread slightly. She walks with fluidity as she sways her hips back and forth, still soaked by the rain. Liberated from her “restrains” (the blazer and buttoned shirts), she wears a wide smile; As if she’s happy that she can be free. Perhaps this symbolize that in the future, she’ll finally be happy that she can be her true self – a fearless, limitless gambler.
There’s a bar of rest in the music, followed by an upskirt shot from the ground up. The downbeat directs us to the final phase. Yumeko’s arms and hair are raised high above her head. She walks with more confidence in each step. Multiple lights sync with the percussion, alternating between blue and pink at each bar. Five or six peony flowers appear in the background, each rotating like roulette wheels while the pedals of the original peony still dance around Yumeko.
The imagery increases with intensity, working in synergy with the music’s crescendo. The animation transitions to a set of poker chips ascending; This might hint that Yumeko will raise above the ranks of Hyakkou and the student government.
Finally, the ED ends with a focus shot of the Yumeko’s face. It’s blushed, her lips are parted, and her hair a mess. She appears she just been pleasured sexually for some odd reason (sex sells I guess). Also, note how her hair are red – just like the peony pedals. Perhaps she gains power and triumph over the student government overtime. Maybe I’m thinking way too deep into the shot, but whatever.
By analyzing the ED, I’ve theorized two the possible themes of Kakegurui are freedom and power.
Freedom plays a large role in the series. Students yearning to free themselves from their “pet” and “livestock” statues, as well as debts they owe to others. We first see this through Ryota and Mary’s game from the first episode. Of course, Ryota lost to Mary and became her pet as a result.
Later, after her defeat against Yumeko, Mary is force to surrender her life, and live the life that the student council crafted for her: the Life Schedule Plan (getting married to a senator, baring his children, etc.).
She enters a debt forgiveness gambling match with Yumeko (also suffering the same fate as Mary). The two join forces to lower their debt, thus one step closer in retaining their humanity and freedom. During this match, we’re introduced to Nanami, a young girl reduced to livestock status. She’s forced to partner up with minor villain Kiwatari. After realizing that she was coerced (as well as emotionally and mentally abused) into working for Kiwatari, Yumeko convinces Nanami to grow a backbone, fight for herself, and free herself from Kiwatari. Despite losing the match (coming in second place) and still having debt, Nanami gains a sense of freedom and confidence for herself.
As for the theme of power, it’s quite obvious. From episode 1 to the recent episode 5 (and the manga of course), power and status is played heavily in the series. Mary has power over Ryota for a time. Yumeko displays her power through extreme wit and intelligence. Students with status and money have power over the pets. The student government (made up of high ranking gamblers and students with political and financial connections) rule the school through their power. We see the fincinal status and connection with Itsuki (as her dad is the CEO of a toy company) and the political pull and ruling of the current ruthless Kirari Momobami.
Power is everything in Hyakkaou.
‘No one man should have all that power.’
–Kanye West, Power (2010 hip-hop single)
How did you like my analysis and theories? Think I’m spot on or am I’m just overthinking an ED and the music? I’m excited how things will play out in both the manga nad anime, as things are starting to get wild in episode 5. I’ve yet to read the manga but I heard from a friend that it’s nuts. Let me know what you think in the comments!
FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES:
The National Council of Problem Gambling. Just because a fictional character makes having a gambling addiction fun doesn’t mean it is in real life.
English and Japanese lyrics for the ED.
Mother’s Basement analysis of the OP of Kakegurui. Although this further inspired me to do this ED analysis, I wasn’t initially inspired by the video. I was more inspired by Anime Live Reaction analysis of Dragon Ball Super ED 7 to analyze anime lyrics and ED.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t done days 29 and 30 of the “30 Day of Anime Challenge”, it’s because I’ve been too heavily focus on other major projects right now. They will return soon.