The hit shonen series Kakegurui puts a fresh spin on the high school anime trope. The main characters are students at the elite Hyakkou Academy, where they learn how to navigate the dangerous waters of high-stakes gambling and games of chance. The protagonist is Yumeko Jabami, but that doesn't necessarily mean she is Best Girl.
It takes a lot to be a series' Best Boy or Girl, and while Yumeko is an exciting and unforgettable heroine, her character arc is relatively minimal. By contrast, her rival and friend Mary Saotome could easily be considered Kakegurui's Best Girl, since she checks off nearly every box required, from her tenacity and courage to her smooth story arc and strong presence in the series.
Mary Saotome's Underdog Character Arc In Kakegurui
Despite not being the overall protagonist of Kakegurui, the secondary character Mary Saotome has the arc of a proper shonen protagonist, starting with her initial defeat at Yumeko's hands. When she first appeared very early in Kakegurui, Mary was comfortable in her position in Hyakkou and was coasting on her moderate success.
Her defeat kicked her down to the bottom rung, and she suddenly had everything to gain and almost nothing to lose. That launched her character arc, and Mary grew as both a gambler and a person during her ascent to not simply reclaim her old status, but surpass it and reach the very top. In doing so, Mary became a better-rounded character and was defined by more than just her smug confidence.
Once Mary started this arc, she became more vulnerable and had to challenge herself to become stronger and better, as well as be more honest about her capabilities and position in Hyakkou. This character arc also helped Mary realize that she aims not to play by the student council's rules, but to smash apart the council and destroy the complex but delicate power system it maintains.
Mary experienced hope, crushing defeat, optimism, victory, extreme tension and more during this arc, and she conquered her fears all the while. Mary also proved that she is brave and ambitious, but not cruel, and that she is done with the petty power games she used to play. Paradoxically, becoming an ambitious rebel also made her kinder, which rounded out her character even more.
Mary's Position In The Story
Mary Saotome is defined not only by her shonen-style character arc and growth, but also by her relationship with her friends and rivals, such as Yumeko Jabami and Ryota Suzui. To Mary, Ryota is just an accessory -- a classmate who occasionally helps Yumeko without even realizing it. Mary doesn't think too highly of him, but she's willing to cooperate with him in games, proving that she's no longer a total loner in this dog-eat-dog school. More than that, Mary is defined by her relationship with Yumeko Jabami -- both her best friend and fiercest rival -- and this brings out the best in her.
Mary favors order and logic, and Yumeko is all about impulse and chaos, making them like the Joker and Batman, and they play off well against each other. However, this fascinating dynamic fleshes out Mary's character more than it does Yumeko's, since Yumeko is simply being her usual self, while her very nature brings out Mary's fierce but healthy competitive side.
Mary established herself as Kakegurui's Best Girl by declaring Yumeko her friend and rival, and by growing as a person while she both aids Yumeko and plots her downfall. Mary is many things at once during this character arc, from a rival and schemer to an ally and teammate, but most of all, she is Best Girl. She truly blossomed when Yumeko and Ryota entered her life, and she'll stop at nothing to become Hyakkou's best student -- and a better human being, too.