Shonen gambling series Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler took the anime world by storm ever since it premiered in the Summer 2017 season. With two seasons (so far) under its belt, the show struck a chord among viewers who enjoyed not only anime about high-stakes games, but also titles that featured outlandish school hijinks, psychological drama and of course, top-tier over-the-top reaction faces.
However, Kakegurui is far from the only gambling anime out there. Even aside from older works like Kaiji and Legendary Gambler Tetsuya, there are a plethora of more contemporary titles that are available for lovers of games of skill, strategy and good old-fashioned luck.
Death Parade Explores the Dark Side of Humanity
Decim is the owner of Quindecim, a bar located on the 15th floor of a vast tower. However, Decim isn’t just any bartender, and Quindecim isn’t just any bar -- he’s one of many arbiters in the afterlife whose job it is to host Death Games between pairs of people who have died at the same time, which will ultimately decide whether their souls will be reincarnated or banished into the void. His human assistant Chiyuki has no memory of her previous life, but she is now tasked with learning about these methods of judgment while helping the emotionless Decim learn about what makes people tick.
Easily one of the most popular titles to come out of the Winter 2015 anime season, Death Parade is just as much a psychological drama as it is about games and gambling. An anime-original, the series is very much centered on the darker side of humanity and the lengths people may go to in order to attempt to literally save their souls. Death Parade is both mysterious and suspenseful, and viewers are just as likely to be caught up in the show’s messages about morality as they are in the games themselves, which guests who arrive at Quindecim have no choice but to play.
No Game No Life Presents a Beautiful Controversy
Sora and his young stepsister Shiro are shut-ins who are known in the gaming world as the mysterious and completely undefeated group called Blank. One day, the god of games challenges them to a round of chess. Upon winning, Sora and Shiro are transported to Disboard -- a world in which every dispute, big or small, is decided through games. Determined to uphold their legendary winning streak, the pair now aims to conquer the sixteen ruling species of Disboard and become its next ruler, by fair means or foul.
No Game No Life manages to be a lot of things all at once: an isekai power fantasy, a supernatural adventure show, a surrealist comedy and possibly most contentiously given the age of Shiro’s character, an overtly sexual ecchi. While not exactly intended as a gateway anime for first-time anime viewers, those who are able to digest all this have especially praised No Game No Life’s artwork. The intentionally oversaturated visuals can only be described as riotously vibrant, bringing to mind other richly-colored shows such as Kyousou Giga, Mawaru Penguindrum, Katanagatari and Sunday Without God.
Rio: Rainbow Gate! Is the Gambling Anime Everybody Loves to Hate
The Howard Resort is an island casino in which Rio Rollins, a popular and skilled casino dealer known as “The Goddess of Victory,” is gifted with the ability to bring good luck to gamblers simply by walking past them. However, Rio's life is turned upside down when she learns that she is a Gate Holder; a dealer tasked with collecting 13 legendary Gate cards by battling other Gate Holders. Whoever manages this will be named the MVCD – the world’s Most Valuable Casino Dealer.
Rio: Rainbow Gate! is perhaps the most straightforward gambling anime out there because it is, first and foremost, a show that’s truly about casino gambling (well, that and fan service). It’s also one that plenty of anime fans love to hate, citing the sheer ridiculousness of its Gate Battles, its vastly underdeveloped characters and its poorly executed comedy. Nonetheless, the series has made a name for itself due to its unapologetic fan service -- expect enough maid outfits, bunny girls and mini-skirts to fill several anime -- and its contrived games. The series may suit viewers who simply want to shut off their brains and enjoy an anime that some have labeled bad enough to circle all the way back around to enjoyable.
Saki Provides a Safe Bet for Most Anime Fans
Miyanaga Saki is a high-school freshman with a dislike of mahjong despite her impressive skill at the game; due to being forced to play by her family, she has learned how to keep her score at zero, neither winning nor losing. However, when her friend persuades her to visit the school's mahjong club, Saki is immediately recruited by its members, who encourage her to win games rather than simply break even. Soon, Saki discovers a newfound love of mahjong as the club strives to qualify for the high school nationals, forging important friendships along the way.
For those seeking a somewhat more conventional gambling anime, Saki is the way to go. It’s essentially a school sports anime, but with mahjong instead of a more traditional sport like baseball or tennis. Its themes will also be safely familiar to viewers who are fans of “cute girls doing cute things” shows, as reflected by the fact that the 25-episode anime was followed by a 16-episode spin-off story and a 13-episode next main season (to say nothing of the numerous manga, games, OVAs, specials, and live-action films and TV shows).