To appeal to most intended audiences, a huge variety of anime take place in high school — often typical, realistic schools like the ones found in Horimiya, Nisekoi and Komi Can’t Communicate. Other titles, such as Food Wars! and Kakegurui, put a whole new spin on the idea with their specialized settings.
Both Food Wars! and Kakegurui have the basics of high school anime — from teen boys and girls in uniforms to classrooms and student council presidents — but otherwise, these two series make high school feel like a whole different beast. They both act like shonen action stories without violence, and both have their merits. But given the choice between Totsuki and Hyakkou, one of these anime academies is far superior to the other.
Kakegurui: The High Stakes of Hyakkou Academy’s Gambling Lessons
Kakegurui takes place in the elite private school Hyakkou Academy, and nearly all its students are the sons and daughters of society’s elite. These students are loaded with millions of yen — all stemming from their parents’ successful careers as politicians or business leaders — and are taught to do one thing with all that cash: gamble.
Hyakkou’s philosophy is that modern society is a predatory jungle where the strong make the rules and nothing can be accomplished without great risk, so the students learn that lesson in gambling form. Investing, for example, is a sort of gambling, spinning the roulette wheel of big business to see if it pays off. Gambling isn’t just betting on random chance, either; it has elements of risk evaluation, reading the psychological profile of others, knowing when to cut losses, how to form or destroy partnerships, and more. All this gambling can be a lot of fun — for the winners.
Hyakkou’s students are free to challenge one another to a wide variety of games and activities, and they may belong to one of a number of clubs that put an emphasis on gambling. Kakegurui‘s school has a predatory nature to it, encouraging students to deceive, destroy and even betray one another to get ahead and rake in the cash. Even if clubs and friendships exist here, Hyakkou is about looking out for number one. Then there’s the student council, which exists not to guide or protect the students, but to oversee the games and treat the whole school like one giant aquarium. The himedere-style council president, Kirari Momobami, thinks this school serves one purpose: to amuse her.
Food Wars!: The Competitive Cooking of Totsuki Academy
Food Wars!‘ Totsuki Academy is another elite, specialized anime school, devoted entirely to the culinary arts. Students here are in for much more than a series of basic home economics classes; they are expected to quickly prove their worth as the next generation of legendary chefs, and learn to truly speak to their ingredients and create all-new dishes. Only the very best even get admitted into Totsuki, let alone graduate, and the school has brutal exams such as Hell Week (like food-oriented Navy SEAL trainees), not to mention endless competitions. Formal cooking duels are known as shokugeki, and the students involved must always wager something, tangible or not, before cooking. Such wagers can make or break a student, such as giving up a prized knife or getting kicked out of a club.
The Totsuki school is tough but fair overall, as protagonist Soma Yukihira saw for himself. Subpar students are often expelled and the cost of losing a shokugeki may be high, but on the plus side, Totsuki does much to nurture its students’ potential. It is home to dozens of specialized clubs based on different kinds of cooking styles and ingredients, and students are free to form friendships and partnerships to learn from one another.
There’s plenty of competition to be sure, but the power of friendship is real at Totsuki, and not all students are self-absorbed loners or backstabbers. The teachers in Food Wars! are highly demanding but push the students because they believe in their potential as trainee chefs. Then there’s the dean, Senzaemon Nakiri, who has a tough but wholesome attitude about food and a chef’s potential for success.
Kakegurui’s Hyakkou Vs Food Wars!’ Totsuki: Which Anime School Is Better?
Both Food Wars! and Kakegurui‘s elite anime schools have the benefit of generous funding and specialization, but in most regards, Totsuki Academy is far superior. It is vastly preferable for any anime character to attend; while it may be demanding, it’s also a nurturing environment where students are encouraged to learn and grow.
Clubs are based on common interests and community — not crushing other students as a clique like at Hyakkou — and the student council doesn’t treat the main student body as fish in an aquarium. It also helps that Totsuki’s students don’t dehumanize each other as “housepets” for their failures, in stark contrast to Hyakkou’s cruel traditions.
Finally, the students in Food Wars! learn vital, constructive lessons that can easily open the door to a successful career as a chef, restaurant owner or anything else in the culinary world, and society always has a demand for such things. By contrast, Kakegurui‘s emphasis on gambling is mostly just an excuse to watch rich kids torment each other. Hyakkou Academy is a financial meat grinder, not an institute that prepares students for future success.