(Spoilers up until episode 5 for Kakegurui in this review)
Anime is a medium that demands attention to detail.
Characters, plotlines, animation, music, etc – viewers are bombarded with many elements that require focus lest they go unnoticed. My post on Gakkou Gurashi’s OP would be an example of this.
So whenever I watch an episode of anime, I attempt to keep track of the important things. But I also try to least take note of episode titles, which is something that some people may overlook.
Admittedly, doing so is at least partially for The Lily Garden since I like to include the episode title in the title of episode reviews. However, I believe the title of an episode holds some value and merit. To me, episode titles are basically like summaries of episodes. More often than not, the title describe some of the important events that occur or mention the themes that popped up during an episode.
That, however, isn’t always the case. The first example that comes to mind would be Gintama. With episode titles such as “If You Stop And Think About It, Your Life’s A Lot Longer As An Old Guy Than A Kid! Whoa, Scary!” (episode 16) and “Stress Makes You Bald, But It’s Stressful To Avoid Stress, So You End Up Stressed Out Anyway, So In The End There’s Nothing You Can Do” (episode 53), the viewer is left with no idea of what to expect. And if I recall correctly, the author of the original source material sometimes chose titles that have little correlation to the content (or he would let his editor choose the title). In other words, these sort of episode titles give viewer little insight into an episode’s content.
And then there are series that make clever use of episode titles in a way that can cause the viewer to mistakenly assume this or that would happen. But, surprise, the viewer was wrong!
Recently, I came across an example of this in Kakegurui. After the main female protagonist, Yumeko, demonstrated skilled proficiency at (and an insane mindset towards) gambling for 2 episodes, she loses hard in episode 3 and becomes “livestock” due to her crippling amount of debt. As a result, the title for the following episode, “The Woman Who Became Livestock,” caused me to automatically assume that episode would primarily be about her. Sure enough, she gets involved in an event that could potentially allow her to take a few steps closer to escape the status of being livestock.
And then episode 5 had the title, “The Woman Who Became Human.” And once again I jumped to conclusions about the episode’s outcome. “Oh, since the title for episode 4 was referring to Yumeko, the title of episode 5 must be about Yumeko again. She’s going to win and claw her way out of being livestock.”
Yet the series had been banking on me to make this sort of assumption and played with me, much like how Yumeko makes use of yomi and plays around her opponents’ assumptions.
It turns out that the title was actually referring to Tsubomi, the quiet girl who was one of the three other people playing with Yumeko. Whereas Yumeko had become livestock through incurring a huge amount of debt, she doesn’t allow herself to become cowed or truly submissive. She has fun with the status, acting like a cat in front of her jeering peers, while still seeking to gamble to her heart’s content.
Meanwhile, it’s revealed that Tsubomi had truly become livestock. In an attempt to tolerate the merciless bullying she started to experience once she became livestock, the girl had closed off her emotions and started allowing others treat her poorly. But through Yumeko’s words of encouragement, Tsubomi realized she didn’t want to live like that and was thus allowed to make her own decision at the gambling table. This comprehension is accentuated with the fact that the episode title card popped up immediately after her declaration of being human.
Thus Tsubomi was the one who became “human” – not through the change of her status but through the change of her mindset. Tsubomi herself this after the game is over. Yes, she may be still be “livestock” in name. But if she doesn’t give up and continues to try to live her own life the way she wants to, then she’ll actually remain human.
As for Yumeko, stayed true to character by enjoying what happened despite the fact that she had to weaken her own position to do so. She is truly a compulsive gambler, through and through. Perhaps she, and the series itself, will continue to misdirect both other characters and the viewers through her clever plays and words.