What’s the show? Kaguya-sama: Love Is War.
And what’s it about? At an elite high school two geniuses are engaged in a daily struggle for supremacy. Kaguya Shinomiya–a sophisticated girl from one of Japan’s wealthiest families and Miyuki Shirogane–a hard working boy whose also the student council president. Their battleground is Shujiin Academy and their fight is for each other’s hearts. They both have crushes on one-another but refuse to confess their feelings first because (in their eyes) to be doing so first would be to become the loser in their unspoken ‘war’. This over-the-top romantic comedy follows their exploits at school as they play mind games in order to get the other person to confess first.
So it’s kind of like…? I’ve seen the comparison (even before the series aired–in reference to the manga) as a sort of ‘Death Note’ style “battle of the brains” except it’s a romantic comedy. And while it’s an apt comparison for both the narrative arc (so far) and the visual style (kinda emo) it fails to reflect one massive factor that ‘Kaguya-sama’ has over ‘Death Note’.
Oh and what’s that? This show has a heart–a massive, angsty, childish, beating heart that’s not so evident at the start but as the series continues and layers a stripped from the surface the raw emotion of the series begins to show–and it’s all the more beautiful for it.
Right, but we’re not going to spend all review comparing it to ‘Death Note’ are we? Of course not, this series deserves to be judged on its own merits and it’s merits are strong. Personally, I think the first two episodes are the weakest and work against the show’s overall intent but once that hurdle is cleared it’s smooth sailing from there on out.
And the characters? They’ve all got their good points and bad points, the strengths and weaknesses–and that’s what makes them so interesting. Sure there’s a level of cliche built into their archetypes but they’re also presented as uniquely human characters with original thoughts and unexpected reactions to events brought before them. If we’re to talk about the four main characters, Yu Ishigami–the introverted, “gamer” who ends up with his proverbial foot in his own mouth is about the closest thing to an audience analogue–he’s also something of a whipping boy and that speaks volumes of what the author thinks of its audience–but that’s a subject for another day. Then… then there’s Chika… *contented sighs*
Hello? You still there? Oh sorry, caught me daydreaming of Chika again! I do that from time to time.
Uh-huh, and what’s so interesting about Chika? Chika is the quintessential “manic pixie dream girl” trope, she’s high energy, high comedy and high cuteness. If Chika were an element in the atmosphere she’d be oxygen because I can’t live without her. Simply put, Chika is the best thing to happen to anime in all of 2018 and we should all be thankful to have lived at the same time as her…
So, she’s best girl then, yeah? Yeah. Pretty much…
And what about the actual two main characters, you know the romantic couple this show is actually about? They’re great. In fact anything less than a committed performance from either of these voice actors could have sunk this show but they deliver their all throughout and it is remarkable to behold. Shirogane–while usually deadpan on the surface moans and wails and even shrieks as we’re privy to his inner-monologue and it’s comedy gold every time as well as being relatable. Truthfully though it’s the titular Kaguya who steals the show. Sure, Chika is a blessed goldmine of waifu material but Kaguya is a layered and multi-faceted character played to perfection by her VA Aoi Koga–a relative newcomer to the industry but one worthy of all the awards. Plus her dark ‘Wednesday Addams’-esque aesthetic reminds me of my various crushes (both real and fictional) from being a teenager and there’s something pleasantly nostalgic about that.
And anything you didn’t like about the show? Well as I briefly touched upon earlier (and made more of a mention of in my episode 1 review) initially the narrator is overbearing to the point of killing any kind of connection to the characters. He over-explains things as if people won’t understand what’s going on and interrupts the flow of almost every scene. Thankfully by the third episode entire scenes go by without his presence, his ‘enthusiasm’ is lessened and he’s used only when necessary. Suffice to say that had the narrator stayed the same as he was in the first two episodes this show would have been almost unwatchable. So if you’re on the fence about the show after a couple of episodes give it a couple more to see what the show actually ends up feeling like.
So final recommendation and score for ‘Kaguya-sama: Love Is War’? As far as a romantic-comedy with this kind of ‘gimmick’ goes it commits to it wholeheartedly and sells it too–while some people might find it silly I think it’s painfully endearing to the point where I can’t imagine the show without it. If you’re in the mood for a romantic comedy with “brains” (but not necessarily “smarts”) this is a fantastic and surprisingly heartwarming show. Love is all you need: 90 out of 100.
If you liked my post and want to support my content, please consider supporting my Patreon page, or donating by buying me a coffee on Ko-fi!