I love stories about love whether it’s in books, movies, tv shows, especially when the story blends both humor and heart. Kaguya-sama: Love is War does both perfectly and despite only having two seasons, one of which just ended a few weeks ago, it has already become one of my “go-to” watches when I just need something light-hearted that will make me literally laugh out loud.
Shuchiin Academy is a super-elite school and at the top are the student council’s President, Miyuki Shirogane, and Vice President, Kaguya Shinomiya. Shirogane is pretty close to being a genius and got into the school based on the fact that he has some of the highest grades in the country, while Shinomiya belongs to a very rich and influential family but she’s no slouch academically either. At first, they were sort of rivals, but once they joined the student council they became the perfect team and everyone looks upon them as being the perfect couple even though they are not in a romantic relationship.
But the truth is that after being together so much due to their activities with the Student Council, Shirogane and Shinomiya have developed feelings for each other. The problem is, they are both so full of pride that neither is willing to admit their feelings to the other because they believe that it would be a sign of weakness. So, the two start coming up with elaborate schemes to try and make the other confess. Who will in this battle of love?
I started watching this thinking it would be just another typical high school romance comedy anime. And in some ways it is, but at the same time, for me, it elevates the entire experience.
***Warning Spoilers Ahead***
Why do I love this anime, let me count the ways ;P
♥#1♥ – I love a good battle of wills and that is the entire premise of this show. From the opening credits of season 1 (which is one of my fave openings and yes I have downloaded the song to my Spotify account) which has a sort of Mr. and Mrs. Smith vibe…
…to the narrator that gives us a play by play of Shirogane’s and Shinomiya’s machinations and the results of each “match”, to the thoughts and actions of the two characters themselves when they are trying to outwit each other, each moment is a game of skill and intelligence.
The show sets each episode up with three different vignettes that pit Shirogane’s and Shinomiya’s pride against each other. The narrator will let us know the basic set-up, will guide the viewer through the game by explaining what tactics/counter-tactics they are trying to use, the obstacles that get thrown in their way, and ultimately the narrator declares the verdict – a win for one of the characters, a draw or a complete loss. My favorites are the losses of course – hee hee.
♥♥#2♥♥ I love the other members of the Student Council, namely Chika Fujiwara (Secretary) and Yu Ishigami (Treasurer).
Usually, Fujiwara is the type of character that would drive me absolutely bonkers but I adore her. Yes, she is the one who more often than not causes a lot of the misunderstandings and conflicts but I don’t mind because she has a really good heart, but isn’t a push-over. She can act like an airhead, but Shirogane did not surround himself with fools on the student council, so you just know there are hidden depths to her. The episodes where she tries to teach Shirogane to dance, play volleyball and sing are some of the best laugh out loud and touching episodes in the show. Also, she’s a member of a tabletop game club so the games she creates and tests out on her fellow council members add some wacky bits of fun and often lead to some epic ‘showdowns’ between Shinomiya and Shirogane.
Yu Ishigami is your typical emo/goth kid who is a self-proclaimed otaku. You see some moments where his intellect comes through, but more often than not he’s more interested in gaming than putting forth any academic effort, and he’s a bit socially awkward and always saying the wrong thing which could be another reason for his lack in popularity. His abject terror of Shinomiya is hysterical because in some ways it is spot on. In the second season, we get a little more of his backstory involving a misunderstanding and some bullying at his former school and darn it if that whole arc didn’t make me tear up a little.
There is another member that joins the second season, but I’m still working on my feelings for her. She’s a little too self-righteous for me.
Also, I should mention Shinomiya’s poor maid Ai Hayasaka. She’s often pulled into Shinomiya’s schemes and at times is the one who comes up with the plan to try and get Shirogane to confess. She seems to be rather fond of Shinomiya and at times is really the only person close to her, but I do wonder how much of that is due to her position as a personal maid and how much is genuine. Either way, she is fantastic at her job and has to pull some Mission Impossible-style stunts to assist Shinomiya in obtaining her goal.
♥♥♥#3♥♥♥ I like how the show treats Shinomiya’s and Shirogane’s relationship. When you put aside the battle of wills and goofy schemes they come up with to try and force a confession from each other, what you have is two characters that honestly and mutually respect one another. Granted from the little hints you get regarding their first meetings – which make it appear that Shinomiya was a bit of a snooty ice-princess at first – it appears that it took time for them to get to that place, and it seems like most of that was down to Shirogane’s dogged determination to gain her acceptance. The moments where this show really lets you peek into its heart are moments where the two of them are at their most sincere with each other and you just know that if they’d just get over their pride issues, no matter how understandable they may be, and allow themselves a little vulnerability they could be a real power couple in every respect.
What are some of my favorite moments?
Well, there is the constant fear that Shirogane has that anything he does will cause Shinomiya to tell him how “cute” it is in a tone dripping with condescension and disdain:
The one where Shinomiya is amazed that she’s the only one amongst the Student Council who has had a “first time” (which she thinks refers to just simply kissing someone and not even necessarily romantically):
The episode where the Shirogane wants the Student Council to go stargazing with him and he gets so caught up in his love for all things cosmos that he uncharacteristically gets really close to Shinomiya and causes her brain to short-circuit:
The one where Shinomiya decides to tutor Ishigami so he won’t fail his exams and bring shame upon the Student Council – aka Shirogane:
The time when Shirogane made sure Shinomiya wouldn’t miss the fireworks:
This time when Fujiwara is trying to teach Shirogane to dance for a school performance:
The time the Student Council talk Shinomiya into reading a Shojo Manga and she starts seeing Shirogane and Ishigami as shojo characters:
Are there any drawbacks?
Mmmm…probably, but honestly right now I’m too occupied with needing the light-hearted comedy of it all to really pay too close attention. I mean, while we know they go to classes during the day, I wonder how many they have to actually take. It seems more like when I was in college and took like three classes a day and then spent time just hanging out in the theater department offices or doing stuff in town vs. when I was in high school and had classes back to back all day except for lunch. But that’s really minor and very typical of these types of shows so can’t really call it a negative. I may come back and edit this at some point when I can think more clearly 😉
I confess (ha! See what I did there) that I struggle with how to really explain the show because I feel it’s really one to experience because the humor won’t come through in a post. I know there a lot of other comedic high school romance animes out there, but I really think everyone should give this one a chance. There’s just so much about it that really takes the typical tropes and then bends them to its will.
I know there is a recent live-action movie floating around out there, but from what I’ve seen of the trailers that might be a hard pass for me. Also, Funimation has started to dub the second season (why they started at S2 and not S1 is beyond me, but whatever) into English but so far I’m preferring the original Japanese sub. That’s mostly due to the deadpan and monotonous nature of the narrator’s voice. It just fits the show.
Honestly, though, while I may chuckle at shows that are supposed to be comedic I don’t really truly laugh at a lot, so the fact that this show actually makes me laugh, really laugh, is probably why it’s my top anime of this type. I mean yes, there are moments in such gems as Ouran High School Host Club, but not even that classic (which I will talk about at some point) made me laugh and have those moments of “awwwwwww” as much as Kaguya-sama: Love is War.
I’m debating whether or not to go back and read the manga since I don’t know if there will be a Season 3 and I need to know what happens between the President and Vice-President of the Student Council. And I need to know now!
Let’s talk about karuta and shogi…no seriously…
Some Bonus gifs:
Fujiwara’s dance at the end of S1 E3
Fujiwara is as bad at whistling as I am:
They’ve got each other in their sites:
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