Kaguya-sama: Love is War follows the interplay between student council president Miyuki Shirogane and vice president Kaguya Shinomiya, as they both try to elicit a confession of love from each other. Both being stubborn and prideful individuals, neither wants to be in the position of confessing, which sets up the premise for this war, laced with comedic moments and surprisingly expressive animation. Kaguya-sama: Love is War (Kaguya-sama) has its main characters go to ludicrous lengths to outdo each other, perhaps accidentally, depicting the ridiculous nature of dating. By establishing very stubborn and prideful characters, it creates an environment where, paradoxically, this romantic comedy sees very little romance. In twelve episodes, there are small victories made in each battle, but no one wins the war. What it amounts to is a frivolous competition where the victor doesn’t get what they want: for the other to confess their love. This is especially true in the final episode. Summer vacation is nearly over and neither Shirogane or Shinomiya have contacted each other, let alone gone out. Their lust for victory and penchant for competition got in the way of what they really want. Eventually, Shirogane makes a move by rushing Shinomiya and their friends to a distant city to see fireworks together. This pent-up desire to be with one another and the disappointment that they hadn’t done anything all summer led to Shirogane caving and making a move and to Shinomiya being enamored of her crush.
This reminded me of one of my favorite shows: The Office (U.S.). In it, a pair of characters have feelings for each other, but manage to misinterpret things or chicken out of asking the other out. Presented in a mockumentary-form, this show effectively depicts two sides of a seemingly real relationship that’s at the cusp of being something more, but keeps missing its chance. Being able to see both sides and the lack of progress, the audience can see how ridiculous getting past the initial barriers of dating can be.
With all of this, one would expect Shirogane and Shinomiya start dating. But they don’t. For the sake of comedy and keeping the show going, another misunderstanding prevents the two from sharing their feelings, ultimately destroying the characters’ development arcs. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting there to be a satisfying pay-off, but the build up to the climax was very well done, and with great animation to illustrate the wacky nature of first love to boot.
About halfway through the show, the competition aspect slowly fades away, devolving into another romcom anime. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but, without that war angle, there’s not too much about this show that’s special.
As for the ending, I think what would have been more satisfying is that the two start dating, they graduate, and the next student council moves in to take their place, which sets off a new war. For the overall theme, it reinforces the idea that the silly interplay that precedes a bonafide relationship isn’t just confined to these two characters we’ve been watching– it’s a cyclical and prevalent part of life.
Finally, one thing I noticed about this show that I haven’t noticed in any other anime is the disconnect between myself and the characters. Kaguya-sama is meant to cast a comedic and cartoonish light on the reality of dating, but it has two main characters that are academic geniuses, with one being a workaholic and the other being the child of a rich family. I don’t know why so many anime have stupidly rich characters, but I particularly noticed it here when it was made difficult to connect to either of them due to their circumstances and abilities.