Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: The AniTAY Review

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has been a fan-favorite on AniTAY for a couple of years now, and many of us were thrilled to see it get an anime adaptation. But did the anime hold up to the original? How good of a show is it for series newcomers? All these questions and more have been answered below by famous* anime scholars AoiYamato, Doctorkev, Reikaze, Shade and yours truly.


Advertisement

AoiYamato

Let me make a confession: I HATE most anime rom-coms nowadays, especially the high school set ones. Only a few like Ouran Highschool Host Club or the recent revamp of Fruits Basket manage to interest me. That being said, a few months ago, I decided to buy some manga for my Kindle and discovered Kaguya-sama: Love is War. I had low expectations at first, but surprisingly had a fun time and instantly bought what was available so far in the States. I was even more surprised at how fast it got an anime adaptation when aired this past winter. This show is a lot of fun and a good time; when 24 minutes go by in what seems to be five minutes, I know I’m enjoying myself. The basic plotline of Kaguya is: What happens when two tsunderes fall for each other?

The titular character is the vice president of the student council at the prestigious Shuuchin Academy, which she runs along with Miyuki Shirogane, the president and most popular boy in school. However, these two have a secret: they’re both deeply in love with the other, but neither will admit their feelings to each other. After all, to quote the great Pat Benatar, “Love is a Battlefield,” and the first to admit their feelings to the other would be the loser. The supporting cast pretty much steals the show in a lot of the episodes, especially Chika Fujiwara, a diplomat’s daughter/secretary/Kaguya’s one friend (other than her maid, which we’ll get to in a second). She comes across as your typical anime dumdum at first, but she’s is actually pretty fucking smart with a tendency to troll. Then there’s the treasurer, Yuu ‘Our Guy’ Ishigami, who’s the typical otaku loner and a bit emo. Finally, there’s the narrator, the unofficial fifth member of the cast, who provides snarky commentary every episode.

A-1 Pictures’ animation is pretty flawless and runs smooth. The studio does a good job adapting Aka Akasaka’s manga. The anime goes all over the place in regards to the manga; the only thing that I wasn’t crazy about was where the series decided to end. Not to spoil much, but Kaguya and Shirogane have a nice moment in the manga(which the series animated), but just when you think that the two predictably get together in the end? Spoiler alert: they don’t...which perfectly leaves things open for a season two in the future.

Advertisement

Overall, if you’re seriously into rom-coms and tsunderes, this is a good series to check out. I’d even go as far to call Kaguya one of my favorite series so far this year. Also, the opening song is a bop and an earworm, and the animation for the ending should be its own series.

TL;DR: Kaguya-sama is the best guilty pleasure this year for me so far. Can’t wait for season two!

Advertisement

Advertisement

Doctorkev

Winter 2019 was loaded with excellent anime shows, and for me Kaguya-sama was the best, narrowly edging out The Promised Neverland. At first I was concerned this would be one of those shows that stretched out a single joke to wafer thin (and unfunny) proportions. Thankfully, the sheer creativity and cleverness of the show avoided this pitfall. What starts as a goofy, lightweight premise develops surprising emotional depths by the final episode.

Advertisement

Our main characters have complex inner lives, and their deep-seated insecurities and somewhat odd beliefs never fail to frustrate and complicate their interpersonal relationships. Simple interactions which for any normal person should be effortless become titanic battles of wits with plans, counter plans, counter-counter plans, and counter-counter-counter plans that spiral to the point of absurdity. I found myself equally frustrated and empathetic with these characters. Who after all has never felt anxiety when faced with the object of their crush, who has not tried to protect their own inner vulnerability from those around them? Such is our main characters’ need for control. They constantly ruin their chances of meaningful emotional connection and therein demonstrate how close comedy really is to tragedy.

Kaguya and Miyuki are such truly damaged individuals that the viewer desperately wills them to shed their impenetrable defence façade and be honest with one another. The emotionally charged finale does allow for some moments of true vulnerability and honesty between them. I hope any sequel series that is made continues to develop their relationship without the complex and psychedelic mind games becoming stale.

Advertisement

And Chika. I love Chika. More Chika Dancing please. Chain that animator to a desk for the rest of his life and make him animate more Chika.

TL;DR: Warped, hilarious and heartfelt, Kaguya-sama was the surprise hit of the season for me. Chika is best girl of 2019 already. More of this, please!

Advertisement

Advertisement

Protonstorm

The winter season blessed us with a couple of excellent adaptations, chiefly among them Kaguya-sama. I was confident from the beginning that Kaguya-sama would be at least a decent adaptation, but it went above and beyond my already high expectations. Anime adaptations of zany rom-com manga tend to be competent at worst and Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun at best. Even if the direction is bad, as long as the humor of the original manga is on-point, the adaptation can be salvaged. Kaguya-sama has no need for such concerns. A-1 Pictures hit this one out of the park under the skilled guidance of director Mamoru Hatakeyama.

Advertisement

The premise of Kaguya-sama is simple: two members of the student council with crushes on each other, convinced that confessing to their partner means placing themselves in a position of subordination, do their best to force the other into a situation where they have no choice but to confess their true feelings. Both rich girl Kaguya and book-smart Shirogane are too prideful (and too tsundere) to bear the humiliation of confessing to the other. The humor of Kaguya-sama is reliant on dramatic irony and absurd escalation. Viewers are aware of both sides’ attempts to out-maneuver the other and are helpless to watch as the characters overthink their opponents’ strategies until the entire incident is ratcheted up to eleven. The source material’s strength is its ability to take advantage of running jokes without overusing any one punch line, and the anime does an excellent job of conveying the hilarity of the source material in animated form. What was truly surprising about the anime, however, was the production team’s ability to take full advantage of the medium to deliver an experience that is even better than the source material at times. A dramatic moment where Kaguya is attempting to overanalyze Shirogane’s plan is rendered more humorous by absurdly dramatic music, hilarious facial expressions, and some of the best voice acting this season.

Kaguya-sama is the complete package. Frequent moments of hilarity are occasionally broken by genuinely heartwarming scenes that work because of the viewer’s intimate familiarity with the thought processes of both protagonists. The humor isn’t just funny, it’s character-building. Many shows like Kaguya-sama fall into the trap of treading water in comedic content and character development. Kaguya-sama avoids both because the humorous moments are also moments of development for Kaguya and Shirogane. Although they aren’t officially dating, by the end of the series their relationship has made significant strides so that it doesn’t really matter. The result is a surprisingly wholesome romantic comedy that sits among the best in the genre.

Advertisement

TL;DR: Kaguya-sama is an excellent adaptation of an already great manga. The character dynamic between the two leads is both sweet and hilarious, and the show’s ability to integrate dramatic irony with character development is top notch.


Advertisement

Reikaze

Every now and then, a work just clicks for me. Very rarely is it a work I come into expecting to like, instead being an almost magical experience that happens out of nowhere. On the surface, Kaguya-sama doesn’t seem like anything groundbreaking, a tried and true romantic comedy with the silly twist of two characters being so tsundere that they won’t confess their love. Thanks to the brilliant writing by Aka Akasaka however, Kaguya-sama becomes a perfect blend between romance and comedy in a way that can be enjoyable for everyone - the characters are fantastic and every gag is hilarious, with the work building up to create an extremely fulfilling experience. It is legitimately one of my favorite series ever.

Advertisement

HOWEVER!

When the anime was announced and PVs shown, I was definitely excited, but I was also nervous! Just like Shirogane in Chapter 110 of the Kaguya-sama manga, this was the first time a manga I had followed from the start was getting an adaptation. I was nervous about the comedic timing, the visuals, and the voice acting, but when I started watching the anime, all my worries were washed away - I found myself falling in love with the series all over again. While the premise is tried and true, the execution was always fun, and after a few episodes I really got the impression that the staff really cares about Kaguya-sama - you can see all the attention to detail they put into this anime. The visual representations of some of the scenes were absolutely amazing, the Chika dance was an earworm that I kept on listening to over and over, and the vocal performances, especially by Koga Aoi, were just icing on the cake. To me, Kaguya is a special and exceedingly enjoyable series with likeable and relatable characters, entertaining situations, and pleasing presentation, building up to one of the most satisfying arcs in the end. The more I watch Kaguya-sama, the more I enjoy and the more Kaguya-sama cements itself as one of my favorite anime. I highly recommend everyone give it a try, even if you aren’t the biggest fan of rom coms - Kaguya-sama is too enjoyable not to watch.

Advertisement

TL;DR: While I was nervous about Kaguya-sama’s anime, I had nothing to worry about. Kaguya-sama is executed exceedingly well and is a perfect blend between romance and comedy with engaging characters and hilarious gags.


Advertisement

Shade

If you came to watch this anime for romantic progression, you might be slightly disappointed. Kaguya-sama: Love is War parodies the common “will they, won’t they” issue that plagues most romance anime in that the schtick of the series is the main duo returning to the status quo. Neither Miyuki nor Kaguya wants to swallow their pride, each scheming daily to make the other confess their feelings to them. Academically smart they may be, but they are dumber than a sack of bricks on the battlefield of love.

Advertisement

Despite this, I love Kaguya-sama so much that I binged it all in one day. I look at this series as a comedy first, with hints of romance on the side. The charm lies in these two goofballs bumbling their way around the concepts of love and dating, their friend Chika ruining the duo’s schemes without even realizing, the silly interactions between all the characters, and the over-the-top reactions. In an ironic twist, I didn’t want to see the series end.

But even when Kaguya-sama takes a break from being a comedic busybody to delve into the characters a bit, it maintains a strong core. I feel the circumstances behind every character’s issues are understandable even if I couldn’t personally relate to some, and it never falls into melodramatic territory. The bits of romantic progression are just as sugary sweet and in the end, all I left with after finishing the last episode was a big, dumb grin on my face. Kaguya-sama comes highly recommended from me as a romantic comedy you shouldn’t miss.

Advertisement

TL;DR: Kaguya-sama is a romantic comedy that may disappoint people looking for serious romantic progression, but I find it still excels with a well-rounded, likeable cast, as well as some potent comedy.


Want to hear more about our thoughts on Kaguya-sama and other anime from last season? Check out this episode of the official AniTAY podcast:

Advertisement

You’re reading AniTAY, the anime-focused portion of Kotaku’s community-run blog, Talk Amongst Yourselves. AniTAY is a non-professional blog whose writers love everything anime related. Click here to check us out.

Share This Story