At the renowned Shuchiin Academy, Miyuki Shirogane and Kaguya Shinomiya are the student body's top representatives. Ranked the top student in the nation and respected by peers and mentors alike, Miyuki serves as the student council president. Alongside him, the vice president Kaguya—eldest daughter of the wealthy Shinomiya family—excels in every field imaginable. They are the envy of the entire student body, regarded as the perfect couple.
However, despite both having already developed feelings for the other, neither are willing to admit them. The first to confess loses, will be looked down upon, and will be considered the lesser. With their honor and pride at stake, Miyuki and Kaguya are both equally determined to be the one to emerge victorious on the battlefield of love!
You’re seriously crazy dude! But y’know... At least, I wasn’t boring right?”
– Kaito Momota, Kokichi Oma
A question that has haunted me ever since I was born is - What would happen if two tsunderes fell in love each other? Before watching Kaguya-Sama, I thought that the concept was very interesting, and it was pretty much the driving factor that made me watch it, but I was also sure that this “Love is war” idea would become boring, dull and repetitive after a few episodes. Fortunately, I have been proven wrong; not only have I been proven wrong, I have been completely blown away! This Anime
executes the concept almost perfectly. It masters the art of blending comedy and mind games perfectly. One second, you could be on the edge of your seat, and the next you can be laughing your eyes out. It's fast pace and episodic nature have only added to this excitement and have helped prevent it from feeling banal.
A war wouldn’t be possible without two sides now, would it? That’s where the 2 leads come in. You’ve got your genius high school guy – Shirogane Miyuki – and an equally competent girl – Shinomiya Kaguya – vying to get the other to confess their love to them as their pride won’t allow them to do the same. Thus, they do what any normal person would do when they want to confess to their crush; they start fabricating incredibly extra, but at the same time kind of believable, scenarios in order to be confessed to. You know, your typical high school antics. And thus, the scheme to psychologically manipulate the other to confess their love is initiated by both sides, which, inevitably paves the path for some engrossing mind battles between the teens masquerading as being far more intelligent than they actually are. In the introductory episodes, Shirogane and Kaguya are somehow utterly oblivious about the infatuation that each has for the other, and that’s the crux of the show. Every episode is divided into three separate segments, each placing the characters in an unpleasantly awkward situation, with the characters using their wits to parade around the problem at hand, which gives rise to some tense as well as some hilarious moments.
Kaguya is the Vice President of the student council and she has it all. She’s intelligent, attractive and is from a pretty distinguished and wealthy family. She’s your typical high-school tsundere, or at least that’s what I thought in the beginning. She has the trademarks of a quintessential tsundere, but she actually is not peevish and doesn’t go around killing the main character. She also has her cute side that she shows every once in a while, and trust me, it’s cute. On the other hand, Shirogane is a transfer student from somewhere unknown and is also the student council president. He’s intelligent, but unlike Kaguya, he’s not from a posh background. These 2 characters wouldn’t be as special as they currently are if one of them wasn’t there. The chemistry between them is simply extraordinary. The two of them complement each other and play off of each other magnificently.
Obviously, the show doesn’t consist of just Kaguya and Shirogane. We also have the incredibly quirky side characters. Starting with Chika, who’s an adorable member of the student council. She adds a dumb, but rather interesting take on things, and has had her fair share of hilarious and adorable moments. She massively helps with the process of keeping things fresh, cute and cuddly. I would’ve been fully content with the dynamic of Kaguya vs Shirogane with Chika interfering, but they felt the need of adding one more student council member, and what a decision that turned out to be. It might’ve taken him a while to make his first appearance, but the true star of the show is Ishigami, the student council’s “Treasurer”. He adds quite a unique perspective to the show. His acerbic and brutally honest nature helps make his interactions with all of the characters funny and entertaining (Especially with Kaguya). I honestly wouldn’t mind if they made a spin-off of Kaguya-Sama showcasing his day to day life, that honestly would be better than a lot of the stuff that comes out every season. He’s arguably Kaguya-Sama’s best character, and that’s massive statement considering the great characters this show already possesses. We also have other side characters such as Kaguya’s maid and Shirogane’s sister, who I could care less about right now, but they’ll hopefully grow on me with time and more focus put on them (In the next season).
We have the Narrator of the show. This show contains inner monologues, a lot of them, but instead of the show adding even MORE inner monologues (which aren’t bad per say, but they’re better when they’re not overdone) they’ve decided to go with the narrator route. The narrator in Kaguya-sama really reminds me of the one from Kaiji. He’s loud, explains important parts of the show (sometimes over-explains which may be a hit or miss for some, but it definitely was a hit for me), and like the narrator from Kaiji, he has also faced a large amount of hate, with people calling him annoying, unfunny, disruptive and more. I do agree, he did feel a bit disruptive in the beginning, but ever since episode 2, I felt that the studio had really found the right amount of when to add him and when not to add him, which has prevented him from being annoying and more of the opposite. This addition is a massive plus for the show, because I think that the narrator has a valuable insight on what the characters are thinking, while providing pretty enjoyable and funny commentary that has enhanced most of the scenes that he’s been a part of.
I was a bit scared, when I heard A1 pictures were going to adapt this show, but I’m genuinely impressed now that I have watched it. The visuals might seem a bit boring and mundane looking at first, but once the comedic scenes hit, that’s when Kaguya-Sama’s visuals truly shine. The large amount of detail on some of the pieces of imagery you’ll see alongside the fantastic dialogue and masterclass directing, will make you crack up. Seriously, this is easily one of best visually directed shows I’ve seen this season. I love the way it shifts around in so many styles, you feel that the studio are having a blast making this. Considering A1 pictures were the ones making this, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved the character designs. Each character is easily distinguishable and looks visually appealing. I also couldn’t help myself from fawning over the amount of adorable expressions Kaguya and Chika made! Sometimes I find myself just pausing the episode and just admiring them (It does sound kind of creepy, but you really will understand what I mean once you watch the show lol).
The voice actors really do their job fantastically, and are one of the main reasons why I’ve opted to keep watching the anime instead of switching to the manga. It doesn’t feel like they’re reading off of a script. Be it the Kaguya’s banter with Shirogane, Chika being adorable or the portrayal of Ishigami’s depressed nihilism, the voices feel natural. I also love the jazzy vibe the opening gives off and it’s a must watch every episode. Even though I love all of these things, the true star here is the ending, it’s so adorable and mesmerizing, to the point where you really feel the passion and the effort that A1 have put into this project. If that ending isn’t enough to convince you to watch the show, then I don’t know what will! Also, I have to give a special mention to that fantastic Chika Ed. That ending song was amazing! It had dazzling, and almost hypnotic animation, and an equally captivating and adorable song. Seriously, it’s arguably better than the other Ed, and why it hasn’t made another appearance in the show is one of life’s biggest mysteries. It’s a clear reminder of how if a studio doesn’t half ass everything and actually try their best at making something, they can create something truly special. If you haven’t watched it yet, then I implore you to get off of MAL and watch it for God’s sake.
Overall, Kaguya-Sama has been a major success and has been praised by fans and critics alike, and for once, I honestly think it deserves every single praise it gets. It was a refreshing take on the oversaturated rom-com setting and was able to overcome some of the inveterate traits found in other anime in the genre. Don’t take the score I have given this review so lightly; I don’t give 9’s too often.
To describe Kaguya-sama: Love is War as a battlefield of love, between two prideful geniuses, who see confessing as a sign of “weakness” is well—sort of misleading.
Not because these type of scenarios don’t happen throughout the show, but more so because I’m not entirely sure that it is accurate to describe the characters as “prideful” or even “geniuses”; and that might be the biggest issue the show has.
Kaguya-sama begins in a very direct way; the whole idea of the show, everything about Miyuki and Kaguya, and their relationship is thrown at us through a narrator. There is no build up of their relationship, we are
told they are in love and we are immediately expected to care. As a result, I found it difficult to ever form a sort of solid connection with the characters, to ‘root’ for their romance, to think their ridiculous antics were always funny. Miyuki and Kaguya have little chemistry. It feels like I am missing something. With more care given to the characters, this show really could have been something special.
I can imagine this could have been salvaged, if the characters proved themselves so charismatic and fun that they would eventually become completely endearing. But the characters never really had a consistent personality. Because let's be honest, Miyuki and Kaguya are not always ‘prideful’. The are constantly shown as vulnerable, embarrassed, and shy. Highlighting those parts about them were easily the worst bits of the show. When they were smart, cunning, devious, it lead to the best and most hilarious moments. The author probably did this to make them more relatable and cute, but I ultimately think it negatively impacted the show. Some of the situations Miyuki and Kaguya go through are so trivial and childish that only sheer ridiculousness of their characters could have made it genuinely hilarious. When we know that the basis of their resistance to being open to one another is rooted more in shyness than pride, it makes the situations come off as more silly than potentially hilarious. It should have gone all in on making them scheming egomaniacs, for the sake of the humour.
Sometimes the show did have moments where the characters acted the way I hoped they would—and it was funny. Various moments of the show proves itself as creative, enjoyable, and worthy. Chika and Ishigami served as good side characters, although it may have been a little too obvious that sometimes they were just there to steer the direction of the joke. The art style was bold and outwards. Over time the show starts to get a bit more ‘normal’ looking, but I do appreciate shows taking a step outwards to make it more memorable.
Many times I was left feeling like some potential was being wasted. The show does stick to a formulaic way of having a ‘winner/loser’ in every bit, which didn’t always work. Sometimes it seems like the direction of the joke was radically shifted for no other reason than to just create a winner or a loser. I never found the narrator useful, and at worst he was just annoying. The show should have been more free, less confined to one particular style. Often it came off as settling.
The most disappointing thing about the show is how good it could have been.
Every season there is one entry the anime community overhypes beyond belief and this time it's Kaguya sama.
Story? There’s no story beyond two teen high schoolers failed love attempts at getting the other person to confess. Fans have dubbed Kaguya sama as the "Death Note of romance", which is laughable because the mind games here are pretentious, basic tactics.
The comedy is hit or miss most of the time, with the odd joke being able to crack a smile from me. The jokes and gags are repetitive and become stale e.g. the skit where the President and Kaguya gave love advice dragged on too long.
The episode about the wiener joke (no, I’m not kidding) was so childish.
The characters are a bunch of troupes who receive no character development: Kaguya is a rich, childish, pampered tsundere with barely any endearing qualities. Chika is the cute ditsy airhead, Ishigami is the depressed emo okatu that fans relate to calling him "our guy". He's easily the worst character because of how one dimensional he is and all his jokes being so predictable e.g. "oh no, Kaguya is going to kill me! I'm going home President!". The president is the hardworking and studious guy. He’s the best of the main cast in my opinion. He's the most interesting, relatable and got varied comedy.
The main problem with this show is the narration. The narrator might as well be his own character with how overused it is, to the point it becomes overbearing and annoying. The writer clearly didn't grasp the concept of "show, don't tell" because i don't want to be told about the characters and their thought process like they’re puppets. I don’t know why the narrator is keeping score of their matches because it ultimately amounts to nothing and we get the same rinse-repeat scenario next episode. He’s often mentioning stuff that’s obvious on screen, which is jarring because it comes across as if the viewer is too stupid to think for themselves.
I’ll give it to A1, the animation is great, the osts are good and the stylistic presentation is visually impressive enough for you to overlook most scenes taking place in one location. The opening visuals are creative, however the opening song is cheesy and the ending is forgettable.
Overall, Kaguya sama is a fun rom-com, but it's cliche and filled with troupes that would otherwise be criticised in other shows. The dynamic between the two leads doesn’t change as they are no closer to confessing to each other than they were at beginning. It's baffling to see so many positive reviews and the amount of praise it’s received when it lacks substance and does nothing special compared to other rom-coms.
Confessing love to someone is one of the most intimidating challenges we face in our lives.
Crushes, confessions, and relationships are never easy, but the hardest part is being the one who has to admit their feelings first. It leaves you vulnerable. Kaguya-sama: Love is War takes this relatable fear and centers it around two stubborn geniuses in a battle of who will confess first. Kaguya Shinomiya is the wealthy heir to a corporate enterprise, a prodigy of course, but sheltered, with far more pride than common sense. Her adversary—Miyuki Shirogane comes from a much more humble background, a workaholic to reach the top of
his class, but unfortunately, he has little experience with anything else. Despite wildly different upbringings, they share many things in common; stubbornness, unrivaled intelligence, and egos so inflated that neither wants to confess their love first.
Rather than simply confessing, they use their intellect for schemes to make the other confess their love first. The fear of being rejected is too much for either of their overly inflated egos to handle. Their trickery is undoubtedly the most extreme, and hilarious this genre can be taken to. But even so, the motivations beneath all of the outrageous scheming and exaggerated reactions are incredibly emotionally resonant. It’s always abundantly obvious that they’re in love, but whenever they come close to admitting it, they immediately fall back into their egotistical personas and shrug it off as best they can. Leaving minor hints that they’re ever so slightly closer to a confession.
Honestly, I tend to prefer romances that focus on the relationship, rather than all of the awkward build-ups into the final episode ending with a confession. Strangely enough, Kaguya-sama’s main appeal is that awkward teasing rather than the confession. Albeit with the stakes raised so high that its psychological warfare is comparable to Death Note. You may think a premise as simple as this would grow tiresome, but it continues to raise the stakes, the directing is phenomenal, the relationship between the leads has progression and continuity throughout the series, and all of the characters are so damn entertaining.
Each character fulfills their own distinct role in the comedy and continuity. Most of them are members of the student council at esteemed Shuchiin Academy, which is where the majority of the episodes takes place. Shirogane, the president, and Kaguya his vice, both at the top of their class, constantly the center of their school’s attention. They are both geniuses, but also absolutely crazy in their attempts to make the other fall in love with them. The supporting cast is made up of Chika, Ishigami, Hayasaka, even the narrator adds so much more to the comedy. They all have amazing chemistry with one another, any combination of them can create a great comedy routine because of how well their personalities are developed. Seemingly unimportant mannerisms and reactions are conveyed through well timed close-ups and internal monologues. This clues us in on how each person’s perspective, from a wild comedic display to even a minor buzzword evoking a subtle reaction.
Chika, the student council secretary is the embodiment of chaos and the straight man in the comedy routine. Unknowingly intervening in the intense battles between Kaguya and Shirogane to hilarious effect. She is herself intelligent, talented, and has more life experience than both of the leads combined. Deceptively she is designed to be cute and unassuming, but thats what makes her scenes so funny, and stellar delightful voicework. Then there’s the always anxious student council secretary, fittingly makes Ishigami a late appearance in the show but he’s likeable for his own long-running gags. The supporting cast gives us a grounded view on all the crazy scheming between the two leads, but also they offer their own levity, like Hayasaka’s internal jabs at Kaguya for having so little knowledge of how to deal with romance.
Punchy sound effects enhance the already great comedic timing with satisfying audiovisual feedback. With an adaptable soundtrack that is constantly changing to complement the shifting tone the show's audio is nothing short of brilliant. If a dual of wits takes on an outlaw style dual then the background music will shift to fit it. The opening credits are a vibrant, beautiful showcase of the cast and over exaggerated mind wars between the two leads that are comparable to the studio SHAFT's aesthetic. Also, the song is just so good, and a style unlike anything else in most anime nowadays. The special ending credits of episode three were absolutely amazing; great rotoscoping is hard to come by but with the amazing choreography from Nagisa Sugao. She not only came up with the dance herself (which is full of easter eggs from the show) she performed it in costume to be replicated in animation. If that’s not the perfect blend of talent and passion then I don’t know what is.
What elevates Kaguya-sama’s great comedy material far above any other rom-com is the amazing directing from Shinichi Omata, among other industry experts. Known for his work on Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, he brings brilliant storyboards, a considerate eye for framing, dynamic direction, and clever budget distribution that takes what could have been an average adaptation to the best this season has to offer. Even with as little animation as this show has, there is always something moving onscreen. If a shot lingers on one subject with little animation, it's likely to highlight the current emotions of a character and get us into their headspace; a simple trick, but useful for maintaining our attention with a standard TV-anime budget. Scene transitions are absolutely seamless giving the shot-composition an overall consistently fluid presentation as well. Background art transforms to reflect the tone of the character’s inner monologue, perfectly indicating how the main characters overthink even the simplest of exchanges. This makes the moments when the animation becomes more complex far more impactful, and it is always saved to highlight a key character moment. Emotional character-development moments are outstanding and highly memorable because of this extra attention to detail.
Omata employs a frenetic style to emphasize punchlines and give importance to every bit of dialogue. Reality occasionally bends to create outlandish and abstract visuals, which makes potentially mundane punchlines incredibly intense. These moments reflect just how overexaggerated the crazed characters perceive their mind games to be. On the far end, the show straddles the line between slapstick comedy and an all-out thriller with static lines overlaying close-ups as a character verges closer to defeat in a battle. This is what makes Kaguya-sama so funny. Kaguya and Miyuki are geniuses, but they use their intelligence to do the stupidest things because they’re afraid of having their oversized egos trampled upon. The mind games they get lost in are entertaining, but they're so misguided in their approach to love that even their failures in the games are rewarding to watch. They’re both walking dumpster fires of people. Thankfully the show acknowledges this and pokes fun at them through irony and sarcastic supporting characters. Its visual excitement, music, and wildly contrasting tones craft a dynamic comedic experience.
Confessing your love to someone is terrifying, growing up is an even harder challenge. Kaguya and Miyuki are slowly but surely on their way to figuring that out someday. Masterfully timed jokes, expert directing, and relatable characters. No matter if you love or hate anime rom-coms, this takes the standard genre tropes and subverts them in new and exciting ways. Kaguya-sama: Love is War is an outstanding series that anyone can walk away from wholeheartedly adoring.