KAGUYA-SAMA: LOVE IS WAR – Anime Review
Synopsis: From a good family? Check! A good personality? Check! Shuchiin Academy is where all these elite students with bright futures flock to. As the two leaders of the student council, Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane have supposedly fallen in love… But after almost half a year, nothing has happened!? They both have too much pride and can’t be honest. Things have gotten troublesome, and they are now caught in a war of “How to get the other to confess their love first.” This is a whole new romantic comedy, following an outbreak of cunning warfare between two elite students in love. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Kaguya-sama is already one of this year’s top comedies. While the series is rarely to the levels of side-splitting, rolling across the floor with laughter, it manages to craft an altogether amusing and endearing take on young love, viewed from the angle that Love is War and the first to admit feelings also admits defeat. The comedy works so well in large part to its tight cast of characters, from the two ‘love birds,’ both in total denial: Shirogane and Shinomiya, to the supporting members like the seeming airhead, yet whimsical schemer: Fujiwara, to the tone-deaf but pitiable Ishigami.
Linny: For those curious about how faithful the anime adaptation is to the source manga, apart from shuffling a few events around chronologically, and skipping over others, the stories themselves play out more or less true to the original. The show DOES contain some anime only parts but nothing that greatly changes the original material’s events; such as an ending sequence where Fujiwara does a solo dance performance aimed at the audience, which is entertaining but completely independent of anything story wise. As anime adaptations go, Kaguya-sama is one of the rare instances where the anime adaptation does add extra appeal or charm to an already great manga series. In this specific case, it’s all thanks to the brilliant voice actors who really help to bring the emotions and reactions of the characters to the forefront and makes them all the more amusing or endearing.
Tom: Kaguya-sama does a couple things I much prefer in comedy. Frequently anime comedies can become bored with their initial premise, or their starter cast, peppering in an increasing number of additional elements, or extra characters because what was introduced initially isn’t anywhere near enough to carry the series to completion. Every comedy needs to reinvent itself at some point, or introduce new elements for fear of growing stale, but so many do this quite early on, as if aware the initial gag is just too one note. But Kaguya-sama really explores its handful of characters. It’s not until mid-season that Ishigami, the pitiable student council treasurer, himself is introduced, giving you a solid six episodes of our initial trio: Shirogane, Shinomiya and Fujiwara, who all work together near flawlessly to keep the gags coming. The series also keeps itself rather chaste. There’s a plethora of rom com anime that can’t help but have busts bursting seams or asses flying into the air, but Kaguya-sama keeps surprisingly chaste, focusing on the romantic attraction between our leads, rather than physical lust, making for a welcome change in a field littered with the rest.
Linny: I agree with Tom on the above, save for a certain late series sequence. There’s an episode where Kaguya falls ill and her maid/personal companion strongly hints to Shirogane to take advantage of the fact that he’s going to be left alone with her in her soundproof bedroom. It’s something that can come off rather controversial if the scene is read a certain way, but the show never crosses that line. In fact, Shirogane doesn’t do anything even remotely scandalous to her, making it clear that the conversation earlier was meant to be more of the maid teasing him rather than actively encouraging something awful. Nevertheless, it’s a moment that can stand out in an otherwise chaste comedy and worth a mention for anyone who might find the whole thing offputting and skip worthy.
Tom: Overall Kaguya-sama is not only a fun and amusing series, but one of the strongest manga to anime adaptations of recent. While the other major manga adaptation this season, The Promised Neverland, wavered between being an improvement over the manga, or a step down, Kaguya-sama’s anime is wholly a step up, and not at all because the original material is weak. The anime pulls out the stops in strengthening what was already a very enjoyable manga, by rearranging events, trimming the weaker moments, adding in top notch voice acting as Linny mentioned, and more. All this together crafts one of Winter’s top offerings, and I think it would be a shame if you passed this title up. It’s definitely one for Spring catch up if you missed it this past Winter.
Linny: Kaguya-sama is one of those comedies that will produce a sensible chuckle or giggle, or perhaps moments of embarrassing nostalgia for older viewers, as you watch the two clueless protagonist fumble their way through their war of love. Even the supporting characters offer up plenty of laughs, often stealing the spotlight for themselves. The cast play out amusing gags but also have more depth than ones in more average gag series. Even as a gag show with its stories mainly being comedy focused, Kaguya-sama weaves in enough serious moments and character exploration to make its emotional beats work when they do occur ever so rarely. If you haven’t had a chance to pick up this series, I would highly recommend it as a must try comedy of the year.