The Spring 2022 Preview Guide
Kaguya-sama: Love is War Ultra Romantic

How would you rate episode 1 of
Kaguya-sama: Love is War -Ultra Romantic- ?
Community score: 4.6



What is this?

Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyūki Shirogane are two geniuses who stand atop their prestigious academy's student council, making them the elite among elite. But it's lonely at the top and each has fallen for the other. There's just one huge problem standing in the way of lovey-dovey bliss—they're both too prideful to be the first to confess their romantic feelings and thus become the “loser” in the competition of love.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War Ultra Romantic is the latest entry in the television anime based on Aka Akasaka's manga and streams on Crunchyroll on Fridays.


How was the first episode?

Caitlin Moore
Rating:

I can't believe that in one day, two of my favorite romances had new seasons start! Premiere season is tough, but days like this make it worth it. Kaguya-sama: Love is War has returned for a third season, picking right back where the previous season left off, and boy, am I glad to see these kids with all their weird little quirks and foibles again.

I wasn't totally sold on Miko Iino by the end of the previous season, unsure of where she would fit into the group dynamic with rigid prudishness as her primary character trait. So of course, the episode leads with a skit between her and Ishigami, who once upon a time was one of the worst characters but is now one of the best. Miko's strange listening habits, and Ishigami's attempt at taking the fall for her, made her feel more like a little weirdo, and by now, a bit of weirdness is basically a requirement to be a student council member.

This is important because there's a playfulness inherent to Kaguya-sama that Iino's rigidity seemed antithetical to, but ended up on full display for the rest of the episode. Teenagers aren't my area of expertise, but they're still kids, and kids need to play! They need to be awkward and obsess over things like read receipts on messaging apps and boast and set up arm-wrestling tournaments instead of doing their actual work. Their personalities are exaggerated and caricatured, but few comedies capture those special moments where you get a strange idea and just keep going with it.

That playfulness extends to the visual presentation as well. The animation in this season has so far been fairly middle of the road, and thus I haven't commented on it much, but Kaguya-sama has some of the best goddamn direction and animation in the medium. Mamoru Hatakeyama and his team almost always manage to elevate the manga's punchlines into something special, and they held nothing back this episode. From the camel wandering around in the background as Iino studies, to Shirogane's shifting body language as he realizes he has the upper hand on Kaguya over the phone, to making the picture quality look like a VHS transfer – every frame has something joyful and unexpected. Big gags and subtle expressions alike have been animated with equal levels of care.

If you haven't watched Kaguya-sama: Love is War yet… why not? It's seriously one of the best anime comedies ever made. Why deprive yourself?


Richard Eisenbeis
Rating:

After having watched two full seasons, it's become perfectly clear that Kaguya-sama isn't for me (except in the rare cases where it is). Being mostly a series of short gags—usually involving instant karma as one of the student council members attempts to assert dominance over the others in some way—means that there's not much to further develop the characters or progress the love story between Shinomiya and Shirogane. The episodes of the series I most enjoy tend to be the final few of the season where meaningful things happen and there is real drama and tangible stakes. This season premiere was most certainly not one of those episodes.

Now, that's not to say I don't find the humor of the show funny in its own right. From Ishigami futilely trying to stop Iino from embarrassing herself to Shinomiya's ignorance about the differences between email and texting, there are a ton of great gags in this episode. The final self-contained story about the arm wrestling tournament takes things to a whole other level—especially with its post-credits scene showing that Fujiwara was just talking trash the whole time and couldn't win without cheating.

But what takes all these gags to the next level is the animation that merges what's really going on with what the characters are thinking to create something as funny as it is surreal. From the large camel making noises in Iino's ear to the mountain of bodybuilders supporting Shinomiya, it's all but impossible not to laugh.

So while Kaguya-sama isn't my cup of tea in general, I wouldn't say that this is a bad episode. In fact, it is pretty much the epitome of what Kaguya-sama is at its essence. If you ever need a laugh, Kaguya-sama is eager to deliver—just don't expect anything more.


James Beckett
Rating:

One of the “benefits” of being a teacher is getting to essentially serve as a kind of covert anthropologist that specializes in that most elusive and influential of species: The modern teenager. I'm like Jane Goodall; I live among them, in their native environment, and since they give absolutely zero shits about what I think, I have free reign to study the peculiar social rituals and developmental adaptations that these hormonal and aggressive pack animals undergo. As such, I feel like I can say, with legitimately authoritative expertise, that one of the things that makes Kaguya-sama: Love is War such a smashing success is how well it understands the interior lives of teenagers. Specifically, it has a comprehensive understanding of all the ridiculously dumb shit that teenagers will do to and with one another when left to their own devices. More importantly, it gets that all of this inane tomfoolery, no matter how stupid, will feel to a teenager like the most earth-shatteringly consequential events that will ever occur in their lifetimes.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War –Ultra Romantic– is essentially more of the same, in that regard. The goofy kids of Shuchiin Academy's student council spend their days getting into the most ridiculous of shenanigans, while Kaguya and Miyūki sloooooooowly progress along their romantic destinies with one another. “More of the same” can come across as a backhanded compliment, but that couldn't be further from the truth in the case of an anime like Kaguya-sama, considering that the “same” in question happens to be some of the most consistently hilarious and expertly animated comedy in the business.

Each of the three sketches in this premiere does what Kaguya-sama does best, in that they take painfully relatable, everyday scenarios and crank the intensity so far past the eleven mark that the the dial may as well be ripped clean off. The opening sketch is perhaps the weakest of the three, since it focuses on Yu trying to deal with Miko not realizing that people can hear the weird crap she listens to when she's studying, and neither of these characters are the strongest of the ensemble. The joke about Miko's weird listening habits is also just not terribly funny, though that might be because that my own ADHD has had me go to some truly strange and avant garde places in search of distracting sounds to play when I'm trying to focus.

The other two scenes are golden, though, and they show off a wide variety of Kaguya-sama's strengths. The “Read Receipts” sketch is a masterpiece of observational humor, mining Kaguya's technological naivety and featuring Miyūki in full-on petty-goblin mode. It's one of those bits where the show manages to generate horror movie levels of tension on behalf of these loveably awkward children and their inability to just have a normal conversation. We also get a lot of good Ai content, which is always a bonus.

The “Arm Wrestling” sketch is just as hilarious, mostly because it's one of those showcases that gets the whole cast in on a silly mess-around that allows the artists at A-1 Pictures to really strut their stuff. It would already have been funny to have Chika get so obsessed with putting on an arm- wrestling contest, but Kaguya-sama goes the extra mile by animating the ever-loving hell out of it all. I demand a raise specifically for whoever got to handle the cut where Miyūki's face nearly implodes against the fury of Kaguya's sweat-hands fury (we've all been there, girl, there's no shame in it).

Do you honestly need me to tell you that Kaguya-sama's third season is mandatory viewing for this spring? Of course not. It's proven itself time and time again. Still, in case it needs to be said: Yes, the show is great, and you should absolutely watch it. Duh-doy, Britta.


Nicholas Dupree
Rating:

There really is nothing else quite like Kaguya-sama is there? Even as a self-proclaimed connoisseur of romcoms, it's hard to think of another series that managed to take such a simple premise and spin it into one of the most infectiously hilarious – and consistent – anime comedies of the past decade. But whatever alchemy is happening between the source material and the always exuberant adaptation team is still firing on all cylinders, and they've come back from season two without missing a step.

The series isn't resting on its laurels for this sequel either. It'd be easy to throw us back in with a classic Kaguya vs Shirogane battle, but instead they used the opportunity to demonstrate just how much good the previous season did for the show's weakest characters. Not only are Ishigami and Iino capable of carrying a skit almost entirely on their own, but they're able to do it in a way that capitalizes on all of Ishigami's growth from the previous arc, going from the show's go-to punching bag to the kind of selfless idiot-genius that butters this show's bread. It's an unconventional way to welcome viewers back, but nonetheless promises to be just as hilarious as always.

From there, it's the same Kaguya-sama that steamrolled through our hearts in the previous seasons. The characters are still a blast, and the direction is as committed as ever to ridiculous, eclectic, and endlessly creative visual gags to sell every joke. It's not doing anything particularly new for the series, but that's a “don't mess with perfection” situation if ever there was one. I can attest to having a stupid smile plastered on my face across the entire premiere, and I busted out laughing as these kids tried to Death Note their way through being left on read, or when an homage to the soundtrack of Over The Top started playing during their arm-wrestling tournament. It's the kind of layered, high-effort joke that sets this show apart from the rest of its subgenre, and it's just so nice to have it back.

If you've missed this runaway train of a show, there probably aren't enough creatively directed romantic mind games in the world to convince you at this point. But if you're already a fan who was just worried the magic might have run out after all this time, you've got nothing to worry about. Kaguya-sama is back and in championship form once again.


discuss this in the forum (309 posts) |
bookmark/share with: short url

this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history

back to The Spring 2022 Preview Guide
Season Preview Guide homepage / archives