Kaguya-sama: Love is War Season 2
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Kaguya-sama: Love is War Season 2 ?
The final Kaguya-centric story of the season, these two segments seamlessly blend the show's trademark comedy with low-key drama. Although the story mostly portrays Kaguya in a sympathetic light, her devious side still pops up here and there—particularly in her response to the principal wanting Miyuki and Chika to pose as a couple. (Also humorous is how, as sympathetic as Miyuki is to Kaguya's plight, he has serious reservations about being the one to initiate the exchange of LINE IDs, as he believes it would be an admission of love. It's a startling contrast to Kaguya not caring anymore about such things when she so unenthusiastically asks him for his ID first.) While even Kaguya herself seems to realize that the loss of her digital photos isn't hugely important in the grand scheme of things, the show does an effective job of illustrating that one's emotional reactions needn't always be grounded in logic. In Kaguya's eyes, she's suffered a devastating loss—as evidenced by her complete lack of interest in engaging Miyuki in their usual mental jousts. The other members' collective concern and desire to raise Kaguya's spirits serves as touching reminder that despite all the backstabbing, one-upmanship, and general dysfunctionality that colors many of their interactions, this is a group that cares deeply for one another.
After dipping its toes in the drama pool, the show delivers a closing segment that's 100% focused on madcap fun. When Chika forces the gang to play a game that entails pumping air into a balloon until it bursts, none of the participants want to be the one who's up at bat when the thing finally pops. (Since both hands are required to work the pump, Kaguya can't even utilize her new calming ritual.) Even Ishigami, whose recent experience at the sports festival left him with heightened inner courage, is terrified of having the overinflated balloon pop in his face, leading the narrator to conclude that his character arc was pointless. Under intense peer pressure from Chika, Miko eventually inflates the balloon to cartoonish proportions, leaving it primed to burst at any moment. Just as a petrified Kaguya is about to deliver the finishing blow, a well-timed tangerine-based mishap (courtesy of Chika) pops the balloon, resulting in a massive explosion that engulfs the entire academy. As Kaguya and Miyuki stand up and take in all the destruction, they vow to continue their perpetual battle of the minds with renewed vigor.
As Kaguya-sama's zaniest offering in weeks, this season's parting segment is packed to the brim with fast-paced jokes and peppered with shades of self-parody. At several points, setups for epic displays of courage end in characters cowering in fear and opting to pass the burden of bursting the balloon to the other unfortunate participants. Ishigami failing to put his newfound confidence to good use is funny, but Miyuki resolving to take one for the team for Kaguya's sake, only to back down almost instantly, is particularly hilarious. In their attempts to avoid popping the balloon, everyone's most humorous traits are on full display, which serves as a great reminder that no matter how heavy things get, this series will always return to its comedic roots.
A satisfying conclusion to a consistently amazing season, episode 12 fires on all cylinders and leaves us wanting more. Going out on a note that highlights the collective friendship between the student council members rather than Kaguya and Miyuki's ongoing war is a great way to emphasize how much of an ensemble piece the show has organically become throughout the past season. Here's hoping Kaguya and the gang are able to continue their misadventures in animated form—and soon!
Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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