Kaguya-sama: Love is War Season 2
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 2 of
Kaguya-sama: Love is War Season 2 ?
In this this week's first segment, Kaguya, Kei, Chika, and Moeha embark on the shopping trip they planned last season. Desperate to get in good with Kei and learn more about Miyuki, Kaguya finds herself annoyed by the Fujiwara sisters' refusal to give her a free moment with the girl. Fortunately, Kaguya is eventually able to sit down with Kei and get to know her on a more personal level—and learn some depressing tidbits about Miyuki's home life in the process. (She even winds up falling for her a little due to her resemblance to her brother.) In fact, the rapport they form is so strong that Kei proposes the next shopping excursion be an outing for just the two of them.
Kaguya's darker side is on full display throughout this segment. As we've seen in the past, she can go from loving Chika to wishing her dead in the blink of an eye, and her yo-yoing feelings towards her are always a solid (if not disturbing) vehicle for amusement. It's interesting to see Miyuki so debased through the lens of his younger sister, though as Kaguya figures out, she's viewing him through her own unforgiving filter—and she shares more in common with the older brother she can't stand than she realizes. Kaguya giving in to her desires and joining the group hug at the end is a rarity, only made possible because it's not actually Miyuki she's hugging. However, the highlight of this segment comes from the younger Fujiwara sister. Moeha's creepy yandere cheerfulness is a riot, putting even Kaguya on edge with the bizarre ways she wishes she could express her affection for others.
Continuing the arc from last week, the second segment finds Kaguya preparing for Miyuki's upcoming birthday. To commemorate the event, she has an exquisite wedding-sized cake prepared, but by the time the big day rolls around, she begins to wonder if she's overdone it. This kicks off an internal debate (presented as a courtroom trial) between the different sides of Kaguya. While Kaguya's inner optimist wants her to go all-out, her colder, more rational side reminds her that her ultimate goal is to wear Miyuki down mentally and get a confession out of him. After a timely interjection from her inner child, Kaguya opts to split the difference. Instead of presenting him with the enormous cake, Kaguya gives a single slice and a modest (but heartfelt) birthday gift: a traditional folding fan with “Unyielding Diligence in One's Studies” written in calligraphy.
While the question of whether Kaguya is genuinely in love or simply wishes to settle a score has already been answered several times over, the internal debate/trial is a creative way to revisit this. Even though it's fairly obvious that Kaguya's feelings are genuine, a full acknowledgement of this fact this early in the game would take a lot of fun out of the proceedings. The way she ultimately handles the birthday situation is perfect: generous enough to give Miyuki hope but not over-the-top enough to put all her cards on the table. Both parties end the segment happy, which is a rare—but consistently satisfying—occurrence.
In this week's final segment, nearly all the goodwill from Miyuki's birthday vanishes as he and Kaguya resume their usual mind games. Although Miyuki initially toys with the idea of pressuring Kaguya to confess her feelings by telling their friends about the gift she gave him, he decides to be generous and says that the present came from “a friend.” Little does he know, however, that Kaguya got the jump on him by telling Chika (who was unaware of Miyuki's birthday) that she's the only person to whom Miyuki revealed his birthdate. This prompts Miyuki to go on the attack and reveal that Kaguya made a conscious effort to both learn his birthday and prepare a surprise for it. Just as Chika is about to inadvertently finish Kaguya off, Ishigami casually reveals that he not only knew about Miyuki's birthday, he also gave him a thoughtful present. This places all the heat on Chika, who flees the student council room feeling terrible about not knowing her friend's birthday. (Once again, Kaguya's gratitude only serves to creep out Ishigami, who's unaware of what he did to earn it.)
This story portrays Kaguya and Miyuki's battle at its finest, with Miyuki confidently assuming he'll win the day when, in fact, Kaguya is several steps ahead of him, only for her to be outwitted once more. As their first true psychological brawl of the season, it delivers on all fronts—the party with the upper hand changes by the minute, audience loyalty shifts as more developments unfold, and the conclusion is nearly impossible to predict. Ishigami assuming Chika's role as the wild card is a fun change of pace, and Chika fleeing the scene in the manner Ishigami has been driven to do multiple times is a great bit of self-parody. (Although it's hard not feel sympathy for Chika, who was already distraught by the idea of missing Miyuki's birthday.)
With another top-form installment, Kaguya: Love is War's sophomore season shows no signs of slowing down. While Kaguya and Miyuki's relationship remains the focal point of the proceedings, the series' quirky and distinct secondary characters continue to play a crucial role in driving the narrative. If the conclusion of the birthday arc is any indication, no act of kindness goes unpunished in Kaguya-sama's world—and frankly, that's just fine.
Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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