Kaguya-sama: Love is War -Ultra Romantic-
I have to admit, it was pretty hard picking a screenshot to use for this review and I'm not just saying that because I have twice as much footage to choose from as usual. This show never lost its sense of visual quality right up until the very end. If anything, it felt at times like the staff were constantly trying to outdo themselves with this climax, surpassing and elevating the series on almost every single level visually, narratively and emotionally. Not only do we have some nice blink and you miss it references, but we also get some beautifully composed scenes, expertly crafted character animations and amazing set pieces worthy of a finale three seasons in the making.
That cynical part of my brain was just waiting for the show to cop out on this confession until the very end and well…you could make the argument that it still sort of does but I'm getting ahead of myself. Shirogane you son of a bitch, I had a feeling that he was at least somewhat related to the mysterious thief that happened to be stealing all of the balloons but I did not think that this climax was so meticulously planned with literally every major thing brought up or referenced in the past four episodes being used, from the giant statue that the president was working on to all of the missing balloons. Seeing Kaguya slowly piece together what is genuine and what's just a front was nice and the buildup to the confrontation on top of the clock tower had me on the edge of my seat. The fact that these two came face-to-face at probably some of their most vulnerable points is great and necessary. Shirogane tried desperately to stay cool despite the fact that he reached his mental capacity for embarrassment and Kaguya had nothing on hand despite usually having everything under control. There are no tricks, there's no weird pretenses, just these two waiting until the very last moment before the other one takes that final step towards confession.
But was there actually a confession? It's actually quite humorous seeing these two try to find every conceivable loophole to make their feelings apparent without actually confessing so that they could still have that personal satisfaction of not being the one that confessed first. Yeah you could argue that Shirogane confessed first with the elaborate setup or you can argue that Kaguya crossed the line by kissing him (also, my face was the same as Hayasaka when Kaguya thought that the aggressive making out from her friend was what a standard kiss was). It appears the two walked away from the situation satisfied but even Shirogane knows things need to be made more clear. It's just a shame we've run out of time but I also don't think it matters right now. We've known for a while that this whole game of who confesses first was really just a pretense that revealed a vulnerability that you could argue these two still haven't fully confronted yet. Shirogane still feels inferior to Kaguya and he has every reason to feel insecure as the poor kid in a rich school. From his perspective, he was always looking up to Kaguya and he needed that confession from her in order to feel like he was her equal even though just being in a relationship means you have to see each other as equals.
Kaguya, a character that I really hated when the show first started airing, ended up being one of the most relatable characters to me by the very nature of her imposter syndrome. After growing up with the instilled idea that other people are just meant to be used and taken advantage of, of course she would think that she is nothing but a horrible person the minute she gains any type of self-awareness. She wanted to look at all of those mishaps and romantic situations with the president for what they were, but she couldn't bring herself to think that she deserved them so she just made excuses and denied reality. She needed to be confessed to because she wanted somebody else to say that she was capable of being loved. You could argue that those emotional issues still have not been confronted yet. These two were finally able to let their passions and desires overtake those insecurities if only for a brief moment but that moment was all they needed to cross a line where there is no going back even if it's not made explicitly clear. It needs to be talked about, it needs to be addressed or it'll all be for nothing and just because this battle is over, that doesn't mean the war will be finished anytime soon, especially with the announcement of another season on the horizon.
Of course there's going to be a fourth season and I'm not just saying that because this is one of the most popular anime of the past couple of years. There are a lot of loose plot and emotional threads that need to be wrapped up in order for things to feel concrete and satisfactory. You could end the show here but I don't think that I would walk away satisfied if that was the case. I'm cheating a little bit here but I think the fact that this climax acts as another stepping stone for these teenagers to transition into more independent adults works more in its favor then if this was to be established as a definitive conclusion. This isn't even getting into all of the side stuff with Ishigami and Ino. The former still doesn't even know about the emotional storm that he subconsciously threw himself into (even though he was so, SO close to figuring it out) while Ino, was largely forgotten about for most of the season. I do like the implications though that Ishigami's relationship with his upperclassman might overlap with his relationship with Ino. The show hasn't been subtle about pairing them together but unfortunately that is something we are just going to have to wait on.
And to think that one of the main things that made this show popular was a silly dance from the comedic side character who is largely unaware that all of this stuff is happening. I am so happy that I had the opportunity to review this season of Kaguya-sama. While I don't think it was as funny as season two was, it definitely made up for that with its dramatic character progression and some of the tightest writing the series has displayed so far. Kaguya-sama is a show where even some of the most powerful and intelligent people could still miss the bigger picture. The premise of this entire show was built on the foundation that love is a battlefield where you constantly need to understand your opponent in order to one up them. I don't think the show is being cynical and saying love is a competition but rather love requires work, understanding and a desire to meet your partner head on. Doesn't matter who wins or loses, there's always a new confrontation or “battle” to be ready for just around the corner and I will wait patiently until we're ready to resume one of the most intense wars of this generation.
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