Kaguya-sama: Love is War
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Kaguya-sama: Love is War ?
This week's Kaguya-sama: Love is War continues the show's recent streak of continuity, with two-thirds of episode 10 functioning as a direct follow-up to the events of episode 9, and the final segment setting the stage for next week's outing—if not the remainder of the series. Fortunately, as Kaguya-sama has demonstrated in the past, tossing continuity into the mix (be it inter-episode or multi-episode) doesn't make the comedy any less effective and can pave the way for important character development. A well-rounded episode that features raw teenage emotions, chaos, and a little bit of tenderness, the latest installment is another solid entry in a consistently strong series.
In this week's introductory segment, tensions between Kaguya and Shirogane have reached a boiling point. Although they've seemingly made amends after the “sleeping together” incident, neither party is entirely satisfied with the outcome. Kaguya isn't sure she believes Miyuki kept his hands off her, nor is she particularly happy with the idea of him not making a move when he had the chance. On the flipside, Miyuki feels as if Kaguya doesn't understand how much self-control he exhibited, nor does he appreciate her continued suspicion. This powder keg of resentment explodes when the headmaster gifts the student council two slices of strawberry shortcake, one of which is eaten by Ishigami. With the remaining piece up for grabs, Kaguya and Miyuki angrily attempt to force it on one another. Miyuki remembers Kaguya claiming that shortcake was the only thing she liked upon joining the student council, and Kaguya remembers Miyuki claiming to have never eaten shortcake on Christmas. Although both parties are flattered to have their off-handed remarks committed to memory, neither will give the other an inch. Just as the two have reached a stalemate (both begrudgingly agree to be fed by the other), Chika, who'd been briefed on the situation by Ishigami, swoops in to ruin the moment.
With emotions running high, this segment is equal parts hilarious and uncomfortable to watch. This is the most outward anger Kaguya and Miyuki have shown to one another, and it's easier than ever to understand both parties' frustration. In addition to misunderstanding one another's motives in offering up the last piece of cake, Kaguya and Miyuki are dealing with an even bigger misunderstanding—one that isn't quite as surface-level. While it's hardly unusual for the leads to express anger internally, it's rare for them to outright shout at each other, which is another indicator that this is a cut above their typical quarrel. Despite this, some of the segment's most discomforting moments come courtesy of Ishigami, who has no choice but to sit back and watch as his senpai excoriate one another. Not only is Ishigami visibly uncomfortable, he also feels tremendous guilt for tacitly creating the situation by eating one of the cake slices. His discomfort practically radiates off the screen, leaving the audience with little choice but to suffer along with him.
The second segment finds Kaguya and Shirogane seeking third-party advice on peacefully resolving their latest feud. While Kaguya enlists the aid of Kashiwagi, Miyuki receives counsel from the less-experienced Ishigami. (Of course, both parties claim to be “asking for a friend.”) Kashiwagi loans Kaguya an ear and offers commonsense advice as Ishigami, whose romantic experience is limited to reading romcom manga, goes off on a tirade about how infuriating girls are to deal with. In the end, Miyuki admits that he wasn't entirely forthright in claiming to have never laid a finger on Kaguya and confesses to tapping her lips with his finger. Kaguya responds by doing the same to him, declaring them even, and vowing that things will now return to normal—as an onlooker views the situation with shock.
As one of the show's most relaxed segments to date, there aren't a lot of big laughs to be found, but the proceedings are very important to the bigger picture. Kaguya is feeling a flurry of complex emotions—some of which seemingly contradict one another—in the wake of last week's incident, and in order for her to get a handle on things, she needs to talk it out with someone. Shirogane taking advantage of her weakened state would be a huge violation of her trust, but the fact that he didn't act on his baser instincts leaves her to question if he truly finds her appealing. While Miyuki isn't experiencing quite the same degree of internal conflict, it's equally important for him to get an outside perspective—even if it's from someone as clueless as Ishigami. As if often the case when both leads are honest with one another, a mutually agreeable resolution is reached, with the narrator declaring them both to be winners.
In this week's final segment, summer vacation is right around the corner, Shirogane is dead-set on winning Kaguya's heart before school's back in session, and he believes the summer trip the gang had previously discussed will provide him with the perfect opportunity for doing so. Unfortunately, Chika, whom Miyuki is desperately hoping will recall this conversation and set the necessary plans into motion, doesn't appear to have any recollection of discussing a group trip. Despite several attempts by Shirogane to jog her memory, Chika fails to pick up on any hints, eventually leading him to abandon his plans. However, at Ishigami's urging, the remaining three-fourths of the student council decide to attend a festival toward the end of summer. Chika, whose summer dance card is full of international travel and college exam prep, will be in Spain at the time, and she regards this decision as cruel, leaving the room in tears after Ishigami points out the flaw in her logic. In response, Yu begins making his trademark awkward exit—but is stopped by Kaguya and Miyuki, who inform him that this time, he's done nothing wrong.
The most chaotic story of the week, this segment features rapid-fire pacing and an abundance of laugh-out-loud moments. Instead of going up against Kaguya, this segment finds Miyuki once again matching wits with Chika—although the latter is blissfully unaware that any such match is transpiring. Unlike Shirogane, who's only known Fujiwara for a short while, Kaguya realizes that trying to get her to act in accordance with one's wishes is a fool's errand and opts to tune out entirely. (Kaguya's moments of complete mental clarity make for some of the skit's funniest moments.) The idea of Chika being so difficult to control that someone as relentlessly determined as Kaguya wouldn't even attempt to do so is particularly hilarious—as is the clever subversion of Yu's usual exit.
Episode 10 does a fantastic job of balancing the show's various tones and providing each of its principal characters with numerous funny moments. Although doing so may not have been entirely necessary, the series made the right call by chronicling the fallout of last week's incident instead of simply hitting the reset button. In addition to giving us a couple of interesting stories, the aftermath helps facilitate important character moments for both leads, as well as growth (however small) in their relationship. With summer vacation set to commence next week, fireworks are surely in the cards—in more ways than one.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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