Kaguya-sama: Love is War
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Kaguya-sama: Love is War ?
This week's Kaguya-sama: Love is War delivers something decidedly different—but no less entertaining—than usual. With summer vacation in full swing, the audience is given a glimpse at how three of the show's principal characters are spending their time off. While the series has occasionally taken the action outside the confines of Shuchiin Academy, this latest installment marks the first time the sizable majority of an episode has taken place outside of school grounds. The previous episodes have largely focused on how the main characters function as a unit, but summer vacation gives us an extended look at how Kaguya, Shirogane, and Chika spend their alone time.
Episode 11's first segment finds Kaguya and Miyuki desperately wanting to get in touch with one another. When Hayasaka reveals that Miyuki is complaining about the monotony of summer break on Twitter, tech-challenged Kaguya decides to join said social media platform. However, her lack of familiarity with all things internet-related drives her to continuously interrupt Hayasaka's well-earned bath time. Even after successfully creating an account, Kaguya hits another roadblock when she discovers that Miyuki's account is private. (Couldn't she just spy on him through Hayasaka's account?) In the end, Hayasaka is able to enjoy a leisurely bath while lamenting Kaguya and Miyuki's stubbornness and expressing a desire to love someone as much as they clearly love each other.
Although we've seen a few signs of Kaguya's technological ineptitude in the past, this segment arguably serves as the most potent example of her uneasy relationship with modern technology. (The narrator likening her tech proficiency to that of an old man is a particularly apt observation.) Her reactions to the various “obstacles” she faces when creating her account (not knowing how to enter registration criteria, believing she's been locked out of Twitter) are endearing, amusing, and relatable to anyone who's walked an older relative through seemingly simple tech tasks. It's also refreshing to see Kaguya completely unguarded. In Hayasaka's company, she expresses no hesitation in losing her temper, becoming flustered and admitting that she doesn't know how to do something. For her part, Hayasaka has no qualms about pointing out the various flaws in Kaguya's latest plan—going so far as to inform her that her general line of thinking has never produced favorable results.
In addition to being a notable departure from business-as-usual, the second segment functions as Chika's first solo outing. Seen through the lens of self-proclaimed “insignificant middle manager” Saburo Odajima, this segment finds Chika (having just returned from a trip to Egypt) dining at a hole-in-the-wall ramen restaurant and having her love for the dish put to the test, unbeknownst to her. Although Saburo (a connoisseur of ramen) silently critiques Chika's choice of noodle firmness and consumption technique (and has more than a few misogynistic thoughts along the way), she ultimately wins him over with her willingness to down a bowlful of salty, garlic-laden broth. Saburo is so moved by this display that he vividly recalls happy memories from his youth and wonders when, exactly, he grew so old. Chika, however, leaves the restaurant blissfully unaware of the fact that she was being meticulously judged throughout her entire meal.
We don't often see the central characters interact with people outside of the usual ensemble, and for the most part, this is forgivable. Since Kaguya and Shirogane generally put up fronts when they're around adults or peers, these interactions are unlikely to result in amusing situations. On the flipside, Chika, who never beats around the bush and is always forthright about her intentions, is the perfect character to send out into the world. As we see, her natural gift for coming out on top isn't limited to student council situations, and a tightly-wound gatekeeper like Saburo makes a fantastic foil for someone who enjoys life as much as Chika. Completely unaware of how carefully she's being sized up, Chika is able to effortlessly answer every challenge her “opponent” throws in her direction. This series is no stranger to psychological combat, but this may be the only featured battle waged entirely by one party.
This week's third and fourth segments take a turn for the serious. Unable to summon the courage to actually contact one another, Kaguya and Miyuki both head to the student council room on the off-chance the other will be there. Despite having the same idea, the two narrowly miss each other, leaving them to lament how long summer vacation is. The somber mood continues when Kaguya is forced to call off her shopping date with Chika, Moeha, and Kei after her father summons her to the Shinomiya family's main house in Kyoto. (The Fujiwara sisters elect to reschedule instead of going without Kaguya.) Upon her arrival, Kaguya's father barely acknowledges her presence, perhaps suggesting that the short-notice summons was merely a power move. Kaguya then opines that her father has never praised her accomplishments or told her he loves her—and that the people around her have always regarded her with great caution. However, with the end-of-summer fireworks festival just a day away, some relief may be on the horizon.
These segments—and by extension, the majority of the episode—paint a vivid picture of how much the two leads care about one another. Even when their separation is played for laughs, their loneliness is palpable, and both characters feel incomplete and empty without each other. Previous episodes have hinted that Kaguya's had a particularly harsh upbringing (although this is sometimes used a vehicle for comedy), but now that the situation has been expressly spelled out, it shines a new light into Kaguya's behavior towards other characters, as well as her general approach to life. After an exceptionally lonely and sobering summer vacation, Kaguya and Shirogane have earned a night of fun at the fireworks festival. Here's hoping that Kaguya-sama: Love is War finishes just as strongly as it began.
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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