Kaguya-sama: Love is War
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Kaguya-sama: Love is War ?
Summer vacation draws to a climactic close in Kaguya-sama: Love is War's first-rate finale. In addition to providing an abundance of laughs, tender moments, and emotional payoffs, episode 12 highlights the show's ability to excel at continuity and short-form stories. Although the series more or less hits the reset button at the end (as is common in comedies of this type), it's never been clearer that things will ultimately work out for our heroes—even if their happy ending isn't explicitly spelled out for us.
Continuing from where the previous episode left off, this week's first segment finds Kaguya having her spirits crushed when the head of her security detail informs her that attending the fireworks show would pose too big a risk. After seeing a tweet in which Kaguya expresses a desire to see the show, Shirogane springs into action and rides his bike to the Shinomiya estate. However, by the time he arrives, Kaguya has already escaped and hopped into a taxi. Due to massive traffic congestion, Kaguya eventually elects to abandon the cab and head to the show on foot, but by the time she reaches her destination, the fireworks have already ended and her friends are nowhere to be found. Shortly thereafter, Miyuki finds Kaguya sobbing in an alleyway and vows to make her wish to enjoy a fireworks show with friends come true. Enlisting the aid of the cabbie from earlier (who also happens to be one of the Four Ramen Kings mentioned in last week's episode), the gang makes a mad dash to a fireworks show in Chiba that was postponed because of weather. As the other three-fourths of the student council marvel at the fireworks from the backseat of the taxi, Kaguya's attentions are focused squarely on Miyuki, whom she hasn't seen all summer.
A satisfying conclusion to the summer vacation arc, this segment features powerful character moments for both leads despite being relatively light on humor. Having been apart for the entire summer, neither Kaguya nor Shirogane are as protective of their true feelings as usual. Kaguya allows Miyuki to see her cry, and Miyuki doesn't mince words when trying to comfort her. (Though he soon regrets this.) Although Kaguya has consistently done whatever it takes to get what she wants, flagrantly defying the wishes of authority figures may be a first for her—and serves as an indicator of how much her friends mean to her (even Ishigami). Shirogane's claim that locating Kaguya was easy because of all the practice he's had helps cast the duo's usual mental jousts in a whole new light. In addition to creating hilarious scenarios for the audience to enjoy, Kaguya and Miyuki's trademark mind games have helped them get to know one another in a more intimate way than a traditional relationship would have.
In the season's concluding segment, the new school term is underway, and Shirogane is beside himself with stress. After reflecting on the “cool guy” lines he delivered on the night of the fireworks show, he believes that he may have gone a bit overboard. This assertion is seemingly confirmed when Kaguya appears to actively avoid him after arriving in the student council room. However, unbeknownst to Miyuki, Kaguya thought that he acted incredibly cool and is avoiding him out of sheer bashfulness. The two then make a number of failed attempts at approaching one another, and after Chika and Ishigami are forced out of the room, Kaguya and Shirogane are able to get a handle on each other's mindsets and speak face-to-face. Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, Miyuki believes that Kaguya believes his behavior on that fateful evening was “painful” and flees the scene in embarrassment as Kaguya gives chase. As Kaguya chases Miyuki all around the campus, the duo passes various supporting players as the narrator restates the show's core conflict.
While the end of the segment doesn't suggest any significant changes in Kaguya and Shirogane's central dynamic, a great deal of progress has undoubtedly been made beneath the surface. Even though neither party has issued an outright confession, both leads are acutely aware of the other's feelings—especially Kaguya. For the most part, the series has done an admirable job of balancing progress on the plot front with the reset button mechanics comedies often demand, and this finale is no exception. Although things have seemingly returned to normal for the gang (or whatever passes for normal with this dysfunctional bunch), the audience isn't left with the impression that what happened over the summer is unimportant or won't have a lasting impact on the bigger picture.
From start to finish, Kaguya-sama: Love is War has proven to be a subversive, wildly entertaining wintertime watch. A dark comedy with genuine heart, the jokes are masterfully-timed, the stories are tightly-paced, and the visuals and animation are consistently on-point. The characters are all relatable and endearing, and never once does the central conceit wear thin—which is rare for romantic comedies. Whether you're a dedicated fan of anime rom-coms or comedy on any level, you're sure to walk away from this series amused, entertained, and hungry for more.
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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