Kaguya-sama: Love is War
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Kaguya-sama: Love is War ?
In its fourth episode, Kaguya-sama: Love is War continues to free itself from the constraints of its usual formula. Like last week's final segment, a good chunk of the latest installment takes the action outside of the student council room and finds Kaguya and Miyuki doing more than engaging in their usual mind games. Also, unlike previous installments, episode 4 features a fair amount of continuity, with all four segments tying into the same story. While the show's core gimmick still has plenty of gas in the tank, it's reassuring to know that the show is capable of maintaining the same level of hilarity when it steps outside of its comfort zone.
Episode 4 wastes no time in going off the rails. With Shuchiin Academy preparing for the arrival of French exchange students, the student council is hard at work putting together a welcome party. As France is the second biggest cosplaying nation, Chika reasons that the student council should don costumes, prompting Kaguya and Miyuki to give cat ears a try. In their efforts to score pictures of one another sporting their new ears, Kaguya and Miyuki go mad with desire for each other and become far more outwardly aggressive than usual. Frightened by her friends' behavior, Chika eventually snatches both sets of ears, leaving Kaguya and Miyuki feeling as if they've just awakened from a powerful trance. One of the craziest segments the show has given us thus far, this story is able get a lot of mileage out of its central conceit (i.e., cats ears = increased desirability) without making the joke feel stale or played out. It also marks one of the few times Kaguya and Miyuki lose their cool in unison and embrace their carnal desires.
With the date of the welcome party drawing ever closer, the student council must hit the town and purchase supplies. However, since neither Kaguya nor Miyuki will admit to wanting to make the supply run together, they play it cool and allow Chika to initiate the banned word game. The winner will be exempt from shopping, while the losers will be tasked with buying supplies. Although Kaguya and Miyuki both succeed in losing, Chika is a surprisingly fierce opponent and shows some genuine cunning throughout the game.
However, additional planning is needed before this makeshift date can take place, and Kaguya is only able to bring herself to call Miyuki after some prodding from Hayasaka. Following a hilariously tense exchange with Miyuki's father, Kaguya has an adorably awkward phone call with Miyuki, and the two ultimately exchange their first texts. Unfortunately, due to a flash flood, Kaguya is unable to make the date, leaving Miyuki to handle the shopping by himself. This segment is notable for featuring what is perhaps the most natural conversation the two leads have had to date. While Kaguya is undeniably nervous, neither party is trying to manipulate the other, and they both seem genuinely happy to be talking to one another outside of their usual surroundings. Although over-the-top comedy is still the show's primary draw, interactions like this help make the characters more sympathetic and remind the audience that despite their unending power struggle, Kaguya and Miyuki do admire and care for one another.
When the big day finally arrives, Miyuki is horrified to discover that he's the only student council member who isn't proficient in French. Hoping to test the young man's mettle, the eccentric headmaster tasks Betsy Beltoise, the student council vice-president of Shuchiin's French sister school, with engaging Miyuki in conversation and exposing his lack of French skills. However, as soon as Kaguya realizes what's happening, she uses her command of language to put the fear of God in Betsy. Despite being unclear on exactly what Kaguya was saying, Miyuki realizes this was done for his benefit and offers his thanks.
After witnessing the devastating psychological attacks these two frequently launch on each other, it's refreshing to see one of them come to the other's aid without expecting anything in return. Coupled with her comments to Hayasaka, Kaguya's anger on Miyuki's behalf is a pretty clear indication that her feelings for him run much deeper than their daily power struggle. This week's episode further illustrates that Kaguya-sama: Love is War has a lot to offer outside of its central gimmick. Deep down, Kaguya and Miyuki really do know what love is, and their usual self-righteous behavior towards one another is simply a mask for the extreme vulnerability they feel. While not the best relationship role models, they're both sympathetic in their own right—and perfect for each other.
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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