Kaguya-sama: Love is War
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Kaguya-sama: Love is War ?
After continuously matching wits for the better part of four episodes, Kaguya and Miyuki spend the bulk of episode 5 apart. As the show has been experimenting with its established formula throughout the past couple installments, an episode in which the main characters function independently of one another is a suitable next step. Although Kaguya and Miyuki still work best as a duo, this week's Kaguya-sama: Love is War illustrates that both characters are able to be funny and carry stories on their own.
This week's first segment functions as a follow-up the story from episode 2 in which Shirogane provided dating advice to a hapless classmate. Although Miyuki's horrible tips appeared to have produced favorable results, his protégé's new girlfriend is now having second thoughts, prompting her to seek advice from Kaguya. However, when Kaguya discovers that she's in over her head, Chika swoops in and suggests that the troubled couple bond over hatred of a shared enemy—an unjust society with an ever-widening gap between rich and poor. Kaguya initially thinks this is too ambitious, but it proves to be exactly what the relationship needed. In the end, the happy couple reconnects through collecting for charity—an endeavor with which Miyuki assists.
Since Miyuki's romantic pointers actually working always seemed like a long shot, it's fitting that this story provided a believable explanation. Rather than being instantly enamored, the girl was caught off-guard and simply went with the flow. Unsurprisingly, the resultant relationship wasn't exactly built to last. Even though Kaguya has proven herself to be fairly naïve in matters of the heart, the advice she offers is more grounded than Miyuki's, though not as exciting as Chika's. As usual, viewers are left to wonder how much foresight Chika possesses. Was she aware that her seemingly over-the-top advice would produce such results, or was it all a happy coincidence? Miyuki helping the couple with their charity work is yet another indicator that outside of all the plotting and mind games, he's generally a good person.
The second segment finds a troubled Shirogane attempting to improve his comically uncoordinated volleyball skills. Despite possessing a fair amount of physical endurance, the young man lacks the athletic coordination needed to excel in sports. Just when all seems lost, the more athletically inclined Chika appears on the scene to offer her assistance. Even though she has the patience of a saint, Miyuki's utter lack of ability nearly drives her to her breaking point. However, following days of intense training, Miyuki's skills see a marked improvement, and he's able to wow his classmates in gym class as an exhausted Chika boasts, “I raised that boy.”
Having nothing to do with romance or the show's central relationship, this segment is packed to the brim with rapid-fire physical humor and hilarious reaction shots. Learning that Miyuki is this bad at something helps make him a little more vulnerable and pokes even more holes in his inflated public persona. Furthermore, Chika being at such an extreme disadvantage is an interesting change of pace. In the past, she's always managed to come out on top as Kaguya and Miyuki psychologically cannibalize one another, and this may mark the first time we've seen her genuinely frustrated. Of course, even in the face of Shirogane's cartoonish ineptitude, Chika Fujiwara can solve any problem.
The third and final segment marks this week's only battle of wits between the two leads. With the rainy season in full swing, Kaguya and Miyuki both pretend to have forgotten their umbrellas during a heavy downpour. Although they'd both like to walk home under a shared umbrella, neither wants to be the one to float the possibility. Since neither party will admit to having an umbrella on hand, the two begin trading sharp-tongued insinuations in the hope of trapping each other in a lie. Just as tensions reach a boil, Chika makes a timely appearance and provides Kaguya with an unneeded umbrella, which seems to thwart their plans, but Kaguya and Miyuki decide to share it. Although the rain clears up midway through their journey, Kaguya and Miyuki continue to walk beneath their shared umbrella as they pass the elusive Ishigami.
As the episode's sole mind game story, this segment contains all the makings of a great Kaguya-sama battle royale: low stakes treated with grave importance, extensive plotting for a relatively minor payoff and both combatants firing on all mental cylinders. While it's often fun to see a definitive winner emerge from these matches, it's just as satisfying to see Kaguya and Miyuki both emerge victorious. Sure, neither party is able to force an invite out of the other, but in the end, they mostly get what they wanted. In the interest of fairness, the mutual victory makes for the perfect finale to an episode that largely showcases the two apart.
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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