Kaguya-sama: Love is War
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Kaguya-sama: Love is War ?
Kaguya-sama: Love is War continues its winning streak with an episode chockfull of big laughs, well-timed punchlines, and a little bit of warmth. Nearly every side of Kaguya's character is on full display this week, the audience is invited to empathize with Ishigami, and we're given a rare peek at the other members of the Fujiwara and Shirogane families. Whether you enjoy seeing the cast at their worst or their best, episode 8 should send you away satisfied.
This week's first segment introduces us to Miyuki's sister, Kei, who attends Shuchiin's middle school division and serves as its student council treasurer. When Kei visits the high school in search of her brother, Kaguya decides to adopt a new strategy for winning over Miyuki: cozying up to his little sis. However, a wrench is thrown into her plans when she discovers that Kei is good friends with Fujiwara's sister Moeha—and that she and Chika are as thick as thieves. Kei (while heavily blushing) later reveals to her brother that she was so nervous around Kaguya that she couldn't carry on a conversation. When Miyuki asks her to repeat herself, she becomes flustered and storms out of the room.
This introductory skit is among the show's funniest Kaguya-centric stories. In addition to showcasing the character's natural cunning, the segment deftly cycles through each of her trademark moods: confident, crestfallen, bloodthirsty, and adaptable. As we've seen in the past, Kaguya's attitude towards Chika runs the gamut from deeply appreciative to downright hateful, and Kei proves the perfect vehicle for bringing out Kaguya's full range of emotions. Within the span of one minute, she goes from describing Chika as “a cancer on Earth” (when Chika and Kei are commiserating) to vowing that she'll always be her friend (when Chika invites her on the shopping excursion she and Kei are planning). Kei harboring some form of admiration for Kaguya seems like it could set the stage for some interesting story possibilities, especially since she's completely unaware of Kaguya's less desirable traits—as well as her reason for wanting to get close to her in the first place.
The second segment finds the gang prepping for exam season. As one of the few Shuchiin students to come from humble means, Miyuki is determined to remain at the top of his class, and Kaguya is dead-set on overtaking him. In an effort to thin out the competition, they offer intentionally bad study tips (which become progressively more impractical as the segment wears on) to one another and Chika. In the end, Miyuki retains the top spot, with Kaguya coming in second. Although Miyuki plays it cool and pretends to be largely unaffected by his victory, he's actually incredibly pumped—as evidenced by the intense round of shadow boxing he enjoys in a restroom stall.
This story provides us with a solid understanding of just how much effort the central duo devotes to their studies. While both characters are frequently hailed as geniuses, neither one is able to coast by on natural ability, and Shirogane feels compelled to go the extra mile to justify his presence at a school designed for society's elite. Despite all the trickery he engaged in on his path to victory, it's hard not to feel happy for Miyuki when he sees his name at the top of the class's list. As usual, the soundtrack and visuals do a fantastic job of ratcheting up tension, and viewers are liable to experience secondhand exam test anxiety as Shirogane prepares to put pen to paper.
This week's final segment takes place during the same general time period as the second. With Ishigami in danger of being held back a year, Kaguya decides to help him study for the upcoming exams. Of course, she goes about this in the most Kaguya-ish manner possible—by treating him as a prisoner and thwarting his various escape attempts. After resigning himself to his situation, Ishigami informs Kaguya that because he was a problem child in middle school, being seen with him could harm her reputation. Sure enough, the two soon encounter a couple of gossipy girls, whom Kaguya shuts down by personally vouching for Ishigami. Thanks to Kaguya's help, Ishigami is able to pass his tests—but just barely. Kaguya's angry and ominously threatening reaction to Ishigami's test scores reignites his intense fear of her, thus restoring the status quo.
It was only a matter of time before we got a Kaguya/Ishigami story, and the pairing is every bit as fun to watch as fans might expect. Kaguya's tutoring methods would induce fear in anyone, so seeing her apply them to someone who's already petrified of her is particularly hilarious. Despite this, some of the segment's most memorable moments come when the comedy is dialed back. Ishigami opening up to Kaguya in the library is perhaps the only time he's addressed her without his guard up, and it's pretty clear that she's offering her assistance for reasons other than not wanting to inconvenience Shirogane. Even though the episode culminates in the reset button being pushed, it was nice to see these two interact in a natural manner and show one another mutual respect.
In its eighth outing, Kaguya-sama: Love is War offers up another heaping helping of dark comedy. In addition to offering up the usual buffet of laughs, episode 8 introduces us to a new face and casts the reliably comedic Ishigami in a newly sympathetic light. Regardless of your favorite character or character dynamic, Kaguya's latest offering should prove a worthwhile watch.
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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