Kaguya-sama: Love is War
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Kaguya-sama: Love is War ?
This week's Kaguya-sama: Love is War changes things up a bit. While episode 9 is still composed of three separate segments, each segment is part of a linear story instead of being self-contained. Although this isn't the show's first attempt at utilizing this formula, it's arguably the most engaging. Not only does each segment provide big laughs, the episode as a whole makes effective use of each principal character and puts an entertaining spin on a fairly commonplace sitcom plot. In this week's first segment, a typhoon leaves Shirogane with limited options for getting to his part-time job from school. With the trains out of service, he believes his only two choices are skipping work or calling a cab, the fee for which would total more than the wages for his shift. Using subtle—and not-so-subtle—manipulation techniques, Kaguya hopes to coax Miyuki into asking her for a ride, which she would consider their first driving date. (She, of course, refuses to float the offer herself.) However, Shirogane never picks up on her hints, and driven by a sense of duty and frugality, he opts to furiously pedal his bike to work, inadvertently soaking Kaguya (who's dutifully waiting for him by the school gates) in the process.
As is often the case with Kaguya's schemes, everything that can go wrong, does. Despite all the careful plotting, manipulation, and last-second saves, Kaguya finds herself thwarted at nearly every turn—first by Chika, then by Miyuki's phone, then by Miyuki himself (albeit unintentionally). Sure, she claims to have been kidding about making Hayasaka walk home in the typhoon, but all the scheming that ultimately led to her soaking warranted the dose of karma she received. In addition to providing a textbook example of Kaguya's cunning, this segment features one of the funniest jokes to be mined from Shirogane's hyper-practical thought process. Skipping work signifies a dereliction of duty, while calling a cab would essentially mean working for free. Rather than accept either option, Miyuki decides to put his safety at risk by biking in a typhoon—a solution that's both deliciously over-the-top and perfectly in line with the character's way of thinking.
With Kaguya now laid up with a cold, Chika suggests the remaining three-fourths of the student council pay her a visit. Not wishing to enter the lion's den, Ishigami posits that only one visitor should suffice. In order to decide who will check in on Kaguya, the gang plays a game of Concentration. Determined to see the all-business Kaguya in a helpless baby-like state, Chika resorts to cheating, but Miyuki, having pieced together that he's responsible for Kaguya's predicament, is able to see through her trickery and emerge the winner. Defeated, Chika sadly exits the student council room in a manner that mirror's Ishigami's usual departures as the latter chides her for cheating.
In an interesting change of pace, this segment finds Shirogane matching wits with Fujiwara instead of his usual sparring partner. In the past, we've seen Chika engage in mischief and act as an agent of chaos, but this is the first time she's been so willfully cunning—which indicates just how badly she wants to see her friend in a weakened state. While it's sometimes unclear whether Fujiwara actually means to sow discontent, this segment leaves little room for doubt, as she becomes visibly embarrassed and slightly angry after her cheating is discovered. Even Miyuki, who usually treats Chika with kid gloves, doesn't hesitate to go all-out after he sees what she's trying to pull. During this battle of wits, Ishigami not being the most awkward person in the room is a fun subversion of expectations—one that he makes sure to milk for all it's worth.
The final segment finds Shirogane paying his first visit to the Shinomiya estate, where he's greeted by Hayasaka (in the guise of Smithee A. Herthaka). After being led to Kaguya's room, Miyuki is shocked to discover that his stoic vice-president is stuck in a fever state and completely unable to suppress her id. Before excusing herself, Hayasaka explains that Kaguya will have no memory of the time she's sick and tacitly encourages Miyuki to take advantage of her. Still loopy, Kaguya apologizes for constantly doing things that cause trouble for Shirogane and claims that her upbringing is to blame for the way she deals with people. She then suggests that she and Miyuki (platonically) sleep together and pulls him into bed with her. Although Miyuki is understandably panicked by this, he quickly succumbs to sleep deprivation and passes out next to Kaguya—who is both confused and enraged when she wakes up in a more coherent state and finds Shirogane in her bed.
Seeing Kaguya, who's usually even more tightly-wound than Miyuki, in such an unguarded state helps shine a new light on the character. Not only is she fully aware that her schemes often inconvenience Miyuki, she also seems to realize that her preferred methods of human interaction are abnormal. An important clue regarding her upbringing comes in the form of the Shinomiya family's motto: “Do not rely on anyone. Instead, use them. Do not receive anything. Instead, steal. Do not love. There is no instead.” As satisfying as it can be to see Kaguya's plots blow up in her face, it's hard not to empathize with her in light of these revelations. While it's been apparent from the get-go that she doesn't want to lose her ongoing battle with Shirogane, an unhealthy upbringing and a lack of proper socialization can go a long way in explaining much of her behavior.
One of the show's few linear entries, episode 9 does a commendable job telling a single story through three distinctly different yet interconnected segments. Every member of the student council has a few standout moments, the jokes flow at just the right pace, a small bit of progress is made in the central relationship, and some light is shed on the titular character's backstory. Here's hoping Kaguya-sama can retain this energy all the way into the homestretch.
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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