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This Week in Anime
Why Kaguya-sama is a Pitch-Perfect Romcom
by Steve Jones & Nicholas Dupree,
In its sophomore season, Kaguya-sama: Love is War Season 2 proves that it is still one of the best anime comedies in recent years. What makes Miyūki and Kaguya's battle of hearts so enthralling? Nick and Steve wage their own battle of compliments--and ridiculous faces.
Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Nick Steve, a lot of things can change in a year. Especially these days where a month feels like a decade and last winter feels like a different lifetime. But there are a few constants in this world, and war...war never changes.
Steve War, and the next closest thing to war: being a pair of mutually infatuated morons.
Teenagers being obtuse idiots when it comes to romance is also a constant of this world, and there's nothing quite as comforting as seeing these two supposedly genius dumbasses fumble their way towards holding hands.
Yep, Kaguya-sama is back! The best comedy from last year's returns, and speaking personally, it's just so nice to revisit these characters and their impeccable comedic timing and—uh, wow, is this really what we want to call our new OP?
Just do what I do and call it a bop: I didn't think they could out-do the first season's OP but damn if they didn't manage it. And that's been a recurring theme with this second season: it's recognizably the same show and material, but like, MORE. But in a good way.
In such a good way! It's still being handled by the same staff, so essentially it's a production that's been allowed to mature over the break and dazzle us with its even-more confident execution. Like this guy, but actually good.
And that's saying something, since the first season was already a lavishly directed piece of comedy with razor-sharp timing. So now Kaguya-sama has evolved to the point where it sometimes blurs the line between anime sitcom and surrealist panic attack.
There are some real artistic Choices being made in the construction of some truly iconic scenes. I have a feeling we're going to be doing a lot of gushing in this column, but it really is so nice to see a show done so well by people who fundamentally understand why the material is funny and how it make it even funnier.
Typically anime comedies get by on strong timing and nailing punchlines, and Kaguya-sama does that. But it also has a near constant high level animation and boarding that all comes together to be wonderfully, charmingly extra.
He also worked on the venerable, critically acclaimed, all-time classic Sankarea: Undying Love so you know you're in good hands even if Kaguya couldn't hope to match that masterpiece.
Juuuust adding that to my watchlist real quick. For artful purposes.
Dude's got range, is my point, and that's fully on display this season as it mixes its familiar comedy beats with juuuuuust a tad more sentimentality. Like hey, congrats on getting me to feel for the anime girl equivalent of Randall from Recess.
Oh yeah, there's a actual plot this season about the student council elections, which introduces Miyūki's rival candidate Miko Iino. Who is very tiny and also a cop.
Two terrible things in one. The girl's like a reverse peanut butter cup.
Not to mention, it turns out she's perhaps the specifically worst kind of cop for Kaguya and Miyūki's astronomical levels of budding sexual tension.
Assuming they'd ever get to that point within this century, which, y'know.
"Sexual" tension is a bit generous, yes. Though this season does help confirm Kaguya likes em tall, pale, and exhausted.
Kaguya is simply a woman of refined taste, and that taste is for partners with permanent eyebags. As a fellow member of fine society, I wholeheartedly agree.
Turns out she's not picky about, so long as they've got a Never-Rested Bitch Face.
Again: refined taste. And speaking of refined taste, we also learn a little bit more about Chika's sister Moeha.
Arguably a bit more than Kaguya bargained for.
Chika needs to stop letting her sister surf anime image boards tbh. Like, things are not in a good state when Chika Fujiwara is the most functional member of a family.
Chika actually seems to be becoming more competent with each passing episode, but I don't know if that's a result of growth or in comparison to the gradual erosion of the rest of the student council's mental faculties.
Oh, they've all gotten collectively dumber for sure. Shirogane's maybe 2 steps away from being an actual political campaign adviser.
Chika, meanwhile, gave me a heart attack this week when it was revealed that she pays attention to FiveThirtyEight.
Please, Kaguya-sama, it's an election year. I don't need to be thinking about this any more than I already am, which is constantly.
Shirogane's just lucky his opponent is secretly as big an idiot as he is.
Brilliant move on the show's part to garner sympathy for the small cop by revealing she's just as horny as the rest of the cast.
For real though, it turns out Miko is just as much of an awkward doofus as the rest of our lovable cast (and also Ishigami) - she has actual reasons for her attitude besides being a busybody. Add a dash of her own proclivities and it goes a long way in humanizing her.
This week's episode is especially standout for how effectively it leans into drama. Miko goes from feeling like a punchline to feeling like a fully-rounded character. It also helps that her motivations ring particularly sympathetic while we're presently living through a crisis demonstrably worsened by people's immaturity and selfishness.
And heck it even makes Ishigami feel slightly less like a sack of garbage with a PS Vita stapled onto the front.
I know! Kaguya-sama did the impossible and made Ishigami smile in a way that didn't give me douche chills.
Let the record show that Ishigami is still The Worst, but in this particular instance he is slightly less Worse than usual. Baby steps.
And don't worry, Ishigami fans (I'm assuming there have to be some), there's still plenty of other normal Joker-fied worst boy content to be found in this season.
Get this boy off of Reddit this instant.
But perhaps the best development this season has been Kaguya-sama finally letting its MVP take center stage a few times.
Hayasaka really doing her all to be the best gyaru ninja maid mom to Kaguya that she can possibly be.
She does a fantastic job and deserves a pay raise. Like I don't know what kind of employment contract she signed where she has to NTR her boss at request but it clearly needs to be renegotiated.
That she can transform herself into something so utterly wrong truly speaks volumes about her talents.
How many other anime maids are gonna seduce their boss' not-boyfriend to show them how it's done? Girl deserves at least a month of annual vacation time.
Personally, I was delighted to learn that her taste in YouTube videos is nothing short of exquisite.
Hayasaka 100% watches Knife Guy, the Guy who makes Knives out of Anything.
For real though, Hayasaka is the shadow backbone of these losers. Without her Shirogane would be dead and Kaguya in a convent. When they finally confess and get married at age 85 they better put a personal thanks to her in their wedding vows.
They better, because they are so freaking dead if they don't. We've only seen the work she's had to put in for one measly year. IMAGINE how exhausting a full courtship is going to be.
ESPECIALLY with some of the stuff Kaguya's pulled this season. Like I said everyone's gotten dumber but girl's had her brain sucked dry by the Dumb-Dumb Flower.
Finally embracing that No Thoughts Head Empty lifestyle. I recommend it!
I also love the way her voice somehow goes up a full octave in Moron Mode.
Stretch her face out and she'll be a Hidamari Sketch character, with the dearth of brain cells that entails.
I know they already had the election, but this seems more and more like the best development for all involved. God help us all.
At least Chika has the advantage of functioning with a single brain cell for her entire life. Experience is important!
Afraid she's too busy being Shirogane's new Mom to take up the responsibility.
It goes without saying that Chika is the best character, but Chika is the best character.
In a show built from the ground up on Face Game, she certainly has the advantage. Kaguya's no slouch though.
Oh for sure. And I love Kaguya and Chika's dueling murder faces here.
My personal fav is Kaguya's Defcon 1 Pout
That's a face that's about to achieve nuclear fusion. Tho this Chika from the OP is also large and in charge.
That Chika is shaped like a friend.
With their self-evidently compatible face habits, it's all too easy to imagine a slightly different direction this anime could take...
If Chika wants to trip that flag she better not let Shirogane throw any more stargazing parties. Turns out that boy can upgrade his game on a dime.
Learning that he's an insufferable astronomy nerd was enough to make MY heart flutter, so I totally understand Kaguya's complete meltdown in this scene.
Between this and what Kaguya pulled when she was sick last season, maybe I was wrong about these two. If the stars ever align maybe they'll maybe even move beyond hand holding.
Even when stars align, they're still light years apart.
Oh it's a long, long journey there. If we're talking getting to first base, these two are in the middle of applying for the zoning permit as a preliminary step towards preparing the contract to eventually build the baseball stadium. But by god I'm more than happy to watch them stumble through the red tape of applying for funding from the city legislature. OK that metaphor got away from me but the point is they should smooch.
I have hope in my heart that they will, and until that point, I will delight in every morsel of suffering that falls from their big blushing stupid faces.
Kaguya-sama is just a gut punch of happiness every week, and I'm going to savor for however long I can. It's a great comedy made greater by its adaptive staff, and even if the day never comes when these two goofuses confess to each other, it'll be worth it to see Shirogane get beat out by his own sister.
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