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This Week in Anime
All According to Kaguya-sama

by Steve Jones & Nicholas Dupree,

As we approach the hour-long finale of Kaguya-sama: Love is War -Ultra Romantic-, Nick and Steve look back on the wild ride that led us here. Who will confess first, or will their egos once again get in the way of romantic bliss?

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

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.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Nick, I've an important question for you: do you think love can bloom on the battlefield? And a follow-up question: what if that battlefield has aliens?
Steve, you know my policy on monster girls. I don't care how long Shirogane's been waiting to see his crush, he needs to do his part and kill that bug.
I mean have you seen this past episode's cliffhanger? I think he just did.
That's right baby, we're getting in juuuuuuust under the wire before the season finale of Kaguya-sama, and shit's getting absolutely bug nuts. And like, more nuts than usual for this show.
So nuts we're going to need a hour long finale just to wrap everything up and dispose of the bodies left behind. But I am certainly not one to complain about an impending double-dose of Kaguya-sama, because this season really cements it as one of my favorite anime comedies of all time.
It's been a hell of a ride to get here, and while we'll doubtlessly have a lot to say about the current arc, it's best we not forget the journey that got us here, and the many ways Ishigami's gotten owned this season.
He remains the most relatable character, that's for sure. I actually caught up on the second half of the second season not too long ago, and I just want to say here how unfair it was for the show to make me feel feelings about Ishigami. And as such, I'm very glad for a return to the dunk-heavy status quo.
Oh, the fucking magic the show works to reform Ishigami as a character is nothing short of miraculous. By all accounts it should not work, yet here we are watching him not only be a decent person, but even sacrifice his dignity to protect his ingrate underclassmen.
Noble, perhaps, but it's not like anybody in that student council room had any doubt that Ishigami listened to anime music for fun. The man is one of us, like it or not.

Personally, I'm more glad for further confirmation that Iino is the biggest freak out of all of them. And I mean that in a congratulatory sense.

Unbelievable to think that bit was foreshadowing, now that you mention it.
Kaguya-sama is nothing if not a complex web of broken social mores and rank perversion.
Really though, that is the secret sauce that makes this whole thing work. There are plenty of over-the-top comedies, but Kaguya-sama stands alone through the sheer effort and creativity that goes into the smallest, dumbest jokes. Not since Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei has a show had this kind of energy.
And that's a very apt comparison, considering it's directed by Shinichi Omata, a Shaft expatriate. I mean, who else is gonna throw in a single-frame reference to Kaiji for no reason other than it's extremely funny to me, specifically?
The same team that sees a zombie joke and turns the show into a PS1 survival horror game for a few seconds.
This is a show that, like Shaft's best, knows how to squeeze a lot of juice out of a little pulp. The secret is a lot of style and a lot of not giving a fuck.
Granted even this show's deepest cuts are more accessible than some of the shit SZS got up to. Though they do get close with things like an interstitial gag about drawing porn of their own characters, and then using said drawing as a background for a shot.
It is an anime made by madmen. Like, I don't doubt the quality of the manga. Even having not read it, there are a lot of excellently written jokes and sketches in here, and the character work borders on the sublime. But modeling the entire ED of a goofy romcom on a Starship Troopers shitpost? That's the work of twisted, arcane magic I dare not try to comprehend.
What's even better is that said ED is also a sequel to the first season's ED, not only following up the "storyline" in that original AU fic, but even incorporating bits from the show.
You just cannot ignore how much effort has been poured into nearly every facet of every episode. It can only be a labor of love, and the artistic payoff is outstanding. Plus, it's very funny.
Also maybe it's the trauma talking but I can't not see this as an EX-ARM parody.
Well I know it can't be riffing on World's End Harem. Not glitchy enough.
It's also the rare anime that goes all-in on musical references too, with a ton of pitch-perfect soundalike songs to pepper certain running gags. I'm still dying at the sad Charlie Brown music that plays during Maki's introduction:
Me, I've been thinking about the fake "Take On Me" bit from the most recent episode all week. But the morose Snoopy music is precisely what Maki deserves, and overall she's been a wonderful addition to our growing cast of hardheaded assholes.
Can't lie. Watching her slowly die inside has definitely been one of the highlights of this season.
Or watching her learn in real time about sex.

That's good cartoons.
Whom amongst us didn't turn into borderless smears of color when we learned about the birds and the bees? But really, I do like the energy Maki brings to the cast. She's not totally embroiled in all the covert romance, but still works as a cautionary tale for our main couple: don't wait too long to confess, or you'll become a creature of misery.
Or worse: you'll befriend the creature of misery.

But on that note, while love mind games remain the series' backbone, I think one of the best things about Kaguya-sama is how it's developed its non-romantic relationships. Like, so many of my favorite bits have nothing to do with Kaguya and Shirogane out-galaxy-braining each other. The genuine bits of connection between Kaguya and Ishigami, or the chaotic energy that erupts whenever Chika and Shirogane interact. That's the good stuff.
You say chaotic energy, I say trauma.
Chika's doing fine.
Having a very normal one this whole season.

Though I guess that means we have to talk about the episode of this season that went viral.
In a perfect world they'd all go viral, but if we have to restrict ourselves to just one, I suppose we could do worse than the one where Chika swears.
And also the one where we have to cancel her.
She just asking! She wants to know!
It's Pride, Chika. You should know the answer.
In her defense, I think her grey matter is even more scrambled than usual in this episode, for perfectly understandable reasons.

Friends don't let friends listen to Mori Calliope albums. But seriously, what is up with rap-themed episodes of anime this season? It's like the weird confluence of genderswap shows back in winter, but everyone's wearing their hats at slightly different angles.
It's great! And genuinely, I'm really glad that Kaguya-sama approaches it with respect for the artform, which follows through to the anime delivering a rap battle that is legit pretty fire. Or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

Their diss game is on point at the very least.
I'll give it this: it's not Hypnosis Mic. And in rap terms that can only be a good thing. More importantly it's got to be the weirdest bit of character development for this show yet considering the entire episode is buildup to rapping Hayasaka into a personal epiphany.
I'd need an outlet to vent into too if I had upwards of a half dozen secret identities to keep straight.
Well, keep "straight" in Herthaka's case.
Down, Chika.
Also going back to the insane amount of effort for one-off bits: how about that ED?

Honestly, the running theme for this season is that at no point did Kaguya-sama have to go that hard. Yet it does, and I am beyond thankful to get smacked in the face by good anime each time.

Speaking of stuff that goes hard, here's e-boy Shirogane.
Can't wait for Chika to teach him how to play "Reinventing the Wheel to Run Myself Over" I bet it'll be sick.

Because we know he can't do it by himse-e-e-e-e-elf.
Simply gobsmacked by how mercilessly this bit dragged an entire generation. And deservedly so, for crimes on this scale.
Every person who owned Tony Hawk Pro Skater felt a knife go into their guts just now. And it somehow gets worse once Papa Shirogane shows up as the embodiment of cringe.
Shirogane's dad is the single best addition to this show. A category 5 hurricane of a man. A complete goddamned nightmare in any and every situation. The epitome of fatherhood.
And as somebody who's partially caught up on the manga, this isn't even his final form.
I believe it! That's the beauty of the man. He can always become Worse, and I will love him all the more for it. Like, this punchline was telegraphed so hard I could hear Morse Code, and I still laughed like a hyena. An immaculate presence.
He's also a font of foreshadowing, somehow.
Ah, so season 4 takes place on the moon, gotcha.
I mean, also he's saying this to his son, who's in love with a beautiful and unattainable girl named Kaguya so.
He just wants them to be happy together. What a pure soul.
Also the moon may be lower in the sky than we thought considering the latest arc!
That's right, after two and half season of pussyfooting around, Cupid now has an x-factor in play: the obligatory high school cultural festival!
That's right motherfuckers. It's happening. We're beyond the point of no return now.

Even the narrator can't believe it.
Yeah, Shirogane throws down the gauntlet first, with his intended impending matriculation to Stanford after graduation, but they're both starting to feel the time crunch. Finally.

Though there's still a lot of time, considering we spend like two episodes following everyone else's culture fest adventures instead. Like Iino learning the dark side of ASMR.

One has to wonder how many DLsite purchases were written off as research material for this sketch. Power to those perverts. Plus, where else are you gonna see someone's ear fetish intersect with a Max Headroom gag?
One of those moments where you know the perverts on staff jumped when they saw they were adapting that chapter.
Look, sometimes you gotta make something for the degenerates, and sometimes you gotta make something for the cinephiles. It's all about balance.

Oh Ishigami. It's you're chance alright. And you have no god damn clue.

My precious disaster child. Even IF the festival legend didn't exist, how do you think a classmate is going to take an offer of a throw pillow-sized cookie heart? My dude.
When that happened I screamed. I hollered. I smacked my desk. It's perfect. I wouldn't have it any other way. This idiot spent two weeks mustering up the courage to talk to Tsubame for five minutes and then Mr. Bean'd his way into the first confession in this entire show. Ishigami is a legend.
I really love how Kaguya has been doing her best as his wingwoman too. They have a fun and sweet dynamic together, and lord knows Ishigami needs all the help he can get.

Even if the truth hurts.
Oh yeah, those two together make a remarkably fun pair of friends. Maybe even...more than friends...
I'm actually beyond relieved there's zero chemistry between them. It makes their friendship that much odder, but more genuine too. However, I also got a kick out of that image, specifically, being Shirogane's mental image of the two of them together. It says so much about every party involved.
This really is the season everyone finds out about NTR now that I think about it.

I am blessed every time the show remembers to let Kaguya be evil.
There are moments where she becomes a horror movie monster and it's great every time.
And who's to say her victims don't deserve what's coming?
That girl would be dead if Iino ever found out how horny she is.
There's nary a pure soul in Shuchiin to be found. Actually, scratch that, there's exactly one, and it's that yakuza-affiliated astronomy club girl with the Among Us sleeping bag. It's a damn shame she's shown up like three times total.
Knowing this show she'll somehow turn out to be both extremely plot relevant and also have secretly been in the background since episode two as some insane, long-game easter egg.
Now that's the real Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei energy.
Also I'd call the Among Us part a stretch but the manga has an entire arc centered around Apex Legends so it's almost certainly intentional.
Plus, I mean, there's Player Chika's Battlegrounds.
Somebody really needs to take away Aka Akasaka's internet privileges.
Or they need to be made more robust, to avoid further potential misunderstandings in the future.
This show is very much anti-inflation, if Shirogane is anything to go by.
You say that, but
Obviously that's just a visual metaphor about Shirogane's anxiety that he's about to blow it. Which he very much is as we go into this season finale.

And like, you could see it coming from a mile away. His little impromptu date with Kaguya was going so well—all speedbumps so meticulously flattened—just so he could start to enjoy what little time they have left together in school. But I didn't want to believe it.

Or, and hear me out here. This is all an elaborate ruse. Shirogane lied about his plans to move abroad and go to Stanford to the school officials, applied for the sole purpose of getting an acceptance letter, and this entire season has been his long game plan to push Kaguya to confess to him because she'll think they only have a few months left to be together. ALSO he purposefully assigned Iino and Ishigami to the culture festival board, knowing they would both get too distracted to interfere with his plan. THEN he secretly stole all the heart balloons at the festival and concocted the Phantom Thief in order to keep Detective Chika and the police occupied. BUT ALSO this whole plan was actually thought up by Hayasaka, who secretly instructed him when they were in the karaoke booth, and has been pulling the strings behind both of these fools for not just this season, but the ENTIRE SHOW. AND IT'S ALL BEEN ACCORDING TO KEIKAKU, SO NOW THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN STOP KAGUYA FROM FALLING FOR IT IS SHIROGANE'S FATHER WHO HID A SMALL PIECE OF THE DEATH NOTE IN THE WATCH HE GAVE TO SHIROGANE AND—

Or, y'know, it's a tragic casualty of being a young person in love, and a reminder that you only have so much time to be with the people you love. Either one works.
Maybe I just need to hope for the best and not think about it too har—

Dammit, why does my anxiety demon always show up at the worst times and also perfectly resemble Chika Fujiwara?
Look that's just what this show does to your brain, alright? Any other show I'd take this drama at face value. But it would be the ultimate power move for this show to have spent three seasons setting up for a Death Note meme.
Whatever the resolution, and however on brand it ends up being, I know I'm not alone chomping at the bit over here, waiting for that season finale to drop Friday. This is one of the greatest anime comedies to ever do it, fighting valiantly against entropy to become even funnier and even more eye-popping with each installment. I can't wait to see what surprises and shitposts it has in store for us.
No matter the outcome, it's guaranteed to be explosive.

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