Anime Impressions is a weekly column that will run each Tuesday for the first month of the anime season. Resident GGA anime content writer Jane Y. Auman brings you the best of the new crop of shows. Choosing one to highlight each week. This week; that show is the comedic and visual stunner “Kaguya-sama: Love Is War!”
It’s been a season of varied fortunes so far. Many shows have had promising premieres (Endro!, The Magnificent Kotobuki, Magical Girl Special Ops. Asuka, The Price of Smiles), a few have had simply inexplicable ones (W’z, Dimension High School), and a couple (Mob Psycho 100 II, Dororo, Boogiepop and Others) have been truly dazzling. In that latter category is also where you’ll find the subject of today’s Anime Impressions; Kaguya-sama: Love Is War.
Technically Kaguya-sama is a romcom. It leans so heavily on the “com” side of things though that you could be forgiven for not really wanting to categorize it that way, though. “Heartwarming” is, if the premiere is any indication, not a priority here. Instead, Kaguya-sama‘s highlights are the strong characters. Who are impressively strongly-written even this early on, and its interesting visual style.
Boy Meets Girl – Our Characters
Let’s talk about those characters first. Kaguya-sama is built around using its impressive visuals to illustrate its core dynamic. That dynamic is the tension between the two leads: the titular Kaguya, and her male counterpart Miyuki. Both characters attend the same high school, a prestigious prep academy where they are two of the top students, and compose 2/3rds of the student council. Kaguya is the heir to her family’s vast fortune and Miyuki is the academic star. They have a massive crush on the other. Most importantly though, they are far too proud to ever admit that fact.
As an aside, there’s also third-wheel character Chika Fujiwara. Who disrupts the main duo’s mind games to such an extent that the episode at one point opts to describe her antics with a honking huge “CHAOS THEORY” overlay. She has a promising first showing here. It’s more than enough to make one hope that her role is expanded in later episodes.
The series’ central tension is this then. Kaguya and Miyuki as mutually in love, both quite aware that the other also loves them, but too proud to do anything about it. Not directly anyway. The series’ core appeal comes in here, as the two essentially try to goad each other into confessing first. What this means is that for all the trappings one might expect from a “romcom”, what Kaguya-sama is so far is mostly a comedy series in the form of incredibly silly mind games between a pair of massive dweebs.
Love Is A Battlefield – Art & Animation
If the first episode is any indication, the series will be a visual treat too. Those visuals mentioned earlier take a page from the Monogatari Series’ playbook. Obviously Kaguya isn’t the first show to literally paint conversations and thought processes with out-there visual stylings. It is one of the best to do it in recent memory, though. These gags take a variety of forms. You’ve got superimposed text, retro VHS effects, dramatic close-ups that wouldn’t look out of place in Death Note, downright painterly sakuga sequences, and highlight gags.
That’s a lot of tools to fit in one box. But Kaguya-sama never makes the mistake of being overcrowded. The show’s dueling-minds conceit and the visuals enhance each other. Which leads to situations where the joke and the imagery kind of rubber-ball back and forth off of each other. It’s fascinating from a critical perspective but more importantly it’s downright hilarious to watch. It’s also a duality that will for some bring to mind classic comedy series Nichijou, despite the two shows otherwise having little in common.
Talk Talk – Voice Work
We should also mention the voice acting, at least briefly. The titular Kaguya in particular is voiced by Aoi Koga. Koga is a relative newcomer to the industry–Kaguya isn’t her first leading role, but she’s close. This makes the sheer charisma that Koga plays the character with all the more impressive. Kaguya is a character of extremes; often bombastic and a mastermind one moment and demure and romantic the next when the cracks in her facade start to show. It’s a role that requires no small amount of finesse, and Koga pulls it off exceptionally well.
At the end of the day Kaguya-sama so far is just good fun. It’s hard not to recommend this sort of thing if you have an even passing interest in comedy anime. The first episode is a raucous start to what seems like it’s going to be an easy season highlight.
Kaguya-sama: Love Is War can be streamed on Crunchyroll.