This recap contains spoilers for Kaguya-sama: Love Is War!
This week’s episode of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War! features our heroine being jealous of the moon. Any discussion of the episode must let that simple fact take precedence. It’s hilarious, sure, but it also lays the groundwork for what’s probably the show’s strongest segment yet. At least as far as the second season is concerned.
Shoot For It
The segment revolves around Miyuki’s occasionally-mentioned love of astronomy. He proposes (more demands, really) that the student council do a viewing of the harvest moon on the school’s rooftop. The others acquiesce, and for Miyuki, the night goes exactly as planned. He gets to watch a beautiful astronomical event with his friends, and genuinely has no ulterior motive in mind whatsoever.
Things do not go as swimmingly for our other lead. Kaguya initially intends to use the moon viewing as a pretext to get closer to Miyuki, but finds herself sidelined by, again, the moon.
It’d be a bit thin if this was the segment’s only angle. Wisely, it also has Miyuki’s in the moment lack of ulterior motive which makes him uncharacteristically (and unintentionally) smooth. A side of his personality that fans of the first season will remember from “I Can’t Hear The Fireworks“. Kaguya’s attempts to trick the president into confessing backfire. He has astronomy and astronomy alone on the brain.
What elevates the segment to a contender for one of the best of the season so far though is something else entirely. Kaguya and Miyuki eventually get into discussing The Tale of The Bamboo Cutter. One of the oldest stories in Japanese traditional literature. Love Is War!‘s own plot has some of The Bamboo Cutter’s shadows cast onto it. The protagonist of both being named Kaguya is just the most obvious example. Miyuki wrapped up in his in-the-moment passion for astronomy (and folklore, evidently) says that he would never leave “Kaguya” behind, even if it took an eternity. Our Kaguya, understandably, is immensely flustered. In one of the episode’s best visual gags, she literally evaporates into pure steam out of embarrassment.
Yet, while the segment does end on a joke, it’s moments like this that give Kaguya-sama: Love Is War! its real heart. The series absolutely wouldn’t work without them, and their integration into the funnier bits of the text can be astoundingly effective.
Generally, Kaguya-sama: Love Is War!‘s best segments in any given episode are in the middle. This one though, I must admit to being rather torn on. This too is a much more heartfelt, sentimental sequence than one might be used to from this show. The school year is over, and thus the student council in its present incarnation is as well. Our characters reflect on their memories together.
This serves as a vehicle for callbacks to the first season and I have to confess that I’m split between finding this heartwarming and being mildly annoyed that it’s used to repeat a handful of gags and their accompanying cuts verbatim, giving it kind of a mini clip show feel. In some cases the reminder is actually welcome. Other jokes though, like a crack about Chika’s chest from one of Ishigami’s earlier episodes, definitely didn’t need an encore.
On the other hand, when Chika and Kaguya actually break down in tears, and later, when Miyuki tells everyone they’ve done a good job, it is genuinely affecting. It’s a mixed bag, in short.
The Golden Cord
The somewhat weak second segment is forgivable though. Because it leads directly into the third. Kaguya-sama: Love Is War! until now has not done a lot of “plot stuff”. Episode-spanning story arcs that flow into other episodes, that sort of thing. The arc that this segment kicks off is arguably only the second in the source material, and it translates to animation astonishingly well.
The student council go to a diner to celebrate a year of hard work well done. They idly discuss plans for the coming year and the show’s more humorous side here picks up again. My personal favorite little gag in here is Chika fantasizing about becoming the student council president next year. She’s promptly laughed at by the other three council members, who she calmly threatens to punch in the face (never underestimate Chika!).
There’s also a great bit about what Kaguya can possibly call Miyuki now that he’s not the president that suffers in summary only because it relies so heavily on Japanese politeness standards for its humor. Even so, the barrage of Chika casually calling him “Miyuki-kun” as Kaguya watches in utter shock is pretty funny.
Things flip back to the sentimental after the group leave the restaurant. Chika and Ishigami depart, leaving just Kaguya and Miyuki. Kaguya silently grapples with the knowledge that without the student council the two will have little reason to see much of each other, and that given the monumental responsibilities of the student president, Miyuki is unlikely to run again.
As she’s about to give up and commit herself to her days with Miyuki and the rest as “a pleasant dream she had every day”, she defies herself. She musters up the courage to ask him to run for student council president again. At which point Miyuki, in a rare instance of one of our leads cleanly trumping the other, reveals he’d planned to all along. The soundtrack’s melancholy piano cycle is replaced with a scratchy funk guitar, and our boy gets a solid win.
As always, the lead couple’s obvious and genuine affection for each other turns what could in lesser shows be a problematic, even icky, relationship dynamic into one that’s adorable and fun. In this particular game of love, the real winners remain us, the audience.
In spite of an iffy middle segment, this is one of the stronger episodes of the show’s second season so far. The promise that we’re kicking off what’s often considered one of the manga’s stronger arcs means there’s a lot to look forward too in the coming weeks, too. Until next time, Love is War!
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