This recap contains spoilers for Kaguya-sama: Love Is War! Season 2, Episode 12.
Love Is War! eschews the easy route for its second season’s final episode. Rather than a massive story beat, “The Student Council Would Like A Group Photo” consists of two wildly contrasting halves. The longer fore half is a quiet rumination on what it means to have shared experiences through the unique lens of a broken cellphone. The latter takes one of the manga’s weakest one-off chapters and blows it wide open in its final moments. In some ways, this is a quieter reflection of the structure of the first season’s finale. But while “I Can’t Hear The Fireworks” was a bleeding-heart instance of Love Is War! pleading its main narrative’s case, “Would Like A Group Photo” as great as it is, is strictly for the already-converted. And really, why shouldn’t it be? If you’re reading this, you’ve seen 24 episodes of the dang thing.
So without further delay, let’s take a look at Love Is War!‘s final volley for the season.
Out of Service
“Would Like A Group Photo” is primarily about a cellphone, in literal terms. Specifically, Shuchiin’s seldom-seen principal ropes the student council into taking group shots for a magazine. (There’s a bit here where he’s compared to a skeevy model scout. It wasn’t a good joke in the manga and it’s one of the few the anime can’t really save.) After that, the council asks for a group photo. The same that “Would Like A Group Photo” gets its name from.
Kaguya wants to use her old clamshell flip phone for one of them, but bad winds and circumstances conspire to make her drop it. They’re on the school’s rooftop, and despite the reputation of that era’s cellphones being indestructible, it doesn’t survive the drop. Kaguya has just lost or at least believes she has just lost, the pictures she’s taken with her friends during their time at Shuchiin. She is, understandably, devastated.
The real thread this segment tugs on is what taking pictures with your friends actually means. Kaguya, in her internal monologue, explicitly points out that taking pictures with the rest of the student council makes her feel “ordinary”. Indeed, “ordinariness” is a core tenet of school-life comedies on the whole. Love Is War! is (in addition to its “main” genre as a rom-com) a school life comedy, so it’s not hard to read this part of “Would Like A Group Photo” as the show doing some self-reflection, too. Like a number of other prominent works in the anime medium that have emerged during the mid-to-late ’10s (and now the ’20s), Love Is War! is not defined by this endless every day so much as actively engaging with it as a concept.
On a more literal level, Kaguya’s depression over the loss of her phone’s pictures here makes total sense. It has long been implied that Kaguya’s home life is not exactly idyllic, so the normalcy she seeks from her friendships with the rest of the student council is important to her. It’s only once she gets a new smartphone and learns that the rest of the student council have been taking pictures as well (which they promptly upload to their shared LINE chatroom), that she lightens up.
The final scene of this first half of “Would Like A Group Photo” is both touching and pretty funny. A ‘flipping through the photo album’ montage and the sight of Kaguya smiling are heartwarming. Chika doing her best Miyuki impression? More the latter.
Love Is War!
Like the first season’s finale, “Would Like A Group Photo” ends on what’s essentially a goofy throwaway gag only tangentially connected to the rest of the episode. It’s one of Chika’s many harebrained attempts to get the student council in on a game of some kind. This one is a party game where the group takes turns inflating a large rubber balloon and the person who pops it loses. This is among the absolute weakest one-off chapters in the original manga, so it’s to the anime’s credit that ending “Would LIke A Group Photo” with it doesn’t feel wildly out of place. How? By dint of sheer visual force. After the first half of the episode was relatively subdued, the show’s zanier inclinations make a return here.
Face gags, comical character acting, weird visual asides, a frankly astounding parody of an 80s training montage as Ishigami flashes back to the last episode, and a scheme about tangerines. If you’ve liked it in a prior episode, it returns here in force, all coming to a head in “Would Like A Group Photo”‘s closing minute or so.
Pop Goes The World
In its last moments, the second season of Love Is War! quite literally blows up. What was a one-off gag in the original manga is here inflated (har har) to absurd proportions. “Would Like A Group Photo”‘s final moments are Shuchiin Academy exploding into pink mist. A cavalcade of cameos from characters both recently- and rarely-seen passes by as the whole cast are blown into the sky. Love Is War!‘s penchant for truly spectacular freewheeling visual nonsense is here brought to a close.
The closing shot? Kaguya and Miyuki, in the exploded wasteland. The latter helping the former to her feet as they continue to plot to make each other confess.
And so “Would Like A Group Photo”, and Love Is War!‘s second season with it, ends with a very real bang, and a pretty unsubtle message. The world could end, and these two would still be inseparable. If that’s not love, what is?
Until next season, Love is War! fans.