This recap contains spoilers for Kaguya-sama: Love Is War! Season 2, Episode 6
Spare a thought for your reviewer, this is a tricky one.
“I Want Miko Iino To Smile” is the name of this episode’s first half. It is both almost completely devoid of comedy and defies the usual “three segments” formula the show has largely continued to follow. This segment, which focuses entirely on the school election, sees Love Is War! thread an entirely new needle. We were introduced to Miko Iino just two episodes ago, but by the end of this one, she feels as fully fleshed-out as any of the core cast. Miko and Miyuki’s committees must give consecutive speeches on election day. The speech stage is where the bulk of this episode takes place.
Charts, Graphs, and Anxiety Attacks
As a writer, certain character archetypes are harder to get the audience to sympathize with than others. The stick in the mud–someone with incredibly strong morals but very little flexibility–is among the hardest. Love Is War! pulls it off by tapping into one of the most universal fears of the modern world. The fear of public speaking. Kaguya gives a presentation first. Flashy, relatively short, to the point, with lots of visual aids.
Miko, by contrast, stumbles over her words and is almost immediately paralyzed by the crowd. We get a flashback spliced in here where her extreme personality is explained as being the result of busy parents and a lonely upbringing. The result is that she becomes a moralistic, blustery person. Perhaps predictably, she’s picked on at school. We see her crying in a bathroom. It’s nasty. It’s supposed to be nasty. For a series that’s often downright hilarious, it’s actually a bit disconcerting to see it pull a swerve into the anxiety-inducing this hard. The visual language takes no prisoners. At one point the camera pulls back behind Miko to make the stage look enormous. At another, the crowd of students are faceless monsters.
Just when it seems like Miko might have a full-on public breakdown, Miyuki steps in.
Miyuki’s committee, throughout the first half of the episode, are portrayed as cunning, conniving, even rather ruthless. Ishigami in particular seems to have a vested interest in seeing her lose. This is, to be frank, a put-on. The former Student Council do not actually want their opponent to have an onstage panic attack and here, as he often does, Miyuki reveals his clever side. He steps onto the debate stage, interrupting Miko. From there, he engages Miko one-on-one, turning a speech into a debate. Miko, who now has a target that’s not the entire student body to focus on, regains her composure. Here, finally, is some levity, after the longest ten minutes in the whole show. (Why does Miko ultimately want traditional shaved heads as part of the school uniform? They “make her heart pound”. Make of that what you will).
Miko ultimately still loses the election. Though she closes the gap more than Miyuki thought she would. (The hard numbers, for the record: Miyuki 320, Miko 280). This entire first half of the episode is incredible. It sees Love Is War! getting very out of its element and still managing to deliver on all fronts. The back plot about Ishigami wanting Miko to fail but then turning out to actually just not want her to embarrass herself (or something like that) is admittedly a little hackneyed. Otherwise, this easily lands as one of the best sequences of the show so far, even if it’s very outside what Love Is War! normally does.
The final segment serves as an exhale after what is for this series a pretty intense episode. It’s also an important coda. This is the only part of the episode that focuses on Kaguya herself. She worries herself sick at the tail end of the debate and ends up needing to go to the school nurse. There, in another universal anxiety, she gets inside her own head in the wrong way, wondering if Miyuki will actually pick her to be the vice president again. It’s a short segment, and the resolution is swift. She complains to Hayasaka for a while, then Miyuki himself shows up and recruits her back to the council, but it’s very necessary after the episode’s first half. The little guitar riff from episode 3 even puts in another appearance.
The student council is back in session. Plus one, as Miko (though not her bespectacled assistant) finally joins the main cast. It’s short, sweet, and the perfect counterpoint to the earlier anxiety. Mark it down, only halfway through its season, Love Is War! already has some of the best episodes of the year under its belt. It’s exciting to think where it’ll go from here.
Until next time, Love Is War! fans.
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