Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Ultra Romantic Review


Kaguya has been a pretty great show through and through for the first 2 seasons but could it deliver in the third? Well fortunately the answer is yes there. Season 3 is another great installment in the series and this continues to be the definitive comedy series out there. It’s got all the fun interactions and character drama that you could ask for with its usual assortment of references to everything. The amount of detail and care that goes into this show is always very impressive.

I’d say the big arc in this season is definitely the festival at the end but of course we have a lot of fun segments throughout the season so I’ll talk about some of those. The season also has its share of serious moments and in a way you could say this ended part 1 of the series depending on how you break it up. Either way it’s fitting for a season 3 to go all out since it ends the trilogy in a way.

The first episode starts off strong with 3 good segments right off the bat. In the first one Ishigami has to find a way to subtly let Ino know that her earphones aren’t plugged in before the others hear. Considering how mean she is to him on the daily, it’s nice that he’s still looking out for her. It’s not an easy mission by any stretch since she’ll probably yell at him no matter what but fortunately he finds a rather unique way to get around this. I thought it was clever at least and as always he was taking the high road there.

Then you have a segment that really feels like the classic season 1 days with Shirogane realizing that Kaguya doesn’t know how Line messaging works and capitalizes on it. It’s probably one of his biggest clear cut wins in the entire series. It wasn’t a tie or one of those debatable moments, he just saw his opportunity and took it. The whole thing was retro in all the best ways. Finally we had a segment for the arm wrestling which had some DBZ action in there. All in all, that’s exactly how you want to do a premiere. All of the segments were a lot of fun.

In episode 2 we get to see the Ai and Shirogane dynamic again as she is sent to a party to watch over him and decides to mess with Kaguya some more. She definitely likes messing with the main heroine but of course Kaguya reacts quite strongly each time so it’s easy to do. There’s also a segment with trying to get Ino and Ishigami to be nicer to each other although that doesn’t go super well. This episode isn’t quite as strong as the first one though since it doesn’t have any segments that knock it out of the park.

Then in episode 3 we finally get Maki to really get a big role. She’s one character who really took a while to get a big role but makes the most of it. I always thought she was a lot of fun and the show nails her character perfectly. She has a tragic lot in life as the guy she liked ended up going out with her best friend instead. That’s a rather bitter pill to swallow but she takes it in stride or at least as well as she can. She gets two segments in a way as another one was because her friend thought that Maki was tempting the guy away.

The third segment here is finally back to a group game which is nice. Everyone gets to use their own strategies here to try and come out on top. I always like the game segments because they’re super entertaining. Seeing everyone try to accomplish their agendas is priceless and it makes the games a lot higher stakes than they would be otherwise.

After that we really begin the Ishigami and Tsubame plot in earnest. He’s finally trying to get courage to ask her out and this leads to another studying session. Whenever Kaguya teaches him it’s always fun because she’s just a really good teacher. He also does want to learn and so it’s a lot healthier than the Chika and Shirogane dynamic. Of course that one’s a lot of fun too but this is more of a proper teacher and student bond. The final segment is more of a sleepover adventure which isn’t nearly as solid.

We get to have some fun rap segments after that. Rap isn’t really my thing as I tend to find it to be one of the weakest music genres but it works well enough here. Shirogane really gets to try and get his message across this way. Then we have another Maki segment as she gets to vent to her friends. It’s nice that Ishigami and Shirogane are always there for her because otherwise she’d have to keep it bottled in which is no fun for anyone.

Another fun segment after that was the student teacher conference as Ai and Shirogane’s parents help Kaguya out since her guardians weren’t around. They did a good job of stepping up in the moment and it made for a very amusing turn of events the whole time. Beyond that we get closer to the festival arc as it starts to really be around the corner. Shirogane steels his resolve to have her confess by that date so the stakes are still rising.

After that the festival really begins in earnest. We get a lot of Kaguya and Shirogane moments, Ishigami trying to get to Tsubame, and more plots. Just about every character is here and that makes sense since no student can afford to miss the big festival right? Anyone who is anyone will have to attend and help make the whole thing a huge success. The festival is rather long but never drags out or gets dull because of how much is going on the whole time. The whole thing is a lot of fun and of course we get to see Shirogane’s big plan. The whole series will never be the same after this.

As you can tell from the episodes, one reason why Kaguya is so good is because the humor is top notch. The characters are all a blast and have great dynamics with each other. The writing is top tier as well and then the show goes the extra mile with the animation and soundtrack. The theme song’s visuals are really catchy and throughout the show it feels high budget. Then you have the soundtrack which is also top tier. This show is treated like a big budget action title in terms of how much effort is put into it and it shows.

The storyline was also building up to this for a long time so the payoff really ended up working. It all builds together to really make this a masterpiece. I really don’t have any negatives to say about this one. If I had to drilldown on something minor, there was a moment or two where the show would pick a random angle that felt like a tiny bit of fanservice but on the whole the show has been quite excellent at avoiding that. It’s all so minor here I wouldn’t consider it to be an issue. Kaguya is really high brow entertainment through and through.

As always Kaguya is a fun main character here. Her strategies are always on point and the back and forth with Shirogane is the meat of the show. This time you could say he actually had the edge for most of the show though because he had his goal to make her confess while she was still used to him trying to dodge her. It’s like he had extra intel you could say so he steeled himself and wouldn’t get flustered the way he usually would. That’s not something she had previously accounted for which is what put her in a tough spot.

As for Shirogane, his plan was really on point. He put a whole lot into this and it paid off quite well. I always like how he’s determined to learn new talents and everything too. I doubt any character works quite as hard as he does. The guy never really gives himself a breather or any kind of break. He just keeps on improving and working to make everyone’s lives better. It’s why he’s so worthy of the title of class president.

Chika’s role isn’t huge here but she’s always around to have fun. Especially when there’s a mystery to be solved or a game to play. While she may have gotten one of the mysteries wrong, I did like her enthusiasm the whole time. She was so happy when she thought that she had cracked the case that I felt bad for her afterwards. Chika definitely nails the comic relief character role down to an art.

Ishigami continues to be a great character here. His character development has been super smooth all the way through. He’s always trying to do the nice thing and he’s slowly bursting out of his shell. He consistently has great character moments in every season and this one’s no exception. While I’m not really rooting for him to get with Tsubame, at least it’s another way to motivate him to study. His days of slacking off are pretty much over at this point.

Then we have Ino who is still fun but always aggressive towards Ishigami. He can’t really do anything without her throwing some shots his way. Ino always seems bitter about the guy which makes for a fun running gag but as a character you can see why he wants to avoid her after a while. While I would put her as the weakest member of the council for now, she is still a fun character and does add to the dynamic. Right now her friend Kobachi doesn’t at all. I can’t say I’m a fan of hers yet.

Ai is a fun character as always though. Her ninja skills are still on point but gradually Kaguya is learning how to fend for herself and not have to rely on Ai all the time. This also gives Ai more freedom to think about what she really wants and this is a plot that should continue on into the future. Then there is Tsubame and she’s a nice enough character. She did her best to break Ishigami out of his shell and should accept some of the credit for doing that. As for how she took the whole confession angle, it was all in the heat of the moment so all things considered she handled it well enough.

Now for me I’m mostly a fan of Kaguya because of the humor and all of the mind games. It’s what really put the series on the map for me as a top tier contender through and through. I’m less big on the romance in general so as the series gets more serious we’ll see how it can keep up. The first two seasons didn’t really deal with romance seriously at all as it was all about the cat and mouse games. Well, now we’re starting to get more into the serious side of it so I think it’ll be hard for the next seasons to beat the original 3. Still, as long as they keep putting this much effort into it, then they should work well enough. Also while I like Ishigami a lot as a character, I do think his romance plot is a lot weaker than Shirogane/Kaguya’s.

At least as far as romances go, Kaguya and Shirogane’s has been done the right away. It’s been built up for several seasons now and part of why the show is so much fun is because they just want to be the one to win the love game by getting the other one to confess first. So it’s a fun dynamic and once the romance gets serious, at least there’s been a lot of build up the whole time. Ishigami’s is much more of a quick romance in comparison and then with Ino you already have the show hinting that it wants to add some more drama into the mix. Right from the jump you could see how this one won’t work as well and it doesn’t work within the show’s tone quite as well either. There are no mind games to be had here (None yet anyway) and it’s all just a bit basic. Keep Ishigami as the fun video game guy and Ino as the stickler for the rules and then you’re all set.

As a side note, I did think it was fun how they switched up the ending animation for one episode where the characters are in some kind of neon lights band. The animation went crazy on that one but it was fun as a little experimental moment. Then you also had Ai’s brief song which felt really high budget and the music for that was cool. So the show isn’t afraid to mix things up every now and again. It’s a difficult show to predict compared to most and I would say that’s a good thing. You always want to stay unpredictable.

One thing we haven’t gotten from the show yet which would be fun would have been a school against school battle. It’s unlikely to ever happen as the manga is nearly over too but with so many strategic juggernauts in one school, imagine the possibilities of putting them up against another group? That would be a blast and we don’t actually get to see the Student Council teaming up a whole lot like that. Maybe do it as a quiz show or some kind of Olympics event where you keep switching activities. I’m sure our team would win but that whole scenario would be a blast.

Overall, Kaguya delivers another excellent season with this installment. It’s absolutely a show that you could recommend to anyone who wants a fun laugh or a good time. The production values are really impressive and the character cast is super dynamic. You could put two of them into any situation and you’ll be able to get a lot of fun jokes out of it. That’s when you know that a series is really on a good track. There are no weak episodes here and the 13 episodes will really be over in a flash. Now with the movie announced, we’ll see how long it takes to do season 4.

Overall 8/10

Kaguya-sama: Love is War? Review


It’s time to take a look at season 2! I like what they did with the title. It’s a small thing but a season 2 should always have some way to easily differentiate itself from the first and a question mark even works on a story level since the competition is starting to get trickier for the two leads. It’s definitely a great follow up to the first season. I would still give season 1 the edge as it had more standout segments for me, but it is nice to see Ishigami and Ino getting more of a role here. They do help to make the student council feel more complete.

The general plot here is that Shirogane and Kaguya are still trying to get the other person to confess their love first. Love is War after all and the first person to concede is the one to lose here. That’s the general set-up but more specifically it’s time for the election arc. The first year is over after all and that means the Student Council will be temporarily disbanded as the elections go on to elect a new student council president. Shirogane ultimately ends up running for the position again but this time he will be up against Ino. Ino is a first year student with big dreams and she wants to change the school. Thing is, if she wins then Kaguya and Shirogane might not see each other as often anymore so even if they can’t admit this, it adds extra fuel to their determination to win this.

The season is 12 episodes and a lot of those are stand alones so I won’t say the election arc lasts for very long but I would still consider it one of the major story beats here. Then we have the aftermath and the other big story event is that we finally see Ishigami’s full backstory of what happened to make everyone in the school dislike him. It’s certainly one of the more emotional parts of the story and while you may have expected that to be the season finale, there is one episode after that so that things can end on a lighter note. I still say Ishigami’s episode would have been perfect to end the whole thing on though.

So lets dive in and first off I’ll get the technicals out of the way since not much has changed since season 1. As was the case last time, the soundtrack is dynamite here. I don’t think it can be stated enough how important a soundtrack is for a comedy/slice of life kind of show. You need it to really inject a lot of energy into each scene. While strong writing would be enough to keep the show interesting without it, why turn down an advantage right? Kaguya is leaps and bounds above all other shows in these genres with the soundtrack. There are a lot of fun themes and then you even get the occasional homage like a Mission Impossible/James Bond kind of track.

Also the theme song’s pretty catchy. It even remembered that Kaguya was in the archery club and incorporated that into the song which was a nice detail. Then you have the animation which is still really good. It may be slightly calmer than season 1 so the original may have the slight edge there but it’s extremely close. Either way the animation is still very smooth and works well with the scenes. It never feels low budget and it’s a show that remembers to give everyone eyes that stand out. One of the big benefits of anime is how crazy they can make the hair and eyes so whenever a show remembers this it’s a good thing. In fact there’s a whole segment about Shirogane’s eyes and how they change when he has gotten some sleep. This would not have been as effective if they hadn’t given it as much detail earlier.

One of the reasons the franchise made it so big in the first place is how clever the writing is and this season doesn’t stop with that. One of the most effective gags in the whole series comes in the final episode as the gang play a fun Mario Party type game where you have to pump up a balloon. If it pops during your turn then you’ll lose and may also get a bit traumatized with how big the explosion will be. Each character has emotional flashbacks and inspirational montages where you’d expect them to surpass their limits and they don’t. It’s definitely a great scene and that was one of the better segments so it was a good way to end off the season.

The show is always funny without being silly. It’s got a great balance here. Another really solid part is when Kaguya has a trial against her other selves in her mind. The way each personality is represented while also being recognizable from her previous moments is solid. It’s a comedy scene for sure but at the same time you can tell that it’s not coming out of nowhere and can even be a bit of foreshadowing for her future moments. The show has quite a lot of depth which puts it apart from the average comedy.

I’ve read the manga and in a lot of ways that’s why these early adventures were my favorite part. I like the fun shenanigans before things get too serious. Serious moments are all well and good too of course but the banter between the characters and the fun games are when the show is at its peak. We definitely get a lot of moments here for that throughout the show as well so it never loses its momentum. Now lets dive into the characters although the cast is still a little on the small side.

Kaguya is still a great lead and certainly gets her share of wins here. From the main two I still think she tends to plan out her attacks a lot more thoroughly and is also willing to cross the line a bit more to get what she wants. Whenever we see how she knocks candidates out of the running through poison tea (Probably just sleepy tea or something very mild) or blackmail, it shows that she is really someone who has Shirogane’s back at all times. She can still be a bit quick to betray Chika all the time though so their friendship certainly isn’t the best but I’m sure she’ll get better at that eventually.

Kaguya’s plan of using citrus to burst the balloon at the end was also inspired. In general she definitely has quite a few good showings here and part of why the dynamic works is because she and Shirogane both get their clear cut wins from time to time. So instead of constant cop outs you have times where each one can feel proud of their complete accomplishment. She’s also very supportive of Ishigami even if he doesn’t always realize this.

As for Shirogane, it’s also a great season for him. While he may not be as thorough as Kaguya, his reaction times are always impressive as he’ll be able to think of some kind of excuse to save his bacon all the time. His most impressive win here had to be tricking Kaguya into being the one to beg him to stay on the council. His plan here was solid in a few different ways because if she hadn’t done that then he probably wouldn’t have re-submitted the application so it was a win-win. He created a scenario where he couldn’t lose.

Shirogane is also able to take the high road many times. He helped Ino when he saw she was in a jam and he’s the kind of guy who will accept a personal loss if it means helping someone out. I’d say that’s his humble beginnings showing here as he had to work his way to the top and knows what it’s like to lose. He’s just a very nice guy and probably one of the nicest characters in the series. You can always count on him in the end.

Ishigami has a lot of character development here and getting his own arc was impressive. He definitely had a rough string of luck. I would say he didn’t handle some parts amazingly like trying to convince the girl of why he was beating up the cheater but in the spur of the moment it’s not always easy to make the right call. I’m glad he didn’t end up writing the apology because that would have definitely been unfortunate. In the end he did not have to compromise on his ideals and now he can finally move on from the past.

He may not have gotten the perfect ending to his arc that he would have wanted but ultimately he’s still in a much better place than he was. You can see how he’s gotten more confidence over time as well. He’s not always perfect and can speak his mind a bit too much but at least now he has a positive relationship with just about everyone. Ino is really the only exception with how she’s constantly attacking the guy for no real reason. At least right now she always appears to be the instigator.

Then we have Chika who is still the fun comic relief character here. She does well in that role and is always ready to brighten up everyone’s spirits. She enjoys her role as the love detective as well and is always ready with some good advice. Chika also still has the sub plot where she will occasionally train Shirogane on a task that he’s really bad at. That continues here as well and you have to applaud her dedication of not giving up. She even ends up having a bit of a rivalry with Kaguya this time around while poor Shirogane is stuck in the middle.

Chika’s role may not feel as big as the others in a sense since the serious story parts never involve her but she is always around. You don’t feel like her role is small while watching the episodes since she is constantly around. Next up is Ino who has now joined the ranks as a main character. She makes for a solid antagonist in the election arc. Ultimately her points and ideas may not have been particularly valid in a lot of ways which explains why she would have a tough time getting votes but she tries hard.

I like her enthusiasm and confidence but do think she could work to be a bit nicer. It does appear to be true that she doesn’t really incorporate feedback most of the time or she could have done better and of course her baseless attacks on Ishigami don’t help her case. Ino’s timing can also be rather rough most of the time so she ends up not getting a very good opinion of the whole student council for a while there.

Hayasaka is more of a supporting character but one who’s always a lot of fun to have around. She plays a lot of roles here like being a student and Kaguya’s maid. She is expected to help out on the field and subtlety find out intel for Kaguya as well. There is no break for her and there’s a whole segment about Kaguya bugging her constantly when she is just trying to relax. It’s quite the thankless job for her but ultimately Hayasaka always pulls the mission off without a hitch. It’s why she is the ultimate bodyguard.

Finally there’s also Kei, while she did appear a little in season 1, her role has gotten a bit bigger here. As Shirogane’s sister you would expect her to have a role since it’s a common practice to win over someone’s family members so you can get closer to your actual target. This doesn’t tend to work out very well for Kaguya in this season though. Kei’s a fun enough character even if she always seems a bit rude to Shirogane when he’s just trying to help. Imagine getting mad at him for trying to get you a present for your birthday right? The show did good in also giving her eyes a distinct design too. No detail was left out for this anime that’s for sure.

Now with the amount of segments that the show has (2-3 per episode) you’re not likely going to find all of them top tier. The reason why the show still manage to be great though is because the vast majority of the segments are really excellent. The weaker segments for example can be when the two randoms are always asking for love advice from the main characters when they’re just trying to flex. I’d like to see the council call them out on it although still being more low key than Ishigami’s reaction. It’s always tough when your rep is on the line though.

Still, the show avoids the easy pitfalls of romance/slice of life titles like fanservice. The show has been very good about staying sophisticated so this doesn’t become an issue. There can be some small moments here and there but never any scene that stays into focus for very long or an extended situation that would make this an issue. The romance still plays a backseat to the comedy as well so things don’t get too dramatic. It’s a little more serious than in season 1 as you can tell the characters are weakening but it’s still not quite there yet. The two characters are best as rivals so it’ll be sad to see the dynamic go away once that changes.

The pacing is also really fast with how many segments are in every episode so things are always happening. You’ll never be bored in any episode that’s for sure. Whether the characters are playing a game or going for one of their many schemes, it’s always moving quickly. You’ll laugh at the funny scenes and get emotional during the triumphant ones. We even got a whole tragic plot with Kaguya’s phone getting damaged. I know it can definitely be rough losing out on all of your data like that. It’s why my important photos are backed up through social media or this site so if my phone were to ever be destroyed I’d still be okay. It’s still a hard loss though so you can feel the sadness of the scenes before the heroes are able to help her out. The show really knows how to handle every genre and we even get a lyrical song to close out the final episode as it transitions well into the opening. We’ll see if season 3 can keep up this momentum but I have no doubt that it can even if passing season 2 can be another story.

Overall, Season 2 is a solid follow up here. If you liked season 1 then you will certainly like this one because it really keeps the same energy and focus that the first season had. It’s really just as strong in most ways. I still give season 1 the edge because I felt like the climax was more emotional and the segments would beat out the season 2 counterparts on average but it’s a very close battle to be sure as I still gave them the same score. If you’re in the market for a fun rom-com then this is definitely the title to check out. With season 3 having started recently you also know right off the bat that there are a lot of episodes to check out so it makes jumping into the franchise that much more appealing.

Overall 8/10