Kaguya is definitely a title that took the romance genre to new heights. It has to be up there with Nisekoi as one of the all time greats. The manga has definitely been a lot of fun with how crazy it is and season 1 of the anime manages to capture that same energy. The premise is excellent and the show really manages to capitalize on this. So in the end you’re bound to have a good time with this one and you’ll definitely be really hyped for the next season.
The show starts by introducing us to the 2 main characters, Kaguya and Shirogane. They are members of the Student Council and are considered to be elites in a school that is already comprised of only the rich and influential. Shirogane has earned his way to the top as the student council president through good grades and being a general genius. It’s something he is quite proud of since there is otherwise no way he could possibly be in the school. Then you have Kaguya who is a member of the most powerful family in the world, the Shinomiya family. She is a natural prodigy at just about any skill she picks up.
With such talents comes a great ego on both sides though. Shirogane and Kaguya both like each other but refuse to make the first move. That is where “Love is War” comes into play as the anime uses a lot of battle analogies for this. The way to win this battle is to get the other person to confess first. If you can do this then you will have won the match but on the other hand is you break down and confess then it will be an eternal loss. So who will end up conquering the other? That is the basis for each episode as they use their impressive intellects to try and get the other person into a tight spot where they have to confess.
Right from the start I thought this was really a great plot. It’s also a fairly big departure from the usual rom-com setup where it would be one character obviously chasing after the other. Here we actually get to see into their heads as they come up with all kinds of crazy plans. It’s safe to say that Kaguya tends to be better at planning things out long-term as her plans usually involve a lot of research from before the day has even started. Meanwhile I would say that Shirogane is quicker at thinking in the moment like when he has to counter her various plans and come up with some strategies of his own. He’s never on the back foot for long.
You may wonder how this premise could go on for so long but it’s really easy as the show comes up with all kinds of fun scenarios throughout the 12 episodes. Additionally there are other characters here as well and I’ll get into them in a moment. First off, as an adaption the anime really does a great job. The soundtrack is a 5 star title. There are so many great themes that fit each of the various moments in the show. You’ve got action themes, comedic ones, emotional tracks, etc. Whatever scene is happening, the show is able to amp it up with some well placed music. You’ll definitely want to listen to a lot of those tunes again. As for the theme song itself, it’s fairly decent. I wouldn’t call it high tier or anything but the song is catchy enough. I think the visuals can feel a bit too lazy with how so many scenes are reused over and over again.
It’s a stylistic choice but one that didn’t land for me. Otherwise the general animation in the show is really quite good. There’s always a lot happening in every scene from background effects to things happening in the character’s eyes. The show is never taking a break with the animation and it helps keep everything as interesting as possible. The story is engaging enough where it would still be good but that’s why this ends up being a great adaption as it makes everything even better.
You can feel the tension in the episodes as the characters have to try and get each other to crack. In that sense the Umbrella segment is one of the best ones because almost the whole thing is the two characters casually hinting that the other one is lying about not bringing an umbrella. There isn’t a lot technically happening so the scene has to carry itself with pure dialogue and music. It does so quite well. On average my favorite segments tend to be the game themed ones though. Whether the characters are playing a card game, board game, or a mental game, I like the competitive fire it brings out in the cast. Chika tends to do surprisingly well at some of these too even if she doesn’t always win.
All right, lets talk about the characters now. I think it’s a strong testament to how good the cast is that I can remember the names of the main 4 immediately. Sometimes it takes a little while to really know the characters. Kaguya is a solid lead for all the reasons I mentioned before. She’s a genius, always has a lot of plans at the ready and knows what she wants. Kaguya does well in this war of love and is also just a good person beyond that. She will put aside her competition to help someone out in need, whether it be a child who needs to cross the street or Ishigami flunking a class. So her role as a member of the student council never really takes a back seat and that makes sense.
Kaguya is someone who certainly values honor and duty so she doesn’t let go of those things. Then you have Shirogane who is also a blast. He’s someone who is always under a lot of stress since he has no family connections or money to fall back on. As a result the guy is constantly doing a million things but he always has time to compete with Kaguya and the others. He really comes through in the climax of the season and definitely helps to put everyone in a better place. At the end of the day he’ll also stop to do the right thing even if it might hurt him in his battles with Kaguya.
The two have a really solid balance going in part because of how different they are. They each have similar goals but you’ll see how they tackle this in different ways. I’d also say Shirogane tends to overthink things a little more than Kaguya does. He imagines things going in the worst possible way all the time. While this may happen to Kaguya once in a while, it’s almost constant for him.
The next biggest character here would be Chika. She’s the main comic relief character of the series and fulfills her role very well. She doesn’t notice any of the tension between the main two characters and just likes to have a lot of fun. She’s often the character who will bring in the games to play with. She has less of an honor code than the other two and doesn’t mind cheating at times though. Chika can often be a bit of a space case and mess things up for the others but at times you also figure she’s a lot smarter than she lets on.
Chika is one of those characters who just doesn’t let anything really get to her and has a lot of fun all of the time. She’s another very strong character as a result. The main two still win but she’s still an extremely solid character and probably one of the best you could hope for to slot in as the comic relief character. Often times those characters don’t seem to contribute a whole lot to the plot or can get annoying but that never happens with her. She’s just consistent through it all and the series would lose a lot in the dynamic if she wasn’t around. Just having her here as a third party to mess up Kaguya and Shirogane’s plans is great.
Ishigami is the final member of the student council and doesn’t really get to do much until fairly deep into season 1. I liked how the anime would keep him out of frame or have him facing the wrong way until it was time for his debut. It was a good way to acknowledge/foreshadow that he would be appearing soon without actually spoiling that part yet. While I don’t think he’s as strong as the main 3, he’s still a solid member. His gimmick is that he’s super afraid of Kaguya and loves playing video games so he doesn’t take the school as seriously as the others. It’s to the point where he nearly flunks so the guy definitely likes to live life on the edge.
Ishigami tends to get in trouble a lot but most of the time it’s through situations of his own creating so you don’t feel super bad for him. The guy needs to work on reading the room which is not one of his strengths right now. He does add to the dynamic though and so I’d say he didn’t arrive too late or anything. With these 4 the student council is in good hands and they’re all quite different so it’s not like they’re stealing a lot of screen time away from each other or anything.
That’s it for the main characters and right now there aren’t too many supporting characters. A few like Shirogane’s sister do appear but haven’t had much to do yet. I’d say the two main ones to show up would be Hayasaka and Nagisa. Nagisa and her boyfriend have a bit of a running sub plot where they will show up to separately ask the main 2 for advice since they assume Kaguya and Shirogane would have a lot of experience even if that is not the case. There’s not a whole lot to say about them beyond that but they seem like nice enough characters.
Hayasaka is a much more entertaining character though. She is forced to live a double life so that nobody suspects that she is actually Kaguya’s maid. Her role is really to keep Kaguya safe and so she does this really well by also being at school so she can help out as needed. Hayasaka is more old school on the romance angle and just thinks Kaguya should confess but of course that’s not going to happen. Hayasaka really goes the extra mile in her duties to help Kaguya out so she’s a very solid ally to have.
That about wraps up the characters. Each episode tends to have 2-3 adventures in it so the episodes really breeze by. It shows how quick some of the adventures are but also that the show isn’t really going to drag them out which is good. The pacing is always on point here. While the series eventually gets more plot driven I would largely say that season 1 is episodic. Some development and events do carry over of course but for the most part you can pop in any episode and understand what’s going on right away.
There really aren’t any negatives to speak of for this show. With any comedic title there are bound to be some segments that you won’t find quite as funny as others but with multiple segments per episode I doubt there will be any episode where you don’t like any of them. The weakest segments for me would be Kaguya getting sick and Kaguya being unable to laugh. Then the best ones would be the Umbrella and all of the game episodes I mentioned earlier. The series also avoids some of the potential pitfalls of the rom-com genre like random fanservice and lots of rivals popping up out of the wood work. Not to say that the show is completely devoid of fanservice but it’s fortunately just about nonexistent.
Finally, the writing just feels very sophisticated. It’s the kind of show that will randomly drop lots of different scientific theories at you. The characters are always showing off in one way or another so it makes sense and works naturally. This helps to enhance the script all around and the line between the characters stating facts or just bluffing gets really blurry which is always nice. You don’t want to necessarily believe whatever you hear them say but it’s always nice to see them invoking all of the theories anyway. The show is really a comedy first and a romance second but balances the two to perfection and never gets overly dramatic. It is just a great all around title.
Overall, If you’re looking for a solid rom-com then look no further. Even if you’re not big on romance I could still recommend it entirely because at its core the series is about the mind games that come from this. The romance is always around but it’s not a dramatic romance or anything. Often times the characters will just seem more like friends anyway and you might even hope that this could be the end game instead of getting together. It’s just season 1 though so it’s too early to be thinking about the end game. Just enjoy all the laughs and fun and the 12 episodes will go by in a breeze. You’ll also be looking forward to Chika’s continued assault against the Ramen Kings. It’s a small subplot that begins in this season and is just a lot of fun with how seriously they take their food. I’m more of a “Stuff my face” kind of eater personally but I understand that some like to really savor the experience. It’ll also make you hungry for some good pasta even if you don’t have a ramen on hand.