Anime, Reactions, Shows

Kaguya-Sama: Love is War S1E1

This is one of my episode reactions and analyses! I started these recently as a way to delve into particular episodes of a show. My thought is that some people would read these alongside watching the episodes, and that others might read them to get a sense for whether they would enjoy the anime. I hope you like it!

The episode starts with a representation of a love confession that is requited. The narrator explains that everyone says this is a wonderful thing, but that this is dead wrong, and that power dynamics are at work even in the cutest couple.

My first thought was…whaaaat? Is this going to be some sort of kinky anime with unequal power between couples? Should I stop watching? Then it gets worse, with symbolic crying and chains. Yikes. Relationships aren’t usually that bad.

Then the narrator says: Love is no game….it’s WAR!!!

What the heck? Love definitely should not be just a power struggle. This is shaping up to be a very uncomfortable show. But it has a 4.9 rating out of 5 on Crunchyroll, so it can’t be that bad. Can it?

Whoever gives their heart first….will be conquered.

Narrator

The intro is fun, actually. Despite the weapons, it seems almost playful. It doesn’t show any actual violence. The weapons seem largely symbolic of the struggle of two people deeply in love, not of any sort of abusive relationship. Of course, only time will tell.

Also, the song is a bop. I don’t usually use that word, but it definitely qualifies in this case.

Shuchiin Academy is a school for rich kids for the most part, or for those few who get through on merit alone. Kaguya comes from a super rich family and is refined and successful in many areas. Shirogane is the student council president and is a brilliant student and comes from a much poorer family than Kaguya. Hmmm…there already is a power dynamic here…wealth.

Basically everyone in the school ships them. I don’t, yet. So far they just seem aloof as they walk down the hallway. I will say that I usually don’t like characters who are excessively prideful, so I am unlikely to like these two if that personality trait dominates their other ones.

They are aware that the rest of the school is gossiping about them and make a joke out of it. Even from the beginning, their banter seems measured, careful. As if each one is trying to gauge the other. I would never have that level of energy to put into a conversation. They both come off as the smart, cold type.

Initial thoughts: I don’t like them separately, and I probably wouldn’t like them together. Too much pride in one room. They are both utterly convinced that the other has feelings for them and will confess their love.

Then half a year goes by? Why did we even start there then? I guess this is a slow burn romance. The main point is that it has changed from a waiting game to an actual battle. This show has not won me over yet.

Oooh, the oblivious student council member Fujiwara has won two tickets to a movie that her parents won’t let her watch, and offers them to Kaguya and Shirogane. Hopefully this heightens the drama.

Shirogane starts to say he is free, but then Fujiwara interjects, saying that this is a movie that ends up making boys and girls who go to see it together fall in love.

What a pickle. Now Shirogane has essentially agreed to go to a movie with Kaguya that makes people fall in love. That is pretty near a confession of love. But Shirogane says he doesn’t put stock in rumors, suggests that she does, and leaves the decision up to her.

This type of hidden flirting is kind of hilarious. I don’t know how to flirt, honestly. I can’t pull that crap off. And when people have flirted with me in the past, I usually just laughed it off. Literally. Someone told me I was beautiful once and I started laughing, realized it was not a joke, and then shrugged it off as a lie instead. (I don’t really see people as attractive or ugly, but probably due to my garbage self-esteem, I have always assumed I am subpar in the looks department.)

The kind of flirting in this show has the potential to be hilarious, however.

Wow, Kaguya was the one who fabricated the prize and snuck it in Fujiwara’s mailbox. That’s a lot of advance planning to make this situation possible. She’s smart…and smitten. I don’t think I would ever be that underhanded. Two out of the three crushes I have had I have flat out confessed. For one, I was rejected. For the other crush, we’ll see, we’re getting to know each other better. As for the one I didn’t confess, it would have never worked because she was straight.

The narrator is freakin’ hilarious during this battle. Kaguya plays innocent and shifts the responsibility of the choice back on Shirogane.

Tadano from Komi Can’t Communicate believes he has the skill to read the room. Fujiwara lacks this skill utterly. Seeing that they can’t agree and are in some sort of stalemate, she throws a loop in their plans by suggesting a non-romantic movie.

For some reason they are so fried by that, they need sugar to get their energy back. Strange…that seems more like a middle school thing. In high school I drank coffee to get my energy up. Fujiwara nabs the sweets before they can though.

The end of this segment has a battle result that both lose. I hope they keep doing the results because that is kind of fun. I don’t really ship the main characters yet, but that was kind of funny.

In the next segment, Kaguya receives a letter that is a confession of love. Shirogane is not worried because he speculates that Kaguya will turn the guy down since she spends so much time in the student council room. He believes Kaguya will see this guy as a weed, which seems accurate to the way prideful Kaguya sees other people.

Kaguya unexpectedly says she would be willing to go out with him and Shirogane breaks his pencil. Not the pencil tip. The actual pencil. Wow, this guy is flustered. He then tapes the pencil while he is panicking, which says a lot about him as a person. He seems like a perfectionist, to say the least. He has a need to fix things that are broken and perhaps is even cheap, since he does not just consider replacing the pencil.

At this point, Shirogane has imagined Kaguya say “You really are quite cute” twice, so it seems like this might be a recurring thought in the episodes ahead. I can 100% understand why being called would be undesirable. Puppies are cute. Babies are cute. Kittens are cute. Anyone older than like 5 years old is not “cute” to me. I have always equated cute with young and innocent and na├»ve, and never had considered it appropriate to use in a romantic context. Why would I ever want anyone to call me cute, then? It’s so cringey. Honestly, compliments like “cute” or “pretty” fall flat when used on me because first off, appearance doesn’t matter to me, and second, my concept of cute is not the impression I want to make on other people.

The narrator breaks the fourth wall by saying that we are 12 minutes into episode 1 and by now should realize Kaguya’s pride would not let her go out with some stranger who is confessing their love via letter. Not sure how I feel about this. I usually hate when someone breaks the fourth wall, such as in Enola Holmes. It’s funny in this case, but ruins suspension of disbelief. And I love suspension of disbelief. I’ll let it slide…

Shirogane manages to respond as a concerned student council president rather than a potential suitor, and says he will run the idea by a teacher since such behavior would potentially hurt the student council’s reputation. This kinda makes him seem like a self-interested asshole, but I will suspend judgement because I really don’t know him well yet.

Kaguya says it might be true love so she will risk her reputation, and Shirogane proves it is not true love through a trick. He asks, what if he hypothetically confessed? And Kaguya is so flustered that she says she might consider it. Shirogane then is free to say love that is so fickle cannot be true love. Oooh, this is like a game of chess, with two people who are REALLY good at it.

Kaguya holds her ground by saying she will go anyway. Fujiwara is so concerned for her that eventually Kaguya relents. Fujiwara is so painfully oblivious to the situation at hand, but it is pretty hilarious actually.

In the next segment, Kaguya sees a commoner’s lunch for the first time when Shirogane brings lunch to school. This kind of reminds me of when Haruhi introduces the host club, which is filled with rich boys, to instant coffee in the anime Ouran High School Host Club.

Kaguya’s lunches are prepared by private chefs. I can’t even imagine that. But then, for my school lunches I just walked downstairs (I was cyber-schooled) and either had leftovers or whatever my mom made. So boxed lunches and cafeteria lunches were both not really part of my high school experience. Kaguya’s boxed lunches look like gourmet restaurant meals.

Kaguya really wants to ask for a bite because there are foods in Shirogane’s lunch she hasn’t tried before. I don’t think I would ask that sort of thing. I am not as shy as I used to be, but I am not quite straightforward enough to ask for someone else’s food, except if it were a sibling I was asking. I might just say that it looks amazing and secretly hope to be offered some. Not pride in my case…

Fujiwara has no such reservations, and Kaguya is super mad at her when Fujiwara asks to try Shirogane’s food. Shirogane notices the scornful glint in Kaguya’s eyes and is instantly uncomfortable. Passive aggressive much?

Indirect kisses never made sense to me, but Fujiwara took from the part Shirogane ate from. To me, any kind of kiss = germs, which = disgusting.

You are what you eat, so eat something cute!

Fujiwara

The next day, Kaguya tries to make her lunch look so delicious that Shirogane has to ask for a bite, but it backfires when Shirogane just says they should all eat together. However, Fujiwara offers her food instead, which has the little octopus sausages Kaguya has been dying to try. As a result, Kaguya is no longer mad at Fujiwara.

I kind of didn’t expect that. I thought the reason she wanted to try Shirogane’s food was because it was Shirogane’s food. But she actually just really wanted to try particular “commoner’s” foods. That really is quite cute….just kidding, of course. Poor Shirogane always worries that Kaguya will say that to him.

This battle is considered a win for Kaguya.

The narrator tries to explain the psychological complexities of why Kaguya won’t confess until she tells the narrator to leave her alone. Um….how does that work? Can the characters hear the narrator? I doubt that will come up again, but I guess that’s fine. I mean, this is all supposed to be just funny. Strike two for suspension of disbelief.

The outro is adorable and I love it, showing Kaguya with wings and Shirogane with a plane holding hands in the air. It gives me hope that their relationship will be really sweet in the future. The song sounds really nice too, and as an avid listener of anime music, I would say it is one I would listen to more often.

Overall, I enjoyed this first episode. Seems like they are two tsundere-types. For those less familiar with anime, those are the cold, stoic types that tend to soften over time. It’s a trope that is overused, but it can be done right, and I think it has been done well here. The concept overall seems pretty unique. This is shaping up to be a good anime.

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