Look, I’m not the only one out there who was enamored by Kaguya-Sama: Love Is War at the first watch. It was already a sweetheart of many manga enthusiasts, and a faithful anime adaptation just skyrocketed the series into a breakout hit of the season. As a self-proclaimed sucker for romance, it was such a welcome change of pace from the sugar-sweet high school anime we’d normally get. But it isn’t just the variation that endears this show to so many weebs across the world.
With a funk-pop soundtrack, gorgeous animation thanks to A-1 Pictures, and a story that is so slow burn it hurts, it isn’t hard to see why Kaguya-Sama is so popular. It’s the intelligent protagonists that are completely oblivious to their feelings. And the brilliant side characters that steal the moment whenever their time comes. Every facet of Kaguya-Sama is a delight, so much so that you can almost ignore how unsatisfying it can be to see the two main love interests skirt around each other with little resolution.
But that’s the beauty of the story. It’s how the mangaka, Aka Akasaka, illustrates the complex situations that stem from relatively innocent emotions. I mean, who hasn’t overthought a crush in their adolescence and tried finding strange roundabout loopholes to confirm the affections from a said crush? To be awkward and weirdly obsessed with love is a rite of passage for any teenager growing up.
Since plenty of rom-com anime have a good story and fun characters, what makes Kaguya-Sama stand a cut above the rest? Is it just because of its pretty visuals and the viral Chika dance? There’s a lot more to the rise of Kaguya-Sama as a cult classic worthy of at least three seasons (so far!) so let’s dive right in!
Kaguya And Shirogane: An Unconventional Love Story!
I think the most interesting bit about Kaguya-Sama: Love Is War is how it starts. Right off the bat, we are told the main characters, Miyuki Shirogane and Kaguya Shinomiya, are in love with each other. Like, no ifs or buts. They are technically an established couple, and both are aware that one harbors some affection towards the other. What drives the plot forward is the chase that ensues.
It helps that everyone else ships them too. They are idolized by everyone at Shuuchiin Academy for their grace and standing as President and Vice President of the Student Council. Shirogane is a model student, coming in on a scholarship. Kaguya is the heiress of a rich conglomerate family. They are both exceptionally smart and talented, complementing each other so well. By all means, they would be the perfect couple.
But that’s sadly not where their similarities end. Turns out, that both of them have more things in common than they thought. Including absolute social disasters when it comes to anything normal for their age. God, these two are clueless at just showing typical affection towards one another. Instead of, you know, asking each other out like normal people? They’ve made their love a battlefield, trying their darndest to make the ‘weaker’ confess so that they can come out on top.
Why The Hot And Cold Dynamic Works:
I mean, why would it not? It’s hilarious seeing the two overanalyze every little situation to the point where they end up making things far more complex than they need to be. It’s amazing seeing these two very clearly gifted individuals who are also very young and inexperienced because holy hell, they can not stand the fact that they are just teenagers in the end.
And that’s the crux of it. It’s seeing these two teenagers not being able to navigate something as simple and nonconsequential as a crush without making it a competition to the (proverbial) death. And what doesn’t let this whole ‘battlefield’ scenario go stale is how the anime focuses on character-driven episodes rather than conflict-based ones. Because, for all the talk about war, there isn’t much conflict. It does focus more on the dynamic between Kaguya and Shirogane, moving on to the side characters, etc.
It’s a nonlinear way of storytelling, but one done very well.
The Chika Dance Does Plays Its Part
Look, I didn’t lie. Yes, Kaguya-Sama is more than just cheap waifu collector bait. But also, Chika Fujiwara is such an easy character to love, how can you not be obsessed?
She’s over-the-top, kind of a ditz, and such a perfect foil to the perfection of the main couple. But the truth is that she’s secretly manipulative, but not in a malicious way. She, along with Yu Ishigami, just contrasts everything so well. They add that much-needed 3rd person perspective, being the characters that act their age. Even Yu, who is a gaming recluse, is somehow more well-adjusted than Kaguya and Shirogane.
And it’s these interactions and character arcs that forward the story from becoming too much of a slow burn! On its own, the show would get repetitive and boring. But it subverts every trope in the book to deliver a show you get easily invested in!