Kaguya-sama: Love is War – Ep. 1 (First Impressions)

Love. Love never changes.

I gave a couple of reasons as to why Kaguya-sama interested me in my Season Preview. For one, a lot of people have talked glowingly of the manga the anime is based on and I always take that kind of stuff into consideration. And two, the idea of a student council president and his second-in-command locked in a psychological war based around one of them confessing to the other sounds so good on paper that it’d be a shame if it wan’t funny.

There was, however, one preliminary detail that I can’t believe I missed. Apparently, Kaguya-sama is directed by Shinichi Omata a.ka. Mamoru Hatekayama, the same director who brought Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu to audiences in 2016 & 2017. Now that merits both eyebrows raised. Omata’s direction, which ranged from grounded realism to evocative style, was a big reason why Rakugo worked so well as a series. I bring this up not just because I think whatever Omata works on now ought to be worth checking out but also to better wrap my head around how evocative Kaguya-sama is proving to be.

No doubt, the adventures of Kaguya (Aoi Koga) and Miyuki (Makoto Furukawa) is oozing with style. Dramatic close-ups, exaggerated facial expressions, single colored backgrounds, kaleidoscope effects, assorted graphics, a faux VHS filter, you name it. Very rarely is a scene every played straight here. For me, it’s the biggest draw of this anime. Watching Kaguya and Miyuki try to one up each other over movie tickets, a love confession, and their own stinking lunch is indeed hilarious in of itself. Both Aoi Koga and Makoto Furukawa are doing an excellent job delivering their lines in such over the top fashion too. Still, the visual direction really accentuates the comedy, allowing the content to garner larger and more consistent laughter than it already would have without it. And while not the most fluid animation out there, I am impressed with the effort put in by A-1 Pictures. This show is easily their best looking show in quite some time and it goes to show how far a good director can take their crew during a production.

That said, I am worried that this anime might end up being style over substance. From a writing standpoint, a premise such as Kaguya-sama‘s merits being structured within a series of gags and that puts longevity into serious question. I may have found all three scenarios in this episode enjoyable (the lunch bit is easily the best one) but its success is still short-term. They did nothing to convince me that I want to see variations on the same plot done over and over again. The visuals will most likely help keep the experience from feeling stale but pretty aesthetics can only sustain a story for so long. Here’s hoping the writing can stay creative for a whole cour.

If nothing else, maybe this show will still be worth watching for Kaguya and Miyuki’s associate: the one, the only Chika Fujiwara (Konomi Kohara). That right there is the real breakout character of this story. She is such an adorable third wheel in this story. I just love how she acts so oblivious to Kaguya and Miyuki’s “war” and yet her actions seemingly help fuel the conflict, even creating obstacles for it to comedic effect. At the very least, please show more of this character.

OP: “Love Dramatic feat. Rikka Ihara” by Masayuki Suzuki

Bless whoever pulled numerous all-nighters animating this OP. It’s like A-1 Pictures is trying to beat Bones and their Mob Psycho 100 openings for style points. That song is also going to get stuck in my head.


Thanks for reading!

Kaguya-sama: Love is War is officially available on Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu.

For all of my Winter 2019 First Impressions, check out this archive page!

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