Kaguya-sama: Love is War – Ultra Romantic, the series’ third season, premiered on April 8. Continually proving to be a series that sticks to its guns, season 3 episode 1 brought us more of the Shuchiin student councils’ exaggerated hijinks that Kaguya-sama fans have come to adore.
Kaguya-sama has always been a comedy first and a romance second, and the first episode of season 3 is no exception. Its first segment, titled ‘Miko Iino Wants to be Soothed’, revolves around Iino failing to realise that her headphones aren’t plugged in properly while she studies. Ishigami is there to witness this embarrassing moment and must make the gruelling decision of whether or not he should let her know, and in doing so perform a favour for the girl who shows nothing but disdain for him. But an even tougher challenge for Ishigami is having to keep his composure while listening to Iino’s bizarre choices of studying music; ranging from camel sounds to a CD called ‘Moral Support from Heartthrobs’ – which sounds suspiciously close to one of those cheesy BL drama audios.
Kaguya-sama has been sowing the seeds for a romance between Ishigami and Iino since Iino was introduced as a character in season 2. Although the pair constantly bicker and mock one another, the subtext is pretty clear that Ishigami likes Iino and it seems as though Iino feels the same way. While Ishigami may not share Iino’s serious sensibility, the pair’s mutual penchant for justice and strong moral compasses make them more similar than they initially seem. It’s also evident from past events that, despite playing frenemies, they genuinely look out for one another. Seeing Ishigami selflessly open himself up to ridicule to prevent Kaguya and Shirogane from hearing Iino’s cringeworthy playlist only further solidifies his romantic feelings for her. It seems as if their developing relationship will be a key part of Kaguya-sama season 3.
Kaguya’s social media fail
Maybe it’s just because of the typically light-hearted nature of the show, but I find the rare occasions when Kaguya-sama gets serious to be especially effective. Last season’s final episode ended with Kaguya purchasing her first smartphone after her outdated flip phone was broken. Devastated at the loss of all the precious memories held on her old phone, Kaguya is consoled by her fellow student council members in one of the most sincere and heart-warming scenes in the entire series. In episode 1 of season 3, it’s time for her to make her LINE (a popular social media app in Japan) debut.
Of course, being totally inept at using social media, Kaguya fumbles her first LINE interaction with Shirogane, and poor Hayasaka is left to pick up the pieces. Blissfully unaware of the concept of read receipts, lovestruck Kaguya has her chat window with the president open for two hours while pondering what her response should be. When Shirogane messages her a second time, generating an instant read receipt, he uses the opportunity to try and pry a love confession out of her (to no avail of course). The humour and drama of this scene is enhanced by creative imagery, which does a good job at conveying to the audience how high stakes these mind games feel to our main characters. And as always, it’s fun to see the different shades of Kaguya; from smitten schoolgirl to someone who looks like they could kill you with one glance.
Kaguya’s new nickname
Season 3 episode 1 of Kaguya-sama ends with a segment titled ‘Chika Fujiwara Wants to Battle’. Chika’s chaotic evil tendencies are on full display in this segment, when she proposes a student council arm wrestling tournament after an offhanded remark from Ishigami. Chika never fails to entertain with her unpredictable personality, and it’s easy to see why she’s a fan favourite. When the tournament ends in a match-up between Kaguya and Shirogane, both competitors are adorably thrilled at the prospect of getting to grasp each other’s hand. However their bliss ends quickly when Kaguya begins to fret about the president noticing her sweaty palms and, in an effort to prevent him from doing so, smashes his hand to the table – earning her the unwanted title of ‘muscle queen’.
Although the scene is imbued with Kaguya-sama‘s signature brand of over-the-top humour, it still highlights relatable concerns that most people will experience when they’re young and in love. When you’re in the throes of first love the smallest things can still carry a lot of weight, and Kaguya-sama always does a great job of demonstrating that in a playful and comedic way.
The highlight of this episode for me (and indeed the aspect I most enjoy about the series as a whole) was the animation. Whether it be the exaggeratedly comical expressions of characters, or its clever visual gags and metaphors, Kaguya-sama never fails to impress in this particular area. The fantastic voice acting also contributes a lot to my overall enjoyment of the show. Aoi Koga (Kaguya), Makoto Furukawa (Shirogane), Ryouta Suzuki (Ishigami), and Konomi Kohara (Chika) embody their roles as the core four student council members perfectly. Though its story isn’t especially impressive, Kaguya-sama is ever-consistent in its tone and quality, and that in itself is praiseworthy. It looks as if this season will be no different in that regard.
If you enjoyed season 3 episode 1 of Kaguya-sama: Love is War, don’t forget to vote for it in our Anime of the Week poll. Episode 2 will air on Crunchyroll on April 15. You can view the preview for it here.
All images via Crunchyroll.
© Aka Akasaka / Shueisha / Kaguya-sama: Love is War Production Committee