Posted by SuperWooper on 28 January 2019 with categories: Finished Series: Romance, Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai

Kaguya-sama continues to pleasantly surprise me with each episode. Just as its two main characters attempt to trick one another into confessing their love, the series pulled the wool over our eyes this week by aborting its usual intro midway and getting straight to the good stuff. Its playfulness and experimentation reminds me of SHAFT’s older romcoms, and since that’s where director Shinichi Omata got his start in the industry, the feeling makes sense. More than his work on series like Arakawa or Denpa Onna, though, it’s his masterful adaptation of Rakugo Shinjuu (under the name Mamoru Hatakeyama) that makes me believe Kaguya-sama might have a future in the pantheon of great anime comedies. Omata’s method of bringing rakugo performances to life bears some similarity to the way he heightens the hormonal delusions of Kaguya and Shirogane – after all, they’re essentially performers in a grand farce, with the student council room as their stage. The two series share a scriptwriter in Yasuhiro Nakanishi, as well, so they likely forged a strong working relationship several years ago, and it’s paying off a second time in 2019. If you ever want to predict which anime will be great before the start of a new season, it’s the key staff members that are most important, as this show’s success can attest.

The playfulness I mentioned earlier wasn’t limited to the fast-forwarded introduction. It can be found all over the three chapters adapted in this episode, especially the first, where Kaguya’s lack of sexual awareness causes all three council members to be plagued by self-doubt. The highlight of this segment was her roundabout plot to make the president confess, first by imagining his panic at never having been kissed, then assuming his thought process would lead him straight into her arms to rectify the situation. Anime’s prude take on romance can be frustrating at times, but Kaguya’s sheltered upbringing and Shirogane’s nervous bluffs just make things funnier for me. Fujiwara has to explain the mechanics of sex to her friend in the end, but her embarrassment doesn’t function as an excuse for anyone to be mean-spirited. Rather than tearing down its characters, Kaguya-sama is dedicated to building them up via small details, like the slow social evolution the vice president has undergone since joining the student council. Though Shirogane’s observation of this change serves as a simple catalyst for a game of 10 Questions (complete with an old western theme), it’s his understanding of her screwy personality that ultimately enables him to win. Even though they’re constantly trying to one-up each other, it does feel like they’re slowly learning more about one another.

That sense of impending closeness is given a boost by the conclusion to this week’s final chapter, where Kaguya gets to ride on the back of Shirogane’s bike (a big romantic flag in Japan) as he pedals furiously to beat the tardy bell. In the show’s most heartwarming turn of events so far, this event is only made possible by Kaguya’s accompaniment of a frightened young girl to meet her friend before school. Her original plan was to ambush the president on his normal morning route (which she naturally has memorized), but by taking the time to assist a crying child, she abandons that opportunity in order to help her fellow man. As a viewer, I was really satisfied that Shirogane’s lateness allowed her to meet him unexpectedly, as though she were being rewarded for her good deed. I also really liked the backgrounds during this scene, which nicely mimicked the style of the council room; though I doubt too much CG was involved for this chapter, the sterile layout of the city and slightly inky linework made it look consistent with the show’s normal one-room environment.

Speaking of CG, I’d get my head bitten off if I didn’t mention this week’s new ending theme, which starred Fujiwara doing a super cute dance that I suspect involved some extra computer assistance. Actually, my head might be in danger for bringing it up in the first place, since I didn’t seem to enjoy it quite as much as the rest of the Internet. Though it perfectly captures Fujiwara’s fun-loving personality (as well as her good-naturedness in releasing the cicada at the very end), I felt the uncanny valley creeping up on me as her eyes didn’t quite follow her head during her more elaborate movements. It’s a fine ED that contributes to the show in a meaningful way, so it’s good that so many people are raving about it, but I can’t count myself among them. Rip me a new one in the comments if you must!

3 Responses

  1. AidanAK47 AidanAK47 says:

    Likely the ED wasn’t CG but rather rotoscoped. Which could have lead to your uncanny valley feeling. But damn it man that ED was golden. The dance even had tons of references to moments in the manga.

  2. Avatar Mentar says:

    I’ve got to agree with Animosh: It is remarkable how much _fun_ the anime team for Kaguya-sama seems to have. Yes, the manga is good for poking fun at itself with lots of fourth-wall jokes, but the anime is doing it, too. Take the fast-forward of the 30 introductory seconds, for example, or the Yeti in the third part.

    Looking forward to jumping ahead into the “meat” of the show. Fourth episode will tackle chapters 17-20, and I hope that they’re only going forward from there.

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