Kaguya-sama: Love is War – Episode 6

4 months ago 71

Hello everyone, and welcome on back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’ll be returning to Kaguya-sama: Love is War, which, if you’ve been following along with my articles, you know I’ve been having a pretty tough time with. The main issue is simply that I don’t really enjoy its jokes, which are presumably supposed to ingratiate me towards its cast, in order for me to feel that much more invested in its eventual dramatic turns. This is a pretty common structural trick, but if the audience isn’t amenable to your style of comedy, you run the risk of losing them entirely – like in my experience with, say, Clannad, which so utterly failed to amuse me that I instead entered its dramatic phase with a feeling of ingrained resentment.

I’m doing my best, though. The advice I received from readers was to try assessing it as a character piece now, rather than a comedy, so that’s what I’m gonna try to do. With my expectations hopefully calibrated successfully, let’s dig into another episode of Kaguya-sama!

Episode 6

The show’s title itself basically pins down two of the show’s most compelling thematic threads: how Kaguya’s identity as a “noble” dictates her relationship with the world around her, and how both Kaguya and Miyuki treat romance as a zero-sum warzone, where frankly admitting your feelings is the ultimate “fail state.” I would be happy to see the show scratch more deeply at either of those ideas

We’re at last being introduced to the student council treasurer, Yu Ishigami

Apparently, Yu wants to quit the council

“Only the president is elected. The others are chosen based on their abilities.” That’s a very interesting reveal, and one that neatly underlines the odd social distance between Kaguya and Miyuki. While Miyuki was elected by the people, echoing his lower class roots, Kaguya was “appointed” without an election. Even their paths into the student council echo their class differences

Yu is a loner, and only shows up for meetings

He wants to leave because “I think Shinomiya-senpai is going to kill me”

“I can tell five or six percent of a person’s true character just by looking at their eyes.” Ah, the wild confidence of youth

Oh my god. He accidentally discovered some tickets she’d planted to provoke a date, and thus became Shinomiya’s Hated Foe

This is a pretty effective comedic vein: using a third party to highlight the objective madness of how Shinomiya approaches her goals. Divorced from the context that might make her actions parse as cute or comedic, she just comes off like the lunatic she pretty much is

I also like this combination of quick cuts and extremely fluid movement for her putting him in a chokehold. Great cuts of animation are generally reserved for longer held shots that let them stand out, but the rapid breaks here actually amplify the threat and fluidity of Kaguya’s actions

Kaguya “just wanted to tease them a bit” with the bloody knife prop. Yu is clearly not in the wrong here

This “we’re all in costumes” punchline is both strained and obvious, though – not only do we know the punchline well ahead of time, it feels like the show has to stretch plausibility too far to get us there

“There’s a cage in front of you. How many cats are in the cage?” Chika is an incredibly useful dramatic and comedic resource. She’s perfect for these dramatic non-sequiturs, as her spacey, oblivious nature makes it seem like she might actually turn and speak to the audience at any moment. She’s also naturally enthusiastic about play-acting and games, meaning she’ll frequently work as the show’s “magician’s assistant,” gleefully introducing us to some segment’s gimmick

So it goes for this segment, where she introduces the other two to some pop psychology tests

I like this gag of Chika dragging Yu out from behind the main desk; the deadpan delivery by both of them would sell it in any case, but it’s heightened by the quiet implication that Yu might actually have been sitting behind this desk for any number of earlier episodes

Yu should be a good addition to the dynamic. Chika is more an agent of chaos than a full person, while Yu’s insecurities are already clear

Of course, Kaguya already noticed this psych book at the library, and has thus already prepped with all the “correct” answers. Kaguya just can’t help but perpetually shoot herself in the foot; rather than simply letting these various activities take their natural course, and actually bring herself and Miyuki to a greater mutual understanding, she has to subvert them in some way. When you treat conversations as battles to be won, you’ll never actually connect

She’s also wildly misinterpreting how to act in order to “win” at love. You’re not supposed to have all the “correct” answers; no one is “best at love,” we’re all just individuals with our own quirks. In a genuine relationship, people come to love each other in part because of their imperfections, the unique qualities that only they can fully appreciate. But to Kaguya, admitting to imperfections is “losing,” and thus she cannot speak frankly. It’s not only her fault, though; both adolescent society in general and her own specific upbringing have taught her to never show weakness

Yu has also made for a nice supplement to this show’s fantasy interludes; his fantasies of Kaguya killing him have been some of this episode’s most visually compelling segments

Miyuki almost falls for the test, but the smug look on Chika’s face “saves” him at the last second, and he realizes it’s a trap

Once again, the ultimate fail state for Miyuki is Kaguya’s condescending “how cute.” Even more than their desire to date, they are absolutely determined not to lose face in front of each other. I guess that’s their most fundamental, self-defeating impulse; rather than realizing that the person you love is someone you should be able to share your weakness with, they assume that the person they love should only ever see them at their confident best

Of course, that’s an instinct we all fall prey to to some extent. There’s a natural instinct to try to be your funniest, most charming self in a situation like a first date – but it’s clear these two love each other’s genuine personalities, but are too insecure to admit that

“That’s right, I have a sister complex.” Love his deadpan delivery here, as he accepts this as the best-case result

“I think I have Stockholm Syndrome, so I’m going home.” “Alright, get well soon”

Chika jumps to the internet for her next question, moving outside of Kaguya’s prep work, and prompting the terrifying possibility that she might actually tell Miyuki something true about herself

Interesting choice to move the flat character cells for their “how many flowers” answers, creating the impression of cut paper dolls. You normally don’t see this sort of quasi-animation, but it works for sequences that are supposed to have a “storybook” quality to them – like the Oingo-Boingo song from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, or Kyoko’s backstory from Madoka Magica

Miyuki claims that he’d take as many flowers as possible, prompting Chika to respond “that’s a poor person’s mentality.” Her statement underlines the limitations of a test like this, and also the larger subtext of this clubroom’s dynamics. Our experience of class will undeniably impact our perception of allegedly “neutral” questions like these, and ultimately, Miyuki’s feelings of insecurity come from an understandable place: he really is “inferior” to Kaguya, at least according to their economic and social class. Security and the “grace” afforded by wealth don’t come naturally to Miyuki; if you give him a field of flowers, he’s going to sell those flowers to keep the lights on

Some intimate photography as we jump to a new character: Kaguya’s maid, on her way home from school

Alright, if we’re actually diving into the story of the girl who acts like a gyaru to her own friends, but serves as a reserved maid for Kaguya, then there is just no way all this tremendous class baggage isn’t intentional. “The natural insecurity of high schools regarding romance, complicated by the emerging icebergs of class divide” is definitely my sort of pitch

“Hayasaka, I told you not to come to the student council room.” And they even go to the same school. Kaguya giving her orders here really underlines the weirdness of their relationship

She also snaps between modes of presentation, shifting from a casual affectation with her friends to this deadpan, obsequious delivery with Kaguya

“After all this time, I’m surprised you haven’t given yourself away.” In spite of being her maid, Hayasaka is light years ahead of Kaguya in terms of social development

“Will he think this nail polish is cute? Or maybe he’ll think it’s frivolous?” The two of them are terrified to reveal any vulnerable aspects of themselves, and so they end up acting in even more intimidating and austere ways, thus convincing the other that they can’t express any vulnerability in turn

So yep, now they’re stuck in a perpetual loop of refusing to acknowledge her nail polish

“What should I do? Should I mention it?” Precisely because they’ve built up these defensive walls, they’re now incapable of expressing genuine affection to each other

Then Yu gets absolutely wrecked attempting to compliment Chika’s conditioner, making the threat of failure even clearer

But they move closer! Miyuki realizes he’s just making excuses for his own bashfulness, and actually mentions the nails!

And Done

Yep, agreed, this show is a much more satisfying experience when I just sorta hone in on the stuff I care about. It certainly helped a great deal that this episode dragged the things that most interest me front and center: the ways the leads’ behaviors reflect larger psychological realities, and more importantly, how they echo the inherent class/culture disconnect between the two of them. The book of psychology questions served as an excellent instigator of these concepts, and by the end of the third skit, it felt like our leads had actually, genuinely grown a little closer. Kaguya-sama is looking up!

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