“Sandy, you should see Kaguya —it’s one of the best depictions of what it means to have a crush on someone, to have that pull,” a close friend told me about Love is War. I have received the same guidance over many months. It might have been more than a year. Now that I finally took some time off to pay for my sins and liberate myself from the shackles that hurt the mind—I have to watch Kaguya-sama: Love is War.
And you know what? It was marvelous. Truly. I’m writing this after finishing the fourth season, or Kaguya-sama: Love is War - The First Kiss Never Ends; mentioning this because a new season might come out, as I have been told the manga goes way past this point. I thoroughly enjoyed the show from the beginning until the moment at the movie’s end. Please beware that this short essay will sound and read as hopelessly romantic and sentimental because it is both.
To get some technicalities out of the way, Dub and Sub were excellent. Depending on the mood, I alternated between the two every 4-5 episodes. Kaguya’s “O Kawaii Koto” in Japanese puts you in some trance, the timbre—as if it cuts through your ego, which in itself is so shallow compared to Kaguya’s that she is as much as shattering your self-esteem into tiny pieces. It is a wonder how Shirogane took upon this (seemingly) impossible mental challenge. More on that in a bit.
Continuing—as good as the Sub’s narrator was, I found myself enjoying Ian Sinclair’s “an elephant’s weight worth of pure caffeine straight into your veins” amount of energy even more. It gave the cast and situations a certain comedic flair, a bit different from the original; if the Japanese narrator had the smooth and sexy feel to it—Dub went full-on into “we have fun” territory without, in my mind diminishing the value of the show itself. Not to misrepresent the narrator’s work either—he could be either comedic or serious, to the point where I found myself rewinding the somber moments of an episode to replay the narrator’s line.
After that, how can we forget about the soundtrack? If you have seen any of my blogs, it would be trivial to guess that I am a fiend for the “anime” (whatever that means) music genre. Masayuki Suzuki’s style is out of this world. It’s hard for me to put it into words. Still, it scratches a painful itch I have had for longing for a specific music genre that combines yet transcends the styles from the 80s, disco, but at the same time, having a modern tune, which immediately fills you with something pure, call it, Love Dramatic. How about Daddy ! Daddy ! Do !? Of course, we cannot forget about either GIRI GIRI or Love is Show.
Every great soundtrack gets accompanied by its equally deserving openings and endings. OH MY GOD. I’ve been gathering my thoughts on where to start, but that failed—bear with me. When Kaguya enters the room in the first season’s opening, Shirogane looks at her by looping his newspaper down four times. The same happening, but vice versa—where Shirogane enters the room with Kaguya looking over her shoulder from the couch, also repeating four times—I can distinctly remember this being done in some older movies or shows I used to watch as a kid. I never knew I missed it so much until I saw the effect done in the opening.
In the second season’s opening—the whole shot of Kaguya sending an arrow across the entire school right toward Shirogane, who stoically sits atop his Student Council (in anime, Student Council is more powerful than the Japanese Prime Minister and God) desk, reflecting the arrow with a pink heart shield. AHH. The third season’s GIRI GIRI opening is more chaotic, as the ground underneath President and Kaguya is uncertain. Yet, the opening also shows the entire cast of the show—symbolizing how far we have come in building all sorts of relationships with people around us.
Crunchyroll’s media player’s “Skip Intro” button is a sting operation. Skipping over any Kaguya’s opening is almost comparable to violating the Geneva Convention. I wouldn’t be surprised if one gets stripped of all human rights. Okay, not that extreme, but I wish it were. Hah. And can we also talk about the Starship Troopers ending? What have we done to deserve this? Let me rephrase it—we did not earn this beautiful adaptation of the post-modernist masterpiece Starship Troopers (the film and not the book). And how it got wired together with Princess Kaguya’s story from the first season—where Shirogane drinks the potion of immortality and many decades later enlists to fight on the Moon to reunite with Kaguya again. I don’t cry much. Reliving this ending for the nth time—I wish I could.
In the words of Ms. Kashiwagi—could it be that I have sinned too much to be able to relate to the feelings of Shirogane and Shinomiya? Even if that were the case—the romance between those two is quite an intrigue; you could even say, a war (where is my narrator when I need one?). Circling back to the start of this write—it does depict the sensation of having a crush on someone with care and its sense of realism. It’s been a while for me, in a way—Love is War had its shot at me of making me feel both fulfilled with experiencing such fresh adolescent love yet, at the same time, plunging me into the state of a mini-despair—as I realized that I have probably never loved anyone with as much intrigue and fiery battles (not that it’s necessary, the main heroes went through the ordeal thanks to their colossal pride, but if anything were different—they could have never even met). There is a sensation of hollowing out after wrapping up the series, as its warm hug of overwhelmingly wholesome yet strikingly insidious aura ends, albeit temporarily. Bittersweet.
Speaking of aura, I have yet to write a quick blurb on this, but I’m all about the atmosphere and sets. Sometimes, even more than the characters or story, what leaves a deep impression on me, which I desperately cling to due to my escapist tendencies, is the physical space that characters occupy. In this case, the Student Council Room would have two sofas, one low coffee table, a couple of shelves (for the cookies, tea, and snacks), and the President’s desk. More than relating to a character or a situation—I wish to insert myself physically in the space, feel the fabric of that red rug, and touch the hardwood of the desk, which many Presidents have had to sit at while punching away at their portion of red tape. Imagine what the room smells like, especially in the summer, where the broken AC will bring out the scent of freshly brewed tea, students’ snacks, and maybe some cool air coming from the hallway.
What is escapism but exploring ourselves through another world we can’t call our own? The fourth season, Kaguya-sama: Love is War - The First Kiss Never Ends, struck something in me—I’m impressed they explored how life usually plays out: you always want to impress your partner with the best possible side of you; however, that either becomes unmaintainable or even worse—you lose yourself in the self-built caricature, hiding your true nature not only from your partner but from yourself as well. Oscar Wild once said,
You seem to forget that I am married, and the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.
— Oscar Wilde, Picture of Dorian Gray
In the film, it was shown a bit more extreme than it would usually go. Some reviews on Crunchyroll said Kaguya has a multiple personality disorder, which I’m afraid I have to disagree with. Still, I understand why it could seem that way, especially with the mind-courtroom scenes. It reminded me of a past life, which I am infinitely grateful for, but it has pushed me to ask myself— “How do we lift the masks away, exposing our vulnerable side to the ones we love?” It can sting pretty badly if things go sour. After going through it, I believe it’s worth it. Seeing someone’s weakness humanizes them. Few things are as important in relationships as shared values, love, and being human to each other. You could say we always have personas in us, which are a part of us and we utilize them in different situations. Without them, Miyuki and Kaguya possibly could have never even met in the first place (I’m regurgitating the plot, ugh).
I don’t have much more to say. Love is War is a masterpiece of its world. Going from being packed to the brim of funny references to popular media, such as Among Us (yakuza girl’s futon), Resident Evil (Kaguya repeatedly bumping into a table during the culture festival), Mario Kart (there is a whole episode), Mission Impossible (Hayasaka patrolling the Student Council Room’s entrance), a lot more to having tender moments that caught me with a bated breath. Thank you, Jame, Ethan, and Amina, for pushing me to watch Kaguya—this journey of a thousand miles has begun with you.
I relate to Chika Fujiwara on a spiritual level.
She and I with diplomat family trauma. Mwah. ◼︎