The chaos of the Kaguya-sama: Love is War Anime Expo panel started before the actual convention. After announcing Aoi Koga, the Japanese voice actress behind Kaguya Shinomiya, as a guest for the panel, the convention implemented a ticket system in anticipation of the influx of convention-goers who would attempt to see the coveted guest.
Unfortunately, the convention did not provide any instructions for people with press and industry badges such as myself. After consulting with professionals that a ticket shouldn’t be necessary for press, out of sheer paranoia, I still signed up for one amongst the crowd of general convention-goers (premium fans got to order tickets early). The chaos only continued from there at the convention. In a hallway with people packed so closely together, the flow of human traffic completely stopped like a river blocked from its path. It was only through my small stature that I managed to squeeze through to ask a volunteer where press would line up as, once again, there were only explicit lines for premium and general badges. The volunteers inside informed me to go outside for the general attendee line, only for me to get stuck in an even worse human congestion.
Unlike the hallway inside where people shuffled inches on the ground as people tried to move, the crowd outside was completely stopped. Lines for food trucks, general lines for other panels, actual Kaguya-sama attendees, and early attendees waiting for the panel after Kaguya-sama all crowded together in one large human blob so bad that the six-foot tall woman beside me couldn’t even see past a few people in front of her. After flagging a volunteer to ask where the line for Kaguya even is, they glanced at my badge in shock. “Why are you out here? You should be in the premium line?” they asked.
Needless to say, it took several rounds of back and forth between volunteers and overall squeezing through human bodies under the sweltering sun before I found myself in the Main Events Hall. However, despite all the chaos that originated in my attending the panel, I still think that the Kaguya-sama: Love is War panel was one of the panels I enjoyed the most.
Aoi Koga walked out on stage with a smile that sparkled from afar. Her excitement her was palpable, and I found myself admiring just how equally relaxed and enthusiastic she was on stage. If she felt fear, it was clear that her curiosity, she overtook it, and she charmed the crowd with her English sentences and overall rambunctious attitude. Her natural tone her does n’t sound like the cool, calculating ice queen that Kaguya is, and instead she resembles Fujiwara : chirpy and fast-paced. I’m already an admirer of her voice acting of Kaguya when watching the anime, but hearing the voice actress speak her in real life makes the excellent performance so good that it feels surreal.
The second guest, Producer Tatsuya Ishikawa, was not at all outshined by the more well-known voice actress. His interactions her oozed natural charisma, and the crowd often fell dead silent with full attention when he spoke in a lackadaisical yet knowledgeable tone. The two guests complemented each other and were sealed in a perfect trio with Aiko from Aniplex hosting the panel.
The first half of the panel started with general questions regarding their experience with Kaguya-sama. Aoi Koga mentioned that Makoto Furukawa often acts like the class president with the rest of the main cast, and Tatsuya Ishikawa shared an honest story of how his high school days were friendless, but that music eventually brought him to people that share his hobbies his.
Some of the funnier answers include Tatsuya Ishikawa revealing he’s a fanboy for Jay-Z, and how Aoi Koga spent the majority of her time in the US shopping for clothes. Anime Trending even got a special shoutout when Aiko pointed out that Ishigami won Best Boy of the Year, to which the crowd cheered. Tatsuya Ishikawa quickly added that Ishigami was his favorite character his, and thus he found the win well deserved and well picked.
Ultimately, my favorite part of the panel comes in the later half. Aiko brilliantly organized the guests to play a game: guessing the meanings behind English slang. She pointed out to the audience that the anime contains a lot of Japanese slang that simply doesn’t have an accurate English translation, and in turn, it was the same for English slang to Japanese. While this wasn’t her purpose at all, I personally felt this should’ve laid to rest the huge controversy certain anime fans have made about localization — especially when both Aoi Koga and Tatsuya Ishikawa nodded in agreement and added their own comments on how language contains elements that can be impossible to explain when you don’t grow up in the culture.
With hints on screen, Aiko introduced words like “ghosted” and “simp” into the guests’ vocabulary. Aoi Koga was able to guess several of them correctly, much to her delight. However, what the two wanted to understand most was the slang acronym “GOAT” Aiko revealed to the audience that Japanese professionals were befuddled when English speaking people tweeted goat emojis at them, and it happened so often that many of them asked bilingual speakers to explain why.
The two were noticeably relieved when they learned that goat emojis were compliments rather than criticisms, and Tatsuya Ishikawa particularly popped up in joy, likely remembering the number of goat emojis tweeted at him.
At the end of the panel, Aoi Koga went off-script by interrupting Aiko to personally ask the crowd if there were any Kaguya-sama: Love is War cosplayers. At her request her, individuals stood up, and she excitedly pointed to each one she saw, noting the character they cosplayed, complimenting them with words of “kawaii” or “you look just like the character!” and clapping her hands in bliss.
For a panel that started with a lot of panic and confusion, it ended with charm and love. It was clear that Tatsuya Ishikawa and Aoi Koga loved the anime, felt comfortable at the convention, and enjoyed seeing fans from overseas. Their friendliness, joy, and honesty spilled over easily to the crowd, and Aiko was magnificent in asking questions and arranging games to play. Like most of these panels, it ended with photography, but without a doubt, it is likely one convention-goers will remember throughout the years.