Episode 4 – Kaguya-sama: Love is War -Ultra Romantic-

Kaguya-sama is a show that can get so wrapped up in its own antics that it’s sometimes hard to see these characters as people that genuinely care about each other. I say this knowing full well that a good chunk of this week’s episode revolves around how all of these kids are just blatantly lying to each other about their intentions regarding studying for these exams. But part of what sets Kaguya-sama apart from other wacky rom-coms is that it will always remind us how much these characters are able to empathize with each other. When I first saw Ishigami and Kaguya’s dynamic, I thought they would never want to have anything to do with each other except under duress. However, I like the moments we get in this episode that continue to reinforce the reason why Kaguya is so hard on him: it’s because she knows he has a stronger capacity to succeed. Ishigami always goes into things with a self-defeating mindset and to be honest, given the shit that he has gone through, I genuinely do not blame him. It’s a hard hole to dig yourself out of when you have been ostracized every waking moment you try to do the right thing. That said, the point being driven here is that it’s not wrong or selfish to strive for something better than the situation that you’re in, because unless you actually put in the work to prove that you’re at least capable of things beyond failure , nothing is going to change. It does kind of suck when the best lesson that a person can learn is that they are a lot more capable and deserving than they might’ve originally thought.

Although maybe there is still a selfish component to this. I like the subtle jabs at Kaguya throughout the whole first half of this episode, which basically screams “take your own advice queen”. Maybe Kaguya thinks that if someone like Ishigami can succeed in romance then there’s hope for her as well? What was equally as fun was simply listening to Kaguya’s voice actress switch through so many different modes seemingly within split seconds of each other. It helped everything feel a lot more engaging and snappy in a conversation that doesn’t seem to have much substance otherwise. The story’s writing is generally tight enough to carry its own weight, but when you combine it with the production’s dynamic and dramatic directing style, everything gets elevated to a much punchier level. This was especially evident during the final skit about the FaceTime call with the president where they introduced a rogue element in Hayasaka taking on another identity, only for that to go full circle and create a stronger a misunderstanding since Hayasaka uses the same surname for all of her disguises. It’s great and lets me forgive the tired “someone about to confess only for them to fall asleep” cop-out trope. I look forward to more dramatic and interesting payoffs moving forward!

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Kaguya-sama: Love is War Ultra Romantic is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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