The one who falls in love first is the loser. That was the main defining ethos of Kaguya-sama: Love is War, and it really does exemplify how much our two leads have matured when both of them more or less seem to admit defeat without the other one knowing. This episode starts by giving us some backstory into something that I didn’t even think needed to be established up until this point. I always thought it was reasonable to infer that the reason why Shirogane wanted to be the student council president was so he could prove himself at a school filled with elites, but now we see that him falling in love with Kaguya also at least partially plays into it, since someone so extraordinary like her would only accept somebody just as talented to stand by their side. It’s interesting because Shirogane isn’t just admitting defeat here; he ‘s admitting that he lost the game before it even started by virtue of being the president of the student council, which is a sign of his love his for Kaguya. The amount of self-awareness that these characters currently display makes it clear that now is the appropriate time for them to confront each other face-to-face without the usual backstepping or façades that have been put up before.
Outside of our main couple, Ishigami and Maki’s conversation towards the end of the episode was also incredibly wholesome; after all of the horrible bullshit Ishigami has gone through for most of his adolescence, he deserves to be with someone that would genuinely make him happy. Even the contrast between the advice that everyone is trying to give him and Maki acting as a self-aware example of what happens when you take too long to make a move was genuinely funny in a surprisingly non-mean-spirited way. That said, I do think the skit in the middle of the episode about the café felt a little bit like filler compared to all of the steps forward that are being made. While it is nice to see some of the over-the-top adult characters make a return in probably the last place you’d expect them – and it is admittedly a little bit satisfying when Kaguya gets torn into a little bit because I genuinely don ‘t think that happens enough in the show – I feel like there wasn’t a lot of emotional advancements there. The punchline about Kaguya being embarrassed at the end was funny and the idea that she’s perfected the art of crafting tea specifically for the president was a nice payoff to a rather mundane detail that has arguably been with us throughout the entire show. I think this is supposed to mirror the skit before about Shirogane but I don’t think it carries as much weight.
Again, none of the material present in the episode is bad. It’s just that I’m so invested in the drama of this show – more than I ever have before – that I find myself enjoying more the skits that have a better balance between comedy and dramatic progression. Next episode seems to be about how the other characters react to the culture festival, and I’m very curious to see how the show will handle the climax of all these different character arcs coming together at the end. Hopefully it doesn’t buckle under the weight of its own ambition.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War Ultra Romantic is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.