Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’ll be returning to Kayuga-sama: Love is War, where our beleaguered heroes remain suspended between pride and passion. Kaguya and Miyuki are head-over-heels for each other, but to reveal those feelings would be an expression of weakness, which their opponent would surely counter without mercy. Thus they must remain in this fraught stasis, each daring the other to reveal an emotion, each desperate to maintain their indifferent poise.
So far, so normal. But beyond their general adolescent insecurities, I am immensely intrigued by the class dimension that seems to be complicating their relationship. The fact that Kaguya and Miyuki come from different social backgrounds has been foregrounded from the start, with some portion of Miyuki’s insecurity likely stemming from him being “socially undeserving” of Kaguya’s love (for her part, Kaguya must contend with social expectations of feminine passivity). But recently, the active drama has started to play off this class divide, with sequences like the interschool ball or the flower debate emphasizing how Miyuki’s perspective is a direct consequence of his background. And with Kaguya’s maid Ai now acting as both Kaguya’s servant and emotional confidant, the discordant social standing of Kaguya-sama’s leads seems like it’ll take an even more prominent role in the narrative.
That’s pretty exciting to me! Anime high school romances frequently exist in a world divorced from the context of our lives, where romantic feelings are the only driving force. But the best character stories acknowledge that our identities do not exist apart from our environments, and are shaped by our life experiences in countless divergent ways. I’m hoping Kaguya-sama continues to tug at the awkward frictions of its characters’ experiences, as they struggle past artifice and into honest connection.
Well, today’s first segment is titled “Miyuki Shirogane Wants to Work,” so we may be getting into the class business sooner than expected!
The cut from the OP to the episode is terrific. The moment the song ends, we get Miyuki’s panicked face as he repeats “relationship advice?” After the misadventures of his last advice session, just hearing Miyuki clarify this request serves as an episode hook
This boy’s request is “I’d like to hold Miss Kashiwagi’s hand!” Even for our leads, this kid’s micro-steps approach to romance is exhausting
Kaguya actually gets mad at this question, seeing it as bragging, while Miyuki is just happy the question is a softball. Both of their responses reflect their own non-existent experience; it takes a whole lot of romantic insecurity to get jealous about someone else potentially holding hands
As always, our narrator’s explanations are accompanied by an array of diverse visual examples and diagrams. Kaguya-sama is quite fortunate to have a director with as much visual ingenuity as Shinichi Omata, given how much of its comedy is focused on deadpan exposition or mental calculations, rather than physical action. It’s easy to visually represent the humor in physical comedy – it’s much trickier to embellish a dialogue that strikes closer to a radio spy drama with visual ornamentation, but Omata’s team consistently nail it
Like with the OP cut, the pacing of this cut after “he is in a different stage than fellow virgin Miyuki” is excellent. They keep dropping the next scene a half-beat earlier than you expect, emphasizing Miyuki’s unsuitability for this work by undercutting his reactions
“In order to hold a girl’s hand, first you must rent a boat”
Miyuki now extolling the satisfaction of working a part-time job
“A small boat license is fine. You can get one by completing a three-day course.” Miyuki seems to define himself by his work ethic and self-sufficiency. He takes great pride in managing the concerns of his life, and his fear of dependency likely feeds into his inability to honestly communicate with Kaguya. He makes for a clear contrast with the rest of the student council – unlike them, who were “chosen for suitability” by some arbitrary higher body, he actually won an election to become the president. He is a representative of the people among representatives of the aristocracy, and clings fiercely to the sense that he personally earned everything he possesses
Miyuki learns this boy suffers from sweaty palms, and recommends immediate surgery
Bless this show, with its intense impact frames for Miyuki swiping his thumb on the desk
Miyuki happily consigns his entire summer vacation to part-time work
Fortunately, Love Detective Chika shows up. I like this – now that we’ve introduced all these goofy conceits, we can start to bash them against each other
“Huh? Can’t he just normally take her by the hand?”
“Is that the level of male relationship advice? That’s cute.” Chika just absolutely roasts them. Though the other two frequently discount her because she doesn’t engage with their circuitous machinations, she has far more emotional intelligence than both of them, and presumably more romantic experience, too. Her blunt methods are frequently far more effective than the schemes of the others; while they tangle themselves up in misguided plots, she frequently succeeds by ignoring these tangled webs of feelings, and slicing the Gordian knot of conflict with a direct declaration of intent
“Trying to skip the hard part is a fundamental mistake. Reflect on that!”
And of course, Miyuki’s ultimate regret is that he failed to recruit a part-timer for his summer job
“Dedicating oneself to something develops the body and mind.” Segment two starts off with another affirmation of Miyuki’s powerful work ethic, once again framing it as the basis of his pride
“Two pyramids exist at Shuchiin Academy. One is the parentage pyramid.” AW SHIT WE’RE GETTING INTO IT
The hand-holding insecurities of the first segment are immediately cast in a new light, as we learn the pair in question are essentially heirs to major financial dynasties
Interesting – Ai is apparently the daughter of a Shinomiya Group director, and thus essentially royalty in her own right
“99% of the students come from wealthy families”
“It could be called the Social Standing Hierarchy.” I was a little worried I was interpreting this show from a class perspective just because that was my own point of interest, so I’m delighted to see the show directly acknowledging how class informs its conflict
The other pyramid is based on the school’s club system – those in prestigious clubs also benefit from renown at school
As treasurer, Ishigami recommends slashing the budgets of any clubs whose members have girlfriends
“If you’ve got a girlfriend, take her on a date! Why are you even at practice!?” Ishigami seems close to the opposite of Miyuki, seeing no value in effort for its own sake
This episode is doing a lot of effective filter work, which I suppose makes sense for any Ishigami sequence. Ishigami episodes tend to focus heavily on horror conceits, which Kaguya-sama expresses visually through a lot of film grain, soft focus, and manga-like texture effects, along with a slide into a muted or sepia color palette
Wonderful transitions between visual styles as Chika punishes Ishigami for his transgressions. We essentially jump between three genre aesthetics in ten seconds, from the mundane articulation of her building a fan, to the hyper-deformed slapstick payoff, resolving in this realistic, heavily shaded shot that emphasizes Chika’s genuine menace
“If I asked him to join my club, it’d be like saying I want to be in the same club as the president!” Yes, it certainly would, Kaguya
“My club is special! We always buy new games, so it’s like a money pit!” Bless Chika
“Well, I don’t really have time to join a club because of my part-time job.” Most of the conflicts that Miyuki’s classmates encounter are foreign to him because he simply lacks the free time to engage in such idle pursuits. Part of him being “oblivious to adolescent romance” is simply the natural result of a life with more time constraints, and less time to worry about kissing and holding hands
“I love how you laugh, Miss Kaguya.” Aw shit, is Chika throwing her hat in the ring? She is completely outside either of their romantic weight class, it wouldn’t really be fair
Apparently Kaguya and Chika went to the same middle school, and Kaguya was far less sociable back then
“It’s my dream to see you roar with laughter one day.” Local club secretary too good for this world, too pure
And then she immediately starts talking about her dog’s penis
“Regarding slang and metaphors, Kaguya’s knowledge is still at the level of a young grade-schooler.” Kaguya’s own distinctive upbringing left her with a lot of gaps in knowledge, as well. Neither of them had a “regular childhood,” whatever that is
I swear to god they’re covering “Blue Monday” for the background of this scene, and I have no idea why
Well, that… certainly did end with six straight minutes of dick jokes. But dick jokes aside, this was one of Kaguya-sama’s most intriguing episodes yet, as the show finally acknowledged the class dynamics that have been informing its drama all along. Kaguya and Miyuki aren’t just generically inept at romance – they are the specific results of two unique childhoods, where each of them was barred from enjoying the casual relationships of children in their own way. Miyuki’s situation makes him even more of an outsider at Shuchiin, given 99% of his classmates come from the upper crust. It’s no wonder he has trouble relating to their experiences – he comes from a different world, with only the neutral ground of the student council room bringing parity. With the floodgates opened, I’m hoping Kaguya-sama will continue to poke at the larger factors informing its central romance.
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