Monday, May 13, 2019

Kaguya-sama: Love is War has moments within its mediocrity (Anime Review)

Kaguya-sama: Love is War - 5.5/10

People on Crunchyroll seem to really like "Kaguya-sama: Love is War" with 92% giving it 5 stars as of the time of writing this review. I, however, was really luke-warm on it. It had moments of brilliance and even some laugh-out-loud episodes but those were few between some totally boring episodes and some problematic structures and messages.

Based on a manga, the series is about the four members of the student council at a rich-kids school. Primarily, it is about the vice-president, Kaguya, and the president, Shirogane. At first, we know that they probably actually are in love with each other but they are unaware of their own feelings. Instead, they seem to have a fierce rivalry of refusing to be perceived as the weak one. Over time, they both realize that they are in love with the other, and then it becomes more about fear of rejection and fear of making the first move. All this is done as broad comedy and wrapped in the idea that one or the other must "win" each day's "battle."

And that's where the show really didn't work for me. The first episode is actually the worst with making love seem like a win-lose proposition, that people who share feelings are weak, etc... it just reinforced awful misconceptions about what it truly means to care for another person. And unlike "Special A" which has wonderfully fun and light (in tone) competition between two idiots who clearly love each other and are just blissfully unaware, but kind to each other, this show has an overall twisted streak that is not pleasant.

Thankfully, after the first few episodes, it does become kinder. We never get much background on the two characters, although by the end of the series we start getting some insight into Kaguya's painful life of rejection by her father. As the two leads start acknowledging their own feelings, we get some sweetness and likability.

Sadly, the majority of the series takes place in the student council office. So between the basic setup of several short segments per episode of the two leads refusing to actually have a meaningful conversation and all taking place in the same setting, it does get boring and repetitive.

Episodes 7-12 of the 12 episode show are mostly really boring. Where episodes 3-6 start to give us some more interest, I felt the second half of the series was just more of the same, episode after episode. Except for the second half of episode 7 which had me laughing so hard at the ridiculous middle-school level jokes about a wiener. It was handled so perfectly that it was actually, genuinely funny in a yes-it's-sophomoric-but-we've-all-had-that-time-in-our-life sort of way.

The first few episodes were problematic with the messages about relationships they were sending, the last half of the series was boring, and in the middle? Well, there were some kind moments, some funny moments, and some sweet moments. However, the best part of the series was another student council member, Fujiwara, who ends up stealing pretty much every scene she's in.

She's presented as a combination of a ditz and a shrewd observer of humanity with an amazing comedic streak and some real brilliance. It starts with a dance number at the end of the third episode, continues through her amazing decision to rap during a game, and her working as a love detective. Every scene she's in, she steals.

(enjoy this very silly song/dance)

Sadly, that's not enough to save the show. We also have some minor service, mostly related to Fujiwara's big breasts and and another scene with Kaguya's servant in the bath. Coupled with the problematic setup that relationships are a battle, the boring last half of the series, the limited location scope, and the lack of character backgrounds, it's just not great.

There are moments of genuine levity and sweetness, but those are so few and far between boring repetitive setups and problematic statements. Eventually the show reveals that it doesn't actually believe it's own conceit about love being a battle and the characters do start to change and open up, which is good, I just wish it was more interesting in the process.

The voice acting is great, especially Kaguya who goes between the cold, upper-crust voice and a squeaky, whiny voice when she's not holding herself together. The animation however, is pretty bad. It's rigid, simple, and dull with fairly bad colors. The student council room, where 90% of the show takes place, is all browns and dim lighting. It's just not an attractive show visually.

It has a few moments, but overall, it wasn't very good. I'm giving it a 5.5/10 because its mostly boring and repetitive. Probably skip this one.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Remember: please talk about the work, and offer counter points to others' analyses but DO NOT ATTACK THE PERSON whose analysis you are countering. (no ad hominem comments) Thanks! <3