Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Ultra Romantic: Breaking those Limits

How do you talk about a show that has already won your ‘anime of the year’ twice? What else can you really say aside from ‘it’s good, go watch it’. Sure I could go on and on about stuff that really doesn’t matter, or try to staple it to this our that idea or belief. But I’m a blogger, not an anime youtuber. I don’t care for hour-long video essays, and I don’t care for listening to my own voice. Still, is there something I can talk about? I think there is. So after the cut let’s take a dive into Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Ultra Romantic and find out!

Long time followers of my blog know that my journey with Kaguya-sama has been a memorable one. From doing a complete-180 on the first season, and then praising the second for it’s twelve for twelve home run. It’s been a series that I have fallen in love with completely and remains one of the best anime I’ve seen since my return to the fandom. And I’m not alone in this as more and more viewers are discovering the series and seeing it as the masterwork in the making it really is. This remains a damn well written, damn well animated romantic comedy with great music and some of the best humor to ever grace the anime artform. It’s the go-to example of how to make a romantic comedy story work and you should watch it if you haven’t.

The series wastes no time getting back into it and the arm wrestling remains a series highlight.

But that was two seasons ago, and I’m frankly not interested in going over the same things again and again. I’ve praised the series for that already, and I’m always hesitant to continue piling on the accolades for something that has had its day in the sun. Even if the show (and it does) deserves them. So this time around I want to talk about the thing that makes Kaguya-sama go from a great series, to a truly great series: it doesn’t stick to a status-quo.

Spreading the humor out around the supporting cast keeps the two main leads fresh and fun.

Another thing I’ve been harping on about throughout my blogging years is that I can’t stand a series that sticks so tightly to its status-quo. A show that is unafraid to take risks or shake up its cast and plot. Anime like Food Wars and Fairy Tail are ones I considerably dislike because they were so wedded to their status quos that they squandered ripe and fertile premises. While on the other hand, shows like Naruto took risks and let its story evolve and change beyond the narrow window of what they thought their story was. There is much to say at how the Naruto series handled certain aspects of its story, but you can never accuse it of ‘playing it safe’ with its plot. Kaguya-sama could have been fine keeping things they way they were. The eternal competition between Shirogane and Kaguya to get the other to confess first would have been funny forever. The series rock-solid writing proved that. As long as that quality was maintained there were probably many viewers who would have been content with the usual hijinks.

Ishigami is easily shooting to the top of everyone’s lists as one of the best characters in the show. It’ll only get better.

However the series doesn’t do that, because it understands that school is a finite experience and that teenagers grow and change. That sometimes that feeling of pride that feels all-encompassing will give way to reality, and feelings that are genuine will trump those that are afraid of being hurt. While Shirogane has good and developed reasons for not wanting to confess to Kaguya first, this third season shows its greatness by having him move on from that. With a future at the illustrious Stanford university all but assured, Shirogane comes face to face with the reality he is leaving and any chance to tell Kaguya how he feels is coming to an end. With that, he decides to put away his pride and do what needs to be done and what follows is a heartfelt, funny and very Kaguya-sama way of confessing.

The confession scene is pure Kaguya-sama in the best way. Over the top, funny and damn heartfelt.

And that, beyond the excellent humor and character beats, is what makes the series go from great, to truly great. The courage to step outside its comfort zone and try something different, to allow its characters to grow and evolve is the mark of good storytelling. It could have sat on its laurels and kept the status-quo, but instead it decides that all things have to change and that there is more fertile ground in seeing how the characters go from wanting to confess, to being in a relationship. And as someone who is current with the manga, I can assure you that the series doesn’t lose an inch of its quality after this. In fact it only gets better.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Ultra Romantic, if not for the other hit show of this season, would have easily walked away with my ‘anime of the year’. While it won’t clinch the top-spot this year, this show remains a masterclass in comedic writing and hasn’t lost a step even after three seasons. But it now has also become something different: a stellar example of what happens when a writer is able to take that first crucial step beyond their initial premise and into a wider world of potential storytelling. I have no doubt the up coming film and next season will continue this success, and you can bet that I’ll be there watching. It’s almost frightening how good this story is, but the proof is in the pudding, it really is that fucking good. Go see for yourself and make your own mind, you might be surprised. Or just watch Masayuki Suzuki serenade the screen one more time.

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