Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 12 (Fin) – Blossoms That Never Scatter

When Miyuki tells Kaguya how he’s been accepted to Harvard and will be gone this time next year, she pretty much turns to stone and then shatters into pieces. But she drags Ai out from whatever she’s doing to update her on where things stand. They both know that the basic plan hasn’t changed—confess to Miyuki—it’s just a matter of how.

Kaguya tries a number of methods, but all are pooh-poohed by Ai in various ways. That is, until Kaguya digs deep, describes all the unique ways she loves the president, including his drive to move forward, and starts to cry as she notes how cruel it would be to ask him not to go overseas. Ai, realizing she went too far, draws Kaguya into a hug and assures her that they’ll get her confession to Miyuki without fail.

In Yuu/Tsubame land, things seem to be going swimmingly. Yuu prepared a hella warm coat for Tsubame to wear when the evening chill came around, and even impresses her with his knowledge of flower language and a red cherry blossom tree in the spot where she wishes to give him an update on her answer to his confession.

Her answer, while not no, is that she doesn’t yet have an answer. That’s fair enough; Tsubame only just realized when Yuu gave her that heart how he truly feels about her, and she’s still getting used to seeing him like that. As for Yuu, he isn’t even aware he did confess with that heart until he watches her perform in the play about the Hoshin legend.

Thanks in part to Ai, Kaguya is poised to have a perfect opportunity to confess to Miyuki: when she’s resplendent in her archer’s garb and lit by the burning flame of her arrow, and Miyuki is completely captivated by her beauty. Unfortunately, Miyuki is nowhere to be found when the time comes to light the campfire!

Instead, shortly after the fire is lit, it suddenly rains cards signed by “Arsene”, the Phantom Thief Chika has been chasing throughout the festival. The jewel from the dragon’s mouth is also missing. Kaguya can’t believe her terrible luck; for all this nonsense to be happening when she’s supposed to be confessing. But the thing is, the Phantom Thief is none other than Miyuki.

When Chika runs off with Erika to further investigate, Kaguya already puts two and two and four together and realizes this is one big scheme by Miyuki, and that she’s going to catch him and then confess to him. That involves sipping canned coffee together, but the machine won’t accept the lowest-denomination bills she has (10,000 yen).

But hey, at least she has the heart trinket to give him, right? Well, no…she managed to lose that when she changed in and out of her archery garb. At the same time, the narrator explains how Miyuki, while initially in a kind of whimsical enthusiasm fugue state, is starting to come to his senses and feel embarrassment for his current situation (and goofy master thief getup).

As Kaguya ascends the clock tower to meet Miyuki, they both find themselves bereft of their usual arsenals of weapons in their long war game of love. There’s nothing left but their feelings, their words, and the months before Miyuki heads to California.

This would make for an infuriatingly frustrating end to the third season…if this were the final episode in its entirety. Thankfully, this is not the end, and as soon as I realized I’d only watched the first of a two-part double episode, I regained my composure and kept watching.

When Kaguya reaches the top, the narrator repeats his spiel from the very first episodes, about how love is war, those in love live in terror, etc. But Miyuki and Kaguya go on that they must convey their feelings for the one they love, even if it means they “lose”, or they’ll never move forward.

While donning his ridiculous top hat, Miyuki tells Kaguya having her beside him for this, his big final culture festival moment, and Kaguya goes through all the things in her head she should say to him out loud. That she wants him to stay by her side forever, and that even if she’s not sure he would ever like a “cold, hateful woman”, but if he confessed to her right then and there, she’d 100% accept it.

Miyuki doesn’t confess with words, but he does confess by unleashing the jewel of the dragon—which turned out to be a weather balloon—with an app, and has it drift over the campfire until it pops, revealing a massive swarm of heart-shaped balloons that float up to their vantage point atop the tower.

He and the narrator recount Miyuki’s efforts for the “Ultra Romantic Campaign” that culminated in this heart balloon blizzard; a plan he first set into motion the same day he applied to Stanford. He planned every last detail, including ensuring Chika, Yuu, and Miko didn’t interfere at the proper time.

Just like Kaguya, Miyuki launches into a self-deprecating inner monologue about how he worked his goddamn tail off to become her equal, and explains that if he overtly confessed or ask her out in words, he’d be confirming the fact they weren’t equals. No, he needed to do something that would make her confess to him.

But what’s most important to Miyuki isn’t that she confess, or that they go out…it’s that they are able to remain together. To that end, he got the principal to agree to write a second letter of recommendation for Kaguya, and atop that tower, as he holds a blue balloon heart and she holds a red one, he asks her to apply to Stanford and go with him to the U.S.

It’s not a confession, but despite what a shock it brings to Kaguya, she’s so happy to hear these words that she agrees on the spot, so quickly that it weird Miyuki out a little. And now that Miyuki has expressed how he feels and what he wants, Kaguya can do the same, and does so with a passionate kiss that is witnessed but notably and mercifully not interrupted by Chika’s Scooby Gang.

In between these stunningly epic scenes of some of the most gratifying payoffs in anime rom-comdom, the rest of the cast get their curtain calls for the season. Nagisa dances with Maki, assuring her that she likes her more than Tsubasa; Kobachi admits to her bae it’s time to stop being so overprotective of Miko; Yuu deems it unkind to steal Tsubame away from her adoring fans and classmates and instead tracks down Miko, shows her footage of the campfire she made happen, and tells her to go enjoy it already.

Later that night, Kaguya recounts her Ultra Romantic evening with the President to Ai in a voice best described as … “giddysmug”. She gleefully describes the kiss as tasting like ketchup (since Miyuki had just eaten a corn dog) and goes on to decribe how she used her tongue during the kiss, which we see made a lasting impact on Miyuki.

Mind you, neither Miyuki nor Kaguya actually verbally confessed … but c’maaaahn. Even these two clueless doofuses cannot deny what they are to one another, and while there’s certainly a lot to think about and plan (including how to get the other to verbally confess to them!), the fact that their future is secure together is a great weight lifted from their shoulders.

Student Council antics continue as usual, with Chika coming up with a game that will start some shit, and Yuu and Miko sparring like siblings. Kaguya and Miyuki look on with pride and contentment, the Miyuki’s desk hiding the fact that they’re holding hands. It was definitely touch-and-go throughout this stressful closing culture festival arc, but Love is War nailed the landing, and I never should have doubted it would.

If a fourth season comes around—and apparently there’s an enormous amount of source material left to adapt—it will be icing on an already perfect cake. But when we’re talking about icing this well made, there’s no such thing as too much. Keep making this show until these dweebs are old and gray with grandchildren running around in California; I wouldn’t need any other anime to sustain me!

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 11 – Changing With the Colors of the Sky

It’s the final day of the festival, which means it’s the final day for Kaguya to tell the president how she feels and the final day for him to wait for her to tell him before he tells her how he feels. At first there’s that same old hesitation, as she visits Miyuki at his class’ balloon sculpture booth and wastes a perfectly good opportunity to swap hearts by meekly offering him cold hard cash for a balloon heart and running away. Frankly, it’s a wasted segment, as we knew there was no way there’d be a confession so early.

Since Yuu’s fate is so important for creating an atmosphere where romance is welcome rather than rejected (in favor of an atmosphere of commiseration should Tsubame outright reject him), not to mention this is the second-to-last episode, it’s important for this storyline to edge towards resolution. Tsubame is worried if she dates Yuu she’ll devote her entire self to him (as opposed to the countless suitors who want a casual but low-stakes good time).

When she reaches out to Kaguya for advice on how to say know, at first Kaguya gives her her boilerplate “wipe that lustful look of your face, you swine!” and tells her what won’t kill Yuu will make him stronger…but then like Miyuki last week realize the damage such a rejection would cause her chances with the president, so she backpedals, and they witness both Chika and Miko deal with offers from boys in their own ways.

Chika obviously challenges her would-be beau to a quiz and tells him she her love can’t be tied down. Miko is cornered by two dudes and seemingly gives in to their offer to hang out later before Yuu swoops in and rescues her from her own lack of composure. Tsubame watches this side of Yuu she hadn’t seen before and reconsiders an automatic rejection due simply to concerns she’ll neglect other parts of her life in favor of her boyfriend.

Finally, the time comes when Kaguya is hoping Miyuki will ask her to wander around the festival with him…and he does! So they do! And it’s adorable! She marvels at his composure while they stroll the hallways side by side, invoking awe from all their classmates, but she doesn’t know the weight of the bombshell he’s withholding from her (i.e., Stanford).

The two also take great pains to keep it together at the fortune teller as she tells them they’re basically the perfect couple for one another (and given training, could be great in bed as well). The teller calling Kaguya a “surface of pure water” influenced by changes in the color of the sky is not only a lovely way of describing her personality, but also tracks with the credit sequence where she is influenced by the evil aliens until Miyuki gets her back.

The rest of their date unfolds as you’d expect, and Kaguya is on cloud nine, the clear water glowing with happiness now that she’s finally experiencing what before she’d only been able to imagine. However, it all comes to an end when they return to the StuCo office and Miyuki presents her with his acceptance letter from Stanford, and his intent to skip a grade and study abroad there, making this his final festival at Shuchiin.

After delivering this information to Kaguya, the episode ends in dead silence, with Kaguya in shock and a note from “Arsene (Lupin)”, the “Phantom Thief” Chika has been chasing in the background, stating simply “To Be Continued.” But we still get the Starship Troopers-inspired credits, the meta-story of which is a reversal of the current situation: it’s Miyuki who is being borne to a far-flung land, and up to Kaguya to either convince him to stay or go after him and get him back.

Miyuki seems pretty intent on going through with this, and you can’t blame him with his and his family’s tenuous financial situation. People abandon their ideal romantic future for pragmatism’s sake all the time; I just hope that’s not what happens here. But now Kaguya knows what we’ve known. Miyuki was always going to present this future to her, and presumably still plans to confess if she doesn’t.

The festival is winding down, and there’s still a campfire to be lit. Perhaps that will be when something happens. It will have to be, since we’re just about out of season 3 episodes! I maintain, however, that if there’s nothing but loneliness and distance waiting for Kaguya and Miyuki, I maintain that will hate this series with the passion of a billion burning suns forevermore. That will categorically not stop me from watching that play out in a fourth season.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 10 – He Carries All Our Hopes With Him

BINAURAL ASMR – 👻 Horror House Experience 👻 (Wear Headphones)

Before Yuu and Tsubame head to the Horror House, we get to experience it along with Kaguya, Maki, Nagisa and Tsubasa, and also found out how both Yuu and Miko contributed to making it the unique and terrifying success it clearly is.

Mind you in Miko’s case that success wasn’t intentional, but her classmate and president of Tabletop Game Club Makihara Kozue has a sadistic streak and pretty much tortures Miko with scissors, feathers, and even dang ear nibbling in order to record (with binaural mics in Miko’s ears) the perfect immersive experience for the house.

It looks like the perfect venue for Yuu and Tsubame to get a little closer; heck, even Kaguya and Maki hold hands for support in there! But when Miko finds Nagisa and Tsubasa making out in their locker, she decides visitors to the horror house shall forthwith be segregated by gender.

This, of course, ruins the whole purpose of Yuu taking Tsubame to a haunted house, since they won’t get to, ya know, experience it together. While a setback, it’s not a terminal one, and more importantly isn’t due to anything Yuu said or did.

Hell Is About to Start Now

Moving on, it’s always been clear Chika has no particular romantic designs or even prospects; I imagine her “type” is a man so beautiful and perfect that he might not exist, at least not at Shuchiin. He might be somewhere in Lichtenstein. Her lil’ sis Moeha, on the other hand? She has a crush on President Shirogane, specifically thanks to being friends with his sister Kei, and accurately interpreting her tsundere barbs towards him as the praise and admiration it actually is.

Chika tries to warn Moeha that Miyuki is not who she thinks he is, then proceeds to list off all the things he’s bad at. Of course, she has to include the disclaimers that Miyuki worked his ass off until he got the hang of those things, which endears him to Miyuki even more. Chika believes the only way to “cure” her sister of this curse is to allow her to witness Miyuki juggling.

Like a host of other skills requiring either talent or hard work, Chika assumes Miyuki will be terrible at it and turn Moeha off him like a cat on a hot tin roof. She assumed wrong; Miyuki is quite good at juggling, thanks to her grandma. He’s also good at cup-and-ball, top-spinning, and yo-yo. Chika breaks down in a floor kicking-and-pounding tantrum, while Moeha is as enamored of him as ever.

Of course, the real reason Chika should give for why Moeha shouldn’t be pursuing the President is because of the Vice President, i.e. Kaguya, who appears behind Moeha like a glowing specter in an unsettling jump cut. Moeha then proceeds to list all of the legitimate reasons she likes Miyuki, which are the same reasons Kaguya loves him, and the two bond over their shared subject of affection. Kaguya just loves that she can talk about Miyuki with someone who understands!

If He Goes Down, We Go Down

Back to Yuu and Tsubame, as Tsubame invites Yuu to her class presentation, a kind of festival games set-up. Yuu can feel the momentum in his favor, and while he’d shrink, hesitate, or turn tail in the past, here he rides that momentum like a wave.

He wins a giant heart-shaped cookie, then offers it to Tsubame in the middle of a crowded classroom where 90% of them know what that means. He then makes it clear to those who don’t: the gift is an expression of how he feels about her.

It is indeed a 100% Public Confession, and while Tsubame has a good reaction and does not summarily reject him, she does suddenly run off asking for “time to think about it”, leaving Yuu in an uncomfortable limbo.

As Yuu’s success hangs in the balance, Miyuki contemplates the cost of failure: blanket Self-Imposed Restraint on Romance. Like a stone in a pond, Tsubame’s rejection of Yuu will have ripple effects for all the other would-be couples in the blast radius. Miyuki and Kaguya would have to put their romantic plans on hold to comfort Yuu. A confession in such an atmosphere would be romantic suicide!

Miyuki (and Kaguya) are invested in Yuu’s success, because if he goes down, they go down, and with no time left before he heads to Stanford. He asks Chika if Yuu has a chance, but her answer is biased against both Yuu and Miyuki, whom she’s long thought of as garbage men (not sanitation engineers, mind you). 

Still, even Chika can admit that over time she’s come to find both guys as “pretty decent men”; high praise for someone with her standards. If Tsubame takes the “point-addition approach” with Yuu, the kid has a chance. The most and best they can do is watch over him.

Of course, the stakes are much higher for Miyuki. Will he be able to keep his hands off the scenario and let the cards fall where they may? Will a Yuu defeat really spell as much doom for him and Kaguya as he assumes? We’re close approaching the endgame here, folks. You can tell from the surging notes of some of the absolute best musical scoring in the business.

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 08 – Stroke of Noon

Izumi learns a lot of new things about his library buddy Kamiya during their quiet library rest area shifts…except what she’s thinking the whole time. That she’s an idiot for “waiting around” and not taking the initiative when he was still single; that she’s a bad person for having such feelings for someone whose heart belongs to another.

When Nekozaki asks if they can trade numbers, Kamiya does so with her usual quiet smile, but holds on just a little bit before letting it go: a wonderfully animated moment. Shikimori notices that hesitation, and also a measure of the pain hiding behind Kaimya’s smile. Kamiya’s face does a lot of heavy lifting this week.

Kamiya puts her hair up returns to her fawning fans, but soon the din of praise and speculation about her grows deafening, and she just can’t be there anymore. The cool beauty is overheating in that gaggle, and especially doesn’t want to hear people praise her when she feels like the biggest, worst loser ever.

Kamiya is soon joined on the roof, under a cloudy sky that matches her mood, by Shikimori, who offers back the number along with an apology. Now that she knows how Kamiya feels, trading with her feels cruel, and she doesn’t want to be cruel to anyone who likes Izumi, because no one who likes who she likes could ever be bad.

We’ve seen jealous Shikimori before, but Empathetic Shikimori is a far superior mode. While admitting she might seem “high and mighty”, she owns that 100% and assures Kamiya that nothing of what she’s feeling is wrong, and she shouldn’t feel compelled to bottle it up or throw it away for her sake.

Suddenly faced with the second person not to put her on a pedestal but simply let her be her (after Izumi, a large part of his appeal for her), Kamiya is overcome and lets those feelings flow out, sobbing uncontrollably. Shikimori does what you’d expect her to: draw the taller Kamiya into a warm, supportive hug.

Kamiya walks away from the experience glad that Izumi is with someone like Shikimori, and ready to move forward not in denial but in full acknowledgement of her feelings for him. But later that night, after the after-party when Izumi gives Shikimori a birthday/anniversary present, Shikimori feels weary.

She’s not weary specifically of Kamiya, but she’s a symptom of a larger problem on the horizon that she fears: that so many people will see what she’s seen in him all along, he’ll drift further and further away from her. She doesn’t want him to change, but she’s worrying too much.

Izumi credits much of his change for the better to Shikimori, and he’s not done changing and getting stronger she she can smile and relax and not worry about a grand piano falling out of the sky and onto her boyfriend. Hearing that he wants the exact same she does makes her start bawling like a baby.

One might think this means Izumi is singularly capable of tearing down Shikimori’s badass poise, but they’d be wrong. Shikimori is cool precisely because she’s not afraid to cry big sloppy tears over her love of Izumi. It’s a new high point for this pair of splendidly sweet, honest lovebirds.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 09 – Running Start

Diving Into the Muck

All along both Miyuki and Kaguya have maintained that the one to confess their love first is the loser, but now we have a Kaguya openly declaring her love for Miyuki to Ai and planning to confess during the festival, and Miyuki ready to confess if she doesn’t. But truth be told, Miyuki is already the “loser” of this particular war, and he lost before the first season even aired!

Yes, before Kaguya even knew who he was, Miyuki was a surly first-year with a chip on his shoulder. Shuchiin offered the most student aid but was proving most obnoxious due to how much richer everyone was except him. That’s when the previous Student Council President (with that distinctive gold rope on his jacket) reaches out to Miyuki and recruits him.

The Prez says he wants someone with a “level gaze” who has seen outside the cloistered garden of privilege and wealth, but in practice, he has Miyuki help fish trash out of a swamp. That’s when someone falls in, and Miyuki freezes. Not being able to swim, he simply hopes in his mind someone will rescue the girl. That someone turns out to be Kaguya, who comes out of nowhere,

Kaguya doesn’t hesitate to sully herself with swamp muck when diving in to grab hold of the girl, having tied a rope to herself so the others can pull them both out. That right there was the moment of victory for Kaguya, and she didn’t even know it! Not only was Miyuki smitten with her from then, he was also inspired to become a better person, and eventually swap that muck-covered rope for the golden one of the StuCo President.

Good to the Last Drop of Love

Back in the present, Kaguya’s classmates have ensured she’s dressed as an adorable and elegant Taisho-era Japanese woman for the cosplay café—a look they maintain no one can pull off better. She told Miyuki about her shift times and is hoping he’ll show up to see her in her outfit, but as she’s manning the entrance the cafe is soon swamped with customers.

Kaguya has to wait on customers, and gets the short and very annoying end of the stick when her first two customers are J and San, two of the Four Ramen Emperors of Tokyo. They’re just as fussy and dramatic about coffee service, and when Kaguya starts to serve them, they make her stop and ask that Ai (an actual maid) serve them instead.

Not one to back down, Kaguya admits to her shortcomings when it comes to coffee, but insists that she has no peer when it comes to black or green tea. San and J allow her to serve them, but just when she’s ready to put them in their place, Miyuki shows up. No matter; Kaguya swiftly dispatches San’s concerns with a beautiful cup of tea.

San is moved by his cup of tea, declaring that it was made with love. When he later sees Kaguya doting on Miyuki, he understands where that love comes from and who it’s meant for. Unfortunately, there’s another annoying middle-aged customer right after the first two, so the first day of the festival passes with Kaguya unable to confess to Miyuki. Mind you it’s not tallied as a loss per se, merely a lost opportunity.

Look Past the Discrepancies

That’s the end of Kaguya and Miyuki for the episode, as we move on to Yuu and his new best friend Shijou Maki, AKA “Miss Mood Swings.” She is true to that nickname throughout their interactions, swinging wildly between giddy enthusiasm of the sort one of your mates would dish out when armed with the knowledge you’re trying to ask out your crush, and crushing depression over her own lost opportunity with Tsubasa.

Yuu and Maki are soon joined by Nagisa and Tsubasa, the one established couple in the cast who are probably worth listening to about asking out considering the success they found, even if their PDA is hard to watch. Nagisa also decides to be friends with Yuu, since both Tsubasa and Maki vouch for him as a good guy.

All three of them are behind him in his quest to ask Tsubame out, and while he’s being ambitious by crushing on the Madonna of the third years, he can’t approach the situation with a sense of inadequacy or he’ll get nowhere. When Tsubame goes on her break, the nerds sneak around in the shadows, but Yuu is the one who approaches her, brings up his class’ horror house, and in more words than are probably necessary, gets across his desire to go there with her.

Tsubame picks up what Yuu is laboring to put down, her face lighting up like a Christmas angel as she immediately agrees to go with Yuu, and leads the way with an outstretched hand. It’s a solid victory for Yuu, even though at this point Tsubame may not fully grasp Yuu’s intentions. At the end of the episode Yuu has taken a crucial step forward (one Maki couldn’t), but there’s more work to be done if he’s to exit “beloved kohai/pal” mode.

The only question is whether we get to see Yuu and Tsubame next week, or if the focus shifts to Chika and Miko, who did not appear outside of the background. There are three more episodes for Kaguya, Miyuki, and Yuu to accomplish their goals. FIGHT-O!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 07 – Kamiya-san Is Curious

The studio had an Izumi-style run of luck, enduring a Covid outbreak that delayed the episode, but Shikimori picks up without missing a beat, as the school culture fest commences. Last year Izumi and Shikimori had the same duties, but this time they’re separated as their class runs an animal-themed café.

Still, it doesn’t take long for them to come together as Izumi inevitably slips on a napkin and the Shikimori the bunny has to save Izumi the lion. While walking home after a busy first day, the two commit to spending the afternoon of the second day together.

It has to be the afternoon because both of them are busy in the morning: Shikimori with the café, and Izumi on library duty. He’s relieved to learn that his partner isn’t a stranger, but Kamiya, who has always been friendly and kind to him in their past library duty interactions.

As we enter the cultural festival stage of many anime series this season, Kamiya seems aware of the “magic” that leads to a surge of new couples. She’s uncharacteristically restless, and even delivers a wall slam to Izumi as she brings up his girlfriend Shikimori and wants to know how they met.

Izumi, who quite incorrectly assumes Kamiya likes Shikimori, obliges, telling her they got together thanks to that same culture fest magic. Last year, the numbers they got at the entrance matched, which was a rare fortunate moment for Izumi, as he had planned to ask her out during the festival.

After walking around and enjoying the festival in the clouds, when the time comes to take their photo (which legend has it bonds the matched couples together forever) Izumi loses his number. But Shikimori won’t let him give up, so they look for it. They come up empty, but put up a passionate united front in insisting the president let them have their picture taken anyway. The Prez can tell these two are keepers, and gives an exception.

The rest is history: Izumi asks Shikimori out behind the gym, and Shikimori’s response is a gorgeous, passionate embrace. Back in the library, Izumi apologizes for rambling on, but Kamiya is well and truly moved, striking an elegant pose that conceals what must be pained eyes.

While we’ve seen very little Kamiya so far, it’s been clear through her subtle glances at Izumi that she likes the guy, always has, and rues the fact she missed her chance. As amazing as Kamiya acknowledges Shikimori to be, she’s clearly frustrated Shikimori beat her to the punch.

It helps that Kamiya is an instantly likeable character, statuesque and noble and popular with both guys and girls, but not afraid to show another side to Izumi. Fukuhara Ayaka also lends her a wonderfully husky voice that’s lower than Izumi’s. We’ll see where this triangle goes as the festival continues.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 08 – Heart to Heart

It’s What the Public Decided

I was initially going to give this episode a lower score simply because it precedes the long-awaited “goods”—i.e. our main duo confessing to each other. But not only would that not be fair, it would be disingenuous. I personally loved the slice-of-life segments this week, forgiving them for “delaying” said goods and appreciating them for what they are: treasured moments of relative mundaneness before the season and series kick into final gear.

I’m always saying how Love is War could spawn numerous solid spinoffs, and one focusing on the family dynamics of the Shirogane clan could certainly be one of them. I particularly love Kei’s two-sided attitude towards her brother, one side being embarrassed and another being proud of how cool and capable he is.

It’s why she spends the birthday cash he gave her to make sure he dresses as cool as he is, even if she’ll never admit to her fawning classmates that she at least half-agrees with them! The fact that Miyuki’s wardrobe is that of an eighth grader because he wanted to save the family money so Kei could look good speaks to how Miyuki is just as proud of his little sister.

No Interest in the Fanciful

Another staple of Love is Wardom is the scenario of Kaguya being dismissive or stoic about something right up to the point it could present an opportunity for romantic success with the President. This time it’s a little heart charm that’s part of the culture festival merch. Tsubame recounts the thousand-year-old Hoshin legend that gives the festival it’s name and burning-heart theme.

Whether a valiant young man really did give his heart to the ailing daughter of a lord or the legend was simply cooked up to give the lord authority doesn’t matter. What matters is that Tsubame tells Kaguya that if you give something in the shape of a heart to someone you like during the festival, it will mean eternal love, and Kaguya believes her, because she wants to believe One Simple Trick will get the job done.

In reality, Kaguya is still wavering between wanting to confess and being too scared or proud to do so—even if it’s in a stealthy way like serving President a pie filled with heart-shaped fruit. But both we and Ai are in shock when suddenly, out of the blue, Kaguya declares to her, while clutching her foot in bed, that she does indeed like Miyuki. She’s done denying it…it’s just a matter of taking one last step.

Culture Festival Magic

Ai tells Kaguya she’s at a crossroads. Whether being the first to confess is the loser or not (the narrator points out this is the theme of the show…duh!) there are only two choices: hold onto her pride and continue suffering in limbo, or confess and experience the relief that comes with it. Even admitting she likes Miyuki to Ai is a great weight off her shoulders. Admitting it to Miyuki is a whole other matter entirely.

As the culture fest is in the final stages of preparation, Kaguya wonders how people find the courage to confess to the ones they like when the cost of rejection is so high. Miko’s friend Kobachi answers that by casually admitting she’s now dating the Cheer Squad Leader: capitalizing on “Culture Festival Magic” when a flurry of confessions and new couples emerges.

News that the Cheer Squad Leader is dating Kobachi is a cause for elation from Yuu, who had considered the possibility the guy was dating Tsubame. Now, there’s a good chance his crush is single. Will he take advantage of the magic and confess to Tsubame, or forever be her kohai and teammate? Kaguya urges him to do the former ASAP, lending him the very courage she thought was so elusive.

Ultimately, the unrelenting march of time must provide the courage Kaguya requires in order to confess to Miyuki. If she can’t go through with it, Miyuki will confess instead. Or maybe they’ll find a way to do it at the same time? One scenario I will not abide is neither of them summoning the courage to confess, or for Miyuki to move to America for college without any confessions at all.

If there’s a fourth season in the mix, I don’t want this one to end with heartbreak. I want it to be the beginning of the evolution in their relationship they’ve sought all along even while constantly denying themselves of it. By rights, they could have been a couple for years. The series ipping the rug out from under us, while dramatically justifiable, would just be cruel. Kaguya and Miyuki are so close to what they want…what would be so wrong with giving it to them, and us?

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 07 – The Dark Legend of Shuchiin

Let’s Have a Campfire

When Miko and Yuu are assigned by Miyuki to aid the understaffed Cultural Festival Committee, they are thrown into a maelstrom of enthusiasm. Miko is thrown off by the intense vibes, Yuu is, as we well know, used to this, and joins in with gusto. It certainly helps that the head of the committee is his crush—the ever sweet and ebullient Tsubame.

Yuu knows he’s far from Tsubame’s only admirer, and so takes strides to one-up all of the other guys’ attempts to sound informed, important, and valuable to her. When Miko’s ideals don’t mesh with the other committee members, Tsubame is there to step in and keep things calm.

When Miko’s own enthusiasm for a campfire is met with skepticism over the many difficulties involved, Miko refuses Yuu’s help and powers through the doubters with her fesity iron will.

As a member of the Disciplinary Committee, Miko deems it her duty to seize trust from the grown-ups. To that end, she uses her solid reputation as a good girl with the neighborhood association, gets the cooperation of the fire department, and knocks on every door in order to notify everyone of the school’s intentions and assure them it will be done right.

Onodera Rei, who was initially one of Miko’s doubters, ends up helping Miko out and the two find a rapport because, after all, she wants a campfire too!

First-Pressed Perplexity

The middle portion of the episode is given over to the Mass Media Club duo of Erika and Karen as they interview various clubs on the impending festival. They start with Kaguya and the Archery Club, and we learn that the two are absolutely hopeless Kaguya worshippers.

Not that I can blame them; she’s spectacular. When they ask a tough question about why she’s not participating in an upcoming tournament, Kaguya keeps her reply vague, since she’d never reveal the true reason: the possibility of going on a Christmas date with Miyuki!

After speaking to the ever-graceful Tsubame at the Rhythmic Gymnastics Club, the media girls head to the roof where the Astronomy Club’s mobbed-up Ryuujuu Momo is loath to speak to them, and directs them to Miyuki, who is working on a giant papier-mâché dragon coiled around a golden ball.

As with Kaguya, Erika and Karen are in awe of Miyuki’s quite nobility, especially when he cryptically declares he’s going to “get it done like a man” at the culture festival.

Finally, the girls check in on the thoroughly oddball Board Game Club, who may not necessarily let the fact their grand plan for “a game involving the whole school” was rejected stop them from implementing it. To be continued…

No Effort Is Wasted

The final segment feels like the weakest, at least at first, with Chika once again being exasperated by Miyuki being extremely bad at something—in this case inflating balloons. No matter how many he pops, Chika refuses to teach “the child” as she has in the past.

Nagisa tries to smooth things over by telling Miyuki to give up and try an easier task, but Chika rightly scolds her for encouraging him to aim lower.

Miyuki ends up going to the StuCo office to attempt to inflate his balloons, and finds Kaguya quietly sewing an apron for her class’s maid café. She says it’s fine for him to carry on, but the repeated balloon bursts soon become torturous.

He proceeds to lament the fact he’s so bad at ordinary things ordinary people do easily, and vents about his frantic desire to hide his weaknesses and struggle to deny his incompetence.

Kaguya sidles up to the frustrated Miyuki with a big warm smile, happy to have “unraveled another mystery” about her boy. She assures him that no effort is wasted. As always, her words are able to soothe his soul.

When it comes to admitting their feelings for each other and agreeing to go out, this is a task neither seems quite ready to pull off, which is a tremendous shame, since they both clearly want nothing else.

That said, Miyuki instituted a deadline for asking Kaguya out, and no matter how many new or old balloons pop, I’m looking forward to him ultimately getting the job done.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 06 – It Was Spring When We Met

With the Culture Fest imminent, rehearsals for Romiya and Juliot are well under way, but when Nishikata first lays eyes on Takagi in her princess regalia, he forgets half of his lines as Dumpling A and gets an earful from Director Yukari. Nishikata knows he needs practice, so he arranges for Takagi to meet him…on a rooftop…at sunset.

It’s not until he’s almost to the top of the steps that he realized that in his absent-mindedness he set up the perfect conditions to ask Takagi out, recalling an iconic chapter of 100% Unrequited Love, in which he should know by now Takagi is also well-versed. But such is her knowledge of the workings of his mind, she knows he’s up there to practice their lines…though she’s a little disappointed it’s not for more than that.

The day of the festival arrives, and Nishikata is 5 billion percent certain he can beat Takagi in a contest of who can get out of the haunted “diner” first (can I just say how wonderfully random a haunted diner is?). Takagi gets in and out in 43 seconds, dashing his hopes of her getting freaked out. But for a moment there, he considered going in, so concerned that she’d be too scared. Sure enough, Takagi wants to go through the house with him together, not separately.

Intertwined with Nishikata and Takagi’s slow dance of love are Houjou and Hamaguchi, the latter of which initially disappoints and pisses off the former by telling her not to come to his class café. When she arrives anyway to spite him for being a jerk, she discovers why he didn’t want her there: all the guys in his class had to dress like maids!

But the big draw of the fest is the play, and things get off to a smooth and encouraging start. Even Nishikata knows all of his lines and delivers them with confidence, no doubt a product of his thorough off-camera practicing with Takagi. But when Kimura is “turned into a ham” and leaves the stage, the chestnut atop his scepter pops off. Then Kimura has digestive issues after winning the eating contest.

This leaves Nishikata to fill in for him, but things don’t go as Yukari, Sanae, or Nishikata planned. That’s because during the scene where she’s about to take her life, Takagi trips on the chestnut, and Nishikata darts onto stage to catch her so fast his pig head falls off. The crowd believes this is all intentional, so he runs with it—emphatically declaring his return to human form is a “miracle born from our love.”

Surely the adrenaline has him, but that doesn’t matter. Takagi is loving every moment of this improvisation, as it means she gets to be in the arms of the boy she loves for real, and Nishikata has nowhere to hide. It’s only when an entire gym full of eyes are on them that they’re finally able to say how they truly feel, even if Nishikata would dispute that’s what’s going on.

At the after-festival karaoke party, I was glad to see Nishikata and Takagi sitting next to each other. She praises him for the improv, and he claims not to remember any of what he said on stage. Takagi assures him she remembers “each and every second” of it, and probably will never forget it.

Then Nishikata asks why one of her improvised lines mentioned how they met in spring when Romiya and Juliot met in the fall…to which Takagi says, while looking straight into Nishikata’s eyes, that “it was spring when we met each other.” We, not the characters they played. While Nishikata’s 8-bit brain tries to process these words and their meaning, Takagi is called to the mic to sing another lovely vintage song. A perfect ending to a perfect episode.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 05 – The Ultimate Prize Catch

We begin with a girl who looks like Takagi beside a boy who doesn’t look like Nishikata sitting in the same part of the classroom as our two lovebirds. The girl is upset about having green peppers in her lunch, so the boy eats them. Her friend tells the girl he doesn’t like peppers either, but ate hers, and teases her, because he likes her.

The girl reacts just like Nishikata would, which makes sense, as she’s his daughter. That’s right, our cold open (which is actually quite warm) takes place in the future when Takagi and Nishikata have a kid. We even see Takagi from behind hanging laundry as the scene ends. Note I didn’t say “a possible” future. I said the future—because this is a sure thing. It’s only matter of time!

Back in the present, we see where their daughter gets her dislike of green peppers. Nishikata had to eat some for breakfast, and it’s enough to let out a big sigh. Because Takagi knows him, she immediately identifies what’s eating him (or rather what he doesn’t like eating).

He, in turn, proceeds to ask her what she dislikes as a new challenge, and she even offers him a number of hints…but not too many. Here’s how she  puts it: “You’ll eventually get it right if I just keep giving you hints forever.” The same can be said of their relationship.

Nishikata guessed wrong this time, but he won’t stay wrong forever about what matters, and Takagi won’t have to keep giving him hints forever. Why am I so sure? Well, why else would we get a glimpse of their adorable daughter?

Mina, Yukari and Sanae have a similar discussion about food dislikes, with Mina eating Yukari’s carrots and offering Yukari a gyoza as thanks. While Mina and Yukari bicker, Sanae snatches it up and eats it. Rather than apologize, she walks off, but soon returns with some melon bread, which she offers to exchange for the rest of Mina’s gyoza.

After that intricate transaction, Sanae, Yukari, and Mina take center stage, as they are the writer, director, and costume designer for the play the class will perform for the culture festival. After their presentation of the story, a mélange of the Princess and the Frog and role-reversal Cinderella, they immediately appoint Takagi for the role of the princess. Naturally, there are no objections.

That leaves the crucial role of the Prince. Naturally, all eyes fall upon Nishikata, as the three girls running the play clearly have him in mind for the role, at least initially. He’d have had it, too, had the girls not been distracted from his heartfelt and very real performance that moves Takagi.

They’re distracted by Nishikata’s own friend Kimura, who is still so verklempt from the class not having a karaage café, switching “karaage” for “hime” instantly wins him the role. Nishikata is consigned to the role of “dumpling A”—unfortunate, and yet oddly appropriate.

While both Takagi and Nishikata are disappointed in their ways, it’s hardly the end of the world. In fact, they’ve shaken it off completely by the next segment, when Nishikata leads Takagi to a fishing pond for their next challenge. Nishikata went out of his way to get up early to prepare the bait and tackle, so Takagi honors that effort by giving it her all.

For some time after they both cast, they’re simply sitting by the pond together, taking it easy, something Takagi points out is super-nice. She’s clearly overjoyed that Nishikata has decided to share something he loves with her.

Then she gets a bite, catches a fish, then shows Nishikata she knows how to unhook it, tosses it back, and catches another fish! She may not have fished before, but she is comfortable handling them since she deals with fish often in the kitchen at home.

A frustrated Nishikata suddenly gets a bite—a big one—and it appears to be the prize catch of the pond: a giant koi. It pulls so hard he gets pulled forward, and would have certainly fallen in the drink…if Takagi doesn’t rescue him in the nick of time by grabbing him from behind.

She tightens her grip around his waist, his line snaps, and the two linger in this embrace for a few moments before Takagi withdraws with catlike quickness, once she realizes just how close she and Nishikata are.

She seems to shake it off and even manages to gently tease Nishikata about it as they walk home during the golden hour. But Nishikata’s heart is thumping like a death metal bass drum. When his inner voice asks “what is this?” Takagi, seemingly hearing his thoughts, says “love”. Well, she says koi, which means both love and the kind of fish that got away from him.

As for his “penalty” for losing the fishing challenge, Takagi decides that he’ll help her prepare for her role as the princess. Nishikata doesn’t protest—it’s her win, so it’s her call. So it’s settled: even if the two won’t share the stage, Takagi will ensure her prince—her koi, her dumpling—is closely involved.

Every week Nishikata seems to make another encouraging stride in the right direction: closer to Takagi. Not only will that likely culminate in their ferry date from the OP and promo art, but also in that cute daughter, carrying on her dad’s tradition of taking a while to realize someone likes them.

Komi Can’t Communicate – 12 (Fin) – …But Not Because She Doesn’t Want To

The Maid Café (and Komi) are such a smashing success for Class 1-1 that Najimi can’t suppress their enterprising spirit. They start divining new and ever-more-pricey (and niche) services for the maids to perform for the customers…until the faculty advisors shut them down. Sufficiently chastened for the time being, Najimi instead markets the café by simply having Komi walk around the school.

With Maid!Tadano by her side, Komi navigates all of the different things to see and do at the festival, from a haunted house to rooftop confessions. She rejects Ren’s confession with silence, but her own confession she’s only able to get a tiny “meow” out, which most of the crowd indicates Komi is a cat maid. As usual, most of her peers don’t really “get” her, because in a communication vacuum they divine their own interpretations.

Fortunately, there are at least four peers who more-or-less “get” Komi: her first two friends Tadano and Najimi, along with newcomers Onemine and Kaede. As Komi dons a French bun and glasses for a more sophisticated maid look, she’s both a roving advertisement for the café and soaking up the festival. Having Onemine and Kaede but no Najimi in this walkabout gives it a much more casual vibe, which I think both Komi and Tadano appreciate.

Thanks to Najimi’s racketeering, Class 1-1 is disqualified from a slam-dunk Grand Prize win in the overall class contest. Najimi’s attempts to gloss over their role in the DSQ don’t go over well, but when Komi indicates via notebook that she had fun, everyone’s on board. At the after-festival dance, the torturously-dense Tadano goes out on what he thinks is a tenuous limb in asking if Komi wants to dance, even though dancing with him is the one thing Komi wants to do most.

Tadano’s translator still has its blind spots, but at the after-dance karaoke, even he can recognize his only fan—Komi with maracas—in a crowd of otherwise distracted friends and classmates. I like how we only get the first beat of the songs everyone sings, and that Komi doesn’t suddenly show off a beautiful singing voice…sometimes it’s not about the having, but the yearning, ya know? ;)

Speaking of yearning: throughout these whole twelve episodes Komi has struggled to form connections, but not because she didn’t want them. With help from Tadano, Najimi, and the others, she’s become ever more comfortable with social interactions and communicating her thoughts. As she prepares for a much-deserved post-festival rest, she writes the names of all of the friends she’s made, then cradles the notebook with great reverence.

Not surprisingly, we’ll be getting a second season. We’ll see if Komi starts speaking more (and giving Koga Aoi more to do), if Tadano ever realizes that Komi sees him as more than a friend, and which as-of-yet not formally introduced colorful characters she’ll befriend.

Komi Can’t Communicate – 11 – KokkoFest

There was a beach episode and a sports day episode, so a cultural festival episode was almost inevitable. Due to being a class full of very specific weirdoes, the class is unable to decide on what they’re going to do. They’re stuck in an 12-way-tie largely, with everyone imagining how Komi will participate in all those various activities.

While everyone makes a big racket, no one is asking Komi what she wants, until Tadano does. Turns out she wants to do the first thing suggested: a maid café. That’s right: no one is forcing her to this; it’s her choice. Everyone changes their vote to match hers. But when it comes time to start preparing, no one will let her lift a finger. She’s supposed to simply sit on the throne provided and be Komi.

It takes a “space cadet” like Otori Kaede to ask Komi if she’ll join her on a supply run to the home improvement store. Between Otori’s unreliability and slow reaction time and Komi’s taciturnity, Onemine decides to be a big sister chaperone for them both. When Komi asks (via notebook) why Otori chose her to accompany her, Otori simply says she wanted to be friends, which works out just fine for Komi!

Next task: marketing the festival to the Itan community. Najimi, Tadano and Komi go from business to business distributing flyers. Komi succeeds thanks to the salon owner being as good a Komi translator as Tadano, and the ramen shop owner and her being kindred spirits who don’t need words to understand each other. When they knock on the door of a busy mom with a crying babe, Komi instantly silences him by stealthily making a face at him. He then calls Komi “Kokko”, a nickname both Tadano and Najimi proceed to try out.

The night before the festival, a lot of the class stays late to complete the prep, and soon run out of energy. That’s when Komi and other classmates present them with some homemade onigiri for recharging. While the workers guess which rice balls are Komi’s and take those, it’s the perfect cube of rice Tadano takes that was pressed into being by her hands. She seems particularly happy that he likes it!

The big day arrives, and a self-professed “Maid Expert” Akido Tatsuhito just happens to choose their cultural festival maid café as his spot for the day. He’s impressed by the attention to detail and diversity of personalities (this is Itan High), but like many people, he’s intimidated by Komi’s resting expression, and he mistakes her as an “ice queen” maid when really she’s the warmest and sweetest maid of the bunch. Books and coves, man!

Najimi can’t help but suggest Tadano try on the short-skirted maid outfit Komi rejected. Tadano doesn’t want to, but Komi really wants him to, so he relents. It’s just his luck that both Komi’s mom and brother and his sister show up to see him in all his pink-haired cross-dressing glory. But dressing up just might have been worth it, as Komi tells him he looks really cute, and the two sit two chairs apart, the atmosphere suddenly awkward. To Be Continued…

Kageki Shoujo!! – 11 – Twas Your Face the Light Endow’d

Kouka goes straight from sports festival to cultural festival, and this year the Centennial first-years are once again getting special treatment, as they’ll be taking fifteen minutes of the second-years’ time for the performance of a scene from Romeo & Juliet—the same one Sarasa famously bombed. Andou-sensei says there will be auditions, so the girls will be rivaling one another as they vote for each other.

It’s another one of the unique ways Kouka instructs its young performers-to-be in the theory of their craft as well as encouraging a degree of the toughening needed to survive on the Kouka stage. Everyone up there has to believe they’re the very best. But even though everyone wants to see Sarasa’s Romeo, and Ai points out why she’s perfect for it (while implying she’s “simple”)…Sarasa wants to give Tybalt another try.

Hijiri insists that Ai play the role of Juliet. Even if she rightfully says it’s not a spotlight she’s earned, Hijiri insists that as someone “born pretty” and thus closer to the finish line than others, Ai cannot slack off; she must run as fast as possible to that line, no matter how close it may seem. Her mother also imparted her the wisdom of figuring out how to lose yourself in the role.

One way is by applying some part of your life experience that connects with the role in some way. But Tybalt, whose role comes down to unrequited love of Juliet and jealousy and hatred of Romeo, is proving difficult for Sarasa, who claims (credibly!) to have never hated or held a grudge on anyone, ever. Even so, she starts with the basics of how Tybalt must go through his daily life, and how that life led to his obsession with anger and hatred.

It isn’t working, until that very connection to Sarasa’s life comes into focus and clicks as crisply as a camera shutter. In the common room she and Ai happen to catch a TV interview with Akiya talking about his kabuki and how he was thrust into it by dint of his blood. Seeing Akiya takes Sarasa back to when she was a little kid, and for a moment, she was as jealous of Akiya as Tybalt was jealous of Romeo.

Akiya basically achieved without effort or even passion something she’d always dreamed of achieving. But while Sarasa finally discovers a part of herself she can use to lose herself in the role of Tybalt, it’s Ai’s performance that anchors the final act of the episode.

Everyone thinks she’s being her usual calm, collected, unflappable self when called to be the first Juliet in the auditions (presided upon by the rest of the faculty, not just Andou—a cruel surprise for the girls!) Sarasa, her best friend, knows better, and that Ai’s calm exterior conceals an ever churning storm.

The key is focusing that storm. Fortunately, the Romeo in Ai’s group flubs her lines and has to start from the top, so Ai gets a little extra time in her Space Mind Palace. She’s convinced she’s never known what love is, any more than Sarasa has ever known hatred or jealousy. But we all know one very important exception for Ai, and that’ Sarasa herself.

Romeo was “love at first sight” for Juliet, just as Ai was “friends at first sight” for Sarasa. It took a little longer for AI, but when Sarasa told her about overwriting bad old memories with good new ones, she too knew she had to be friends with this tall girl. Once the joy of becoming friends with her swell up, Ai embodies Juliet herself in the “wherefore” speech, giving her peers, teachers, and me some serious goosebumps.

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