SPOILER ALERT: Many spoilers follow, read at your own risk
Anime(2022) Series, Season 3, 13 Episodes, 24 minutes each
IMDB 8.3 (All three seasons)
The Narrator Aoyam (青山 穣, Aoyama Yutaka)
Officers of the Shuchiin Academy’s Student Council
Miyuki Shirogane (白銀 御行, Shirogane Miyuki) President
Kaguya Shinomiya (四宮 かぐや, Shinomiya Kaguya) Vice President
Chika Fujiwara (藤原 千花, Fujiwara Chika) Secretary
Yu Ishigami (石上 優, Ishigami Yū) Treasurer
Miko Iino (伊井野 ミコ, Iino Miko) Financial Auditor
Ai Hayasaka (早坂 愛, Hayasaka Ai) Kaguya’s personal assistant and childhood friend
Tsubame Koyasu (子安 つばめ, Koyasu Tsubame)
None to speak of unless the creepy head of Shuchiin Academy might be considered as such
This is actually a trailer for Episode 13 which forms the ending of the current 3 season run. We will concentrate on EP13 because in many ways, it completely upends and recasts the entire story in a new light. The narrator says as much in his opening
For most of it’s run across 3 seasons “Kaguya-sama: Love is War”, has put forth it’s central trope or conceit, which was that Kaguya and Miyuki refused to be the first to confess their love to the other, and then they both attempt elaborate plots and plans to force the other one to confess first. All of this story and plot device is a core joke which runs the entire distance of our 3 seasons. This was of course, very humorous, to watch the gyrations and plots unfold, and then somehow misfire, usually with the unintentional involvement of Chika. The unwillingness to confess was usually attributed to Pride, or The Battle of the Sexes.
But then we have this Season 3, Episode 13 The Ultra Romantic of the title. Probably a perfect ending to a wonderful three year run. The narrator’s opening suggests that lovers have an intrinsic, built-in problem, and it’s not about the Battle of the Sexes at all, the quest for power over the other. No! No!
If you go back to the future, to the RAP episode S3 EP5 and the ending ED with English subtitles (turn on the youtube CC)
This ED is not some extraneous attachment at the end, but is core with regard to the ongoing story. You will find that the RAP exactly demonstrates the core principles behind EP13 – Ultra Romantic. Not only is this one of the greatest stand-alone pieces, we have ever seen, but it frames, illustrates, the core switch in the deep dive into Miyuki and Kaguya’s personalities, and dissects what has been going on for the last three seasons. Pure Genius that the 18 year old who authored this ED should fundamentally understand the sudden reveal being presented as laid out in EP13 by the narrator as shown above.
The problem as he suggests is that of fundamental insecurity due to the human facts that all people attempt to hide their true selves in order to obtain love. This hiding is a blockage to intimacy. Its like “If people know the real me, they will be disgusted, and reject me, and I will go without love.” So an individual attempts to become like the person he or she thinks that others want them to become. They pretend, act, put on a false face. They essentially fake it in order to pass the love muster. If one pays attention to the RAP lyrics in EP5 ED, they are telling you what is going down, and why this story is now on fire. This is almost beyond pure genius because it types directly the very ending and the denouement of the three year story arc.
We learn here in EP13, that it is not pride that has kept our two lovers from confessing, but rather something much deeper, and the narrator’s precast is then formally laid out and explained in detail as EP13 progresses.
Kaguya Shinomiya is the daughter of one of the richest and most powerful family’s in Japan, and she has had a rather unloving and distant upbringing and that she must properly represent the Shinomiya family to the entire nation. She is indoctrinated with the typical upper class mentality, that she is the best of the greatest family in all of Japan, that she is an elite better than all other common folk. We have seen this attitude expressed many times, but it is not all negative. This mentality requires action for the sake of a others as a bedrock duty much like the Samurai. We are introduced to Miyuki’s first meeting with Kaguya where in cleaning a pond, a girl falls into the water and begins to drown. No one makes a move, but Kaguya immediately dives into the pond to save the girl. Her resolute action deeply impresses Miyuki.
Kaguya basically looks down on all others, but she doesn’t like this aspect of her self. In fact we learn that she hates this about herself especially when she realizes in being on the Student Council, in observing Miyuki’s behavior, that he is a highly moral and upright man who constantly sacrifices for others. As she falls in love with him, she thinks of him as better than her, that she is a “horrible person” and so her insecurity requires that he confess first to prove to her that he really does love and accept her “true self”.
In a strange way, Miyuki understands something of this about Kaguya, that she is an elite in status far removed from his humble origins. And so his insecurity tells him how could she ever love him. This drives him to be number one in academics above Kaguya’s number 2 position. And so to know if Kaguya really loves and accepts him and his “true self”, he needs her to confess to him first.
This deep dive into the personalities of our main couple is the actual reasons for the core plot device of “Love is War” and not pride as in a “Battle of the Sexes”! In the core of Ultra Romantic, Miyuki pulls off his ultimate ploy to show Kaguya his true feelings and propose a radical offering to her and both now confess to themselves the actual reasons why neither one of them could confess their feelings to the other.
In the core of his staged presentation of hearts, Miyuki proposes that Kaguya join him in attending Stanford. And this really is a proposal of marriage and not a confession of love.
Think forward to Kaguya going to the States with Miyuki. Kaguya doesn’t know anyone in the States, she is not fluent in English, and she would be thousands of miles from her family, friends, and especially her almost sister, Ai Hayasaka. Would she go into the dorms like a common pleb or live alone in an apartment? She doesn’t even know how to take care of herself because Hayasaka has been taking care of her for almost her entire life. The only person she would know is Shirogane. Would she move in with him and live like a married couple? It is not an easy thing to leave your family, friends, and culture, and go to an alien country and people. She would have to depend on Shirogane, and that would be a virtual marriage.
“This is how I feel about you.” Miyuki releasing hundreds of red (and some blue) heart shaped balloons and he now steals Kaguya’s heart. She agrees to go with him to Stanford, and she shows how she feels by kissing Miyuki (which is not shown). At no time do either Kaguya or Miyuki actually confess in words to the other, but neither one of them can not confuse how the other feels about them. They both know that they are now a couple in love, and this is confirmed at the very end where we see them holding hands, Yes! Yes! Ultra Romantic indeed!
This brings the current 3 season run to an end in an exceptionally warm, heartfelt moment, as the artists behind this work have successfully subverted the very core theme which they had established across 3 seasons. Certainly one of the most satisfying endings to any story, a highly ironic ending!
ON TO SEASON 4
Yet not all issues are resolved. Many plot points are very much up in the air.
Will Kaguya’s family allow her to go to Stanford with Shirogane? They will fully understand what this means in terms of a pseudo-marriage. Might they require Ai Hayasaka accompany her?
Would she be accepted by Stanford? This is probably not a problem. If the Shinomiya family were to make a substantial donation, she would be accepted as a student. She has all the same qualifications as does Miyuki, and a Letter of Recommendation from the head of Shuchiin Academy.
But neither Miyuki nor Kaguya fully realize what is in store for them in the States. Stanford is an elite University, and at Shuchiin they are number 1 and 2 top students. But the academic competition at Stanford would be intense, and brilliant minds would be the common standard, a dime-a-dozen. Plus Miyuki and Kaguya would be in a strange and foreign culture and not fluent in English so they would start with some severe impediments. Plus living together might present some problems of their own.
Most of this would probably be a huge shock to Kaguya, much more than for Miyuki. Everyone in Japan knows who the Shinomiya family is and the deference that all others must show to a member of that family, but at Stanford the other students wouldn’t even know much less care about any of that.
Both of them would be just two foreign students at Stanford, nothing at all special or unusual. Most American elite universities accept many foreign students. Plus the crazy California culture surrounding them would be bizarre to them and they might not be able to adjust.
These are huge plot points and unknowns in the future Season 4.
And in addition, the growing (Yu Ishigami x Miko Iino) potential relationship has not at all been fleshed out. Ishigami has now during this cultural festival given hearts to both Tsubame Koyasu (子安 つばめ, Koyasu Tsubame) and to Miko Iino (伊井野 ミコ, Iino Miko). The tradition at Shuchiin is that if you give a heart shaped object to another during the festival, then that is a confession of love, but Ishigami is completely oblivious to what he has done.
Both girls do like Ishigami but that “like” is difficult to categorize as love. Ishigami and Iino are constantly fighting in the Student Council, and Tsubame’s encouragement of Ishigami is what she does for most others. She is a high energy, high spirited girl, who cares deeply, and shows that care. She is a Rhythmic Gymnast, vice-captain of the cheer squad, and she has been concerned for Ishigami.
Ishigami gave her a cookie heart during the Cultural Festival, and she answered him by coming back and asking for more time before she responds. Ishigami doesn’t realize he has confessed, and so is confused in this conversation, and gives her all the time she asks for.
Ishigami also gives a heart shaped piece of jewelry to Miko which he found in the hallway. This is the piece that Kaguya lost, but Ishigami doesn’t know anything about that. Thinking it is lost and found, he gives it to Miko who is first shocked, and then reconsiders.
A compare and contrast between Miko and Tsubame is very interesting because they are both in one way or another, involved with Ishigami, but they are very different personalities.
Miko is rigid in her fixed belief system, and she holds herself and others to the highest standards. She is not very flexible, and the entire world is black and white, there are no shades of gray. We know that she harbors soft, Romantic feelings, but those feels are never expressed to others. She constantly fights with Ishigami over little and big things. She recognizes, and correctly, that Ishigami lives way below his potential, and that really upsets her, that he does not strive for excellence. She is not fully aware of her own interior feels but we saw a hint of such during the Sports Festival where Ishigami was running for the Cheer Squad. Under her breath, we hear her encouraging Ishigami. She has undefined feelings for him of which even she is not fully aware.
Tsubame on the other hand is an absolute sweetheart who would never hurt anyone. She is high energy and her feels are usually on the intense side. She is not rigid or absolute in her beliefs, and she is not judgmental of others. This contrasts her sharply with Miko.
Which relationship would be best for Ishigami and for each other?
Ishigami is something of a slacker and a loner, and its implied that he performs way below his abilities. We know that he has a very high standard of honor for himself.
He absorbs both administration and student abuse and isolation in the affair at the end of S2 where some scumbag shows off compromising pictures of a girl that Ishigami knows in a casual fashion, and our hero physically attacks the scumbag, actually driving him out of the school. For this he is ostracized, but he refuses to explain his actions or to apologize because that would ruin the reputation of the girl. So he suffers the consequences of protecting a girl who hates him for driving her boyfriend away. It is a no-win situation, but the Student Council investigates and discovers what went down in the affair, and Miyuki rescues Ishigami from his isolation and censure. This is the dumb-ass affair.
For an in depth look at this fantastic story arc, please see this video
Miko has some unrecognized feels for Ishigami which she has not acknowledged or even admitted to herself. This then is for the future of Kaguya-sama Season 4.
Miko makes a much better match for Ishigami than does Tsubame. He needs a harder edge in a relationship which Tsubame would not be able to deliver. And Miko would need some moderation in her absolutist views that Ishigami could provide. A (Ishigami x Miko) ship could be beneficial to both parties provided that they could grow together which is what true love is all about.
In summary, the three seasons of Kaguya-sama would have to rank as a masterpiece of story telling. Not only is the work riotously, belly-thumping funny, but the artists behind the work can do gut-wrenching, high emotional drama as the Ishigami S2 story arc so famously illustrates.
And in addition, their S3 EP13 ending was exquisite, beautiful, and brilliant as it undercut and subverted the entire premise of the story which they had developed across 3 seasons. Their ending is ironic in the extreme as it takes a deep dive into Kaguya and Miyuki and surfaces with a completely new explaination. Love’s contraditions and fears undercut intimacy and love and render lovers insecure, will I be loved if I truly confess my “true self”?
As of this writing (2022-8-15), this observer is not alone in this opinion. On MAL, Kaguya-sama is rated at 9.13 which places it in a tie vote with “Fullmetal Alchemist:Brotherhood” as the best anime of all time. Of course the 9.13 for Fullmetal is drived from 2,954,662 votes where Kaguya’s 9.13 comes from 625,006. So there is that, and no one knows how the rankings will hold moving forward into the future. And any ranking system of a work of art is pure opinion anyway, and that is subject to change as trends and fashions in art change.
But in the opinion of this Pywackett Productions, ink, Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – Season 3 is one of the very best stories we have ever enjoyed. It is a masterpiece with no qualifications. Don’t miss this one, dude!
Live well and thrive!
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