Kaguya-Sama Love is War Series Review

Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 1

Great production but this one just wasn’t for me.

It has been fairly well established at this point that I’m not a big fan of comedy. Largely this is because a lot of what people tell me is supposed to be funny I just find either gross or mean-spirited and don’t find much amusing about it. Then again, what I find to be funny a lot of people also find gross or just disturbing so to each their own.

What that does mean though is that while I recommended this series, the conditional part of the recommendation is that I really didn’t like it. I can see exactly why lots of people do like it, and I do think it is worth trying if you are looking for a well produced anime, particularly if you like comedy, but for me this one was one big swing and a miss.

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A lot of the problem is with the central premise which I’m told is supposed to be ironic or amusing but I find just sad. The idea that confessing puts you under the power of the other person in a relationship, or that relationships inherently have one person being more powerful than the other, really rubs me the wrong way and feels like something from several decades ago that we really should have just left there. That the main characters are both portrayed as being quite intelligent and yet at no point draw the conclusion that perhaps they could be equal partners really just makes the premise of this one hurt to even think about.

Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 1

I am told that I should just take this as a joke and not think about it so seriously, however that’s kind of the problem with comedy for me. Just because they are joking doesn’t mean I find reinforcing notions that someone should be in control of a relationship and someone should be submissive particularly amusing. Nor do I find Shinomiya’s general lack of sex education particularly funny. It is kind of a social tragedy that she is so ill-informed.

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Actually, the fact that they keep telling me time and again how smart these characters are and yet very little of what they do seems even vaguely smart kind of reminded me of my problem watching Devil and Realist where William was supposed to be super intelligent but just struck me as being kind of an idiot. Shinomiya learning to use Twitter in one episode kind of highlights the overall problem with the set up where they insist this girl is some kind of super-genius manipulator and yet instead of looking up instructions, reading the information, trying things out and noting what happens, she runs into her maid’s bath multiple times and drags her out to explain fairly simple concepts. I get the trope of the genius who lacks common-sense but in this case a lot of what Shinomiya does just makes me want to face-palm so badly.

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However, before you think I’m just out to bash this story for all its worth, there are some great moments for Shinomiya (and indeed most of the cast). The problem is, these moments come seemingly when the premise of the story gets set aside. When we remove Shinomiya from the endless battles against Shirogane and the contrived competitions they establish, and just let her be Shinomiya, a sheltered girl finding small ways to explore the world (such as the episode where she walks to school), we actually have quite a charming character and one worth spending time with. Unfortunately, the anime isn’t really interested in letting the characters just be themselves and continues to force artificial conflict upon them and us over and over again in a tiresome manner.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 5 Shinomiya

Fujiwara, the secretary of the student council, is a shining light in this series. Her character is excellent regardless of context and she literally brightens scenes just by being in them. She’s also the one character who is consistently entertaining and amusing partially because she isn’t working to show off how smart she is and partially because she’s just a well constructed character who manages to consistently hit the right notes. If you won’t watch for any other reason, Fujiwara is probably a fairly solid reason to try Kaguya-Sama: Love is War.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 5 Fujiwara Best Girl

But we should discuss the actual contests the characters get into. Each episode (or most of them) are split into three sections with each being a simple vignette where a topic or theme is introduced, we mentally see how Shinomiya and Shirogane have interpreted the situation to determine how to ‘win’ and then the contest plays out before a winner is decided, or until Fujiwara unintentionally removes any ability for either character to win. A narrator sets up each section and at times may seem intrusive and the narrator also finishes each section by summarising who won or lost and why.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 3 Fujiwara

Some of these contests are really straight forward such as when Shinomiya challenges Shirogane to twenty questions. The problem being that for someone really smart the answer seems pretty obvious given an exchange in the set-up to the competition and so the punch line falls a little flat. Other contests are more abstract such as when they are trying to decide where to go for Summer vacation.

The end result though is fairly formulaic and while some of the later episodes move away from this format, over the course of the season, the majority of episodes will offer more or less the same scenario over and over again with slightly different dressing on top and perhaps a slightly different outcome. It is noteworthy that even supporting characters point out to Shinomiya that her schemes do not work. If the goal is to get Shirogane to confess, not once has she been successful and yet instead of taking a more direct approach she persists again and again in her schemes. The same could be said for Shirogane but far less time is spent with him outside of the student council so he isn’t quite as filled in as Shinomiya as a character.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 8 Shirogane

If you happen to like this formula or find the skits amusing, then this one will be golden from start to finish. For those who find a lack of forward progress in a plot a bit of a sticking point (that would be me), what it will end up being is fairly frustrating as a series even as some of these skits will amuse.

What really does elevate Kaguya-Sama: Love is War from just being another sketch comedy that I didn’t really enjoy, is the production. Visually this one has a distinct look and is actually fairly impressive with the creative way it depicts the battles and character emotions. While there isn’t a lot of movement and certainly no hand to hand combat or anything of the like, the animation is pretty spot on and far and away of higher quality than you would usually expect for the subject matter.

Kaguya-Sama Episode 12 - Fireworks

The music is also spot on with an opening and ending that both support the story and are highly entertaining (worth watching the ending each time as well), and background music and sounds that really help to spice up what might otherwise become fairly flat content.

A lot of love has gone in to the production of Kaguya-Sama and realistically as an anime there’s little to complain about. While it personally doesn’t do a lot for me, there are plenty of people who will adore this story and these characters and the presentation makes it all very palatable. The characters themselves will be a bit hit and miss as will the premise but by and large this is an anime that will work for the majority so if you are curious and haven’t tried it be sure to give it a go.


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Karandi James


Heartfelt Moment Undermined By ‘Humorous’ Conclusion

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Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 12 Review

For the first half of this episode I thought this was an absolutely brilliant way for this series to go out. Really was loving it. And then… well, then we got to the second part. See the whole way through this series I’ve really loved the moments where the characters have been allowed to just be characters and interact rather than the contrived matches between the main pair, so seeing Shinomiya genuinely upset by not being allowed to go to the fireworks and Shirogane and the others rallying to help her was really a great emotional moment with a lot of pay-off.

Kaguya-Sama Episode 12 - Shinomiya crying

This was each of the characters at their best. No forced humour or awkwardly intrusive narration. Just a girl upset and the overly dramatic solution with her escaping her house and then her frantic rush to reach the wharf in time, only for it to end in failure. That was so incredibly sad and they held that moment just long enough before Shirogane turned up and delivered such an incredibly overblown line and yet it was utterly perfect for the moment.

Kaguya-Sama Episode 12 - Shinomiya and Shirogane running

Watching them run together, meeting up with Fujiwara and Ishigami and getting in the taxi. Even the taxi driver going all out and probably breaking multiple road rules in order to get them to their destination in time all just worked. It was a well paced, well executed, fun and emotional climax to a series that I’ve found very hit or miss.

And I haven’t even talked about how on point the music was during this episode or how beautiful the fireworks were.

Kaguya-Sama Episode 12 - Fireworks

And then…

Well then we go back to school.

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The president is freaking out because he thinks that he acted foolishly in the moment. Shinomiya is all nervous because she wants to say thank you. The narration is back. The forced conflict is back. Its all just awkward and painful to watch and really about as far from amusing as you can get without actually just sitting in a room full of socially awkward people avoiding eye-contact for ten minutes.

Kaguya-Sama Episode 12 - Shinomiya and Shirogane crossing paths

For a brief span I thought episode 12 was actually going to be the episode that made me think overall I liked the series more than I didn’t. But that second half reminded me of everything I find irritating about the entire set up and mostly while there are some great moment overall I’ve mostly found this one misses the mark for me. I’ll be going back through my episode notes and thinking about my final review of this series a lot, but the bottom line is going to end up being that this just isn’t my kind of show.


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Karandi James


2019 Winter Anime End Of The Season

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Winter 2019 has had its ups and downs throughout but regardless of my final thoughts, I had a lot of fun this season. There was always something to look forward to and as some shows faltered, others rallied. While I know some shows are ongoing and some have not yet aired final episodes (and in the case of Boogiepop wa Warawanai I’m just hopelessly behind), this is my final standings for the Winter season.

In the listing I’ve commented on where the series was at the mid-season point in the list and whether it has moved or not but if you want to see my mid-season thoughts they are here.

Hopefully you enjoy and remember the results of the reader’s poll will come out later today.

Number 15: Boogiepop wa Warawanai

Previously placed at position 13. It didn’t even deliver the little that was expected.

I was vaguely hopeful that this one would improve, but realistically I’m struggling just to convince myself to finish watching it. It has continued to be a meandering mess and while some have enjoyed the mystery I’ve mostly just found it frustrating.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai Episode 10 Nagi

Not aided by ugly visuals and characters that are pretty bland, there’s very little compelling me to keep going with this but I will finish it at this point. I kind of feel I past the point of no return a while a go. Still, if I wanted to pick the series on my watch list that I most regret watching, Boogiepop would be it.

Number 14: Grimms Notes

Previously placed at position 15, Grimms Notes continued to underwhelm.

While it would be nice to say that it managed to pull its narrative and characters together, mostly I just felt this one oozed wasted potential until the very end. Not that there weren’t some fun moments along the way, but it just never felt satisfying to watch.

Grimms Notes Episode 8

It isn’t all bad news with some of the character moments being cute enough and having a simple ‘save the story zone’ plot each week. Even if the main story line felt hopelessly underdeveloped and the themes unexplored, it wasn’t as if this ever became unwatchable.

Number 13: Sword Art Online Alicization

Previously at position 10, how this has fallen.

I was disappointed when Sword Art Online Alicization was only managing position 10, and yet honestly I can’t say this has gotten any better. If anything, the faults with the pacing, character motives, exposition, and just idiocy have gotten worse to the point where I’m honestly wondering whether to keep going with episode reviews when it continues or whether to just let this one go and review it once they finally finish it.

Eugeo - Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23

An increasingly frustrating and underwhelming watch full of babble about things that barely make sense even in the context of the story, and characters who essentially break the rules of the world at will, it all just became fairly tiresome to watch this season.

Number 12: Kaguya-Sama Love is War

Previously and still position 12.

For a comedy anime it wasn’t bad. It isn’t really my style and to be honest outside of the occasional moment where the characters really clicked there were a lot of times where watching this was just kind of empty. Still, the visuals, animation and sound design of this one were pretty fantastic so I can’t fault the production in the slightest.

Kaguya-Sama Episode 6 Shinomiya

However, ultimately, if I’d stopped watching this one it wouldn’t have mattered. There was no compelling reason to keep going and while I can see why it appeals to some, it really isn’t speaking much to me.

Number 11: Endro

Previously placed at position 14, this one actually was kind of charming fun.

Despite the pastel colour scheme and cute girl antics, I actually did find this one entertaining from week to week. There were some moments that really just shone for both the story and the characters proving you really can take something fairly standard and make it shine if you put enough love and effort into it.

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Honestly, this isn’t going to be something I watch again but if you like cute girl stories or just want a fun slice of life/comedy that has an adventurers setting thrown in, this is actually really cute and entertaining. The only reason it didn’t get higher up my list is because I’m just not that into cute girls and some of the friendship sequences made me roll my eyes hard.

Number 10: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

Previously position 7 there’s just no denying the second cour was ordinary.

After slowly warming up to the show in the first cour, the second cour that aired during Winter 2019 of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime was overwhelmingly average. Now source readers will pull out the ‘it gets better’ cards as well as explain that some bits were skipped over, but none of that changes the fact that the anime is most definitely average.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 19 Rimuru and Milim

There were some cute moments and character encounters and a few fairly awesome moments in the occasional fight, but a lot of this second cour was sitting around talking, or introducing characters we were never given a reason to care about who effectively had their problems solved with minimum effort. It remained light and fun to watch but had absolutely nothing to hook the audience or to convince me this would ever be worth watching a second time.

Number 9: The Price of Smiles

Formally position 5. Okay, I was being optimistic.

It is almost scary how on the nose my prediction for this series was at the half-way point. I suspected we had a show that would simply kill off its characters towards the end and in the lead up to the final episode we had one prominent character death an episode all to serve the ‘war is bad’ slogan this anime seemed to want to plaster onto almost every episode. That doesn’t mean it was terrible. There was actually a lot of promise along the way. It just never quite delivered.

The Price of Smiles Episode 10

Still, there have certainly been worse mecha anime over the years and while the ending was foolishly optimistic and naive, much like the main character, I can’t say I’m upset with it. While The Price of Smiles never managed to break into being something truly good, it certainly skated along the edges of it and kept me hopeful throughout.

Number 8: Domestic Girlfriend

Previously in 6th position.

Right, so you get what you expect when you keep watching a melodrama and as the story progresses they have to push to increasingly forced and silly methods to up the ante. That said, there is a certain delight in watching this train wreck unfold and while I wouldn’t say I actually like any of the characters, I kind of am curious about where they will ultimately end up.

Natsuo and Hina - Domestic Girlfriend - Episode 11

This one somehow manages to be trashy without actually being trash and while it isn’t great it is also something that is hard to stop watching. While the occasional scene pushes the sexual content a little further than I’d like and the basic premise and the idea of teachers and students dating isn’t something I’m thrilled about, I can’t say that this is actually a bad watch. Not really one I’d jump to recommend but one that I’d honestly have to admit I’ve been enjoying despite the many complaints I might muster about it.

Number 7: The Rising of the Shield Hero

Previously in position 4.

I’m honestly pleasantly surprised that this one has remained as entertaining as it has. With Sword Art and Slime both plummeting in the ranks during the Winter season it seemed isekai fantasy was taking a serious downward turn. While there are plenty of points against Shield Hero in terms of pacing and at times characterisation, I’ve mostly had fun watching it and continue to look forward to how it rolls out this story.

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While this one might also take a downward turn as it moves into a second cour, I’m kind of hopeful of this one just keeping things moving. And while the fights remain fresh, the story doesn’t linger for too long on any one part, and Naofumi continues to be an interesting character to watch, I’ll probably keep enjoying this even though I would hardly call it great.

Number 6: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka

Down from position 3.

I kind of knew this one probably wouldn’t hold in the top 5 for the season but I was hopeful. A dark magical girl story that actually seemed willing to deal with the trauma a teenage girl would face if forced to fight to save the world and watch companions die? It is a good idea and at least provides some kind of grounding for the violence rather than just being opening gratuitous in killing off young characters grotesquely.

Asuka - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 11

However, the execution both from thematically and in the delivery of the narrative have been somewhat lacking and once again we’re left with a show that is more concept than delivery. The over the top torture segments also don’t help to ground this as anything more than something trying to be sensationalist when actually there’s a reasonable attempt at exploring trauma and PTSD buried here but alas the show can’t give it the time or weight it needs between the other ideas it wants to cram in an a desire to imperil Asuka’s classmates. I didn’t mind this but I kept wanting more from it and by the final few episodes it was clear that it wasn’t going to deliver.

Images from: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. Dir. H Yamamoto. LIDENFILMS. 2019.

Number 5: Meiji Tokyo Renka

Formally in position 10 – nice climb.

While this one reeks of mediocrity in visuals and almost everything else, this is the anime I’ve gone back to again and again just to feel good and kick back and relax. There’s something incredibly fun and infectious about Mei as a character and the cast of guys surrounding her aren’t too shabby. The supernatural elements work well but it is Mei’s ongoing relationship with Ougai that really grabs your attention.

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While I won’t say this improved as it went, it maintained its standard throughout and the characters are naturally charming enough to slowly make you warm to them and each episode feels just that little bit more fun than the last. Not one to be proclaimed a master-piece but for those who don’t mind the occasional reverse harem romp this one is certainly a fun time waster to fit into your viewing schedule.

Number 4: The Morose Mononokean

Previously number 8 on the list – this one exceeded expectations.

Season two of The Morose Mononokean continued to far outstrip season one and advanced the plot and character development in a way I’d been wishing the first season to but it just never got to. There is very little to complain about with this second season with almost everything being better than season one and the balance between yokai of the week episode and episodes developing the world and characters being pretty well thought out.

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With cute yokai characters, conspiracies, blossoming powers and generally more supernatural fun, The Morose Mononokean ended up being one show I began to look forward to each weekend. The chats with Irina around the episodes were also a factor as watching a show is always better with friends, but honestly this one was a delight this Winter season.

Number 3: My Roommate is a Cat

Previously number 9 on the list (that’s quite the rise).

If I was asked whether this got better as the season went on and whether that accounts for its rise, the answer would be a clear no. This isn’t a story that gets better. There’s a solid character journey for Subaru and one that I greatly appreciated which certainly accounts for a lot of its rise through the ranks, but what My Roommate is a Cat does brilliantly is deliver a fairly consistent performance. Tie in consistently meeting expectations week after week with concluding a character arc in a fairly coherent manner and My Roommate is a Cat might be decidedly average in a lot of ways but it was one that I found a very satisfying watch in the end.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 8

This anime definitely demonstrates the power of simplicity in that it has a very simple gimmick with the cat narrating part of the episode from its perspective but otherwise the character count is low, the scenarios very low key, and things tie in together way too neatly for real life but in a way that makes for a fairly entertaining weekly watch. Not to mention, there’s a cat in it and apparently having a cat in it is something that makes a story recommendable.

Number 2: The Promised Neverland

Remaining in second place.

I feel a bit bad for The Promised Neverland. Given the genre and style of story in almost any other season this one would have been a sure number one for me. Yet, opposite Run With the Wind that mostly didn’t rely on cliff-hangers to maintain viewer interest or suspense, I just can’t say that the gimmick filled Neverland is better even if I’m certainly enjoying it a lot.

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The mark of a great story where I want to know what happens, where it keeps me guessing and theorising, and when the reveal is made it may not be what I thought but everything kind of clicks into place as all the anomalies and hints suddenly make sense even while a new mystery rises to be solved. The cast are charming, the setting thrilling, and all and all this one has been a delight to watch this season.

Number 1: Run With The Wind

Maintaining first position.

While I never expected to like Run With The Wind that much, even with a fairly strong showing from The Promised Neverland, there just isn’t any reason to not make this my number one of the season. I’ve fallen in love with the team and through the final episodes I cried, I cheered, I cried some more and then I smiled through those tears in absolute delight. It really helps that every character had a moment to shine in those final episodes and each character journey felt like it was given time to draw to a conclusion. It was a lovely viewing experience and one I’m really glad I picked up.

Run With The Wind Episode 22 King hands the sash to Kakeru

Whether it was Shindo’s absolutely heroic actions during his leg of the race, the general camaraderie and support each member showed for the others, or the feat they accomplished together, there were just so many moments to celebrate. This anime is gorgeous, well put together and has just the perfect number of episodes to tell its story. For all that I do have some minor complaints, they are just that, minor. This is definitely my pick for must watch of the season.


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Karandi James


No Love, No War, No Real Interest

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Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 11 Review

What is worse than two supposedly smart characters facing off on childish mind-games that seldom amount to anything?

Apparently episode 11 where the two don’t meet and we get a skit of Shinomiya moping about the house and learning to use Twitter, another one of those random stories where someone turns ramen eating into some kind of high art form which just goes on far too long, and then another story where both Shirogane and Shinomiya are moping and end up at the school but not at the same time.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War

Sigh.

If it wasn’t for the post credit sequence where Shinomiya was summoned by her father and clearly they are setting something up there I’d say this was an entirely skippable episode. Unless of course you really have some desire to watch Fujiwara eat ramen while some random side character narrates the ‘correct’ way to do so. Is it just me or are there too many of these ramen perfectionists scattered throughout anime? And do such people really exist that they feel there’s only one correct way to enjoy a bowl of soup and noodles?

Fujiwara Kaguya Sama Love is War

Ramen philosophy aside, there’s little entertainment in watching Shinomiya mope and her attempts at using twitter are just this side of pathetic. I honestly wanted Hayasaka to just put her earphones in and enjoy her bath because watching a character sleep in the bathtub was honestly more entertaining (words I never thought I would type).

Kaguya-Sama Love is War - Shinomiya is banned from Twitter

Summer holiday sequences are a staple of high school based anime, and while many fall back on the standard tropes of bikini clad girls playing beach volleyball before splitting a watermelon, at least there’s a little amusement to be found in that. I’m just not sure what, if anything, we were supposed to get out of this mope fest other than annoyed at both the main characters for continuing to be idiotically stubborn.

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Though, at least visually it didn’t drop the ball toward the end of the season as a lot of other anime have. The visuals and animation (what little animation there was), were as on point as always.

Shirogane - Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 11

Anyway, one episode of this to go.


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Passing The Olive Branch

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Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 10 Review

Back to the three story format this week however the first two skits in episode 10 of Kaguya-Sama Love is War deal with the fallout from Shinomiya’s cold last week. Realistically though, I’m going to end up with Ishigami on this one. In the second story, Ishigami was forced to listen to Shirogane as he meandered his way through the story about the girl a friend of his had apparently offended. Ishigami just summed up the whole situation perfectly when he said it ‘pisses’ him off.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 10 Ishigami

Realistically, we once again have two socially inept characters who after a minor misunderstanding spend one third of the episode squabbling over who will eat a piece of cake and then find someone who will listen to them whine about how misunderstood they feel. I’m certain the comedy is meant to be in how exaggerated and overblown it all is, but mostly I just wanted to push the cake into their faces in story one and in story two I really wished Ishigami had spoken up sooner.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 10

Then we slide into story three where Summer vacation is coming up again. I almost groaned aloud thinking we were going to have to endure a rehash of a previous fight, but mercifully the story went in a different direction. For the first time Fujiwara ended up on the losing side and once again we have Ishigami to thank for actually sounding like a human and pointing out that it wasn’t fair for her to go off travelling but to expect that they wouldn’t go to a festival just because she was away.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 10 Kaguya

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Needless to say, if I took on the role of the narrator for a moment, I’m awarding Ishigami as the episodes MVP and literally just want all the other characters to disappear or grow up at this point.

Now, so that it doesn’t sound like I’m just throwing rocks at it for the fun of it and ignoring all the good in this series, the visuals this week were up to their usual standard. Story one used colour particularly well to show the duelling personalities and story two kept cutting between Shinomiya and Shirogane as each one was telling their story and it was actually really nicely put together even if the subject matter was frustrating.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 10 blue vs red

So once again, this is a beautifully produced anime that is utterly missing the mark for me because I’m just not finding it particularly amusing. However, with two episodes to go I’m sticking through to the end of the season and hopefully next week I’ll find something to smile at.


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Is It Terrible If I Call This Episode ‘The Cold War’?

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Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 9 Review

Well, turns out Shinomiya is just another anime girl. I guess we kind of knew that already, but Kaguya-Sama Love is War have really worked at making her slightly different from our standard romantic heroine. But, here we go. She gets a little wet in the rain (okay, she got drenched) and suddenly she catches the most horrid of anime woes, a cold.

I will never fully understand the over-reaction anime characters seem to have to colds and fevers, nor the ridiculously fast turn around recovery. From death’s door to physically booting someone out of the room in about two seconds. That said, such is the plot of many an anime episode and it is almost as much a staple as the ‘beach’ episode or random fireworks moment.

Kaguya-Sama Episode 9

So the question really becomes whether or not Kaguya-Sama manages to portray a fairly overdone plot in an interesting manner?

For the most part I’d have to say yes.

While the initial set-up with Shinomiya refusing to actually just ask Shirogane to get a lift with her was pretty much same-old-eye-roll-worthy antics, after Shinomiya gets soaked the plot decides to stick with this set up for a bit.

Jumping to the following day, Fujiwara is excited about visiting Shinomiya at home because apparently when she’s sick she gets super cute. For some reason that turns into a game of concentration to see which student council member will visit her and after Fujiwara is caught cheating once, and then outsmarted by her own trick, Shirogane wins the ‘privilege’ of visiting a sick Shinomiya.

Kaguya-Sama Episode 9

Sick Shinomiya is kind of exaggerated to the point of insanity but it does lead to a couple of cute and almost honest moments before the episode draws to an end, she wakes from her fevered state and throws the President out.

Still, favourite moment of the episode comes early on when she describes Fujiwara as an ‘element of chaos’. That line actually did make me laugh because it is such a beautifully accurate description of the role Fujiwara has played so far in this story.

Kaguya-Sama Episode 9

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The Love War Flat-Lined

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Kaguya-Sama Love Is War Episode 7 Review

This might be a terminal case for this anime as Kaguya-Sama Love is War pushes another three skits our way and for once not one of them really stuck with me. While I’m not the biggest comedy fan and the premise of this one didn’t do much for me, each episode has given me something to enjoy, some exchange of dialogue or character moment that has hit its mark sufficiently to leave me with an overall pleasant feeling at the end of the episode.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 7

That is until we get to episode 7. I’m teetering very close to deciding to simply drop Kaguya-Sama however there’s already another episode out so I’ll watch that before making a final decision. The main point being that 8 episodes in I’m unlikely to drop it regardless of what it does though this one is fast becoming the show I’m only really watching just to finish it.

What was wrong with episode 7? Nothing really. Visually it is every bit as impressive as every other episode. I still have no complaints at all about the presentation of this anime, or the sound for that matter. These are some real production positives.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 7 Shinomiya

Yet as I watch Shirogane given advice about hand-holding, hear an argument about club funding followed by a joke about a guy being overheard commenting on girls’ breast sizes followed by one of the girls smacking him around the head repeatedly with a fan that she took the time to fold, and it all gets capped with a run-on weiner joke that just gets run straight into the ground, I found almost zero reasons to laugh or even smile at this episode.

The Fujiwara moment with the fan could have been amusing. I was kind of reminded of Kaname in Full Metal Panic and her often repeated joke of slapping Sousuke with a fan at school when he did something really out there. But in those cases it was generally a well timed single smack and then the story progressed and moved on. Fujiwara’s careful folding and taping of the paper was a nice touch to the joke, showing her commitment to really landing one on the guy, but then the repeated swattings just proved that repetition does not always make a joke work better. It all just dragged it out, robbing the moment of comedic timing through a general lack of restraint.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 7 Ishigami

As for the rest, it just isn’t the kind of thing I find overly amusing so mostly I just kind of watched and waited for the next skit hoping it would improve and then each skit seemed to get more worn than the last. I get some people are really enjoying this, and as I said, from a production point of view there’s almost no faulting it, but for me it just isn’t working and episode 7 more or less highlighted everything I dislike about the show.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 8 Review

Right, so episode 8 of Kaguya-Sama Love is War kind of picks things up a little bit from episode 7. While the first story of Shirogane’s sister showing up is kind of average, though she is pretty cute, the following stories of Shinomiya and Shirogane competing at the exams and then Shinomiya helping Ishigami passing his exams are both reasonably entertaining with some fairly good character moments scatted throughout.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 8

That said, for once it felt like the build up was neglected. As Shinomiya and Shirogane both pretend not to be concerned with studying last minute for exams and play down how hard they are working, it kind of felt like this could have gone further as the two both secretly prepared for battle. The end result is amusing enough, with a nice exchange between the characters, but lacks any real bite.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 8 Shirogane

The stand out story belongs to Ishigami as Shinomiya ‘helps’ him prepare for exams. Again, Shinomiya gets her best character moments when Shirogane is entirely absent and it was nice seeing her in this more natural role rather than in the usual antagonistic one. If we had more moments like this one and the one where she helped the girl walk to school, I’d probably enjoy her character a great deal more.

So yes, episode 8 has saved this from hitting my dropped list but realistically I’m still very much finding it pretty hit and miss in terms of a viewing experience.

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HATSUNE MIKU SYMPHONY 2018-2019 ORCHESTRA LIVE CD
HATSUNE MIKU SYMPHONY 2018-2019 ORCHESTRA LIVE CD

The Battleground of Love Advice, Volleyball and Umbrellas

Kaguya Sama: Love is War Post Title

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 5 Review

This episode of Kaguya-Sama Love is War was definitely being dominated by a certain Fujiwara. While the first segment focused initially on Shinomiya giving love advice, Fujiwara swiftly stole the show right out from under her. The same thing happened in segment two with Shirogane and the third segment was lame to begin with so I was kind of happy when Fujiwara put a premature ending to the foolishness.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 5 Fujiwara Best Girl
Definitely best girl.

It is odd for a support character to be so much more interesting and charismatic but thinking back Fujiwara has been the saving grace of many a plot in this anime so far and so episode 5 seemed to put all her charm on full display. She’s so energetic and charming. She also seems incredibly air-headed but pulls out some amazing insight and sometimes it is hard to know if she is stumbling over Shinomiya’s and Shirogane’s plots by accident or if she’s actually just messing with them.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 5 Shinomiya

I did actually like the first two segments. The absence of direct head-to-head between Shinomiya and Shirogane did both their characters some good. Shinomiya out of her depth and trying to give love advice, to the partner of the guy Shirogane gave advice to, was a nice bit of closure on that storyline to know that the two did end up dating but it wasn’t smooth sailing. Plus this one earned a genuine laugh when Fujiwara admitted she was out of breath because she’d overheard the start of the conversation and gone running to the drama room for a costume.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 5 Shirogane

The second story actually did Shirogane some favours by having him having to learn a physical skill and having Fujiwara teaching him. The over-exaggeration of just how bad he was, hitting himself in the head while trying to serve a volleyball, was kind of fun and seeing him actually improve was lovely (though I think they pushed that a little far given his domination by the time he had to play in class).

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 5 Fujiwara

So a fairly pleasant first couple of stories. The final story however did pit Shinomiya and Shirogane head-to-head again over who would admit they had an umbrella and invite the other to share it on the walk home. It was incredibly contrived and pretty bland and as I said in the beginning, Fujiwara handing them an umbrella and ending the drama was probable the best thing that could have happened as an outcome.

This anime is still incredibly hit and miss for me, but there are moments that are genuinely enjoyable and I am really coming to appreciate Fujiwara at least, so hopefully this will continue to have more pleasant than unpleasant moments at least.

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FIGMA NO.427 OVERWATCH: MERCY
FIGMA NO.427 OVERWATCH: MERCY

2019 Winter Anime Half-Time

Run With The Wind Episode 14 Fireworks

With a lot of shows very strongly into their mid-season and some of the shine coming off those that started strongly and some of the weaker shows rallying and finding their feet, I decided it was probably time to take a look at the shows on my watch list this season and see how they were going. Unlike some seasons during 2018, there’s nothing on my watch list I actually actively dislike, which means even the anime vying for the bottom rung of my watch list are actually relatively decent shows even if they aren’t to my personal tastes.

That isn’t to say I’ve got nothing but golden shows on my list. In as much as there’s not a lot I really dislike, there’s not a lot that is making me sit up and take notice. Most shows this season I could watch or not and while I’m having fun part of me feels that as a viewer I was spoiled for choice last season with so many really great anime.

Right now I am following 15 anime and I’m going to count them down from the weakest on my watch list to the anime that might make it to the top for the end of the season. For each anime I’m going to give a brief impression so far and then my prediction for the rest of the season. These are all just my opinions and some of these anime are only 4 or so episodes in, so I’d love to know your take on the Winter Anime so far.

If you don’t want to read the whole post I’m going to try linking to the individual titles so you can check out the ones you are interested in. Hopefully it works.

Number 15: Grimms Notes

There’s not much to say about this one. It isn’t a particularly good anime and the narrative so far has been told out of order for no reason that I can figure out other than to be annoying. The characters are pretty shallow and so far the exploration of the premise has been woefully underdeveloped.

Grimms Notes Episode 2 Ex

I know, I said that I wasn’t watching anything really bad. And Grimms Notes isn’t. Watching it is kind of just numbing really. What kept it in my line-up at all is the fact that there is a potentially interesting premise at the core of this anime and if they get around to exploring it and the characters develop a bit and their motives are made clear, this has the potential to be really interesting. At the moment it isn’t, but it also isn’t unwatchable, so for now it can sit at the bottom of my watch list.

Prediction: This probably won’t improve and I’ll ask at the end of the season why I didn’t drop it.

Number 14: Endro

This one was recommended to me by Cactus Matt. I’d actually passed on the first episode based on the art work and the basic write up as it didn’t seem like it was something I’d enjoy. In honesty, it isn’t really my kind of thing, but there are enough interesting points that I don’t dislike watching it, and I actually feel like it is getting more interesting as it progresses.

Endro Episode 2 Leader

The main cast here are actually reasonably fun to spend time with when they are doing something (I’ll pass on anymore pyjama parties though) and the quests they go on are amusing enough. The fantasy elements are kind of fun and the comedy isn’t too eye-roll worthy. All and all, this one is actually just kind of pleasant but for me fairly forgettable.

Prediction: Either this will continue to be pleasant enough but  unremarkable or we may take a downward turn if they up the  comedy and slice of life aspects but minimise the adventuring. I  guess we’ll see.

Number 13: Boogiepop wa Warawanai

Frankly, Boogiepop wa Warawanai is a mess of frustrating narrative and bland visuals. But from a core concept point of view this one is something I should enjoy. Which is probably what makes it so frustrating is you can actually see a really interesting story bubbling underneath dull conversations and forgettable characters.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai Episode 2

I’d really like to like this one more but at the moment I’m watching more out of hope for improvement than any expectation of it. Then again, even if it doesn’t improve noticeably, it is an interesting idea and one that I’m not going to regret watching (at least I hope not).

Prediction: I’ll be an optimist and hope this one makes my top ten by the end of the season because it just got that little bit better and utilised its strengths.

Number 12: Kaguya-Sama Love is War

This one, I’m not loving the concept of. It is a beautifully produced anime, visually impressive, with a great score, but I’m just not feeling it. It doesn’t help that I’m not a comedy fan in the first place and that I find the central conceit of this anime ridiculous, nor does it help that so far most of the schemes have either been predictable or ludicrous.

Kaguya Sama Episode 2 Shinomiya

Still, this one is actually getting a little better as it goes (something readers of the source have been insisting would happen since the start) and there’s a possibility of continued improvement. My main hope would be that the two main characters actually start to feel like characters and not caricatures and that would increase my enjoyment of this a lot more or less instantly.

Prediction: Again, I’ll be optimistic and hope that this one continues slowly getting better and maybe it will end up in the top ten by the end of the season.

Number 11: Meiji Tokyo Renka

Meiji Tokyo Renka has actually been rather surprising so far. I honestly expected something like Sengoku Night Blood or Libra of Nil Admirari neither or which was particularly noteworthy but both were watchable. However, Meiji Tokyo Renka has so far managed to make Mei, the protagonist, relatively interesting for a harem protagonist and I’m liking that they seem to be doing something with the premise.

meiji2c

Certainly this anime has its share of generic harem tropes and it isn’t exactly jumping to the top of my list, but I’m certainly actually enjoying watching it so far and it has the potential to get better as the season progresses.

Prediction: I think this one will sit right about here on the list. Even if it uses all its narrative potential the central premise here isn’t as interesting as some others and the overall production isn’t amazing. That said, I think it will stay entertaining.

Number 10: Sword Art Online Alicization

I’m a little disappointed that this one is placing so low but realistically after a lot of set up in the first arc, this second arc has been trying to bury us under exposition and honestly the plot doesn’t seem to be moving anywhere very quickly and I’m not entirely sure I like a Kirito who sermonises more than hits things with his sword. All and all, Alicization isn’t really working for me.

Sword Art Online Episode 15 Alicization Kirito

There are certainly still moments of cool to be found in this series and that is what has kept it in the top ten (even if it is scraping the bottom). However we’ve come a long way from the Aincrad Arc and at this point I’m really convinced Aincrad was where Sword Art Online should have begun and ended. I really enjoy that story and while I like these characters, they’ve been suffering from increasing diminished returns ever since. Except Asuna who shone in the Mother Rosaria arc but she’s all but vanished from sight at this point.

Prediction: Disappointment? I think this will slide further down the list before it gets better. I’ll happily be wrong though.

Number 9: My Roommate is a Cat

I do not believe I went in to this one with any expectations but for a slice of life story about a socially awkward author adopting a cat because he’s inspired to write a story despite no knowing how to look after a cat, this one is pretty adorable. The central gimmick of the cat getting to narrate the events of the episode from its perspective at the end each week works well enough and while this one isn’t exactly amazing, I’ve kind of found my relaxation viewing each week.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 5 Haru

Alright, a lot of the draw for me is actually the author, Subaru. For some people they just find him rude and off-putting in the first couple of episodes but I actually kind of related to him fairly quickly and kind of saw his point when he was annoyed at his editor for dragging him out to a noisy place to talk when there really wasn’t any need to do so.

Prediction: This one is cute and relaxing but that’s about all so I’m doubting this will move any higher up the list unless something else seriously falls apart. That said, I’m not expecting this to really move down the list either as it has been pretty consistent so far.

Number 8: The Morose Mononokean

Season one of The Morose Mononokean was kind of happy nothingness. I like yokai stories so I enjoyed it well enough but it wasn’t overly remarkable. Still there were a lot of potential plot points left unexplored and it has been an absolute delight seeing them being explored and expanded upon so far in season two. It is everything I could have hoped for from a follow up to this series.

The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 4

I also think it looks a bit better this season though that might just be the distance between season one and two talking. Either way, so far season two of this has done an excellent job at looking at the characters and the lore of the underworld and I’m really curious to learn more about how everything works. Plus, more fuzzy.

Prediction: I wouldn’t have picked this one as a potential season favourite prior to watching it – more casual nothingness. However, if things continue to develop the way they are… This one has a lot of potential to rise up this list.

Number 7: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime has been up and down for me since the beginning. I wasn’t a huge fan of it but it slowly won me over and built on its strengths. The mid-season point, so the start of Winter 2019, was actually really solid. But we’ve since had a lot of talking and meetings and its been awhile since anything really exciting has happened.

slime17d

Realistically, this one isn’t going to be topping my must watches any time soon, but on balance it has remained pretty fun to watch and given the absolute lack of stakes or tension it is pretty relaxing to tune into each week. That said, it is also hard to really care about where it is going.

Prediction: This will hover around here for the remainder of the season and whether or not it manages another emotional highlight, like Shizu’s death or the defeat of the orc lord, may determine whether it goes up a few spots before the end.

Number 6: Domestic Girlfriend

Really wasn’t expecting this one to place so high on the list and yes it is full of teen melodrama, enough to rival any soap opera, and no it isn’t overly logical and it does rely heavily on coincidence. What it does right though is make me actually care about the central trio (or at least two out of three) and want them to find some way to be happy at the end of all of this.

domestic4a

It kind of helped this along that it was nowhere near as trashy as the title and promo images made it look which automatically made me more favourable toward it (low expectations always help a show along). That and some of the characters have actually made some good decisions in amongst the melodrama that have surprised me. All and all, hardly a perfect anime but one that I’m kind of hooked on this season.

Prediction: One of two things will happen. Either this show will manage a beautiful emotional ending or it will completely implode. I’d love the former but I suspect the latter.

Number 5: The Price of Smiles

Of all the anime titles this season, this is the one I’m probably the least sure about. The first episode was interesting enough but relatively unimpressive. Since then, it has managed to really make me care about the characters despite the limited screen time some have had, and I’m interested in the conflict, but the anime as a whole is still a little bit rocky.

The Price of Smiles Episode 3 Stella

I think this one has a lot of potential but it all depends on where they take the story and if they actually get around to doing anything with the questions they are raising. Also, whether or not these characters actually learn anything at all from their experiences. It’s really hard to tell at this point if this anime has the strength of writing to get this right or not.

Prediction: I’d like to be hopeful but I suspect we may just have a show that kills off its characters toward the end in order to make for a tragic ‘war is bad’ kind of message rather than any actual narrative depth.

Number 4: The Rising of the Shield Hero

Well, this one certainly made a contentious start to the season. For me The Rising of the Shield Hero has done exactly what I expected having read the light novels. It isn’t great but it isn’t bad and so far the adaptation has it all the notes it has needed to even if it isn’t exactly the same as the source – though given how many versions the story has gone through all ready it would next be the question of which one.

shield3e

Where Shield Hero is succeeding for me and why it is so high on my list is that it seems to have made Naofumi’s character a little more tolerable even in the early stages of the story, while still making him flawed enough that a redemption story is needed. Plus, Raphtalia is just kind of awesome. I’m having a lot of fun watching this one and looking forward to more.

Prediction: Not sure how much material they will cover in 25 episodes or whether we’ll end on a good resting point, but I do know that the novels meander a bit so this one may very well sink a little on this list despite generally thinking I’ll enjoy it.

Number 3: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka

I suspect already that this one is not going to last in the top 5 by the end, however I’m leaving it here for now for the simple reason that I’m glad an anime that is deciding to put teenage girls through trauma is then actually interested in examining how trauma affects people. Some of the things anime characters go through and just kind of shrug off with no lingering impact is kind of insane so dealing with the real ongoing trauma as Asuka tries to integrate into a normal life, was actually kind of great.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - New battlefield

Though a single concept within a story can’t keep it as a must watch unless it does something else. Visually, this one is a bit hit and miss but there are some beautiful sequences. The characters have so far been the strength of the show but the villains are a little weakly developed at this point. There’s a lot that might be amazing about this and a lot that could go wrong so we’ll see where it ends up at the end of the season.

Prediction: I don’t think this will stay in the top 5 but I do think I’ll be glad I gave it a watch this season.

Images from: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. Dir. H Yamamoto. LIDENFILMS. 2019.

Number 2: The Promised Neverland

Such a promising, suspenseful and beautifully directed start to the Promised Neverland. While I will admit we’ve gradually been winding back the praise on this one, it was still a first episode well worth watching because so few anime manage that much characterisation, world building and intrigue in twenty minutes. Plus, the directions of this series has so far been really interesting though even that aspect seems to be winding down.

The Promised Neverland Episode 3 The Kids Train

I’m definitely with this one for the season and in terms of genre it is doing a great job of keeping my interest. Now that the anime is far enough ahead I’ve read the first volume of the manga and my interest is even more piqued by the potential for this plot. Still, there’s been some shaky characterisation in the last couple of episodes and that gorgeous direction seems to be giving way to more pedestrian approaches. It will be interesting to see if this one can hold its nerve to the end.

Prediction: This one may not stay quite so high on my list but it would have to make a serious downward turn to leave my top 5. Very much recommend trying this one.

Number 1: Run With The Wind

I do not think I ever believed that a sports anime (other than Yuri On Ice) would be topping my watch list and yet Run With The Wind has managed to build from strength to strength over its season. I doubt it is going to derail now and it has been exception at building up the cast of characters despite the large number of them. Add in great sound design and some interesting visual choices and we have a very solid anime.

Run With The Wind Episode 12 Kakeru

I like that this anime doesn’t seem willing to bite off more than it can chew. It knows what it is and it isn’t trying to be anything more than that. But it is working hard to deliver the story of these boys coming together as a team in an interesting manner and so far it has largely succeeded (though Kakeru’s back story dragged on a little too long). I’m very much caught up in this story at this point and hopefully it will nail the ending.

Prediction: This may not finish number one but it will definitely be up the top of my list. Consistent delivery of quality character work and competent narrative makes this an easy recommend.

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THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE: SUMMERSET [DIGITAL COLLECTOR’S UPGRADE EDITION]
THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE: SUMMERSET [DIGITAL COLLECTOR'S UPGRADE EDITION]

All’s Fair In Love, War, And Welcoming Parties

Kaguya Sama: Love is War Post Title

Kaguya-Sama Love Is War Episode 4 Review

The French are coming, or at least French students, for reasons unexplained and unimportant given this is literally just the most recent backdrop for the antics of the student council in Kaguya-Sama Love is War. I actually kind of liked that all of the skits kind of connected this week in this overall story even if we were still decidedly in the set-up and deliver punch-line kind of format we’ve come to expect from this anime.

Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 4 Shinomiya

The first skit was cute. Not actually funny, but it had both Shinomiya and Shirogane in cat ears at one point and both desperately trying not to admit that the other was cute and to be honest it was adorable to watch. Ultimately completely pointless given the conclusion of this is that no one in the student council is allowed to wear cat ears anymore but there are worse things than seeing anime characters in cat ears for a few minutes.

Kaguya Sama Love Is War Episode 4 Fujiwara

We then move on to a game to decide who will go shopping for the gifts for the students at the party. Shirogane determines to lose to Fujiwara but beat Shinomiya so that he and Shinomiya will go shopping but he won’t lose to her. It works out that way but more because Fujiwara actually outwits the both of them. Again, I didn’t find this section particularly amusing, but I definitely appreciated Fujiwara’s character more after it.

Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 4 Shinomiya and Shirogane

What follows is Shinomiya wanting to message the President but getting all worked up about the first person to text. This section kind of annoyed me. It is like watching someone play the ‘You hang up first’ game where the only solution is to walk over and snatch the phone out of their hand and hang up – or flee the country, whichever seems less problematic at the time. Though, the punchline here isn’t exactly expected so I kind of had to give it points for that.

Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 4 Shirogane and Betsy

The highlight of the episode though is the party itself where clearly the guy pulling the Student Council strings is playing his own games and sics the French vice-president on Shirogane. He, however, doesn’t understand French so her insults more or less roll over him like water off a duck’s back. They don’t however pass Shinomiya without raising her ire and seeing her genuinely defending Shirogane may be the best moment she’s had yet in this series.

I will say this is my favourite episode so far. No annoying narration at the beginning setting my teeth on edge with its warped philosophy on love. Limited narration during the skits. An overarching plot loosely tying the segments together. Then Shinomiya actually acting on emotion rather than calculated planning. So yeah, best episode yet. Still not a huge fan but if it continued on like this I’ll probably end up low-key enjoying this series each week.

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Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, Vol. 2
Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, Vol. 2