I decided to skip coverage of the Kaguya-sama finale in the last Otaku Theater post and make a special post for it. This franchise has been something that I didn’t think I’d enjoy as much as I have, and we know that it will be something that’ll carry on in future years, whether in sequel seasons or a feature-length movie, or several even. The to-ing and fro-ing that Kaguya and Miyuki have been having is coming to a head, and as the school year is coming to an end, neither of them have much time left to truly admit how they feel. While Kaguya has already told Hayasaka that she likes him, Miyuki has still yet to listen to his heart. His own father, who is quite the character himself, has told him that he should clear up any ‘unfinished business’ before the year is up. And it’s all the more important for him, thanks to the added bombshell we got; not only is he going to Stanford, but he is skipping the third-year.
Kaguya is genuinely thrilled that he has been accepted; as she says later on, even someone with her reputation would have difficulty getting in. She also thinks that he should definitely take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Maybe this could then be seen as even more motivation for her to get it over with. But Hayasaka decides to step in and point out something I thought was very true. In all this time that Kaguya has been wrestling with her emotions and ‘practicing’ her confession lines, she has been using the words of other people. By this she means recycled and scripted lines that we’d hear in so many confessions. If Kaguya wants her confession to be genuine, then it has to be something that comes straight from her heart. She has had to rely on Hayasaka for so long now, but she can’t play the love doctor anymore; this is a journey that only Kaguya can go on.
Then there’s the love trouble on the other side of the school, only Ishigami interpreted those events back in episode 10 a little differently. You see, he wasn’t aware of the school legend around heart giving, and so when he offered a heart-shaped cookie to his Tsubame-senpai at the school festival, he saw it as a kind gesture while she saw it for exactly what it was.
You’d think that she’d have regained her composure by now, but while Ishigami goes on about the cherry blossoms in the trees (lines I’m sure he’s rehearsed many times beforehand), Tsubame is still thinking how to say no to him. This stage of the story is a very important one, but I’m glad to see that comedy hasn’t been completely stripped away here. The more serious episodes in season 2 (the student election and Ishigami’s exoneration) were full to the brim with drama and suspense. It was interesting to see how Ishigami’s time at middle school was brought up in a flashback story.
To those who want context here, Ishigami stood up for a middle school girl after he discovered the guy she was going out with turned out to be a manipulating pig, only for this guy to make the entire school turn against him. It was only through Miyuki’s intervention that he ended up getting cleared of any wrongdoings. But of course school gossip is no better than that of the kind in a sewing circle, and it’s still a long road for Ishigami to climb to get people to see more good than bad in him.
The school festival arc has been split into some very decent segments. Maybe in other shows, we would have one great amalgamation of fun, humor and perhaps something a little more serious wrapped up in…say…2 episodes at the most. Makes me think back to how K-on! did their school festival arc in its second season (which people say is the better one). It would be the last one that the band would have before Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Tsumugi head off to college, leaving only second-year Azusa behind. While we all chuckled at Mio and Ritsu taking part in Romeo and Juliet, Azusa was left feeling depressed at how she couldn’t practice with them for their band performance at the festival. Here in Kaguya-sama, the more jovial and more serious episodes have been set apart, but at the same time have an amount of connection that is strong enough for them to intrinsically work together.
We have our phantom thief (which isn’t ripped straight from Persona 5 in any way whatsoever) as a great example of this. I didn’t see this coming in this show, and it has made this arc funny enough to be seen as jovial, and serious enough to be a part of the main love story. At the school bonfire, the phantom thief strikes again with his greatest feat, and the mystery man turns out to be the person we all guessed it was all along…
Miyuki did say that he would let Chika have her fun in this little detective case of hers, so the school festival (which will be his last one after all) is that much more exciting and memorable. But it isn’t just a case of making Chika and the rest of the school remembering his planned school festival for years to come, because there is only one person that this is meant for. Oh yes, him being Arsène the Phantom Thief was just the beginning. Using the mystery to keep Chika happy and distracted. Encouraging Ishigami, Tsubame & Miko with talking to the local neighborhood to allow certain activities at the festival. Learning how to make balloon art. Finding some dress sense so he could pull off the cosplay without looking like an idiot (well…). This was all him.
The end shows us that Kaguya and Miyuki are more alike than they think. Earlier on in the show, we saw a first-year Miyuki wondering why he was sent to a private school and frustrated at the privilege around him, until the then-student council president pointed him out and suggested he join the council precisely because he is from a working-class background. It ultimately pays off as we all know, but the first-year Kaguya that walks past everyone becomes someone that intrigues him the most.
“If I could be seen as an equal to her, then would I get some kind of recognition?”
In the meantime, Kaguya has spent her life as the heir to a multi-national corporation believing that life was just a process of enduring – just existing. Someone as privileged as her could feel like this perhaps; why have the warmth of humanity when you can have wealth? She says it herself here: she strolls by her schoolmates only looking for how to make them useful to her, and nothing more. And then she sees someone like Miyuki work hard, climb all the way to the top and become student council president; a kind and selfless soul in a sea of spoilt rich kids. So the more she realizes how kindhearted and caring he was to his fellow schoolmates, the more self-loathing she has become.
Three seasons have passed where Kaguya and Miyuki have been at a tug-of-war, but in the end it wasn’t really so much that the person who confesses loses. Instead it was more like both of them wanted to be confessed to and feel validated, respected and seen as equal and worthy by the person they love the most. They both had so much deep-rooted insecurity that devising a ‘battle’ of who confesses loses just became a convenience to hide their true feelings. Kaguya may have been thrilled to hear Miyuki go to Stanford, but he knew there was no way he could just leave her behind, even if he confesses. And so the other bombshell drops: his letter of recommendation to also go to Stanford is given to her, which she accepts.
But what about everyone else? Well Chika never did figure out that the phantom thief was Miyuki the whole time but is still absorbing herself in finding small clues and conspiracies. Maki wishes every happy couple at the campfire to burn to a crisp, until her classmate Nagisa offers to dance with her instead of her boyfriend. Ironic how the girl who stole the guy she liked ended up liking her more than the guy. And Ishigami’s misunderstanding means he will have to wait a long time before his Tsubame-senpai gives him an answer, but we are teased with a little something that we really ought to have seen sooner. Miko was responsible for putting this campfire together and yet decides to patrol the area alone, until Ishigami finds her, gives her the heart that Kaguya had dropped earlier (lost property) and filming the campfire on a tablet for her. Very romantic, but of course there’s no way these two would ever get together. No way. Then again, the fact that these two are always at each others’ throats makes them perfect partners.
So with this third season’s end, Kaguya and Miyuki did not actually confess but still let their feelings be known. The night of the festival’s end, Kaguya is giggling like a little schoolgirl and hungry to restart their ‘battle’ but in a far more amicable way, while Miyuki is feeling the heat not just from what he said to her, but for all the ridiculous theatrics he put together. Neither of them said the magic three words of ‘I like you’, but they didn’t need to. Their actions spoke louder than the words.
So what of the future of Kaguya-sama? The school festival is over and everyone is back to normal, Miyuki is prepping to move halfway across the world with Kaguya hopefully joining him (Stanford’s acceptance rate is 5.2% apparently), and their little tug-of-war continues. Except now they’ve moved into the lewd handholding stage. I suppose one question would be whether there is even a point to their confession game when they both know how they feel about the other. Do the two of them still feel insecure somehow? Is the only way out of this is to feel wanted and validated? Their war has gone beyond ‘who confesses first loses’, and is now ‘am i worthy enough?’.
A-1 Pictures have already announced that the show will return. Will it be a fourth season, or an OVA, or even a full-length movie? Christmas is approaching in the show, and it makes perfect sense that that would be the main theme. If you want my own opinion, a fourth season could cover Christmas, and a future movie would cover the two of them preparing to move to the US. If you loved the franchise as much as I did, what would you prefer to see?