Note: This review contains spoilers for Kaguya-sama: Love is War Ultra Romantic.
Continuing on directly from the final episode of Kaguya-sama: Love is War Ultra Romantic, this film is all about the fallout—namely the complete and total destruction of the status quo. While neither of our main pair has said the words, their feelings are out in the open and it’s impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.
Overall, most of this film is a character piece on Kaguya. The Kaguya we’ve come to know and love is one who has made a core group of friends that she doesn’t need to keep at arm’s length. While her pride still gets in the way, she knows none of them would consciously try and hurt her. However, this wasn’t always how things were for her. To deal with the weight of expectations, she learned to bottle up her feelings and push away others who couldn’t measure up. Unfortunately, because of the stress of her current situation, she regresses to her previous ice queen self from before she fell for Shirogane.
The result of this is that Kaguya spends the majority of this film being passive aggressive and highly toxic—expecting Shirogane to read her mind and punishing him when he doesn’t. It’s uncomfortable to say the least, and it paints her in a terrible light. But it also allows us to see the conflict at the core of her very being. What she wants more than anyone is someone who will accept her with all her problems and eccentricities. She also wants to know her partner in the same way—both the good and the bad. The problem is that Shirogane has built himself on becoming a man who is worthy of the unobtainable princess. His whole reason for wanting her to confess to him is to have proof that they are finally on the same level, and it’s a misunderstanding of what she really wants.
Here’s the thing: while it took an ultra-romantic gesture to break down Kaguya’s walls, she doesn’t want a high-class relationship filled with unparalleled romance. Rather, she wants what she has always been denied: a normal relationship. She wants to spend her time with a man who she never has to pretend in front of and won’t pretend in front of her either. The question of the film is basically if the pair are capable of making themselves vulnerable like that—if they can finally put aside their own egos and defense mechanisms to get the love they so clearly crave.
Because so much of the film is spent on personal drama, there is far less humor than you would expect from the TV anime. Sure, there are a ton of jokes spread throughout, but gone are the one-off shorts about silly things happening in the student council room. That said, the film doesn’t solely focus on Kaguya and Shirogane. It also continues the other plotlines setup during the anime’s third season. We get more of Ishigami’s blossoming love triangle between him, Tsubame and Ino, and lots of little updates with the rest of the supporting cast.
Sadly, the one person who gets largely left out of the film is Chika. While she pops up as comic relief in a few scenes, she doesn’t have any sort of arc or story. Since she has no knowledge of what’s going on between Kaguya and Shirogane and no interpersonal drama of her own, she’s just kind of relegated to the background in a more serious story like this one.
On the visual side of things, this film doesn’t feel like one. Rather it looks just like a normal episode of the TV show. The film doesn’t go beyond what we’ve come to expect after three seasons of watching in either animation quality or art style. Of course, in a show as visually creative as Kaguya-sama: Love is War, that doesn’t mean that the movie looks bad—and there are more than a few truly inspired shots scattered throughout. It just means that this feels more like a TV special or and OVA than a feature film. And as for the music, while it does its job, nothing really stands out beyond getting a new big band-style Masayuki Suzuki theme song for the opening.
In the end, while it may look and sound like just another episode of the TV show, Kaguya-sama: Love is War -The First Kiss That Never Ends- is a solid film and an excellent character piece that dives right to the core of why Kaguya and Shirogane are how they are. But more than that, it shows their tentative first attempts to grow beyond that and into a world where it’s them against the world instead of them against each other. And given how they progress in this film, I’m excited to see what the new status quo will become—especially with the numerous challenges they have to face if they want to get their happy ending.