Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, Vol. 1

By Aka Akasaka. Released in Japan as “Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai〜Tensei-tachi no Renai Zunō-sen〜” by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Young Jump. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Emi Louie-Nishikawa. Adapted by Annette Roman.

If you have ever stared at a couple on stage, screen, or the page and screamed “Oh my God, just kiss already!”, then this is the manga for you. In fact, one could argue that’s the entire premise. The literal title of the series is “Kaguya-sama Wants to Be Confessed To: The Geniuses’ War between Love and Brains”. That’s quite a mouthful, you can see why it got condensed. It runs in Weekly Young Jump, a magazine usually known (at least over here) for more “upscale” series such as Real, Golden Kamuy, and Tokyo Ghoul. This got branded with the Shonen Jump titles, though, and it’s a good decision, as at heart this is a high school comedy, and would not be out of place among the Nisekois and Sket Dances of the world. As for why you should read it? Well, it’s really entertaining and funny. Reason enough for anyone.

Our heroine is Kaguya Shinomiya, a rich heiress who is also vice president of the student council at Shuchiin Academy. Our hero is Miyuki Shirogane, who’s not rich but who’s at the academy due to his intelligence. He’s the President. Together, they are both seemingly perfect… and you know what that means in a comedy manga. Yup, they’re both perfect messes. The entire school already thinks they’re a couple. They aren’t, but that’s entirely due to pride – we find in the first chapter that both consider “whoever confesses first is the loser” to be the order of the day. As a result, the manga, at least in this early volume, amounts to a series of pranks, as both Kaguya and Miyuki attempt to be the one to force the other to confess their love… at which point, of course, they will accept with a smirk on their face. (Indeed, Miyuki imagining Kaguya’s sneering victory smirk as she towers over him gives us some of the funniest images of the book.)

It helps that, even though they’re both prideful as hell, these are both nice kids at heart. Kaguya is the very definition of a sheltered princess, and even things like going to the movies baffle her. Miyuki is seemingly a bit more together, but his paranoid imaginings about what Kaguya’s real plan is trip him up constantly (it doesn’t help that half the time his paranoia is justified.) The only other regular in this first book is Chika, who is nice and seemingly completely oblivious to the affection war between Kaguya and Miyuki. I like her, particularly as I suspect even if she knew about it she’d act exactly the same. She’s Kaguya’s childhood friend, though Kaguya is so poker-faced and bad at socialization that you’d never know it, as the author admits.

The author states that it’s not guaranteed that the two of them will get together in the end, which I think is ridiculous, but it’s certainly guaranteed they won’t be getting together anytime soon, as this series is eight volumes and counting in Japan. Still, I’m certainly happy to keep reading about these two perfect dorks and their battle to one-up each other, and I’m hoping that we get a few heartwarming moments along the way. For now, though, the comedy is the reason to get this.

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