Kaguya-sama: Love Is War Volume 1
Two cynical kids, the smartest in their class, are convinced that every couple has an imbalance of power. They like each other, but since neither wants to lose at anything, neither will be the first to admit their feelings. That’s the premise of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War volume 1 by Aka Akasaka, that “the one who falls in love first loses!”
The chapters revolve around the two scheming to force or trick the other into admitting interest. I found it read best in chunks, as too many of the short chapters at once made me want to wash my hands of the whole thing. They’re so manipulative, and the author seemingly takes glee in playing up their machinations, enabled by their superior intellects and elite status. But there’s an undercurrent of pity, too, as when Kaguya-sama walks to school for the first time in her life. (Normally, she has a chauffeur.)
The events they’re arguing over are often minuscule. Should they go to a movie together? Who will win when they play Old Maid? what does it mean to share a homemade lunch? That’s where the humor comes in, that such silly things have such high stakes for them.
I suppose this falls into the genre of “be careful what you wish for”. The two have seemingly perfect lives, but they’re mentally torn apart by having to maintain their facades and never display weakness. While readers might dream of having their advantages, there’s an undertone of “the simpler life is best; aren’t you glad you don’t have these worries?” embodied by their fellow student council member, a cute but average blonde “everyday person”.
I found the extent to which the characters would go to complicate simple things amusing in small doses, but I think it might pale quickly in future volumes.
Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is due out in comic shops on March 7 and bookstores on March 6. It can be preordered now from your local comic shop with Diamond code JAN18 2042. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)