Kaguya-sama: Love is War Volume 9 is here! Need to catch up? Check out my previous review here!
Volume 9 of Kagua-sama: Love is War has a huge focus on Miyuki’s relationships with the women in his life. Unfortunately, as a teenage boy, Miyuki has trouble reading the meaning behind the actions of the women in his life.
Take for example his relationship with Kaguya. Because neither of them will outright admit their feelings, Miyuki thinks Kaguya is avoiding him because she no longer likes him. In reality, Kaguya is afraid of passing out around Miyuki again and is actively working on calming herself down around him. With the help of his sister Kei, Miyuki is able to see more clearly the intention behind Kaguya’s actions and is delighted when she eventually comes around.
If only things were as easy with him and Chika. After spasming his way through a traditional Japanese dance, Chika vows that she will no longer help Miyuki prepare for the sports festival. In response, Kaguya takes it upon herself to teach Miyuki the technical aspects of the dance, omitting the emotion and soul that accompanies the movements. Chika, who has an intense jealous streak, immediately begins critiquing Kaguya’s lessons. Things come to a head when Kaguya and Chika begin to fight over Miyuki, pulling him in either direction. This movement just so happens to be the inspiration Miyuki needs to understand the dance and he performs the moves admirably at the sports festival.
Despite the usual antics of Kaguya, Chika, and Miyuki, the main focus of this volume is on Yu Ishigami. Sick of existing in the background of his class, Yu breaks out of his shell and joins the cheer squad. The practice leaves him feeling overwhelmed and disconnected from his classmates, but the co-leader of the club helps Yu feel welcome. Kaguya even steps up and lends Yu her uniform for the sports festival. See Yu, Kaguya isn’t so bad!
Kaguya and the club co-leader are in the minority of girls who can tolerate Yu’s presence. The rest of his class actively shuns and bullies him over a rumor from their middle school days. Rumor has it that Ishigami was stalking a girl and assaulted her boyfriend. Despite the hatred of half of his class (and his own fear), Ishigami still makes an effort to fit in.
As it turns out, Yu Ishigami is a really cool, loyal, and honorable guy. The girl, Kyoko Otomo was a girl who happened to be nice and friendly towards everyone. Her boyfriend, Ko Ogino, is a total player and a creep. When Yu overhears Ko on the phone with one of his other girlfriends he simply asks that Ko tell Kyoko the truth. In return, Ko offers Yu a night with Kyoko if he keeps this a secret. This is the event that causes Yu to snap and attack Ko, who played the victim perfectly.
On suspension, Yu kept up with all of his homework, but couldn’t formulate the words to apologize to Ko. The school year passed, and Yu kept his grades up enough to move onto high school. When the time to decide his advancement came, our lovely student council stepped in to investigate the situation. Miyuki helped Yu realize that he was not in the wrong, and more importantly, that nothing was wrong with him. Kaguya managed to get Kyoko to go to an all girls high school instead to avoid any further hardship on Yu.
This support helps Yu run the relay race without fear. Although he doesn’t win his teammates are still super supportive. The praise him for his efforts and lament their loss together. The realization that not everyone hates him helps Yu see that even “normies” can be cool people.
Okay, I can’t be the only person who cried the ugliest, happiest tears over Yu, can I? His redemption arc is just so satisfying! Seeing Yu vindicated and able to break past his classmates’ bullying is the sweetest and most wholesome thing of this entire series. His fears and self-doubt are so authentic that it was a little difficult to get through. Aka Akasaka also does an excellent job of immediately portraying the isolation Yu felt in the aftermath of his fight with Ko.
There’s also a lot of parallels between Kaguya and Yu that keep popping up. For one, both thought that all people were cruel and sinister before Miyuki came along and proved them wrong. Both have less than supportive parents. Both want so desperately to fit in but aren’t sure how. I’m so glad they both not only feel comfortable being who they are, but that they are becoming better friends.
Volume 9 of Kaguya-sama: Love is War also has numerous comedic moments to offset the more serious ones. These are, of course, accompanied by laugh out loud illustrations. I think the standout one for me is when Miyuki is showing off his dance moves to Chika. His flailing around coupled with her blank expression is magnificent.
At the end of each review I usually give my thumbs up or thumbs down like I’m some Roman empress. I also always recommend picking up the latest volume of Kaguya-sama: Love is War. Believe me, I do recommend purchasing this volume, but it’s not just because it’s funny or cute. This volume touches on some real struggles we all face: feeling like an outsider. Aka Akasaka handles this sense of hopelessness and redemption so beautifully that even non-manga fans should appreciate Yu’s character arc. In short, this volume will draw you in with the laughs and keep you with the feels.