Hayasaka Ai: Two Sides of the Coin

It’s incredibly rare for a comedy show to have deep and interesting characters. Most shows present us with a cast of one-note gag characters. They’ll often run their respective jokes into the ground, which can make them all pretty uninteresting.

Initially, it seems like Kaguya-sama: Love is War was going to fall into that same trap. But because this show is actually the best thing ever made, that isn’t the case. Every single character in this show has an incredible amount of depth, which lends itself well for variety and comedy. The reason this series can be so hilarious so consistently is because of all these in-depth, fun characters.

It was only a matter of time until I wrote a Mind of a Character about one of these guys. But the question was: who to start with? My first impulse was to start with Shirogane or Kaguya. Then my drive led me Ishigami, since he had the most development in season two. Although Chika was just as tempting.

In the end, though, I decided to go for a more unconventional pick. I’m gonna analyze the real best girl. Kaguya’s ever loyal maid and best friend: Hayasaka Ai.

Hayasaka is an incredible foil to Kaguya. She’s one of the few characters that understands just how stupid the romantic mind games Kaguya tries to play really are and often serves as the sole voice of reason. That said, she’s still loyal to her ever hopeless friend and will, despite her better judgement, always help her out with whatever ridiculous scheme she’s planning next. And she’ll go to some pretty extreme lengths to do it; when she’s got a mission, nothing and no one can stop her.

But that’s not what I find so interesting about her. Rather, it’s the characters duality that I find fascinating.

See, Hayasaka is a character that’s always wearing a mask. She puts on different personas for different people. With Kaguya, she’s composed and quiet, speaking in a low voice as if she’s trying not to be heard by anyone else. But when she’s interacting with anyone else, she adopts the persona of what can best be described as the ‘bubbly dumb blonde’; her voice raises an octave or two, she’s almost always bouncing around or making gestures with her hands, and gets super excited about technology (although she pretends to understand it less than she really does, as we see when Shirogane helps her pick out a computer from a magazine).

In a typical story, one of these personas would be false. A pretense Hayasaka puts up to fool those around her. Her bubbly blonde would be a mask worn to hide the quiet and ruthless ninja. But here’s the thing: neither one of these personalities is the ‘true’ Hayasaka. They may be different sides of the coin, but they’re still the same coin.

We can see hints of this all throughout the series. My personal favorite examples are in the phone shop scene and when Shirogane rejects her. As she’s picking out a new phone for Kaguya, she starts to read up on the latest model’s features and starts getting way too excited, even starting to jump up and down while proclaiming “This is the future!”

Which is just so damn cute, by the way. At least it would be, if Kaguya weren’t standing in the background with a deadpan stare.

As for the rejection scene, this is where we see a little blend of her two personas. After Kaguya makes fun of her for her failure, Hayasaka snaps and lets out all her anger. She starts stamping around, proclaiming that she could’ve done it in a month and how frustrating and embarrassing this is. If her ‘cold but loyal servant’ persona was the only true personality, than she wouldn’t have cared. But since she’s also a bubbly high school girl, we see the exact kind of reaction you’d expect from someone who just got rejected.

This duality is what makes Hayasaka so fun and interesting. She’s doesn’t shift between two different personalities like she’s flipping a switch. Rather, her personality is like a spectrum, with aspects of either one occasionally blending into the other. It isn’t just one aspect of her that gets played up for laughs. She’s an adaptive character that can shift to better fit a scene and make it funnier. Or even more dramatic in certain cases, like the finale of season one.

Clever writing like this is exactly why Kaguya-sama has so quickly become one of my all-time favorite anime. It effortlessly delivers consistently hysterical comedy and impactful, emotional drama through well-written characters. Not through cheap gags or fan service. The story, and all the emotions attached to it, are entirely driven by the characters.

Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who best girl is. Some people will say Chika, others Kaguya, and the true intellectuals all say Ishigami. When a series has this many ‘best girl’ characters, you know it’s well written.

But we all know Hayasaka is best girl. Anyone who doesn’t agree is either in denial or they’re a fool.

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