Okay, I know that sounds ridiculous. Just hear me out on this one.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War is one of the best examples of a character-driven comedy we’ve gotten in years. Aka Akasaka has shown time and time again that he knows exactly how to continuously squeeze laughs out of his characters without running out of steam. And the team behind the anime have only further enhanced it with creative visuals, breathtaking animation, stellar music, and snappy editing.
But there is one aspect that truly makes Kaguya-sama stand out from other character comedies of its ilk. More specifically, one character: the Narrator.
In just about every other story, the narrator is just the person who tells the story. Maybe it’s a person within the story itself. Maybe it’s some otherwordly being who just knows everything that happened. It is never all that important; why worry about the narration when the story itself is happening?
The Narrator of Kaguya-sama is very much a member of the latter category. Who is he? How does he know what’s happening or what these teenagers are thinking? It doesn’t matter. The Narrator is just that.
So, why do I claim he’s an important character? The answer is simple: he sells the absurdity.
Every single episode of Kaguya-sama is a rollercoaster of insanity. The characters take the most simple and ordinary of interactions and overthinks them until they leave the realm of possibility in the dust. It has occasional moments of genuinely serious drama (we’ll get to those in a second), but the majority of the series is dedicated to the ridiculously goofy antics our cast get themselves into. From Iino jumping to absurd conclusions about Kaguya’s relationship with the boys to Shirogane’s over-the-top terrible romance advice, they take the simplest things and blow them out of proportion.
To us, it’s completely absurd and hilarious. But to our characters, these ridiculous leaps in logic make sense. Not only that, but they are important. When a misunderstanding splits the student council, every single one of them desperately tries to think of a way to either dispel it or to use it to put themselves on top. We laugh, but to them, it’s no laughing matter.
Enter the Narrator. Using the deepest, most dramatic voice possible, he methodically explains everything going on in our character’s heads and the reasoning behind them. He’s basically saying, “Don’t laugh! This is super serious! Kaguya needs to see Shirogane’s underwear, it’s the most important thing in her life right now! Why are you laughing?” His efforts to make us take it seriously puts us into the headspace of the protagonists and only amplifies just how insane the events unfolding truly are.
Essentially, the Narrator himself is a joke. That’s why he all but vanishes during the heavier moments of the show. When the characters are entirely justified in their emotions and overreactions, he isn’t necessary.
That’s part of why I’m not a fan of the Kaguya dub. Sure, all the voice actors are doing a great job. But the narrator isn’t even trying to take it seriously. Practically every line he delivers in the English version is some snide remark or a fourth-wall breaking quip. Rather than emphasizing the absurd internal turmoil of the characters, he constantly seems to be trying to steal the spotlight from them!
Though, to be fair, the voice actor delivering his lines is doing a good job.
A large part of the Narrator’s charm is that he isn’t overbearing. He’s overly-dramatic, but he never overstays his welcome. He’s never so over-the-top that he becomes annoying. When he needs to go, he’s gone. He’s like a spice; when applied in the right place, he makes the meal work. And the author knows exactly when to use the spice and to pull it away.
Alright, that should be a good place to wrap things up. Now… where will I get a thumbnail image for a character who has no appearance?
No thumbnail it is.