Kaguya-sama: The hilarious humor of Love Is War and the endearing friendship between Kaguya and Miyuki are its most notable features. The program and manga do, however, primarily rely on their psychoanalytic lens, which really looks into the inner workings of the primary ensemble. Kaguya-sama is as clever and witty as it is funny and endearing, with clear references to some of the most influential psychoanalysts in history including Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung as well as to phenomena like the suspension bridge effect.
Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is a romance franchise that includes a 200-plus chapter manga, three anime seasons, and a recently released film adaptation. The plot revolves around Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane, two teenage geniuses who are in love but refuse to admit it. Instead, they devise elaborate mind games and battles to force the other to confess. Including the psychological element that is so important to the story raises the stakes of each battle and makes the two leads more sympathetic.
The Freudian Concepts in Kaguya-sama
One of the earliest and most common references to psychoanalysis and psychology in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is the work of Sigmund Freud. In Episode 9 of the anime, Miyuki visits Kaguya, who is sick, as he feels he’s responsible for her standing in the rain and catching a cold. Kaguya’s maid and mistress, Ai Hayasaka, tells him that when Kaguya is sick, she devolves into a more child-like state, her id taking control of her mind. Freud’s division of the brain states that the ego regulates desire, while the id is responsible for base desire and impulse and the superego acts as the conscience, guiding a person away from rash decision-making; all essential aspects to understanding the human brain.
This is not merely a one-time reference in the anime, but rather a concept that comes up time and time again in regard to Kaguya’s character. Later scenes of the anime and the movie depict Shinomiya’s brain as a courtroom, with her id and superego usually playing plaintiff and defendant respectively and her ego acting as the judge, mediating disputes between the former pair. Not only is this an efficient and expedient way of explaining the mental struggles Kaguya faces, but it also gives a deeper understanding of the ways in which her life as the daughter of a wealthy conglomerate often forces her to repress her natural desires, such as dating Miyuki.
Personification is Second Nature to Kaguya and Miyuki
Of course, other psychoanalytic figures play a role in Kaguya-story sama's as well. Carl Jung's theory of personas, in particular, is a major theme in the anime film and manga's "First Kiss That Never Ends" arc. Jung theorizes that all humans wear masks to conceal their perceived inadequacies. These masks can change depending on who is around; for example, one may act one way around a boss and another completely different way around friends.
In Kaguya-sama, this feature of human psychology is present in both Miyuki and Kaguya’s journeys as characters. For Kaguya, the "Ice Princess" persona is one that she uses to protect herself from hurting others and from being hurt in turn. She mostly ditches this after growing closer to Miyuki and the rest of the student council, but it returns following her first kiss with the president, as she finds herself unable to reconcile all her feelings about the situation. With this particular persona, she is outwardly cold and commanding to those around her, and this manifests in her relationship with Miyuki as a sort of denial of romantic significance. She uses it to avoid hurting her own feelings and assuming that her relationship with him holds importance -- a method of aversion.
Miyuki's persona, on the other hand, is defined by a confident, go-getter attitude that he believes is very different from his true self. He believes that only by constantly pushing himself to his limits in order to be the best student possible can he be worthy of Kaguya. They both eventually realize that, while they believe they must maintain these personas in order to feel safe, they also need to feel safe leaning on each other and occasionally removing the mask.
The Suspension Bridge Effect Increases Tension
One of the other prominent psychological phenomena on display in Kaguya-sama is the suspension bridge effect. This is also known as the misattribution of arousal, and it occurs primarily when a person mistakes physiological symptoms such as a racing heartbeat or shortness of breath for romantic arousal when the actual feeling is fear.
Miyuki and Kaguya both fall victim to the suspension bridge effect in Season 2 of the anime when they find themselves trapped in the school supply shed, both assuming that the other set the situation up to force a confession. The fear they feel intensifies their attraction to one another in the moment, with an almost-kiss occurring before a classmate interrupts it and sets them free. The use of the suspension bridge effect heightens the drama and tension of their interaction, as they are in close proximity and potentially dangerous situations. Within the narrative, this psychological experience serves as a powerful tool for forcing the couple's feelings to the surface.
Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is an undeniably funny and sweet series, with its lighter and more romantic moments providing solid laughs and doki-doki feelings. Simultaneously, its more psychologically driven moments help to solidify the tension between its leads, grounding the story during serious story beats that require a boost in drama. It's truly remarkable how Kaguya-sama manages to deliver on both without faltering, existing as a superb rom-com and an excellent drama at the same time. For these reasons, Love Is War's psychoanalytic tendencies are crucial to understanding the plot.