Yukino Miyazawa is the female representative for her class and the most popular girl among the freshmen at her high school. Good at both academics and sports on top of being elegant and sociable, she has been an object of admiration all her life. However, in reality, she is an incredibly vain person who toils relentlessly to maintain her good grades, athleticism, and graceful appearance. She wants nothing more than to be the center of attention and praise—which is why she cannot stand Soichiro Arima, the male representative for her class and the only person more perfect than her. Since the first day of high school, she has struggled to steal the spotlight from her new rival but to no avail.
At last, on the midterm exams, Yukino gets the top score and beats Soichiro. But, to her surprise, he congratulates her on her achievement, leading her to question her deceptive lifestyle. When Soichiro confesses his love to Yukino, she turns him down and gloats about it at home with only a hint of regret. But the very next day, Soichiro visits Yukino house to bring her a CD and sees her uninhibited self in action; now equipped with the truth, he blackmails her into completing his student council duties. Coerced into spending time with Soichiro, Yukino learns that she is not the only one hiding secrets.
Kare Kano was a romance anime that could have become incredibly great, if it had the proper budget and ideas from the producer to actually complete the show properly. Unfortunately the stale ending that Kare Kano ended on left myself and I’m sure many other fans in frustration. Based on the popular shoujo manga by Masami Tsuda, Kare Kano is about the blossoming love between two high school students who lived a life of lies, pretending to be the perfect person for their own reasons. Being able to truthfully open up to each other, their initial friendship turns to love. Sadly, life isn’t so easy
for them as they face many trials to be together.
At first glance, Kare Kano is your average high school romance story. Thankfully, the odd personalities of the two leading characters break the idea of this just being another romance story. Kare Kano does contain the usual shoujo romance story elements when it comes to the trials for our main couple (jealous outsiders, temporary separation). But originality is able to come through with the way the leading characters handle their problems, often ending in a comedic resolve to their troubles. Besides the usual love trials, Kare Kano also features a number of interesting side stories about the support characters, so if you’re not a fan of the main couple, fear not, there are other amusing couples in the series as well. Unfortunately, Kare Kano’s story takes a nosedive with the lack of an ending. The last few episodes continue to build the plot up, but the series simply ends before anything can come out of the previous events. This is one of the greatest annoyances when it comes to Kare Kano, especially if one is not a manga reader.
The animation is more or less quite poor in Kare Kano. Taking into account this show is from 1998, anyone can easily see the budget was definitely not allocated to producing good animation. The first half of the show had its moments, the animation in this part of the series were acceptable. One of the techniques that the producers used was to cut out still images directly from the manga, which can be both a good and bad thing. Obviously this saves the producer a lot on cost of actual animation and some may think it is quite cheap of them. But I would think majority of people feel the black and white manga images added to the atmosphere of the show, especially in the moments they were used (which were when things became more serious). The second half of Kare Kano was when the animation began to lose its charm. More still images were constantly being used. Episode 19 of Kare Kano had the entire episode made up of cardboard cut outs, which were stuck on sticks and moved around (like a puppet show). The last five episodes were horrendous, a lot more of the manga pictures were being used, but rather then adding to the atmosphere, it just made the entire show feel cheap. The final episode barely had any animation at all, simply still images.
The sound in Kare Kano is one of its stronger points. The opening and ending have catchy pop songs that some may or may not like depending on their taste in music. There are also a number of enjoyable piano tunes in Kare Kano. All in all, the background music fitted well to the mood in this anime. A good pat on the back for the Japanese voice actors of Kare Kano as well. The VA for Yukino (the leading female) did a wonderful job in bringing out Yukino’s two faced personality, as did the VA for Arima (the leading male). If anything, the only complaint I have for the Japanese VAs was the one for the supporting character Tsubasa. I only felt her voice did not feel right.
Perhaps Kare Kano’s strongest point would be the characters. The leading couple is two somewhat eccentric two faced people (particularly the female) who pretty much break out of the stereotypical shoujo couple. The leading female, Yukino is an absolute riot to watch. You will witness her stressing over the smallest of things, unbelievable for someone who at first glance seemed to be the most perfect person you could find anywhere. Supporting characters such as Asaba and Tsubasa are also equally enjoying to watch as their odd personalities fit in perfectly with Kare Kano’s quirkiness. Character development is very thorough in Kare Kano, with even Yukino’s parents having screen time to develop their back stories. The only negative feature when it comes to the characters is that even towards the end of the show the characters are constantly built up with development, only to have the show end before anything could happen.
For why I enjoyed Kare Kano, I was previously a fan of the manga already. My favourite character would definitely have to be Yukino for her weirdo personality and decisions to solve her problems. I also really like the ending song, which I thought was perfect. Albeit I was definitely frustrated with how the show ended. The terrible animation was just painful for me to watch (especially the last 6 or so episodes). And I thought it was a poor decision on the producer’s part to end the show like it would end every other episode, and slap on a “The End”. I mean, nothing ended at all.
Overall, despite its obvious flaws Kare Kano still manages to be a favourite amongst the shoujo lovers for its interesting array of characters and somewhat unique storyline for the main couple. If you aren’t normally fond of stereotypical high school love stories, try giving Kare Kano a try. It’s recommended though to continue with the manga after watching the anime if you want to see how the story ends, since you won’t find any ending from here. So yeah, If you like comedy, romance, weird characters and high school settings then Kare Kano will probably be for you.
His and Her Circumstance, Kareshi Kanojo no Jijyou, Kare Kano, whatever you want to call it, there is one important thing you should know about this romantic comedy: not once at all does the male lead accidentally faceplant into the female lead's breasts, nor does he accidentally see her naked when her towel slips off, nor does his hand by chance find its way onto her butt.
Instead, they have sex.
And this is what sets Kare Kano apart from all the other romance anime that have come out in the last decade or two. Those anime are not romantic comedies,
they are comedies with sexual tension. The romance in Kare Kano is real romance. Yukino and Souichiro's relationship is treated realistically, seriously. They meet, they fall in love, things progress. It has a remarkable authenticity, especially in the early episodes.
The comedy element works, too. Yukino Miyazawa, who obsesses over being the perfect student, gets snapped back into reality by a rival perfect student, Souichiro Arima. But while she is left dejected, he ends up smitten. The comedy is character-based, feeding off the hesitation and awkwardness from the two teens as they muddle their way into a romance. Yukino's family also provides good comic material, especially in the parents, who had their daughters a little too early in life. Other character types are explored: the sassy athletic girl, the jealous girl, the cute guy who's hard to figure out, etc. But these side characters don't get in the way of Yukino and Souchiro's story.
The series is based on Masami Tsuda's manga, and its weakness is its format. Even with the legendary Hideaki Anno of Neon Genesis: Evangelion fame at the helm, the series suffers from a lack of budget and abundance of static images. Scenes that read quickly on Tsuda's pages get stretched as filler on screen. The most annoying thing about it are the episode recaps, which on a couple of occasions approach the three minute mark. That's three minutes that the writers unfortunately couldn't fill. The budget only gets worse as the series progresses, and when we get to the final episode it's almost unbelievable that they go as far as they do. No colors, no animation, just line drawings. No full cast either, just two narrators.
The series ends not even halfway through the full 21-volume run of the manga. What the series does cover it covers quite accurately, so the story itself is as strong as the pages of the book, but Kare Kano, for all the quality they could squeeze out of it, remains rough and unfinished. The anime is enjoyable, but I highly recommend reading the manga.
What's there that hasn't been said about this tale? In all honesty, Kare Kano is a love story through and through. Not to say that it lacks any other aspect besides romance but, it's the kind of show where you become intertwined with the heart more than the funny side-comments or the playful animation. The story is simply about two people in high school who meet, share common-ground, and fall head over heels for each other. Perfect for you hopeless romantics, eh?
Character(s) & Their Development
This one is certainly major for this show. The emotional interaction is at such a high level that at times, I
was amazed at how lifelike it was. I felt I could meet each and every character if I walked around my own school long enough. It's not that their all completely realistic or even that they have no uniqueness but, the fact is that these people make you believe they exist is some space.
Yukino was certainly a character I had to keep a keen eye on. At first, I couldn't find the strength to actually like her but, by the second episode I found herself thinking the same thoughts I had just that very day. She has an extremely worrisome type of behavior when it comes to her relationship to Soichiro. It's not that she is meek but, it's that she has no idea how any of this is suppose to work because of the way she's lived her life. She was always so cheerful to her classmates, but she was distant. So far away, in fact, that no one could tell until this secret was disclosed when Yukino was not guarding herself.
She finds the relationship to Soichiro difficult at times, and yet that's only because of her own thinking. She thinks and thinks, doubting how well she can read him and be close to him. How much can she give, she really, truly wonders. A lot of the show is her ideals on her love towards Soichiro. I related to her, and at times was dumbfounded how much her very thoughts seemed like they were straight from my own mind.
Soichiro, on the other hand, doesn't get as much time to shed his concept on himself or Yukino as much as his counterpart; however, you don't need to hear his development to really know that he is changing. He becomes much more lively and socially active even though he still holds his own secrets & demons from the person he holds dear. In a way, it's a bit sad that Soichiro never comes to terms with his emotions in the anime, as he is cut off from overcoming his shadows since the show was never finished.
I've never understood completely why but, the majority absolutely despise the art in Kare Kano. As I said, I can't comprehend it since the studio had such a tight budget and because of that, I think they deserve some slack. The anime was also made in 1998, and there was a huge decline in money during that time in Japan (or something or another). Honestly, I don't judge too hard when it comes to this aspect. Story and characters are much more important to me, and they certainly come up strong while the animation is a tad weak.
Despite all that, the style has a plain cuteness while being soft. I've never had an anime where it was realistic but the style made me think: charming.
The sound had to grow on me before I drowned into the youthful, playful melodies this anime has to offer. While some of it was increasingly fitting, the ending theme always had me bored. While I adored the lyrics, I could never get into the beat, but that was probably just me. The opening was certainly a gem though. I find myself singing to it even if I don't want to, it just had a perfect tune that couldn't deny the anime's own attraction in itself.
Oh, I adored the dubbing in Kare Kano. The actor for Soichiro is dead-on, no question. Soichiro is more of an emotionless, hold-it-all-in type of guy and the inexperience of his actor actually aides in defining the character. Yukino had the hyper, somewhat angry, yet politeness you would expect from a role model with a weird personality. I was surprised to find the actress is really the voice of Ash Ketchem from Pokemon though.
In general, Kare Kano has a slice of the anime pie all to it's own. It's graceful in it's deliverance yet funny within it's own boundaries. The blandness witnessed is some episodes is picked up by the pure innocence of each character's quirks. This is the type of anime that is more than just a simple-minded cartoon, it actually lives and breathes like a human being that can grow and morph. It's charming and realistic in thought and action. There's little Kare Kano misses when explaining a relationship, and it doesn't miss at all the heartbeats, doubts, fears, and sadness faced with a first love. However, this show is not depressing despite situations where characters suffer; it remains optimistic.
This a show that's certain to give you that warm feeling, not for the cuteness (because, in all honesty, there isn't too much of that), but for watching the way these characters live out their lives, hardships, and accomplishments. (Last note: Pick up the manga, it ends the story and it's worth it!)
Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou is the proverbial byproduct of Hideaki Anno spewing his contempt fueled ambition all over Masami Tsuda's beloved brainchild of the same title. Long story short, Anno’s layout of Kare Kano differed from the source material and the production process became extremely arduous for Gainax’s staff, leading to a jarring shift in direction after episode 18. Gainax’s Kare Kano was Tsuda’s on acid, taking slice of life-oriented downtime in a comedic direction, and the introspective groundwork to new heights (or lows, depending on how you look at it) through Anno’s masterful understanding of human nature. It tackles the perplexing question standing at
the crossroads of psychological egoism and altruism: can we act with exterior motives, solely for the betterment of another?
Being a romance series in every sense of the word, Kare Kano is character driven. Tsuda has a very infectious way of writing her characters, drawing from all walks of life and holding very little back when it comes to tragic backstories. Adding this to Anno's extremely heavy – almost Eva reminiscent introspection we begin to see a uniqueness separating it from the contemporaries in its genre. This isn’t to say that Kare Kano is as heavily dressed in incredulity as something like Eva. Thematically, Kare Kano is mainly optimistic, drawing from its narrative to address the construction of basic, positive moral frameworks and the skepticism that comes from self-reflection. This all contributing to the overarching theme of evaluating the nature of human relationships.
Souichi Arima is the male protagonist of the series and the romantic interest of the other main character, Yukino. He is introduced as a naturally gifted student with a unique aura that draws people to him. In short, he’s perfect. Except everyone knows that no one can possibly be perfect. And that’s where everyone would be wrong, because Miyazawa Yukino is also perfect. Aside from being among the top students at her school, she can easily win the favor of nearly every man, woman, child, me... I mean, she's quite impressive. This is true, yet everything I just said was a lie.
Both Yukino and Arima lead social lives predicated on appearances, masking their true identities for very different reasons. The other side of Yukino is really no secret. From the get-go it is made abundantly clear that the audience is to be as familiar with both sides of Yukino as possible, and it's for good reason. Yukino is troubled, debatably more so than the other cast members. Since as young as she can remember, Yukino divided her personality into two very contrasting entities. One used to impress those who hold some sort of authority, be it literal or socially implied, and the other more accurate to her selfish, cathartic nature. Yukino is more than a mere inner conflict though. Through her relationship with Arima we see an extreme gap in maturity between what is her “real” attitude and the one she uses to impress. The understanding that later on in the series we see her grow into a slightly more genuine version of her fake persona is necessary to properly illustrate my belief that the idea of leading two contrasting lifestyles and attitudes has a severe impact on the subject’s psychological state, mostly in reference to maturity. This is a repeated concept even in other characters in the series, but with Yukino specifically we see her mature half fall into the same shortcomings as her overall or combined personality might. She struggles with the idea of intimacy, an admittedly juvenile characteristic and in turn can’t express herself even when the act is over. I would argue that the struggle to understand herself and mature is directly tied to her past attempts to impress everyone, or vanity to use her words.
Arima’s “second half” is a little more tough to describe. As a child he suffered abuse and neglect from both of his parents and everyone around him. Eventually he runs away from his family and his uncle takes on the role of his father. As a result, Arima has a deeply rooted sense of gratitude towards his adoptive family and on top of that feels obligated to live up to his family’s reputation. Because of this Arima spends his life from that point forward trying to be perfect, suppressing the darkness residing in the limelight of his childhood.
Enter Yukino, the one to shatter these self-afflictions of his. Have you thought about the question brought up earlier? Can people truly effect change in one another? Well, there isn’t a right answer, and the series never gives you one either. For every meaningful perspective there is a directly contradictory one with the same validity, and Kare Kano understands this concept unnervingly well. Yukino has her identity issues I mentioned earlier and Arima has self-afflictions relating to trust and accepting his past. Neither of them can really afford to expend emotional stability for the other from a logical standpoint.
Here lies the romance, and the genius in the way this story is laid out. It addresses the philosophical question while moving past it with a metaphorical “third-party”, which simultaneously addresses the existential significance of the narrative. Arima and Yukino’s growing relationship forces these inner emotions out, climaxing at episode 18 with physical intimacy and his own psychological retaliation, spotlighted by Arima vomiting shortly after what should have been a monumental piece of his maturity. It’s truly sad that the character arc envisioned by this production team was cut short by outside influences, because Arima had the ability to reach levels of self assessment rivaling or exceeding the heights of Evangelion. If Anno had been allowed all the creative freedom he wanted, Arima’s character arc would have gone something like; skepticism, followed by the rejection we see in episode 18 and eventually acceptance.
"Why is it? I felt that something was wrong. I felt that this peacefulness had something artificial to it”
“Everyone felt far away. On days like those, I’d get scared because I’d think that maybe I wasn’t actually feeling anything. I felt that maybe it just slid along the surface of my feelings, never reaching them”
“In my heart, there’s a suspicion that I can’t erase. A suspicion that I’m always alone.”
“Why do I think such things?”
Regarding themes, there are countless scenes that are illustrative of the concepts driving Kare Kano, but perhaps the most interesting is Arima’s inner monologue in episode 8 that I paraphrased above. In short, Arima makes the first step towards understanding himself, and begins recognizing the severity of the damage he’s incurred as a result of the suppression he’s kept up for so long. This grows quickly into Arima questioning his own sincerity and later the fear of allowing these demons to become part of his personality. The optimism in this derives from the act of self-reflection itself. More specifically, the depths he must reach to acknowledge every part of himself and become whole. Staring into the deepest recesses of human relationships, we come across these problems and how Arima approaches them is beyond fascinating.
The soundtrack in this show is nothing short of top tier, and funnily enough, I would bet that nothing will blow you away in terms of chord progressions or intense compositional styles. Looking at it realistically though, there are few other soundtracks that accomplish the same rich diversity of sound in such a small track list. Simple renditions of the opening and ending songs match the hyper-dramatized scenes and create balance in otherwise overdramatic scenarios. Light woodwinds and simple percussion lines dominate the atmospheric insert tracks following the goofy, comedic take Tsurumaki and Anno decided on for the less serious scenes. Arima and Yukino’s solo insert tracks respectively suit their characters to a t. “Arima I” takes on a suave, pseudo-energetic form only to degrade into a ballad reflective of his character arc. “Yukino Miyazawa I (concerto)” being just what you’d expect with an overbearing intro comprised of loud horns and violins playing over a relatively quiet piano, only to temporarily recede into a barebones piano chorus which slowly returns to the former compositional elements. Beyond the superficial ties to the characters, dynamic changes fit perfectly into the scenes and give the sound track a very real sense of pragmatism.
As I mentioned earlier, Tsuda had the last word with production speed, and as a result there is an abundance of recap. Initially I saw this for what it was, a production error. However, as my mind grew more entangled with the story, I began to see it as something almost vital to the overall feeling the show gives off. The visual motif most prominent in the series is industrial structures. Interspersed cuts of stop lights occasionally matched to heavily weighed down recap episodes and abrupt changes in character mentalities. Weaving highways on full length episodes and various urban streets, bridges, and industrial complexes representing the character’s psyches. This all not to say that I would expect any member of this production team to risk jeopardizing the story over technical Easter eggs, and what I just described isn’t even universally true in this series. What I’m alluding to is all these things intermingling in a holistic, unedited cacophony of alarmingly realistic adolescence.
Episode 18 arrives and the story of Arima and Yukino essentially ends. Thankfully, this happens in company of the absolute climax of Anno’s directorial trappings, serving as a metaphorical send off to this part of the story with Arima’s final self-reflection scene. Although there are mysteries regarding what exactly happened in production, it is very clear Anno and Tsuda’s relationship became increasingly sour as the show went on. Behind the scenes shenanigans aside, if you want a romance that faces the tropes of its genre head-on and moves past them flawlessly rather than using subversion or feebly continuing down an uninspired path, this is a series for you. Keep in mind that this show has no ending though, no definitive final act or tying up of loose ends. It’s abrupt and comes alongside one of the biggest peaks of the show. There are a couple ways to look at it though, and they don't have to be separate. The first is addressing it as it is, an inconclusive ending. The other is viewing Arima's character arc as cyclical - a harrowing proposition that foundational childhood traumas can be lessened through connection, but to what end? Even if one could effect change in another, how do we know to what extent their traumas lie? Do we want to? And if we did, is "love" enough?
When Godzilla's in his heaven, all's right with the world. Director Hideaki Anno, creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion, turned the latest Godzilla movie into the highest grossing Japanese live-action film of all time. We went to the NY premiere, and it lives up to the hype!
If you're a guy and an anime fan, chances are you've watched at least in one shoujo anime during your lifetime, and come to the realization that it's a pretty cool genre with well-developed characters and deep character interactions. Let's take a loot at some of the best shoujo for all anime fans!