Moe Kare is your average shoujo romance love triangle... or maybe not. In your average shoujo romance, the central character has a clearly defined target and the third person is generally just a troublemaker serving as a plot device and you can see the ending a mile away. In your average shoujo romance, the resolution of this love triangle moves you to tears but for the wrong reason (some tears sneak out during your long yawns). In your average shoujo romance, you pick a side and you root for that character, be it the underdog or the top banana. (Clearly, I have done my research on what seemingly goes on in your average shoujo romance)
Well in that case, Moe Kare is not your average shoujo romance. Our heroine Hikaru is looking for love and finds it, but not in the way she imagined. Her ideal prince seems more horndog than honorable and why does he run hot and cold, pretending to not know her one minute but feeling her up the next? Does he have Bipolar disorder? Well, being the clever reader that you are (and having taken a gander at the "love triangle" tag) you've probably figured out that there's a twin involved! Good job Watson!
So why is Moe Kare not your standard shoujo fare? It stands out because here, the characters aren't selfish or possessed with one track minds. The "third wheel" character, while initially contentious, genuinely cares for Hikaru and when he realises it's in her best interest, begrudgingly stands aside and let's her have her happy ending, only there wasn't an ending, and he's called back into the playing field. The changes that Hikaru undergoes through the story are so raw and human that you forget you're reading a story, you feel as though a friend is retelling her experiences. The resolution of the love triangle also feels very real and believable, not something which makes you roll your eyes and flip to the next page because you saw that coming. And lastly, there is character development the likes of which you have never seen before in short romance reads. Even the perfect prince character who could do no wrong grows as a person and changes for the better by the end of the read, as do all the other primary characters. As a reader you feel you've matured along with them through the course of their trials and while barely a couple of hours will have passed since you started reading the story, metaphorically you will feel a few years wiser instead.
I'm not saying this story is flawless, it could have been better developed, with richer characters and edgier dialogues. There were a few pacing issues such as in the first four chapters where we have intimate scenes along with ridiculously orchestrated situations and audacious dialogue to make it seem grown up or maybe less childish, but this attempt comes off feeling botched or trying-too-hard. You can't include too much chibi animation in a grown up shoujo story or readers won't take it too seriously. Also, even though supposedly everything is set in reality, you get this feeling that yes, things are happening in a fantastical universe here because really, logic is completely set aside. Oh yes, and the mangaka believed that showing the heroine half naked in the first volume along with a couple of outrageous kisses could make up for the lack of a concrete situations warranting smut. It couldn't but these flaws are more than made up for in the remainder of the story.
The saving graces include the mangakas skill in drawing the heroine in various motions of flight and swooning sequences as well as action poses for the bishounen. At one or more points, the story included novel situations like Hikaru dousing the evil Arata with a bucket of water, inspired scene! Oddly, within one scene, Hikaru alternates between helplessly ambushed and powerful retaliation. I also can't help but marvel at how everyone from the male Karate club, from members to the club prez get turned on by Honda.
After two thirds of the chapters, you start to see the less travesty-ridden side of this manga, and yes maybe each chapter includes too little progress, which is what I thought, but they take the story forward all the same. In a good way. Maybe the heroine needed a better reason to be parted from The Gentle Prince though. Something like Pearl Harbour would have been justified. This guy (Honda, The Gentle Prince), you just felt like smacking his mislead self righteous head! Anyway, it wasn't a complete waste of my time, even though volumes 1-4 can use a ton of improvement. I felt happy for Perverted Prince, he matured, learnt that good things are worth waiting for, and really emerged as an underdog hero. Good for him, I have zero complaints with this ending unlike sniff Zettai Kareshi.
Oh and you gotta love the accessories on Arata, they somehow really made his character so much more bad-ass but moeeeeee at the same time! I especially dug the ever changing rings on his hands.
Interestingly, my opinion and rating on this series has been highly mercurial. The first time I started reading it, I put it down in disgust at the constant chibi art. Then I forced myself to look beyond it in the second reading and finished the whole read looking for some quality smut and was mildly assuaged. At that time I considered this a passable read. The third time I read this almost five years later, I freakin' loved this story! It suddenly had everything I ever wanted in a school-setting romance! The kyaaa factor was constantly skyrocketing, there was humor, there were outrageously nosebleed-inducing situations and those which made you shake with mirth (imagine getting inspired to do 100 situps because you catch a glimpse of your male trainer's nipple through his 'gi' with every situp!), a....nd there were torrid kisses which made you take a deep breath and then hold it, you know the feeling!
In short, it delivered!
I highly recommend this title to folks sick of trite romances with shallow plots where you can predict the ending after the introduction of two characters itself. You will enjoy the delicious execution, the believable pace and feel deeply for the characters and their agony.