Kare Kano, vol. 1

9781931514798_manga-Kare-Kano-Graphic-Novel-1-His-and-Her-Circumstances.jpgAfter reading Heart of Thomas, I got a craving for some more vintage shōjo manga. I’ve had nearly all the volumes of Kare Kano for a while now but never sat down to read them. Let’s rectify that!

Miyazawa Yukino is a high school student known for her poise and perfection. All her life, she made top marks in class and was known as a model character. What others don’t know is that it’s all a ruse – Yukino is a self-described egomaniac who seeks acceptance of others through her work ethic. At home, Yukino is a couch potato. But what others don’t know won’t hurt them, I suppose.

All this changes when Arima Soichiro enters the picture. He, too, is a model student and good samaritan, and when he bests Yukino on the entrance exam scores, Yukino is fired up and motivated to beat him. When she finally does, though, she’s disappointed by Soichiro’s quick acceptance of defeat. She thinks nothing of it initially, but when Soichiro catches her at home while her guard is down and the sweats are on, her relationship with this new student quickly changes.

I was familiar with the core plot of Kare Kano through the first few episodes of the anime adaptation from Gainax. It’s been years since I’ve seen that, though, so this was a worthy refresher for me.

I like the idea of the plot, if only because Yukino is such a fun character to read. While she puts on a good front for her classmates, she’s wildly expressive behind closed doors. In chapter 3, there’s a great spread where her mood swings violently while trying to understand what Soichiro is feeling. She goes from frustration to confusion to sadness to calm all on a single page. It’s pretty captivating.

Beyond that, I appreciate the themes at play here. I really love that this series depicts the way relationships can alleviate stress. Once Yukino realizes she can trust Soichiro, she becomes noticeably more relaxed in social situations. She tells him as much in different words by the end of chapter 3. Now that she has someone she cares about, she’s not so interested in competing; when Soichiro reveals his parents were criminals and he’s trying to fight against their negative influence, Yukino explains to him that it’s okay to be his true self, that donning a mask makes it harder for people to recognize his charms. That’s not to say it isn’t a little clumsy in execution – Yukino responding to Soichiro’s fears in this way strikes me as a little thoughtless and tonedeaf – but nonetheless, the idea is there, and Yukino and Soichiro understand the importance of being their true selves. They start to get what makes relationships healthy, I think.

Only three chapters of the first volume were devoted to the actual Kare Kano plotline. The fourth chapter here is an unrelated one-shot, where a girl who has her glasses broken by a new student allows him to be her eyes for the week, and she slowly grows closer to him. It was fluffy, but I still enjoyed it.

I enjoyed this volume and am excited to see where it takes me. I like how our two leads are portrayed, particularly Yukino. She makes this series fun to read.

Kare Kano was written and illustrated by Tsuda Masami. It was serialized in Hakusensha’s LaLa magazine from 1996 to 2005, and it was later collected in 21 bound volumes. The series was licensed for release in North America by Tokyopop, who released all 21 volumes between 2003 and 2007. This release is now out-of-print.

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