This volume feels like a midpoint between story beats, in that stuff is set up for later, at the consequence of very little happening here.
The first half of the volume focuses on Tonami, who I don’t really care for. So much of it is just him interacting with Tsubaki, being angry and flustered, and realizing that he may be feeling affection for her. You can see it coming a mile away, and since neither he nor Tsubaki are interesting, it’s not at all compelling to read about, at least from my perspective. It would be okay if they were more connected to Yukino and Arima, but their connection is tenuous at best.
Yes, Tsubaki is friends with Yukino, but due to the culture festival subplot, Yukino isn’t interacting with her much, and the interaction they do have in this volume isn’t even tangentially related to Tonami. Yes, Tonami grew up with Arima, but they don’t interact much at all, and again, what they say to one another doesn’t relate to or have any bearing on what Tonami says and does with Tsubaki. To me, it reads like an almost completely separate story going on while Yukino and Arima’s happens elsewhere, and because it’s far less enjoyable, I just keep wondering what the others are up to.
Thankfully, the later chapters focus on Yukino and Arima again, and it’s a welcome change of pace, though they’re pretty light on growth or progression. Yukino comments on how the play is expanding her horizons and helping her understand what her passions are. I remember she lamented that she never focused on herself in her days performing as a star student, so it’s nice that she’s starting to realize things. It would have been more effective if these chapters were less tell, more show, but it’s at least better than the Tonami chapters, so I won’t go too hard in the paint here.
Next, Arima and Yukino get caught in a hurricane, so they weather the storm and go back to Yukino’s house together. Arima has a bonding moment with Yukino’s dad, where her dad tells him that Yukino can help him find true happiness. This touches Arima’s heart, it seems, because there are hints that his inner psyche is thwarted by such expressions. Like with Yukino, there’s not a whole lot to go on, but it brings us back to the conflict development of the past few volumes, which is nice.
This one is short on Kare Kano chapters in lieu of a one-shot, but I skipped that one this time. I just wasn’t fond of the chapters here, so much so that I didn’t bother reading the bonus story.
I didn’t enjoy this volume. It focuses too much on side characters I’m not as invested in and who have no significant ties to the main story, and though the later chapters salvage it somewhat, they ultimately don’t go far enough to make it a great experience. Here’s hoping the next volume is better.
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.