It appears the Arima arc Tsuda spoke of a few volumes ago has begun for real this time.
The series has fast-forwarded to senior year for Arima, Miyazawa and company, and there’s a lot of talk about what comes next for our respective characters. Kazuma is still going strong with his band, Tsubasa does modeling work for Kazuma’s group, Maho plans to move on to medical school, Tsubaki and Tonami don’t intend to move on to higher education, and Miyazawa is thinking of going to law school.
A lot of this feels inconsequential, though, as the bulk of this volume reintroduces Arima’s family. Whereas before Arima would just take the abuse and internalize his feelings of worthlessness, now he is 100% more vindictive, and he’s out for revenge. A lot of these chapters depict the abuse he received as a kid – being tied up and left in a basement for his family to find him was particularly disturbing – and juxtapose that with Arima’s accomplishments in the present day.
There’s a particularly harrowing confrontation between them later on in the volume. Arima, just leaving school, encounters two of his relatives, who attempt to apologize for the abuse they helped unleash. They weren’t the true perpetrators, you see; they were pressured into it, and have always felt bad about it. Arima wants nothing of it, though, and strikes one of them plain as day. Since they couldn’t win him over, they promise that he’s got it coming to him.
Additional tension lies in wait as Miyazawa recognizes a change in Arima’s demeanor but can’t figure out what it is. Arima himself won’t tell her what’s bothering him, and Miyazawa being Miyazawa, she’s intuitive enough that she may well start investigating on her own. Not much comes from this plot thread here, but I’m sure it’s setting up for something bigger later on.
I suppose I’m not too shocked about the tone shift present in this new “arc,” as Tsuda put it, but I am surprised Arima’s lack of self-worth has manifested into this internal rage of sorts. It’s not an unwelcome change, though.. there were times in previous volumes that the story was told from Arima’s perspective, but it wasn’t all that compelling. We never know him as well as Yukino, so Yukino’s point of view is deeper and maybe a little more meaningful. To see Arima take on this vindictive mode is a little jarring at first, but I concede that it’s more personality that we’ve had to go off of before.
I’m mostly happy that interactions with side characters is severely limited this time around. Tsubaki, Tonami, Kazuma, Tsubasa, and Maho are not that interesting to be around, and considering they distract from our two leads so often, I often feel cheated out of a good story for all the detours they make. I could barely tolerate the last two volumes, so this is a welcome, sort-of return to form.
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.