Building somewhat on the goodwill of the last volume, the chapters of this volume of Kare Kano continue to narrow the focus on Arima’s family. Here, the key player is Arima’s birth mother, a woman named Ryoko.
Ryoko approaches Arima at his family’s house, which initially alarms him, to the point of striking her. Despite his family’s warnings for her to stay away and not get involved in his life, Arima is drawn to her, so he decides to stay in touch.
These interactions are rocky, and not for no reason. Ryoko waits outside of his school to try and talk to him. She shows up at his parents’ home. Arima is understandably on his toes the entire time, and he smartly starts to worry that she may be as capable of deceiving him as he is of others. She tries to woo him with dates at expensive diners and gifting him designer clothes, but Arima doesn’t get comfortable with her advances at any point.
Through these interactions, we get to hear the backstory of Arima’s family. His father, an illegitimate child, was abused as a child, and his mother was so unloved by his family that she was compelled to kill herself. She attempted to take her son with her, but he survived, and his tenacious spirit attracted Ryoko.
Adding to the web of complications, Arima tells no one of what is transpiring. Not his family, not his friends, not Yukino. His family seems to bristle at what might be going on, but doesn’t actively pursue him. Yukino, however, seems to be pretty affected by Arima’s deception, and there are some spreads that convey her confusion. They’ve grown so close, so why is he suddenly doing this?
This was a welcome change of pace from the last few volumes. Arima’s inner turmoil is captured nicely and is interesting to read about, though I do prefer when Yukino is the lead. Getting to know Arima’s larger family is a good source of tension. I also felt like Arima’s curiosity was captured in a realistic way. I can relate to knowing something may not be good for you but being drawn to the flame anyway. It might take some time for the damage vols 8-11 did to be undone, but if this keeps up, it might return to its former glory.
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.