This volume was.. a pretty bleak read. Not out of issues with the quality of the story, but more for the nature of the content.
The book opens with Arima recalling incidents of abuse from his childhood, cementing the notion that his mother is not anything resembling a saint. Arima frequently appears bruised and in significant pain in these flashbacks. The way he recognizes the depth of his pain, yet still accepts and seeks his mother’s love is heartbreaking.
For the most part, though, the present-day plot of this volume centers around Yukino trying to get to the bottom of Arima’s neurosis. Arima hasn’t been confiding in Yukino much at all, it seems, so Yukino is finally fed up and out to get some answers. Arima initially resists, but after Yukino puts her foot down on multiple occasions – demanding she be let in to Hideaki’s apartment after seeing Arima’s shoes near the entrance, trying to walk to school with Arima in the morning – she’s eventually able to get through to him, and there’s relative calm in the middle of this melodramatic storm.
There’s not much to say about this volume, narrative-wise. All the beats present in the previous two paragraphs cover everything of significance. It’s overall a pretty solid look into Yukino and Arima’s relationship, and how Arima’s recent tendency to keep everything locked up has affected their connection. The way his issues are depicted is evocative, moreso than in previous volumes. Prior to this, his past memories were visualized as a locked treasure chest, kept buried at the bottom of his subconscious’ ocean. Now, he sees himself as walking up an endlessly ascending staircase, interspersed with cuts of Yukino in a grove of tree roots. It seems weird and offputting at first, but it does gradually change as Yukino is able to get through to him. For a series with pretty standard-issue shōjo art as a whole, I thought that was noteworthy.
It’s slowly getting 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.