Kare Kano, vol. 16

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Arima’s recovery continues in this volume, with him learning some new lessons.

As with the last volume, this one opens with some flashbacks to Arima’s abuse. Portrayed as a dream he’s having, he then awakens in a hospital bed by Yukino’s side, as he stabbed himself in the previous volume. When he awakens, Yukino gets to ask the questions she’s been trying to ask since the last volume.

There, the two finally have something of a come-to-Jesus moment. Yukino deduces that Arima has kept so many things away from her so as to not hurt her or make her worry, and only now understands that by doing all this, he’s potentially harmed her even more. Yukino calls him on that, but also says that by having him open up, she gains the means to protect him, so she’ll start to help him in that way.

This leads to Arima doing something he’s yet to do: ask for help. He knows Ryoko will try to reach out to him again, so he asks his friends for help in deterring her. This leads to a comedy sequence of Maho, Tsubaki, Tsubasa, and Arima’s other friends trying different gags to deter Ryoko. It feels a little dissonant, especially coming off of some somber chapters. It culminates in a confrontation between Ryoko and Arima’s adoptive mother, which was more satisfying.

I appreciate the themes at work in this story. One of my favorite aspects of Kare Kano is that it understands what makes a healthy relationship between people. Arima doesn’t communicate openly, and despite having his reasons, he faces some consequences for that. Only after he’s able to confide in Yukino and accept his mistakes are they able to move past it. This has been true of the series in the past, and it makes a welcome return here.

That said, I do feel like this volume was a bit slighter than past volumes. One thing I’ve consistently disliked about this Arima arc is that Yukino loses some aspects of her character. What I mean to say is, in these chapters, Yukino fills the role of the fully-realized foil to play off of Arima’s gaps in character. It holds me back from really loving the series again, as in the beginning, Yukino and Arima had their own growing pains. Outside of being concerned for Arima, Yukino doesn’t struggle at all. She doesn’t necessarily have to, true, but it seems strange that Yukino has grown into herself completely while Arima still has skeletons in his closet. Especially when so much of the early arcs centered around Yukino not knowing who she was or what to do with herself.

All told, this volume certainly plays to the series’ strengths once again.

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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