This volume is basically a deep dive into the life and times of Reiji.
In the present, Reiji and Arima are still hanging out, but Reiji sends Arima home now that his time in Japan has run out. This hurts Arima’s feelings, as he came to like Reiji. Initially, he was pretty disgusted by Reiji’s dismissive, smug attitude; but after some time, he started to see things he liked in him. There’s a particularly great sequence that depicts his mother’s suicide, spliced between dialogue scenes.
Once Arima gets home, he asks his family about Reiji’s past. The conversation starts off well enough, but then it evolves into a full-on flashback, with depictions of Souji (Arima’s father) and his wife as young adults. We learn that Souji’s father was not good at giving compliments, so Souji and his sister grew up with a complicated understanding of his father’s love. The revelation of Reiji’s birth rocks the family, and so they pressure his mother to commit suicide, as mentioned above. Reiji survives, and he struggles to move on in life.
Souji, out of compassion, takes Reiji in, and they grow closer over time. Reiji is initially a very hostile child, going so far as to bite Souji’s arm, but he gradually becomes more docile and well-behaved. It does highlight some of his weak points, though, as a brief misunderstanding between him and Souji over his schoolwork results in a massive breach of trust in Souji. All the work comes undone in a flash, and the rift between the two is pretty hard to see unfold.
This volume maintains the consistency of the past few volumes. The flashback is done pretty conventionally, overall, but it offers welcome insight into Reiji’s life. Being pushed around and disrespected by adults in his youth leads to a distrustful, fragile nature, even going so far as to turn his back on Souji and his affections. We’ve often seen how cruel the Arima family can be without really knowing why. This cleared up some ambiguity. It’ll be nice to see where the next few volumes go from here.
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.