Three volumes to go, and it seems like Kare Kano isn’t even close to winding down.
The window into Reiji’s past remains open in this volume, and we spend the bulk of our time with Reiji as he goes off the deep end. Relatively speaking, at least.
Following the misunderstanding that Reiji and Soji had in the last volume, Reiji has started keeping to himself. Beginning in these chapters, Reiji starts to fall in with a bad crowd. In the first chapter, he seems to fall in with a crowd of bikers (?), and later on, Ryoko adds him to her clique, announcing to her friends that she’s taking him as her boyfriend… while still in another relationship. Yikes.
Reiji is thoroughly closed off from his family and even other classmates. There’s no apparent chemistry between him and Ryoko, either – he doesn’t talk to her that much. Ryoko even remarks at the end of a chapter that his “hard-to-get” nature is what she finds attractive. Reiji, for his part, doesn’t seem all that interested. He even refers to her as a slut in a confrontation with other gang members.
Reiji is later struck with a pipe, and Soji, after learning of the attack, attempts to nurse him to health. Reiji leaves the hospital before he’s 100% recovered because he’s stricken with guilt over the way he’s shut Reiji out. He attempts to make amends with Soji, even following them to their winter vacation home, but to no avail.
Time passes, and after Soichiro is born, Reiji comes to realize that Ryoko is abusing him. He rescues Soichiro from that situation, and after meeting with Soji, it’s determined that Soichiro will start living with Soji, as Reiji once had. Reiji moves to New York, and contact is cut from then on. That takes us back to the present. Later, Soichiro, Reiji, and Yukino are out together, and encounter Ryoko one last time. In a moment of high melodrama, Reiji pulls a gun out and reveals his intent to kill Ryoko.
My takeaway from this volume is the importance of effective communication between others. Soichiro and Yukino had a good dynamic in the beginning of their relationship, which has been hampered only by Soichiro’s inner turmoil. Now that they’ve worked that out, I feel like these chapters illustrate why it matters. Reiji and Soji both have their own fears about the other person, but they never sit down and just talk about it. I thought it was partly interesting for that reason.
Otherwise, the storytelling here is pretty conventional. The art is serviceable, with angles and shots that get the job done without being too imaginative. My main struggle with this one is Reiji’s reticence towards basically everyone. I don’t mind the issues with Soji; it’s set up and illustrates Reiji’s character very well. On the other hand, he doesn’t really talk to Ryoko much, so I don’t get the foundation of their relationship. He even refers to her with slurs behind her back. How does that work? It didn’t for me. The final sequence, where he pulls a gun on her, came right out of nowhere, such that I felt some whiplash. I don’t know how much I like that…
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.