After the last volume’s climactic ending, this one… goes in a million different directions.
The showdown from volume 19 ends with Soichiro talking Reiji down. Reiji wants to kill Ryoko for inflicting suffering on him and his family. Soichiro tells him it isn’t worth it, and that he can live through whatever troubles Ryoko dishes his way.
The next few days in the manga are random, somewhat slice-of-lifey anecdotes. Reiji meets with Soji and rekindles his bond, to an extent. Reiji and Soichiro spend more time together before Reiji heads home to New York. Shizune (Soji’s wife) tells the story of how she met Soji as a young person. Yukino skips school and gets lunch with her mom, who lets on that she’s aware of Yukino’s pregnancy. Yukino finally reveals she’s pregnant to Soichiro, and also announces her plans not to go to college right away. It’s all pretty standard, inoffensive fair.
My main issue with the end of volume 19 is that it felt like it came smack out of nowhere. This volume doesn’t put in any work to make it make sense. In fact, I kind of grew to dislike it more in the grand scheme of things. Reiji argues that Ryoko stole his life away from him, and that the intent to marry and bear children was a ruse to collect money from him. His whole reason for coming to Japan was to then kill her and cut the use and abuse off once and for all. But this issue is never brought up until that very moment. I’m surprised he’s complaining about her taking money away from him, because in the last few volumes, he’s been intent to take Soichiro shopping at haute couture boutiques, stay in nice hotels, and eat at fancy restaurants. He certainly isn’t wanting for cash, so why is the issue that she’s taking money from you? Why did this never get brought up? Reiji never even talks to Soichiro about Ryoko before now. I could appreciate the twist if it had been built up, or at least explained in these chapters so that it makes sense in hindsight, but that just doesn’t happen here. It’s kind of a bummer. The way the characters calmly resolve that conflict and then proceed back into their regular routines just wastes the tension that was built up, too.
While Kare Kano has sort of reclaimed some of its goodwill, I think this volume tears it back down. I wasn’t fond of these chapters at all. Ah, well. On to the next one!
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.