You guys who read my blog know that I don’t like shoujo. Ya’ll know that I just don’t give a crap about stuff like Special A or Kimi No Todoke or My Pet Monster. It’s not that I write off the entire genre as a whole, because otherwise I wouldn’t keep checking them to see if I would like them. But let’s look at the list of shoujo that I actually like: Whisper of the Heart, From Up On Poppy Hill, and Natsume’s Book of Friends. In other words, two Ghibli films and a shoujo that is about as far from the typical romance dreck I usually see nowadays. Not a single traditional shoujo romance series is on that list. It’s definitely better than my search for a good anime from Silver Link, but it still makes me sad that for a genre specifically designed to bring romance stories, not a single one of them I actually liked.
So that brings me to Kare Kano, an anime I had been requested to check out due to my bias against JC Staff. I didn’t actually know it was shoujo until I checked it out on Wikipedia, but it didn’t matter because I also saw that the director (at least for the first fourteen episodes) was Evangelion/Nadia legend, Hideaki Anno. I also gave the art a look (anime art ruled whilst manga art drooled) and after reading some reviews on how great Kare Kano, I eagerly jumped in expecting to love the thing.
I really need to stop overhyping myself. Because the result was pretty disappointing.
First thing I noticed was when watching the anime was that it was amazingly cheap. However, unlike the cheapness of Jormungand, Kare Kano took the Shaft approach of using a variety of different cost-cutting maneuvers in order to make up for it rather than overuse of stills and whatever else is being used to hide the fact that Mondaiji has terrible animation. In short, despite the fact that a majority of the anime was a mixture of live-action shots, paper cut-outs, unfinished manga-like drawings, and displaying words on the screen, it was still charming and pleasant to look at. It didn’t always work for me, but at least it was trying. And at least it never came off as smug as Sasami-san, which has no excuse for that style now that Shaft is swimming in money.
Then I actually started to pay attention to the anime and I was astounded at what I was seeing. I didn’t pay that much attention to the summary, so I didn’t know that Kare Kano was a non-porno mixture of Wise Ass and Binetsukko Flat (no, I’m not giving you the links to determine what those are). But yes, the anime started out by introducing us to our main girl named Miyazawa Yukino, who is perfect in just about everything she does to the point that people believe her to be a model student. However, the perfection is just a facade in order to hide a nasty girl that desires attention, so when she finds that a boy named Arima Soichiro is surpassing her in just about everything she does, she struggles to steal the attention away from him. One day, she accidentally reveals her true self to Arima and he makes her his slave in exchange for keeping her secret (and not the sex slave stuff that I’m so used to seeing thanks to college). She inadvertently falls in love with him and after some scuffles between the two, they patch things up and become friends before eventually becoming lovers.
And that was amazing. For ten episodes, I was buying into the fact that just like Clannad, the relationship started out slow but eventually built up to the point that not only did we get a confession, we get to see what happens afterwards. However, unlike Clannad, we didn’t need the VN pacing problems that are currently plaguing Robotics;Notes at the moment, thus the relationship story gets to happen much sooner. There’s all sorts of possibilities you can go from there, unlike Kimi Ni Todoke, which dragged out its relationship issues longer than fucking Suzuka.
I don’t know what happened, but the show just lost me afterwards.
One of the story parts explored after the confession is Yukino ditching her perfect facade and being more accepted by the girls. I really dug that part, but that also meant an increased focus on those girls in particular. And…they didn’t do much for me. We got a story revolving around the short girl named Tsubasa regarding how her father wants to remarry that she’s also in love with her new stepbrother, which I didn’t give two shits for because whilst I liked Tsubasa at the start for being a comedic foil that turned Yukino into a being who could marry Satan, I never actually cared about her as a person. It was also around this point that I realized that there were multiple flashback episodes throughout the series. They were presented stylistically and all, but they were still flashback episodes. I ended up skipping them because I wanted more of the relationship between Arima and Yukino and how they progress as a couple.
And then Anno left and the story focused less on the comedic aspect and more on the romance aspect, which was something the original author did not like, but I really loved about Kare Kano. The romance aspect was still good, mind you, and I did like Episodes 17 and 18 for bringing the couple back together and having them actually consummating their relationship. But it just didn’t have the same edge that I cared for in those first ten episodes, and that just saddened me.
Then the school festival preparation arc came and the results were…mixed.
Now I knew that the anime ended before we got to the school festival and the author’s dissatisfaction with the adaptation meant there was going to be no more, but the main reason I wasn’t getting into it was because the story shifted focus away from Arima and Yukino to a former fat kid named Takefumi. I dismissed his story and his relationship with Yukino’s tomboyish friend, Tsubasa, but it wasn’t what I signed up for (especially since I didn’t care for either the Tsubasa storyline or the one revolving around the Miyazawa family). However, I soon started to get into it because the concept was kind of cool (fat kid changes his image to surpass former bully, only to fall in love with her) and the execution wasn’t that bad either. It didn’t have the same impact that the Arima and Yukino story had, but it was definitely interesting to see. There is a story regarding Arima being jealous because Yukino is spending more time with her friends rather than him, but we never get to see how that turned out because the anime ended too soon. The final episode itself reminded me of the final two episodes of Evangelion and how much of a stylistic, but disjointed, budget-less mess it was. Nothing was resolved and we don’t have an End of Evangelion to resolve things. What a load of crock.
After thinking about it carefully, if I skip the flashback stuff, for a little more than half the series’ run, it nails that romance vibe I want to see when I watch a shoujo perfectly. I loved the main relationship and how it progressed, plus the comedy was pretty funny too. It’s definitely better than the quickly-paced, yet nowhere-plot, that is My Pet Monster. So overall, I think the anime is decent, but it definitely fell short of my expectations (I at least was expecting it to surpass Poppy Hill in terms of likability). Well, let’s hope the next JC Staff shoujo that I’ve got on my hard drive meets my expectations better.
- I switched to the dub version around the time I was starting to lose interest. Yukino’s dub was awesome (it’s the woman who voiced Ash Ketchum in the early years of Pokemon), but Arima’s was terrible.
- The only anime franchise/genre I’m hesitant to give a chance is Gundam. I’ll always check out Type-Moon, Shinkai, and Silver Link just to see if they’ll make an anime I actually like someday.
- To be fair, after watching Maison Ikkoku, you can only go down from there in terms of romantic comedies.