To commemorate one year of writing for Bleeding Fool, I felt it necessary to pick another title that was both excellent, and perhaps lesser known.
The title is Masami Tsuda’s Kare Kano, or ‘His and Her Circumstances’ (1996 – 2005, LaLa Magazine). A 21 volume Shojo manga adapted into a 26 episode anime (Gainax/ J.C. Staff) by the renowned director Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shin Godzilla) from 1998-1999.
Often met with positive recognition, or curiosity, which is understandable as it occupies a strange ground that is neither popular gateway anime, nor criterion anime beloved by aficionados, Kare Kano went over well enough to see its complete manga released in the US, and its anime saw a DVD release through Right Stuf.
In fact, one can still purchase the whole series through Right Stuf, but like Seraphim Call, which I covered this time last year, the anime tends to stand small, in this case among the impressive entries in Hideaki Anno’s directorial works, partly because history sees its execution as troubled, and not wholly successful.
Premise wise, Kare Kano is not hard to understand.
Main character Yukino Miyazawa, a perfect student with intelligence and beauty enters high school and encounters an immediate stumbling block between her and an idyllic debut.
That block being one Soichiro Arima, a fellow freshman as academically gifted, and alluring as she is. At first Arima’s silent rival, Yukino plots to surpass and destroy him, but soon finds that he is, unlike her, a genuinely caring, and polite student.
This being something Yukino herself has been pretending to be since elementary school, Arima’s legitimacy is made completely apparent when he warmly congratulates her on scoring number one on a recent test, nudging him down to number two.
Her image shattered by sincere adoration, and kindness, Yukino finds her pride undone, with bare shame remaining in its place. She also discovers that Arima carries more than intellectual admiration for her, but a torch as well, even confessing his love several times only for her to turn him down!
One fateful Sunday morning Yukino accidentally lets her perfect image slip while at home when Arima happens to come calling. From that point forward, the dynamic of their relationship shifts drastically, Yukino being subtly blackmailed by Arima into doing his school committee related paperwork while he concentrates on Kendo, implying that he’ll expose what she’s really like, ruining her well crafted image if she doesn’t.
When Yukino concludes that being used in this way is despicable, she decides to tell Arima off, the resulting confrontation leading the two to open up personally with each other.
Yukino has put up a flawless image to garner attention and praise for so long she has difficulty seeing herself any other way, while Arima has pursued a perfect image to escape the stigma of his abusive, neglectful parents, and be worthy of his loving adoptive ones (his uncle and aunt). This vulnerability eventually leads them to drop airs and try to be their real selves, which then leads to a romantic relationship between them that drives the plot of both the original manga, as well as the anime adaptation by Anno.
Masami Tsuda’s original material approached the ideas of facades, social pressure, and past abuse while also exploring the various kinds of high school romances. Intricate, and nuanced, if not daring in how she delved into the sorted aspects that obsession, and jealousy can also play into such relationships, it is Anno’s adaptation that is ultimately more accessible.
Anno’s prior anime being Evangelion, which was gloomy and brooding in contrast (to put it mildly), takes a noticeably lighthearted route with Tsuda’s work, something she wasn’t particularly happy about, resulting in friction between the two.
Anno breaks up the melodrama and introspective moments by focusing on the humor, using an avant garde storytelling structure utilizing various stylized still images in the episode as well as reused animation…though, this may have been partly Anno trying to stay within budget…
This lean towards levity makes the dub immensely enjoyable, as it translates well, the English vocal cast made up of some recognizable talent, namely Veronica Taylor (Ash Ketchum – Pokemon, 1997) in the role of Yukino Miyazawa, where her force of nature performance fits perfectly. Rachael Lillis (Misty, Jesse, also from Pokemon) is present, covering adults and teenagers alike, namely Yukino’s mother, and one of Yukino’s friends made later on in the series.
Fans of the Naruto series might recognize Liam O’Brien (Gaara) giving life to a much more hysterical character in Hideaki Asaba. Yukino’s youngest sister, Kano, is voiced by Pokemon regular Megan Hollingshead. Best known as Nurse Joy from Pokemon, and Matsumoto Rangiku from Bleach (2004-2012), respectively.
Christopher Nicholas (Sao Oki – Hades Project Zeorymer, 1988 – 1990) supplies the voice of the deuteragonist, Soichiro Arima, bringing a soft spoken, calm confidence to the role that acts as a good foil to Taylor’s substantially louder, self centered Yukino.
Returning to the anime, which covers the first seven volumes of the manga, Anno’s focus being less on the romance, and more on the comedy became a point of division with the author. Anno would direct 16 episodes before vacating the position to Hiroki Sato, now co-director, writer, and co-writer in the credits going forward.
The creative differences between Anno and Tsuda irreconcilable, coupled with the aforementioned budgetary issues, as well as Anno’s frustrations with the production, the anime came to an abrupt end in late March of 1999, an open end.
Still, the anime manages to deliver a sober theme about the person one presents to the public, and the person one keeps to themselves
Or put more simply, who anyone is beneath it all.
In spite of the day and night differences from Tsuda’s pen to the interpretation of Anno’s cels, the take away message is found to be the same in both mediums.
Love, and honesty are things that dig us out from under our egos, and disarm us of our personal vanities. We are left with nothing but ourselves, and we are open to be hurt. That is the gamble of knowing someone, of knowing any kind of intimacy.
Love is a risk, but a risk worth taking…
*Images obtained from animegalleries.net