Kareshi Kanojo no Jijo
(His and Her Circumstances)
A Parent's Guide to Anime
Parental Guidance Advised
Reviewed by Rosalyn Hunter:
Kare Kano is an romantic anime based on a shojo (girls) manga by Masami Tsuda. The story is centered around an honor student named Yukino Miyazawa and her relationship with her boyfriend Soichiro Arima. This is a very funny and sweet story.
What makes this anime version particularly interesting is that it is produced by Gainax studio's Hideaki Anno who did Neon Genesis Evangelion. Apparently Hideaki Anno felt burned out after Evangelion and wanted to work on "Anime for little girls". At the time of my viewing, Kare Kano is available only in fan-sub although the US rights have been purchased. The English in the subtitles tends to be poor, but a commercial tape may take some time to produce as this anime uses text as an integral part of the animation in a comic book style.
The animation varies greatly in style from fairly detailed, to line drawings, to paper cutouts. Also, the director's use of live-action shots, excessive summarization, and slow pans of still pictures, has led some to accuse the team of NOT animating this work. This becomes worse at the end of the series where it seems they must have lost one of their voice actors and used a strange technique to get around the fact.
But don't let any of the hype keep you from watching this beautiful piece of work that explores the rarely shown story of a couple learning to love and trust each other.
The story begins by introducing Yukino Miyazawa (names are in western order- family name last). A first year high-school student (sophomore) who others see as perfect. Secretly she is greedy and selfish, but she spends all of her energy working to make everyone admire her. At school she is modest, sweet, and considerate. At home, with her family, she continues to be messy and selfish. Thus she leads a double life.
Her biggest problem in her new school is that she must share the admiration of the other students with another honor student Soichiro Arima. He was picked to give the speech for the entering students. This angers Miyazawa who must be nice to this person who she sees as her greatest rival. She spends all of her time studying so that she can humiliate him, and passes his grade to get the number one ranking on the midterm exam. Although all of the students are impressed with her, when Arima complements her on her score, she realizes how shallow she is, compared to Arima. She is embarrased. Arima later confesses his affection for her, but she turns him down.
One Sunday Arima comes by her house to visit and sees her other side. She is terrified that he will tell everyone that she is a fake. When nothing happens for several days, she thinks that she is free, but then Arima blackmails her into doing his homework to buy his silence. Eventually Miyazawa snaps saying that she doesn't care who he tells and runs away. He chases her down, and confesses that he never planned to tell anyone. It was all a ruse to spend more time with her. The two become friends. By episode four, they are boyfriend and girlfriend.
They go through many ups and downs in their relationships. Arima has problems with intimacy because his abuse and abandonment as a child makes him believe that he is never good enough. That is why he tries so hard to be a good student. Miyazawa has spent so much time hiding her feelings, that she finds it difficult to confess her feelings of love to Arima. He often sees this as rejection.
Not only must they learn to communicate their feelings for each other, but they must overcome the interference of outsiders. The teachers call in their parents when their relationship affects their grades; and other students (Asaba Hideaki and Shibahime Tsubasa) are rivals for Arima's affections, as well as the new student Takafumi Tonami who is attracted to Miyazawa causing Arima to be filled with maddening jealousy.
On top of this, since Miyazawa has stopped putting on her Miss Perfect act, she has left herself open to criticism and attack by classmate Maho Izawa who envies her popularity.
This anime focuses on the problems that the couple have communicating and dealing with their new relationship. How they feel about themselves and others. Their desire to remake themselves into better people for each other. How their relationship affects their relationships with their family and friends.
It goes from first noticing each other, to becoming boyfriend and girlfriend: the first date, the first kiss, long distance relationships (phone calls), even the first sexual experience. I think that it would be an excellent spring board to open discussion on these topics with a teen. This anime shows parents supporting the decisions of their kids most of the time. In awkward situations, parents speak up and defend their children.
Some of the topics for discussion found in this anime include:
- Low self-esteem due to verbal abuse.
- Fear of loosing oneself in a relationship.
- Public and private faces.
- Bullying (Tonami).
- Parents remarrying (Tsubahime).
- Death of parents (Yukino's father's grandfather)
- Marrying young (shown favorably).
- Working hard to have good grades.
- Compassion, Jealousy, Friendship.
This is all done with feeling and humor. Except for some small reservations on the appropriateness of the sexual content in one episode, I recommend this work.
Parent's Guide Rating:
yellow (parental guidance advised)
SPOILER: In the episode called evolution, the couple have sex. It is not at all graphic, and is tastefully done, but there is no mention of birth control (the two get lucky). In a later episode Arima asks Miyazawa if her body is OK.
It only happens once however.
In one scene when Miyazawa seems to reject Arima, he uncharacteristically throws her against the wall. In a later episode they show Arima imagining Mizayawa as a naked angel that he has pulled down from the sky with chains.
Also, as in many anime, people tend to fall for each other regardless of sex. Same-sex affections may offend some viewers, but nothing graphic is shown. Sometimes this is used for humor.
Other concepts addressed are abusive family relationships, and love between step-siblings (only hinted at in the anime).