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Review: Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou

Kare Kano is a tricky series to pin down. It attempts to be simultaneously cute, poignant, silly, serious, comic, and dramatic. There are many moments with each of these qualities, but they’re all blended together so thoroughly that it’s hard to form an overall impression which stands out in any area.

The story starts out simply enough: there is a girl in her freshman year of high school who has been acting the role of a ‘model student’ for her entire life. She does it because she likes the praise and adulation she receives. However, in high school, she finds for the first time someone who can not only compete with her at being ‘perfect’, but consistently beat her at it.

In anime there is only one option for two main characters of opposite gender: they end up together. However, this aspect of the series is one I really like; I think it tells a really touching story of first romance. Furthermore, it deals well with the self-discovery of two intelligent, introspective people.

Unfortunately, the series doesn’t manage to keep its direction. Though the series is very strong through at least its first two-thirds, it begins to falter. The focus shifts from the main characters and their relationship with themselves and each other to the supporting cast. In particular, a new character is introduced out of the blue whose only apparant reason to exist is to create artificial tension between the main characters and to get more screentime for the supporting cast.

Much of the remainder of the series focuses on a subplot between the new character and a formerly minor supporting character. It’s a nice enough story, but it feels both rushed and out of place in this series. The final episode of the series is a (hurried) attempt to close this subplot. This is too bad, because the plot between the main characters is still hanging wide open. They haven’t disappeared entirely from the series, but suddenly they are competing for screen time with this new subplot and losing importance. All development of those characters ends abruptly at episode 24.

Episode 25 has nothing to do with anything else at all in the series.

The overall feeling is that this is 2/3 of an excellent series, which suddenly morphs into about half of an average series. It feels disappointing, because while either story might have been interesting to see in its own right were it finished, both are left incomplete.

Visually, there are at least three distinct animation styles used repeatedly through this series: normal, stylized pretty-face (for romantic scenes), SD (chibi) (for action and comedy). Despite the rapid and frequent switches, it is obvious that production values were very high throughout (most of) the series. Episode 19 is a marked exception, and past that point, the crew is not beyond playing silly tricks to mess with the viewer. A fairly common one is to arrange such things as recaps, the opening and ending theme songs, and the actual story in non-standard orders. These mostly come off as annoying.

Genre: high school romantic comedy
Emotion: they should have just ended the series when the director quit instead of dragging it on
BTFS: .60

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