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Itazura na Kiss
Synopsis | Review

Itazura na Kiss translates to "Mischievous Kiss" or "Playful Kiss." I really liked this story right off the bat. It's one of those girl-likes-guy-and-guy-hates-girl stories. I can't really remember any other titles that are like that off the top of my head...oh yes! Sailor Moon started out that way. But in Itazura na Kiss, the guy really hates the girl, which is pretty sad. But I don't know, I guess I'm just a sucker for these kinds of stories. I suppose it's satisfying to see how the guy slowly realizes that he actually cares for the girl, which usually happens when the girl walks away. That stage makes going through the angst worthwhile. Oh dear, I think I definitely confirmed the fact that I'm a consumate rabid romantic shoujo fan.

Itazura na Kiss was written by Tada Kaoru. Here at the onset, I must say that this manga never ended. Well, it did, but not the way manga usually ends. Tada-sensei passed away before she was able to finish this series. That said, it's still a long-running series, at 24 volumes, and readers are able to obtain closure at some point, as I will later describe.

Synopsis
Aihara Kotoko has a mad crush on Irie Naoki for two years. Unfortunately, she couldn't have chosen a more unattainable object of affection. Naoki is known as the school genius and belongs in the top class. Kotoko, on the other hand, is in the bottom class. Her class is so rock-bottom that she and her classmates get flyers for jobs instead of universities.

The story starts out with Kotoko trying to give Naoki a love letter, which he flatly refuses immediately. The whole school then started buzzing about how Kotoko set her sights too high and that's where the reader finds out just how brilliant Naoki is and how stupid Kotoko is.

Later that afternoon, Kotoko's friends accompany her at home to cheer her up. Then her house collapses. Yes, it collapsed. Fortunately, her dad, Sai, has friends that can take them in while their house gets fixed. Unfortunately, that family happens to be Naoki's. To make matters more complicated, Naoki's mom absolutely loves Kotoko (she always wanted a daughter and would dress up Naoki as a girl when he was young) and his brother, Yuki, absolutely hates it (it doesn't help that she took over his room and he had to share Naoki's room).

Kotoko and Sai's stay with the Irie family was supposed to be temporary, but it carried on for a while. Actually, it became permanent at some point. Naoki's parents (especially his mom) and Sai set their hearts on Naoki and Kotoko getting married (and yes, they even talk about renovating the house with Naoki and Kotoko's bedroom and their baby's bedroom).

Of course, Naoki would hear nothing of getting involved with Kotoko, let alone marry her. However, he wasn't very consistent in his resolution and would come to Kotoko's aid every now and then, like when she wanted to prove to him that she's smart enough to get into the top 100 for their upcoming test. Naoki ended up helping her study and when the results were posted, he rushed to the board to see if she made it. She did ^^

It's not that Kotoko's totally undesirable. One of her guy friends, Kinnosuke, is really into her. The problem is that she couldn't look at anybody else but Naoki. Even worse, everytime she tries to get away from liking Naoki, he does something to raise her hopes (dammit, this sounds like my high school life). At one point, Naoki went as far as kissing her at their graduation party (hey. The title had "kiss" in it after all) and then smirking as he told her to then try and forget him. Which then shows that he's doesn't dislike Kotoko as much as he let everybody think.

Naoki and Kotoko ended up going to the same university. He was perfectly eligible and smart enough to go to Toudai (Tokyo University), but his heart wasn't into it and he ended up skipping the exam to take Kotoko to the hospital when she collapsed (insert "awww" noise here). He really had no idea what he wanted to do for a career, until one day Kotoko told him that he would make a great doctor. Hence, Naoki became a doctor :P And to be with him, Kotoko became a nurse.

Their college life was full of the same drama as their high school life, with Naoki spurning Kotoko, Kotoko bouncing between liking him and (pretending) not liking him, girls trying to take Naoki away, and guys trying to take Kotoko away. At some point, Naoki decided to go into an arranged marriage. Kotoko, heartbroken, started dating Kinnosuke. But when Naoki found out that Kinnosuke proposed to Kotoko, he lost it and finally told Kotoko that she can't like anybody else but him (insert another "awww" noise here). The whole scene was very dramatic, with Naoki waiting for Kotoko in the rain and her yelling at him that it doesn't matter that she likes him because he doesn't like her anyway (which, of course, is not true). That same night, Naoki asks Sai for Kotoko's hand in marriage. And yes, they got married.

Aaa-aand their married life had drama similar to their college life. Well, except this time, Naoki makes it pretty clear (most of the time) that he loves Kotoko. I especially like the part how Kotoko's classmates in her nursing school kept talking about how cool Naoki is and then refused to believe that she's married to him (aw, poor Kotoko). Then Naoki comes into the classroom and delivers a message to Kotoko from his mom XD

Review
If you can't stand soft heroines, you'll probably get annoyed with Itazura na Kiss pretty fast. Kotoko annoys me most of the time, but I just love it whenever she starts pulling away from Naoki and then he comes crawling back to her (in his own little way). That is probably my favorite part in any romantic story, if the story has that in the first place. Maybe that's why I can't stand female antagonists, but male antagonists who try to steal away the heroine are okay. Oh yeah, and
a lot of times, I just want to kick Naoki, but I'm especially a sucker for aloof guys who then cave in to The One (translation: the love of their life).

This is the only series wherein the story extends past high school, through college, and after college. Moreover, it extends even to married life, which shows that there IS life after happily ever after. Whenever I finish a high school romance series, I wonder if the characters would stay together forever and ever. Well. This series leaves no question in my mind that Naoki and Kotoko will stay together for that long XD Although I'm sad that Tada-sensei passed away before completing this (well, actually, that she passed away, period), I do think she had given her readers some closure.

If you share the romantic story sentiments that I have, then you ought to check out this series. Definitely. Putting up with the characters' exasperating personalities is worth it. And don't be bothered by the fact that it doesn't have a real ending. It gives a happily ever after, and that's all that matters, right? (uh, yeah, this is the part where you nod XD)

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