Kare Kano translates into "His and Her Circumstances." It was directed by Hideaki Anno, who also directed Evangelion.
This anime is making me take a dose of humble pie. The first time I watched it, I completely hated it. Why? Because it started out so awesomely that my expectations for subsequent episodes went through the roof. Now that I think of it, those expectations were too much, as I wanted an exact type of story to unfold. And when it didn't (of course), I was upset. My sister even tried to talk me out of my chargrin, as she saw this series too and liked it. But I was set in my ways, back then.
And then, somehow, years later, I wanted to watch this again. This time, I had completely no expectations and I loved it. I was also able to read the manga (because I loved the anime so much). Originally, this review bashes that series. I figured my previous review doesn't do the anime or manga justice, so I remade it ^^.
Kare Kano had 26 episodes and ran from 1998-1999. The manga, on the other hand, ran longer than that. Its timeline went beyond that of the anime. It was written by Masami Tsuda.
One day, Miyazawa turns around and realizes that her status at the top of the school totem pole is threatened. There's this guy in her class, Arima, who's gorgeous, smart, and popular. He also excels in athletics, is great at oration, and always gets selected to lead their class. The problem is, this guy is genuine--all these things come to him naturally while Miyazawa had to work especially hard at them.
If Miyazawa really is the person she pretends to be at school, she'll probably be happy for Arima. As it happens, she's not really sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice, and she just wishes Arima dead. Or something to that effect. Basically, she wishes ill-will towards Arima just because he's the real thing, and it only reminds her how fake she is. Which causes a conflict for her. How could she be hostile towards someone at school when everybody there thinks she's all nice and sweet? It's not like she coud avoid Arima either--they are just so good at everything that they end up being together at a variety of functions. At one point, they get around to talking and Miyazawa just had to gush that she liked a particular concerto (of course, it's all for show. She likes pop music) and Arima offers to lend her his CD. She demures, although deep inside, she's definitely pissed at how much of a rich boy he is (and he actually listens to the crap she gushed about).
That became her downfall. That Sunday, she was slouching about at home while her family went off to the movies. It was one of those days when she didn't feel like doing anything and just relished being out of her ideal schoolgirl guise. Then the doorbell rings. Thinking it was probably her sisters coming back for the umbrella, she bursts out of the door and slams into Arima, who thoughtfully stopped by to lend her his CD. Which got her busted. Arima saw an opportunity and went for it. Miyazawa easily knuckled under blackmail and was soon doing his homework for him, which shows that maybe he's not such a nice guy after all.
Kare Kano is basically about Arima and Miyazawa's circumstances (hmm, maybe they should work that into the title or something). Although they didn't start out okay, they soon decided they had feelings for each other and became a couple. Along the way, Miyazawa shed her ideal schoolgirl image and started being more like herself, even at the expense of alienating their classmates as they all felt misled with her charade. Arima, on the other hand, had to deal with skeletons in his closet, in the form of bitter family issues. They also get around to meeting friends--apparently, Miyazawa was so busy with her ambitious pursuits before that she never got around to making friends. These people have their own sidestories as well.
Even though I changed from despising this anime to loving it, I still had some issues with it that I could not let go. First, the anime had waa-aay too much rehashing. Specifically, two narrators--typically Miyazawa's younger sisters, Tsukino and Kano--gushed over how their sister had two faces and how later on she and Arima conquered all odds to be together. Once or twice was okay. Doing it more than that is just irritating. There was even an episode or two that contains nothing but synposes of the events that already happened (and that the viewer had already seen). Arima and Miyazawa's story could have gotten futher in the anime if only characters didn't remind the audience so much that this couple had been through a lot. The whole thing screamed "filler" to me.
One more unforgivable thing in Kare Kano is that episode with cardboard cutouts of characters. Yes, cardboard cutouts of characters. Throughout that episode, I was praying that it was just a brief spoof and that in the end, they would revert to their normal selves. But they never did. *sob* I was so glad when I saw that the next episode is back to nice, 2-D again. The whole thing just reeked of laziness to me. And just when the TV producers couldn't appear lazier, they did the final episode all with manga shots. Yep, manga shots. It was probably an ad: the anime is ending, but the manga lives on. The manga has the force! The manga will set you free!
The manga does have a more profound storyline than the anime. The anime ended with a hint about Arima's decline. The manga showed that decline. There was a point in the manga where the focus turned to other characters of the story--Miyazawa's friends. If I was following this manga every week in the magazines, I would've been pissed. But since I read the first 18 volumes all at the same time, it was just a minor irritation. Following this little diversion, Arima and Miyazawa's story resumed, fast-forwarding from their first year of high school to their last year. And they lived happily ever after. The end. Just kidding. You'll just have to read the manga and see.
The anime is worth watching. In retrospect, I do agree with people that it's one of the best anime love stories around. Arima is not your typical guy. This really is a refreshing change: it seems lots of shoujo anime try to have a unique female protagonist, and the male protagonist always fits some strong, macho mold. Miyazawa is also a distinctive character, but like I said, shoujo anime is full of distinctive female characters. Isn't that ironic, that her distinctiveness makes her non-distinctive?