Archive for May 4th, 2008

Itazura na Kiss: Flirting and Kotoko

Best photo ever.

I honestly no longer think Irie actually has any kind of animosity or apathetic feelings towards Kotoko any more at all. If he was apathetic, he wouldn’t even bother to talk to her, let alone cede to her demands upon his time. If he was actively hostile to her, then he certainly wouldn’t have waited until the photo op to mention to Kotoko that, oh, by the way, I saw you working hard at your job. The two know each other well enough now to have fallen into the usual repartee that dominates any two human relationships, and Irie isn’t being cold-hearted and cruel so much as he is giving Kotoko a hard time. I don’t think he’s quite at the point where he’s so in love with Kotoko that he’d be fawning over and gushing with ebullient praise, but he’s quite clearly entering into the complex dance that is the game of flirting.

It’s funny how people do this all the time. We’ve seen at least two examples of “flirting” in Itazura na Kiss itself, although I hesitate to call Kin-chan’s rather forthcoming advances as “flirting” so much as a painfully awkward attempt to flirt without actually knowing how one flirts. Of course, flirting is probably some kind of bizarre human mating ritual that operates more on an instinctual level than a conscious level, so, of course, one actively trying to flirt will always end up being rather painfully awkward.

If it’s a natural process, though, then the whole complex set of emotions that defines Irie and Kokoto’s relationship, that on-again, off-again relationship that leaves some wondering why Kotoko doesn’t just ditch Irie since he’s clearly a manipulative bastard. The thing is, it’s just not that easy to drop one’s feelings for someone else, and Kotoko clearly had an almost slavish devotion to Irie before they wound up in the same house together. Rather than being an unrealistic, non-progressive represntation of girls in general, Kotoko instead is a fairly realistic representation of your average girl. Yes, I advocate women’s power and all that, but when you really boil it down, her devotion to Irie isn’t necessarily some kind of fault in her for not being assertive enough (she’s certainly assertive, because otherwise she wouldn’t have slapped Irie), but rather an indication that she’s simply caught up in emotions and feelings, which, well, is what teenagers do. It’s not a perceived lack of guts and independence on her part, she’s just conflicted and torn due to the whole process of flirting.

This realistic, or, well, what I perceive to be realistic, representation of the conflicting emotions of being trapped in the flirting pinball machine (being played by an expert pinball wizard aiming for an unbeatable high score, in this case)  seems to me to be the source of Itazura na Kiss’s enduring popularity, both in the 90s and now. I haven’t had the chance to read the original manga, so I can’t say that for sure, but as long as this anime is faithful to the original, then I’d say that’s a pretty fair assessment. People, teenagers in particular, like fiction that portrays the complex world of emotions that is everyday life, and if Itazura na Kiss can accomplish that on top of being fun to watch, then so much the better. It gives a certain sense of security that, no, you are not alone with your feelings.


I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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May 2008