Itazura na Kiss is barreling down the road at 150 miles per hour and shows no signs of letting up. I do believe that this single episode covered two months worth of time.
This episode is pretty much the best episode yet (although I could probably say that for every preceding episode at the time of airing). Why is it the best, you ask? Because within this episode it is revealed that Irie Naoki isnot as much of a dick as reports would seem to indicate. His problem, as pointed out by his mother, is that he’s just too good to really know what to do with himself. Nothing challeges him, so therefore he’s bored with his life. Hence the sleeping a lot mentioned in an earlier episode, and the general “eh, I don’t give two whits” attitude. It’s also why he’s strangely attracted to Kotoko, even if he denies it: she’s the spice in his life, even if she’s more along the lines of a heavy dose of ground dried babenero rather than a light dusting of parsley.
I don’t know about you, but I was (once again) cheering at the screen first when Irie turned back to rescue the collapsed Kotoko. It was somewhat expected, honestly, but it was one of those moments where I’m all “do it DO IT DO IT” and then the character does it and then I’m like “YESSSSSSSSS“. And then it happened again when Kotoko tried to run away and Irie, of all people, “stops” her (I-It’s not like I’m stopping you or anything! I just want to be clear about some things regarding you and me!”). I mean, two Irie defrosting moments in one episode! And this is only episode six. What new horrors await us in the later episodes? Can any man or woman survive the almost certain shoujocaust at the end of the series? Will we be crying with joy or grief? DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL. Well, okay. The metaphorical dial. Since I don’t think there’s actually a TV made these days that actually has an actual dial, and at any rate you’re probably watching this series on your computer anyway.
The strength of Itazura na Kiss, I think, is that the writing and the direction drag you, provided you’re willing, up and down with the main character. This has always been the hallmark of good shoujo–I think there’s just something in the emotional “exaggeration” shoujo tends to perform (i.e. the phenomenon that the slightest mishap of the main character is a GRAVE, LIFE-RUINING ERROR that they have to fight against. I’m pretty sure this phenomenon is the fault of Ikeda Riyoko, God bless her) that grabs the reader/viewer and sends them on the whole complex rollercoaster ride of emotions. I don’t know if the term “melodrama” applies here or not, as I’ve never really been clear on its defintion in the modern world, but it seems somewhat pertinent to this situation, in the sense that things are exaggerated to ridiculous degrees. When I watch shoujo, more than cute girls, more than cute boys (were I into that), more than anything else, I want to be grabbed into this frenzy of emotion that lasts 24 minutes and has me spamming other people with “they did not just do that!” and “that was awesome” and other hyperbolic comments (they, of course, know not what I am talking about, but that never stops me). It’s an engaging experience, and engaging experiences are usually memorable ones.
And here’s an interesting tidbit: although I’m pretty certian that Itazura na Kiss manga was intentionally drawn out as long as possible to milk as much money from it as possible (as many popular series tend to be), judging from the anime version (which I will admit is most likely the abridged Cliff Notes version of the manga, so take this with a cube of salt) they’re actually doing a good job of stringing along the plot without making things seem like nothing is happening, or that no progress is being made. Again, it may just be a product of the intense compression the anime version applied to the manga, rather than an actual merit that could be ascribed to the manga, and it may be far too soon to tell, but I think that this is exactly what Itazura na Kiss is doing. It could be an explanation for its enduring popularity, since obviously there are enough people out there who still care about it for them to find making an anime version profitable.
How does it accomplish this? Simply by dropping these tantalizing bits of Irie defrosting. Maybe I’m just falling for the trap set up by the author, but, as seen above, every time Irie takes a step outside his comfort zone and does something unexpected (or expectedly unexpected) the end result is my inner teenage girl letting out a squeal of delight and glee. I’m not entirely sure why I have an inner teenage girl, but she’s there and she quite enjoys squealing. She also thinks Kotoko is a perky bundle of moe, which means that at least the two of us can get along decently well.
In all honesty, at this juncture, Itazura na Kiss is fast becoming one of my favorite shoujo series. Sure, I ranked Rose of Versailles higher than it (at the moment; I try never to give 10s to series I haven’t seen all of) and I love a good shoujo drama, but for light, relatively fluffy, adrenaline-pumping shoujo anime viewing, you don’t get much better than Itazura na Kiss. Of course, I have yet to see some of the more recent series along this vein (such as Lovely Complex), but I’ve always had a soft spot for older-style things.
And, yes, I’m using the term “adrenaline-pumping” in reference to a romance comedy. I think my adrenaline glands are broken or malfunctioning or something.