Archive for the 'itazura na kiss' Category

Itazura na Kiss: One Step Forward, 6.022×10^23 Steps Back

Although for all we know each of those steps back was as long as a Planck length, so maybe there’s still hope! And there’s still 18 episodes left, anyway. I’m frightened of the remaining episode count. I might destroy my monitor in a fit of passionate rage somewhere around episode 20 if I’m not careful.

As if this series wasn’t complicated enough for Kotoko, now, not only does she have to deal with the teasing/flirting/God knows what Irie dishes out to her, but she now has that one thing shoujo heroines fear the most: a Rival. Matsumoto Yuuko, who is “beautiful” (I find it highly amusing that many of the characters in anime that the characters describe for the viewer as “beautiful” are frequently anything but to my eyes, but I think we’ve already established in previous posts my sheer devotion to Kotoko where Itazura na Kiss is concerned, so this observation may be slightly innaccurate) and smart and intelligent (I won’t doubt those, although whether or not she has any kind of social grace is up for grabs); in short, she is everything Kotoko is not, or at least thinks she is not.

Although things are still in flux at the moment, as the rivalry only seems to extend to the two girls involved in it, leaving Irie totally out of the picture. It was with much relish that I noted that Irie treated every girl with the same disinterested way he treated Kotoko at the start. This tells us one important thing: Irie doesn’t really care for interacting with women, period. Whether it’s because he’s a chauvinist pig, overly concerned with his image as a cool, detached guy, or just simple disinterest in the act of pursuing women, the fact that he doesn’t fawn all over Yuuko–especially when you know he doesn’t know Kotoko is watching, as was the case in front of the tennis club (because if she was watching, Irie would probably be dropping some kind of bad pickup line on Yuuko,  just to spite Kotoko)–simply means that for him to feel any kind of emotion towards Kotoko–the “defrosting” moments–in his own tsundere way means that Kotoko has the edge up on just about everyone else. He only torments Kotoko about Yuuko at home, in private, when no one else is around, which lends a tiny bit more credence to this simply being him expressing…whatever it is he feels…to Kotoko, rather than outright maliciousness. He’s certainly much more playful in how he interacts with Kotoko than the cold cruelty he exhibited at the beginning of the series, which is a milestone if I ever saw one.

Either way, we won’t know what’s going to happen until next episode, which apparently involves dates and stalking and maybe some tennis practice (over one thousand push-ups. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to do a single push-up in my life, as I’ve never figured out exactly how to do them, despite being told multiple times by various gym teachers; imaginging one thousand of the things is enough to give me nightmares for a week), but probably far more of the first two than the third, as I’m pretty sure this isn’t Aim for the Ace!. Whatever happens, though, we still have two-thirds of the series left to go–anything and everything could happen, and frequently does. Despite the seemingly “stereotypical” plot setup (“stereotypical” in quotes because as far as I know, Itazura na Kiss set the stereotype, rather than following it), Itazura na Kiss has managed to surprise me in varying ways, both with the speed of the plot progression and with the actual events themselves.  Which is only a good thing.

Itazura na Kiss: I, uh…well, I…WHAT?

Wow. They are definitely not dilly-dallying around this time.

I really, really, really have no idea what is running through Irie’s mind at this moment. Is he playing yet another elaborate prank on Kotoko? Is this his true nature showing through? What is going on? The questions have no end!

If it is Irie playing a dastardly prank on Kotoko for God knows what reason, there could be two things at work here: one, he’s exacting revenge for Kotoko playing the childhood photo card, which was itself in revenge for Irie humiliating her in front of all his Class A friends. Two, and this kind of ties in with the first, he could be doing something even worse: messing with her emotions for his own personal pleasure. Since we really haven’t been given that much of a glimpse into Irie’s actual thought process, save for that one fleeting internal monologue a few episodes ago, the story is entirely from Kotoko’s perspective, so, technically, we are just as clueless as to Irie’s intentions as she is. it’s clear, though, that no matter what the intent of Irie was, the result on Kotoko will be her once again calling into question herself and her feelings. Considering that she was pretty intent on hating him when he dragged her out into the alley, Irie’s actions will only leave her more badly confused.

Of course, if what I mentioned a couple episodes ago and that Kotoko and Irie are merely having an extended, complicated, and delicious flirting session, then Irie is less being a malicious bastard and more extending this flirting to somewhat more serious levels. This, of course, is the fervent hope of all who follow this series, that Irie, deep down inside, really likes Kotoko, yet refuses to show it except occasionally. I highly doubt (this being shoujo after all) that Irie will end up, in the end, being a malicious bastard, but there’s always that remote chance of BAD END.

It’s also fun to look at Kare Kano, or, well, I think it is. Itazura na Kiss manga started in 1990, and Kare Kano started in 1995. What’s interesting is that, in Itazura na Kiss, the focus of the manga is the getting to the relationship, and the whole complicated process to arrive at that lofty destination. In Kare Kano (which arguably took some pointers from Itazura na Kiss, especially for its early parts) reduces the process of “meeting and falling in love” into merely the starting point for the series, changing the focus instead from getting the relationship that you desire to maintaining it. It’s almost like Kare Kano was a reaction to Itazura na Kiss, in some ways reducing the entire series into a volume or two of content, and then proceeding on with the story.

At any rate, I am now burning with desire for the next episode, because things are going to get Complicated with the addition of some kind of other girl (how dare you, Irie) so on top of the already wacky relationship balance between Kotoko and Irie, we get love triangles. Hoo boy. This could get intense, fast.

Itazura na Kiss: LOVE flom Kotoko

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.

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.

Itazura na Kiss: Slap of the Gods Part II: The Aftermath

This series makes it difficult to select just one screencap sometimes. This one won the contest hands-down, though.

So the turnabout that happened with the Slap of the Gods (it’s been almost a week and I’m still impressed by how epic that slap was. Yes, I know “epic” is a term applied to most anything these days; that slap, however, deserves the term) is still going on, with Kotoko mostly impervious to Irie’s general jerkery. I’m getting the feeling that each episode is cramming in as much manga content as they can before they hit the 26 episode limit and have to give an ending to the series. It’s not a problem so much as an observation–episode 4 seemed in particular as if they had taken three manga chapters and turned it into one episode.

It’s a testament to the strength of the direction, then, that this series avoided the fate of a muddled mess. Yamazaki Osamu proved adept at taking a three-volume work and crafting a 24 episode series out of it (Terra e…), and it seems he’s equally adept at getting a 24-volume work and getting 26 episodes out of it. I have the feeling, given the lack of experience of Shimizu Yukako, the chief writer, that Yamazaki is shepherding her through the process, but they’re both doing an admirable job. Despite the frantic pace, integrity and continuity is kept, without seeming too terribly jarring.

On the actual content of the episode, Kotoko is proving to the Iries that she, too, is quite a capable person. She saves Yuuki from certain death by drowning, and even invites him to (reluctantly) play with her friends a bit, which doesn’t seem to soften the snotty child much, but I think it’s evident that he’s got a bit more respect for her. Doubly so with Irie saving Kotoko when she gets a leg cramp (I hate those things)–there’s a clear sign that no matter how much Irie may dislike Kotoko, he can’t hate her. He even, by the end of the episode, seems to be doubting himself and second-guessing his reactions.

It’s interesting to note a small change in Irie’s personality–in the first episode, he was essentially dispassionate and remote from anything happening. He didn’t express much emotion at all, just apathy. Just four episodes later, he’s whacking Kotoko over the head when she gets a question wrong, but he’s not doing it in a cruel way. In fact, while he second-guesses himself in the study session scene, it’s clear that he has changed, and he notes this himself. Even if he’s only expressing negative emotions, he’s expressing actual emotions. For all his pretenses of distaste towards Kotoko, she’s got the power to affect him. The Irie of episode one wouldn’t have even apologized for teasing Kotoko the way he did (with rape–trust shoujo manga to bring this into play somehow), nor would he have offered her his notes.

I largely suspect that this shift is him grappling with complicated emotions rising within him (and perhaps less complicated and more primal urges rising as well). Most people get confused when someone brings out a complicated emotion within them, be it what Irie is feeling (I don’t think there’s a way to describe it, other than maybe “reluctant affection,” but it’s there) or a raging anger or something else entirely, often people don’t know how they should feel. They’re happy yet sad, intimate yet distant, and other juxtapositions of emotions. New emotions are always difficult things to deal with, and I expect this to be grappled with for the next 22 episodes.

This sense of the characters grappling with emotions is part of why I like Itazura na KIss. The other part of why I like it has to do mostly with cheering Kotoko on and booing Irte every time he steps onscreen. It’s like a different form of the excitement I felt while watching Rose of Versailles, although a 70s to 90s comparison isn’t quite fair to make for either side. When shoujo is done with the certain kind of dramatic flair that Itazura na Kiss is done with, it’s impossible for me not to love it, target demographcs be damned. And that’s what being an anime fan is about: damning the target demographics.

Itazura na Kiss: Most Satisfying Slap Ever


Yes, I just went there. Shining Finger indeed.

So I think that, after three episodes, Itazura na Kiss is now cemented as one of the top-tier shows this season. It’s so 90s shoujo that it’s like pure unfiltered awesome poured into my eyes for 24 minutes at a time. (I think hyperbole is going to be a common theme in Itazura na Kiss posts, as the show just invites it) There are a lot of top-tier series this season, making my life busy yet intensely enjoyable, and Itazura na Kiss is close to the top, if there is a top. Tops are kind of hard to come by these days.

Anyway, episode.

Episode 3 revaled an interesting aspect to Kotoko’s personality. Among the various things happening this episode, the important bit–Irie finally reading her love letter–was probably the most important. We don’t really know what he thinks of it yet, as Irie is still a giant enigma, but that’s not the interesting part.

The interesting part is when Kotoko smacks him for reading her love letter without her permossion.

Why is this interesting? Kotoko’s feelings about Irie are torn into two modes of thought, one of her idealization of him from a distance, something that’s always brought out whenever he seems to be kind or considerate, and her loathing of him for being, well, Irie. He’s not exactly the nicest person in the world to fall in love with, but I really have to wonder how much of his disinterest and verbal abuse is a facade to attempt to maintain his image at school. Kotoko, I think, realizes that Irie has two facets of personality, one which is sensitive and kind, and the other which is concerned with maintaing reputation. She’s torn between this image of Irie she has in her fantasy life in her mind, and the cold reality of what Irie actually is.

Torment over what to feel for a person, even a person less drastically tsundere as Irie, is harsh, and things always manifest themselves strangely. So when Kotoko finds out that Irie read her love letter, something she’s obviously wanted him to do, she’s essentially cornered. The way in which Irie recited the letter seemed almost to be mocking her in front of his entire family, who (being Irie’s family) were totally oblivious to the mocking tone he was adopting. Kotoko picked up on it, and put all the frustration of the past two and a half episodes into one hard slap to the face, at which point I shouted “Yes!” at the screen, because that’s exactly what Irie deserves. She clearly wants to love Irie (otherwise there wouldn’t have been that mishap during the relay) and, deep down, she admits this to herself earlier in the episode, but she’s quite clearly not going to take his attitude much longer.

It’s pretty admirable that she slapped him, actually; more girls in anime should do this when confronted with a guy treating them like dirt. It’s almost like a strange kind of women’s lib message tucked inside the shoujo exterior. By slapping him, Kotoko reasserts her right to independence, her right to live a life free of disturbance. It’s telling the shoujo fans of the world that no, you don’t have to put up with nonsense, even from someone you love, however idealistic that love might be. You have the right to assert yourself and take the other down a notch. I wonder if the little speech Irie made after Kinnosuke challenged him (the “you can come to love someone you hated yesterday” speech) was partially inspired from Kotoko’s drastic action. I don’t expect him to change his dastardly ways anytime soon, naturally, but that line is an admission that, perhaps,  his feelings on the matter are wavering a little. He might have a tiny bit more respect for Kotoko, and the idea is that every tiny bit of respect he gains for her builds up into a feeling of love (this is shoujo after all). I think this is true as well: his speech regarding the drawings posted on the board this time weren’t as harsh as the abuse heaped upon her last time. And the slap changed Kotoko too, as well as the speech: she’s now confident that he’ll change his opinion of her over time.

Amazing what a little slap to the face can do, sometimes.

Itazura na Kiss: Male Tsundere Before There Was Tsundere

Irie is such a delightful bastard. And Kotoko is still the cutest thing ever. Well, not ever, but you know. Hyperbole. There’s going to be a lot of it in this post, as I feel especially hyperbolic at the moment.

So, over the course of the last, what, two days now?, I’ve gone from thinking Itazura na Kiss is a fun retro-romp to thinking it is pure awesome broken up into 26 24-minute chunks for my viewing pleasure. Part of this has been exposing someone else to the glory that is Itazura na Kiss, and part of this is the fact that, after this happened, I spent the endire day jonesing for episode 2. Which I have just watched. And yes, it was Pure Awesome.

Other people have expressed their love and joy for Peach-Pit’s Shugo Chara! adaptation, and, while I watched two episodes and enjoyed them, I’m not much of a mahou shoujo person, so, for me, Itazura na Kiss is hitting that shoujo sweet spot that’s gone unhit for far too long, and it’s hitting it with pure, unadulterated, weapons-grade shoujo. In my face. And I, for one, welcome it. This is shoujo meant for actual shoujo, ladies and gentlemen (I expect, for this post, rather more of the former than the latter, but everyone here from the latter category, well, you’ve got the right mindset, probably) and it’s bowling me over. If the first episode left me with any minor doubts, they have been cast away in the forty-eight hours between episode 1 and 2.

But why do I like it? A good question indeed. The comedic timing of the series is spot-on, as expected from the talented Yamazaki Osamu. The lead female is appropriately adorable and lovable, and is a perfect example of a character you want to root on over the course of the series, and esecpially when she’s bullied by the dastardly Irie. The fun thing about the series is of course the tantalizing bits of shoujo-service scattered throughout. In the second episode, Kotoko blackmails Irie into tutoring her in her studies through the use of a photo of him as a toddler in a dress (Irie’s mother is hilariously awesome like this), and throughout the episode you get the feeling that they’re getting oh so closer and you’re getting all fired up in the way that only shoujo can make you fired up and then

And then it ends up all for naught, as Irie maybe hasn’t changed that much after all, but you don’t care because it’s shoujo. The original manga ran for 23 volumes (tragically cut short due to the abrupt death of the mangaka, Tada Kaoru), for one, and for two, Itazura na Kiss is probably the grandmother of this brand of shoujo wherin the relationship develops a bit, then goes backwards, then goes forwards, then goes backwards, etc. I was never really put off by that plot mechanism, really–it’s perhaps a tad on the unrealistic side, but then, this is manga and anime we’re talking about, so who gives a darn about realism? That’s why we watch anime, right? We’re tired of this realistic garbage! Or something.

There’s no way 26 episodes can cover 23 volumes of plot, so I’m assuming that Itazura na Kiss will be a much abbreviated version, albeit this time with an actual ending (at episode 2 I’m already getting upset over the remote future of the series ending; to console me I must remind myself that Gundam 00 will start around that dreadful time. But it still won’t be the same). I’m quite glad I’ve caught the stride of this series, and I will continue to follow it. I might not have something important or valuable to say every episode, but that’s probably more due to the seeming insanity of this season in terms of sheer volume of good series, rather than any fault with the series in general.

If there was some way to inject Itazura na Kiss intraveneously, I would totally do it. Next week can’t come fast enough.


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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June 2020