Miyazawa Yukino is the most recognizable girl in school and the president of her class. She has no weaknesses, and her grades are always good enough to put her at the top of the honor roll. On top of that, she makes new friends easily, which has always made her an object of admiration. In reality, however, all this is nothing but her other face. She loves being the center of attention and expects an endless stream of compliments. That’s why she has a burning hatred for the zwangeo boy Arima Souichirou (despite treating him as a good friend in front of everyone), the school president and a student of her class, who seems to her to be even more perfect than herself.
The time for the exams came. Yukino’s score gave her first place in school – expecting frustration from her rival, she receives hearty congratulations. Startled, the girl begins to question her lifestyle for the first time in her life. Soon after, Souichirou confesses his love to her, however, she rejects him. The next day, he pays her an unannounced visit at home, bringing the music CDs he promised earlier. There he gets a chance to see Yukino’s true face.
Since he doesn’t know how to spend more time with her, he comes up with an idea to blackmail her – he threatens to reveal the truth if she doesn’t help him with his duties as school president.
Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou – Audiovisual design
I don’t quite know where to begin. Well, the Gainax studio was a mess back then. Literally every single thing that could be screwed up, was screwed up in the final edit. The topic is interesting and I could write a lot about these problems, but I recommend this post to those interested, because there is no point in me repeating the entire story. The best thing about it is that despite all these obstacles and a small budget, director Anno Hideaki (yes, the one from Evangelion among others), through his creativity, was able to make the whole thing look really good where it mattered the most. I really liked the character design. On top of that, their emotions were portrayed in a terrifyingly natural way, which combined with the great voice actors made for an extremely authentic effect.
When I started watching Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou I didn’t check who the director was. However, in many places I wondered if the director wasn’t Shinbo Akiyuki (iconic Shaft studio figure – Monogatari, Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase, Dance in the Vampire Bund, Hidamari Sketch, Maria†Holic, Nisekoi etc). Some of the scenes and the directing style (quick creative cuts, use of filtered real-world footage, use of certain scenery elements such as traffic lights to visually describe the current atmosphere of the series or the mental state the characters were in at the time – more on that later) were deceptively reminiscent of his work.
It was only after checking out the creators that it occurred to me how much of an influence Anno Hideaki had on Shinbo Akiyuki. Without him, most of the Shaft’s series wouldn’t be what they were. Going back to Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou – the visuals hide a lot of tidbits, references, and non-obvious references to the current events of the series. So do the videos we see during the end credits – they always reference the content of the story and the characters. In the first episodes, these are recordings of the school interior, later of the city scenery. The recap episodes, on the other hand, are footage of the building set, which perfectly represents what the episodes summarizing the events so far are.
The endings use one song – but it doesn’t always sound the same. In the episodes dedicated to Yukino, Enomoto Atsuko, the seiyuu lending her voice to the main character, can be heard primarily. In the episodes dedicated mainly to Souichirou, we hear the vocals of Suzuki Chihiro – analogously, the voice actor lending his voice to the main character. There is another variation completely devoid of vocals – in episodes where the main characters are pushed into the background. In addition, after the credits, the voice actresses who lent their voices to Yukino’s younger sisters – Watanabe Yuki and Yamamoto Maria appeared in their own persona impersonating the protagonists, presenting a preview of the next episode from the perspective of the younger sisters.
The audio doesn’t deviate one bit from the visuals. The score is mostly jazz and songs consisting almost exclusively of piano (and a brass ensemble straight out of the mecha series in short synopses at the beginning and end of almost every episode). Of course, these are used appropriately for the atmosphere of specific scenes. The two main themes accompanying more serious events each time gave me goosebumps and triggered strong emotions – where usually this kind of music doesn’t move me. However, combined with the long monologues and thoughts of the main characters and what my eyes saw, Sagisu Shirou’s soundtrack only heightened all the emotions, so it achieved what every composer wants. I will definitely be returning to it.
Another thing is the voice actors. Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou is a 1998 series – you can hear here that the voice acting style is a bit different – that doesn’t mean it’s worse (to be clear). Enomoto Atsuko as Yukino is really something wonderful. It’s hard for me to even describe how well she did her job, both at the very beginning where the main character had completely opposite two faces and later when she started to accept who she is.
Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou – Plot and characters
Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou tells the story of high school students Yukino and Souichirou. It portrays their struggle with their past, their everyday life and the blossoming feelings between them. But that’s not all – apart from focusing on their relationship, there are plenty of side plots that are not taken lightly and have a real impact on the events and development of almost every character, who also have solid backstories in many cases. It makes us quickly get to know them. The first thing that got to me was how naturally events are presented – including the characters’ inner thoughts. On top of that, Yukino’s family (including her siblings) reminded me a bit of my own – I’m also the eldest (I have two younger brothers), and the scenes depicted in her family’s house more than once almost dotted the same lines as when I was in high school.
Yukino and Souichiro have parents they can count on in difficult situations. Yukino has a loving, outspoken and lively family, while Souichiro’s home has a serious, formal atmosphere – his parents are well-known and respected doctors.
Although I would like to write more about the side characters – I don’t want to spoil them, and unfortunately without spoilers it’s difficult to say anything about them.
Directing style and symbolism
KareKano’s main premise is to show in detail the interactions between the characters – the development of feelings, friendship, the building of trust, self-acceptance, and the struggle against adversity. As I mentioned earlier, Anno Hideaki relied heavily not only on dialogue alone (which is great), but also on the sense of sight and hearing. Hence the plethora of intermediate scenes connecting the various scenes.
At first glance, these seem to serve only as fillers and binders between events when there is a longer break in time (for example, the afternoon turns into evening). When we look closer, we see something really interesting (Shinbo Akiyuki did exactly the same thing in the Monogatari series). Traffic lights naturally symbolize movement, so it was hardly surprising that they were used to link scenes with events at school and family homes. I’m sure everyone subconsciously saw this as the natural order of things.
What caught my attention, however, were the colors of the traffic lights in each episode/event. The red light symbolized a problem – an unexplained issue, the main characters’ struggle with something. Green lights preceded or summarized positive events. Off lights, on the other hand, the impending problem. There were also combinations of red and green lights (analogously signifying a gradual progression towards resolution of certain situations). Another example of this type of imagery was a combination of two factors – rainy weather (naturally symbolizing a melancholy mood) and gutter pipes from which incredible amounts of silted water flowed, which heralded the discharge of strong emotions and emotional confrontations. There were some inserts of this type (like a car traffic jam, railroad crossings) and it’s worth paying attention to them yourself.
Watching Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou from episode to episode, I began to understand the phenomenon of legendary Anno Hideaki. While Evangelion didn’t strike me as much, here literally every scene confirmed to me that it deserved its place in history.
Unfortunately, the problems with KareKano’s production began to get worse. The author of the manga source material himself (Tsuda Masami) was not too happy with the adaptation – in his opinion, too much time was spent on comedy scenes (whereas in my opinion, the balance between idyllic life and serious scenes was just perfect). On top of that, there was a lot of bickering within the studio itself, which resulted in Anno Hideaki being ousted as director after episode 17. This resulted in a significant drop in quality on basically all levels, except voice acting. Starting with the extreme understatement of the quality of the animation and the drawing itself, through the directing itself. Tsurumaki Kazuya simply couldn’t pull this series off at the level that Anno did. Budget shortfalls were also evident at every step. Did it affect my perception of the whole? As illogical and absurd as it sounds – no. No, because what Anno created made its mark also on the last few episodes, with which he had little in common.
Evaluation and summary
It’s rare for me to swallow a series of over 20 episodes basically at once. Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou is one of them. My fascination was probably evident in this review (as well as its length – more than twice as long as most of the posts I make here), so it’s obvious that I really enjoyed the whole thing. I dare say that the compilation of ingredients (visuals, direction, voice acting, symbolism, soundtrack, characterization, broad aesthetics, etc.) made me not only claim that KareKano is one of the best romances I’ve seen, but also one of the best series I’ve seen overall. I wholeheartedly recommend it to lovers of slightly more serious melodramas that don’t create artificial problems and focus heavily on character development. Every time I think I’ve seen the best of the series I’m proven wrong and there are many more gems like this one waiting for me.
Due to the fact that the story is cut short (as if anyone was looking for information on where to start reading the manga after watching the adaptation – 33rd chapter, volume 7), I ordered a full set of the source material right after the screening started (the DHL courier showed up 3 days after placing the order!). When I finish reading it, the review will surely appear here as well.
Which translation do I recommend to watch Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou?
- Nyanpasu – It is mainly thanks to them that I finally watched this series. I’ve been planning to watch it for a long time, but I’ve been putting it off for years. When I compared the Nyanpasu subtitles with the official ones (e.g. those in the Judgment release), I started watching the series right away. I would improve a few more things myself, but the most glaring problems of the official translation have been corrected, so I can recommend it with a clear conscience.