Manga Mondays: Kare Kano

After last week’s foray into… whatever you would call that, I decided to give myself time to recuperate and return to a series that I really love despite the fact that I actually haven’t finished it yet (whoops).

If I were to put His and Her Circumstance, more commonly known as Kare Kano (short for Kareshi Kanojo no Jiyou), on the spectrum of genres, it would fall somewhere between Kitchen Princess and Honey and Clover: there’s no way it’s not shoujo, but it’s certainly more ‘slice-of-life’-y than a lot of other shoujos. The series starts out following Yukino Miyazawa as she goes through her school life acing tests, having a bunch of friends, being basically perfect in any way. What I mean by ‘starts out’ is that this image lasts approximately seven pages into the first chapter and immediately slips when the other main character, Soichio Arima, is mentioned.

You see, Yukino is living a lie, and it’s a lie that many of us know very well. At school and in public she is the image of high school beauty and brains, what everyone aspires to be. Yet at home she is a slob who lounges around in sweats all day and works her butt off to achieve that public image for the sole reason of being praised. She is a self-proclaimed egomaniac. However, all of her hard work is seemingly for naught when Soichiro becomes the class representative. Not only did he ‘steal’ this title away from her, oh no, he also seems to be everything she’s not. He actually is the perfect, good looking, smart person that she has to act at being. Needless to say, this pisses her off. It pisses her off even more when he catches her slipping up in class, and so she starts working even harder to throw him off his high horse. It all seems to be coming together for her after she scores higher than him, but the façade is ruined when he visits her at home.

However, from his end Soichiro genuinely admires her. He continuously wants to be near her and feels as though it makes him better for it. He even confesses his feelings for her at some point (she turns him down at first). After the incident at Yukino’s house, he uses his insight into her actual self as a means of blackmail and forces her to help him with his student council work, least she be exposed to the entire school. However, it ends up being just a ploy to have her spend more time with him in a manner where she could actually be herself. It’s a little underhanded, but ends up being a mutually beneficial arrangement.

From these two chapters—yes, this all happens in the first two chapters—the two of them begin reconsidering what they really want out of life and how to balance their “public” selves with their “actual” selves (spoiler: Soichiro isn’t actually perfect). As with Honey and Clover, this seemingly mundane task is what makes the rest of the series. Both of them go through school, deal with relationships (with each other and apart), and handle the drama that comes with them and we see how it shapes them into the adults they are in the last volume of the manga. Of course, what I find most interesting is how author Masami Tsuda creates such a meaningful, three-dimensional relationship from Soichiro and Yukino. Never do you feel that they aren’t their own people and never do they lose the strengths and insecurities that make them interesting. In such a long series (I think it’s about 21 volumes), it’s rather difficult to keep interest in a single relationship but by keeping the his/her style of storytelling the audience really becomes attached to the characters, so the relationship is actually a secondary thing.

I would definitely recommend giving this series a try. Yukiko is a hilariously awkward character and the friends they both make later into the series really round out the cast into characters that you may not like all the time, but you can respect their actions because they have purpose beyond building up the main characters, unlike many other shoujos.