"Journey and Love of Kindred Spirits"
His and Her Circumstances
1998-99 26 episode TV series
Well, hope everyone had a good Valentine's Day. Yeah, I know its two days past that I'm posting this review but I still think it counts. Also, I have reached my 50th review. Wow, it took me a year and a half to get to this point. Figured since I started this with a Gainax production, "Otaku no Video", I will talk about another Gainax production, "His and Her Circumstances". Full circle and all that jazz...
"His and Her Circumstances", or Kare Kano, was an original manga by Masami Tsuda. It tells the story of Yukino Miyazawa, a HS freshman student at Houkei Prefectural School. She may seems to be a model student: delicate, ladylike, always willing to help people out. But, it is all an act as she is very proud, obsessed with grades and appearance and strives to become the "The Ultimate Queen of Vanity". But, one day she meets Souchiro Arima, another perfect student. But, she later finds that he is also a fake, but for entirely different reasons, tying into his rather unpleasant past. Soon, the two fall in love and strive to "live for their true selves". Of course that's just the beginning.
Of course, you would know of this much if you have even glanced at this show, as it goes out of its way to dump this info through all the episodes, an exposition overload as you will. Every episode has at its start a recap of what happens in the show. Old-fashioned you say, I say product of the times: It was a weekly show, and internet replay was practically non-existent.
In terms of story, this series shines quite a lot. I can say that most current romantic comedy slice of life series in anime are very dull. Focus is on how the main couple gets together, fraught with misunderstandings and contrived obstacles (cough Toradora, cough Love Hina, cough cough etc.). Thankfully, Kare Kano doesn't have that problem. It deals with how Yukino and Arima get together, sure, but then goes into how their relationship shapes up, with all the lows and highs, and how that influences their daily lives. Even when it isn't focused on the main couple, the stories of the supporting cast (Shibahime's changing family life for instance) are still interesting, touching on issues of family, relationships and love. I'm hard pressed to find that in most current rom-com anime, sorry to say.
Characters are similarly strong. Everyone in the cast is very interesting, even side characters (like the main couple's family members or other classmates) that don't get much screentime. They are all in their own way compelling, from Asaba the playboy-best friend to Arima even to Yukino's two younger sisters Tsukino and Kano.
Animation is a different matter. Studio Gainax produced the animated adaptation of this manga, directed and written by Hideaki Anno who also helmed the previous Gainax production Evangelion. The look of this show can be best described as 'postmodern mish-mash'. Take the animation style of the last two episodes of Eva and apply it to a rom-com anime, and tada! Kare Kano. Lots of still shots, storyboard drawings, SD chibi, real life pictures coupled with competent animation all strategically placed together to create a rather unique look overall. Anno at the same time reined in a lot of the psychoanalytic babble that plagued the last third of Eva, and that's for the best in regards to this show.
But, partway through production, Anno left the project and unfortunately it shows in the later episodes: Animation gets a bit inconsistent at times and the series suffers for that. Still, the animation is competent given the low budget that this production had. Cheap yet charming applies wholly to this series.
Lastly, the English dub is very good. This was a NY-based dub, so V.A.s like Veronica Taylor, Jessica Calvello, Megan Hollingshead, Rachel Lillis, Liam O'Brien, Lisa Ortiz, etc are featured in this English dub. Most of them do a good job, which coupled with a good adaptive script by Crispin Freeman, make me recommend strongly that one watches Kare Kano with the English dub.
Now, I have read some criticism directed towards this series. First off, is that the original mangaka disparaged the show as being too comical and not enough romance. To that I say, bull-pocky. The show has the right balance between romance/drama and comedy. Sure the comedy is wacky surreal OTT Gainax for the most part, but that's Gainax for you. Also, in every adaptation stuff will change-get used to it. Secondly, the Gainax ending doesn't actually come into play here. The series was canned after only one season. It doesn't so much as end as it just petered out. Which is a shame as towards the end it seems to pick itself up and getting ready to move forward then just stopped. What a bummer.
Final word: I recommend that everyone should at least check this out, even if you are not a fan of romantic comedies or jaded/indifferent by Gainax productions recently.
Next review is on Spice and Wolf Season 1, to be released on February 24.