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Introduction to Kare Kano (His and Her Circumstances)

Kare Kano is a cute romcom that's often listed as an under-appreciated shoujo anime of the late 90s. But it has its own share of production problems.


KWEH!

Hideaki Anno is famous for creating and directing Neon Genesis Evangelion, but he also directed a romantic comedy shoujo anime. Or at least, about two-thirds of the season. The name of the manga-turned-anime series is Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou, or as it’s usually shortened, Kare Kano. It remains one of the more memorable shoujo titles of the recent decades for many reasons.

History

Japanese Kare Kano Manga Vol 1
Japanese Kare Kano Manga Vol 1

Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou (彼氏彼女の事情) is a manga written by Masami Tsuda (津田 雅美)), in production from 1996 to 2005. English-speaking countries usually translate the title as His and Her Circumstances. The title also has a second meaning: Boyfriend and Girlfriend Circumstances, as the word “kareshi” and “kanojo” are often used to refer to one’s boyfriend and girlfriend respectively.

As a whole, the series spans 21 volumes. Tokyopop handled the English translation and distribution of the manga in the United States.

Gainax adapted Kare Kano into an anime television series. It aired from October 1998 to March 1999. As I have said above, Hideaki Anno directed most of the 26-episode anime before he left the project. I will tell you why down below.

Kare Kano Complete Series DVD cover

Buy Kare Kano DVD on Amazon

Unfortunately, there is no legal stream of the TV anime in the US right now but you can get a copy of the entire season on DVD.

Story

Kare Kano tells the story of the relationship between Yukino Miyazawa (宮沢 雪野) and Soichiro Arima (有馬 総一郎). Miyazawa is a seemingly perfect girl in her first year of high school. She is smart, attractive, athletic, and a model student. All seems well until a more perfect boy named Arima transfers in. He proves to be smarter than Miyazawa, very kind, modest, and an even better student overall. In short, Arima steals Miyazawa’s spotlight. Miyazawa is unable to accept this and starts a personal rivalry with Arima.

Yukino playfully kicking Arima from his back
Arima and Yukino’s comedic moment

They soon find out that despite their respective flawless outward personae, their true selves are quite different. Moreover, they each have their reasons to put up such fronts. Both of our main characters will find trust, companionship, love, and acceptance from their own selves and each other.

Kare Kano’s Anime Production Problems

TBT - Kare Kano - Hideaki Anno
Hideaki Anno

Sources report that Hideaki Anno, the anime show’s sponsors, and Tsuda had disputes about the production. Some people who have watched the anime complain about the quality drop near the later episodes, while others lament at the abundance of still images and the different animation styles that Anno, presumably, chose to employ.

Anno had different vision for the animated series too. While Tsuda wanted to focus more on the romantic and comedic aspect of the story, Anno wanted to look into the relationships between Arima and Miyazawa. This clash of creators seems to be one of the causes that the anime drops in quality, is unfinished, and was eventually canceled. The other cause is a budget cut that severely affected the last few episodes.

My thoughts about Kare Kano

TBT - Kare Kano - The Couple Holding Hands & Smiling

I was initially surprised to learn about Anno directing Kare Kano after he created Neon Genesis Evangelion. Knowing that Evangelion is a much heavier anime in tone and content, I did not expect Anno to direct a romantic comedy series. Then again, Anno is now known for a diverse body of works including acting, animating, directing, and screenwriting.

If you are looking for a recommendation for a shoujo series, I say Kare Kano is pretty special in its own way. The story starts light and filled with nice servings of romance and comedy. The anime keeps the comedy sustained pretty much all the way until the end. The manga however, will eventually veer to the darker and more dramatic side of things.

The anime, despite the production woes, is beloved by many. Of course, there are many who would recommend the manga over the anime because it is more complete. Why not watch the anime and then read the manga so that you will get the appropriate ending to the story? Best of both worlds.

Shinji and Misato bantering at dinner table
Shinji and Misato

If you are familiar with Studio Gainax and Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion, especially the comedic and day-to-day part of the anime, you will see the similarities in direction.

As the story in the manga is said to take a darker turn, I am curious how Anno would have directed the anime to its proper ending. I wonder how different or similar the anime would be from its original source. Alas, the answer to my curiosity may never come.

Sources: Anime News Network (List about Hideaki Anno), Anime News Network (Kare Kano review), Nihon Review (His and Her Circumstances), and TV Tropes (Kare Kano).

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