The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Itazura na Kiss

Title: Itazura na Kiss aka Mischievious Kiss
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Company: TMS Entertainment
Format: 25 episodes
Dates: 5 Apr 2008 – 27 Sep 2008

Synopsis: Aihara Kotoko and Irie Naoki attend an elite high school but are separated by a class barrier. Irie belongs to the A-class, for the academically gifted, while Kotoko is firmly entrenched in the F-class for the… not so smart kids. But Kotoko has always had a crush on Irie and eventually summons the courage to give him a love letter. However, Irie flat out rejects Kotoko and doesn’t even bother to read her letter. It’s not the worst thing to happen in Kotoko’s day, though, with her family’s new house collapsing after a mild earthquake. Kotoko needs a place to stay, and her father sorts something out with an old friend of his from way back, whose last name is, ironically, Irie.

The Highlights
Characters: A tad unpleasant at first, but grow on you with time.
Romance: Slow at first, but really takes off in the second half.
Animation: Crude.
OP and ED themes: Hata Motohiro’s “Kimi, Meguru, Boku” and AZU’s “Jikan yo Tomare” are particularly memorable.
Comedy: Irie’s mother steals the show.

To say that Itazura na Kiss resembles an anime from yesteryear isn’t too far off, since it’s an adaptation of an unfinished 90s manga that was unfortunately cut short due to the tragic and untimely passing of its manga-ka, Tada Kaoru. It’s probably more than fair to say this is a flawed anime, and it’s hard at times not to balk at a few of its elements, but as the series goes on the charm of its characters, particularly Kotoko, becomes harder and harder to ignore, which makes it a difficult series not to enjoy, particularly if you’re inclined towards the more old-school shoujo rom-coms. And while it doesn’t quite have the fast-talking witty repartee and the gender/class roles are reversed, this is about as close to a genuine screwball comedy as I’ve seen in anime.

The series starts off very slow, hinting at a rather routine and stilted rom-com, but things really accelerate in the second half of the series, with several years literally passing each episode. It’s after a plot point about half way through that this series really takes off, showing its best scenes and the best of its characters. I apologize for the upcoming spoilers, (although they are pretty much inevitable from the first episode), but it’s almost impossible to discuss this show without mentioning them. But this series takes a different philosophy from the standard anime romance that end when the leads become a couple, recognizing that a lot of truly interesting stuff happens when dealing with the challenges of a long-term relationship. Itazura na Kiss doesn’t just maintain its momentum after Kotoko and Irie get together… it increases it.

A mark of a good romance story is that the character development and relationship development are intricately intertwined, and that’s certainly the case here. To be perfectly honest, the characters start out as pretty flat: Irie is a stuck-up jerk while Kotoko’s obsession of Irie borders on creepy. But once they become a couple, we begin to see different and more likable sides to these characters. By the end of the series both are capable, sympathetic and mature people who have grown up because of each other, and the series frequently points out just how their differences complement each other, and how much better they are as people when they’re together. The side couplings also follow similar patterns, but don’t get quite as much focus and aren’t developed to anywhere near the same extent as the main coupling. Nonetheless, while there’s hardly a likable character to begin with, there’s hardly an unlikable character by the end. The character development isn’t terribly complex, but the fact that they could turn an unpleasant cast of characters into an amiable cast is a feat worth praising.

The comedy is sufficiently amusing without being brilliant (except for Irie’s mother who steals the show, comedy-wise) and is mostly driven by awkward situation comedy. Aesthetically the animation is crude, and the music isn’t memorable except for the very catchy OP and ED themes. It’s easy to become irritated by the character behaviour at times, particularly in the first half and during one frustrating arc where it takes Irie several episodes to figure out something that’s obvious. There’s also a propensity for men slapping women in a dramatic context, something I don’t approve of at all. Kotoko also gets into far-out, hopeless (and obviously contrived) situations a bit too often. The list of flaws could easily go on, but the payoff comes in the form of a thoroughly enjoyable romance. Bear with the slow and sometimes frustrating first half, since this is one of those series that rewards loyalty.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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