Kare Kano – episodes 12 – 26

May 28, 2007 on 11:33 pm | In Kare Kano | 7 Comments

Hoo boy. Right now I feel like dousing myself in vitriol, setting myself alight, and dive bombing the internet. The majority of the second half of Kare Kano was good, but on many levels it went so far wrong that it was difficult to see where the rightness had been.
I did not care so much about the lack of a conclusion to the series; I had expected it all along. The half-arsed nature of what we were subjected to in the last six episodes, however, is less than excusable. One might say that this is, in fact, “inexcusable”.

Parts dealing with Arima and Miyazawa Relationship delineated with spoiler warnings

Miyazawa and Arima spend the majority of the Summer apart, allowing her to focus more on her other friends. When Arima comes back, their relationship has changed fundamentally; that is to say, it’s no longer nice to watch. Everything except for Arima and Miyazawa’s relationship is super palatable, so it’s fortunate there’s not a lot of it … but at the same time it’s the concept that the series is predicated upon.

The key to ruining a perfectly functioning romance is to make the characters have different goals. This is fine, because it creates conflict and a program without conflict doesn’t have scope for drama.

The shift in the relationship dynamic is painful to watch. Suddenly, after the Summer separation, Miyazawa is infantalised in every scene that she shares with Arima. Their relationship is no longer compelling, and when it’s presented at all it’s almost always in a decidedly uncomfortable and horrid fashion. Essentially one only receives one scene of tenderness between them, that has no sort of agenda behind it: that of the double bike riding – which is obviously frowned upon socially in Japan but is the entire basis of Japanese romance.

Commence Spoiler Section
When Arima returns from Summer, Miyazawa decides that she is more in love with him than before and becomes more coquettish and nervous around him. His response is to chase after her and throw her against a wall, telling her that he doesn’t care what she thinks, that he’ll never let her go.
This is kind of what crosses a relationship over from lovey dovey to scary town in my estimation, but it has no sort of bearing on their actual relationship in any form; if anything, it brings them closer together. It’s easy to say that Miyazawa was acting irrationally, but that still does not make wall slamming antics acceptable or immediately able to be brushed over. They go after this and have sex (which never happens in anime!), but their relationship changes very little and Arima seems somehow even more bashful about Miyazawa’s body.

With the introduction of Tonami towards the end, Arima”s true nature is revealed: he’s a possessive and obsessive bastard. He doesn’t want anyone else to have Arima in any capacity. This is illustrated in bizarre homoerotic masturbatory fashion (a chained, winged Arima straddling himself? Okay!), and somehow it becomes the burden of other characters rather than his own psychological problem. I’m not saying that fictional characters are not allowed to have mental conditions, but one should not pander to them when they’re so ultimately selfish. By the end of this series I almost completely hated Arima. This is easily why I had gravitated towards the other characters: Arima’s problems were presented in selfish and petty terms, with no room in my ordinarily boundless heart to empathise with him.

Conclude Spoiler Section

The episodes without Arima have plenty of room to rock. One of the appeals of manga is that it can go on for a long time, and afford a large cast that get to have their own stories and episodes. This is one of the strengths of Fruits Basket, for instance.
The best episodes of the second half of the series are about characters who, when fleshed out, are infinitely better than Arima (who I realised was cursed with “anime nice guy” personality – which means that, try as he might, he has no real character until it turns out to be a very bad one indeed). The Shibahime storyline was a fine two episode adventure about understanding family members, connecting to one another, and realising that people can “spend the same days”. The scenes of Shibahime bonding with her new family were great, and Zumappi could have been a valuable addition to the line up.

Then we have the addition of Tonami, the tanned Okinawan import who has come back to town so that he may ruin Sakura’s life. This is also a good story, told well and with the idea that one can recognise that they have, themselves, changed yet be completely incapable of recognising that others might also possess this quality.

Which is where the whole series falls apart. GAiNAX’s formerly charming work at avoiding budget constraints falls apart almost entirely. I am somewhat intrigued by long conversations between characters set entirely to infrequently shifting and repeating shots of scenery with effective music playing, and that’s not even sarcasm.

What Kare Kano does is skip the interesting characters after a while, devotes more than two episodes of its total runtime to recapping the story, begins several episodes with recaps that last greater than two minutes, and then skips animation in totally unacceptable ways. An episode told in paper cut outs is not as visually arresting as it could be, but a finale told almost entirely without colour, animation or even spoken dialogue is really not on.
The final episode features a Tonami and Sakura storyline (justified by the unspecific nature of the “his” and “hers” in the title) told with two narrators explaining “conversation” while the conversation plays out in written text. I have no idea what this is, for real. It has no real emotional weight and is counterpointed by the totally unpalatable efforts of Arima looking at himself in the mirror.

I’ve got to focus on the fact that the extended cast was lovable, that Kare Kano projects yet another totally bizarre view of homosexuality in Japan (if you believe anime, every Japanese guy ever is gay), because otherwise I’ll get mad about laziness masquerading as creativity. I am thankful for my DVD player that plays audio and subs at double speed, because otherwise I would not have been able to stomach all of the waste and repetition in what should have been an excellent series. My optimism and love of all things has been replaced with a desire to fire things into the Sun, and this is not good.

The majority of Kare Kano is great, but it has a couple of huge, gaping flaws that sour the rest of it almost irreparably. One is supposed to love anime, and one is supposed to be able to think “the pure romance of Japan exudes from the pores of Kare Kano, even if this is a Japan that does not exist”, but one is not allowed to do so because of purely unhealthy, unresolved, apparently permissible, mindfucking.
The content of Kare Kano and the ultimate attitude of GAiNAX unlocked a feeling that I had suppressed a long time ago: my cynicism came out in force. Now, this is a strong beast, and I’m not sure if I can be held responsible for what may be unleashed on the world hereafter.
I’m going to read the manga to see if Arima’s descent is covered more reasonably, but first I’m going to wash out my brain with Dragon Ball. I knew there was a reason for my not having watched the last set.


  1. Oh, let me tell you, Arima’s descent is much the same, but it’s what follows in the manga that is important. One of the biggest things that bothered me about the anime was that it starts the “Arima is screwed up” storyline, but has only the beginning — the anime picked about the worst place to end. The manga follows through with it, exploring fully both the supporting characters as well as Arima’s inner darkness. Though not perfect, I think the manga does a brilliant job of expanding on and finishing the story ^_^

    Comment by Senna — May 29, 2007 #

  2. I suspected this might be the case, but no anime should end on a “one of two lead characters is messed up in the head and these faults should be accepted by the other characters despite their pettiness.”

    I’ll look into it, check the balances, and may report back.

    Comment by Alex — May 29, 2007 #

  3. Ah, I too fell in love with Kare Kano, only to feel cheated and disappointed with the abrupt ending! The show made the mistake of introducing supporting characters and in addition bringing in extra complications to the story at such a late stage, apparently assuming (wrongly) that there would be sufficient time to explore them fully. Disasterous! It’s a shame really, because the show would be pretty much perfect otherwise (the start-of-episode recaps I can tolerate).

    All I can recommend is read the manga – my initial impressions are that the characterisation and charm of the artwork are all there and we’ll even be treated to the proper ending!

    Comment by Martin — June 18, 2007 #

  4. Exactly, Martin, they introduced so much new stuff towards the end it distracted from the real main characters, Arima and Yukino. And I was also extremly annoyed by all those re-cap “episodes”. I still respect this anime, if anything for the begining, but it’s sad that they didn’t end it properly!

    Comment by Marin Mandir — August 16, 2007 #

  5. what exactly is the ending of the anime?
    i didnt have the chance to watch it…
    is arima have another girl?

    Comment by jella — September 16, 2007 #

  6. If you stil haven’t seen this Anime, then I won’t spoil the ending for you. It just wouldn’t be fair. But no, Arima doesn’t get a new girl. Sufficient to say it just “ended without ending at all”.

    Comment by Marin Mandir — September 26, 2007 #

  7. I just happened to stumble on this anime. I had read the manga a few months earlier and had quite high hopes.. But the recaps.. recaps recaps recaps… Pretty much half of the episodes comes with a few minutes of recaps in the beginning, including two episodes devoted to recaps. Why? There’s no point!

    The weird idea of having paper cutouts for some episodes were just stupid. As well as the mangafication (well.. Hope you get the point) of an anime, why?

    And also they skipped LOADS of really nice material, and totally skipped the ending (there’s enugh material for probably another 13 episodes, but I’m guessing we’ll never see those)

    Quite dissapointed with this. I were really looking forward the ending, but were left out in the cold with a questionmark inprinted on my forehead.

    It’s good enugh for wasting time, it’s a really good story. But you’ll most likely get dissapointed with the “ending” :/

    Read the manga!

    Comment by Aenonar — March 9, 2008 #

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