Saturday, September 17, 2005

Kare Kano - Good For Most Circumstances

Today's "You Decide" is Masami Tsuda's comic, Kare Kano (which apparently translates to "His and her circumstances"), pick courtesty of John Lombard. The volume he recommended was the one I chose to read, Volume 10.

Kare Kano, I think, is probably the best example of what I would like to see from "You Decide," as it is a title that I never would have read on my own in a million years, but it is a very good comic book. The quality of the comic really demonstrates that it is not the genre that defines how good a comic book is, but rather, the creative talent. The plot of this book is basically that of Sweet Valley High, but Masami Tsuda does such a nice job with the book that I find myself enjoying it despite my lack of interest in the particular genre.

Kare Kano is about the relationship between a girl and a boy during their years together in a prestigious Japanese high school, but the rest of the classmates are featured heavily, as well. In fact, the volume John recommended opens up on a flashback not involving ANY of the main characters, but instead, focuses on a supporting character, Maho. It appears (I'm picking this up as I go along, as the recap page in the comic is not all that good) that this character Maho has only been seen in the past through our view of the main girl. Maho is jealous of Yukino (the main girl), and this looks to be an example of the writer giving us a surprising look at Maho's background, to suddenly see her from a different perspective.

The flashback tells the tale of Maho and her boyfriend, who is 11 years older than she is (she is 16, he is 27). That sounds pretty creepy, doesn't? Yet Masami Ysuda manages to A. Admit that it is weird while B. Make us not think it disgusting. That is a strong feat, by any means. Heck, when he acknowledges that he cannot wait until she is old enough that they can be together physically, you are actually convinced that he really MEANS it (that he is fully content to wait).

The next story is where the lack of recap really hurt for awhile. All the students get together and go on a trip before winter break. Since the recap was fairly sparse, I really had a tough time figuring out who was who, but ultimately, the writer comes up with a fairly brilliant tactic - she splits them up into four groups. One, the main romantic leads Soichiro and Yukino, and the other three a mish-mash of groups (the larger group accidentally got lost while looking around, so the pairings are made almost randomly). I am sure for a longtime reader, seeing some of these pairings were interesting, as they were a lot of characters who do not normally hang out together, so we get to see new interactions. For me, it was good because it allowed time to flesh out who was who. Each of the four groups had interesting days, the most interesting devoted to Soichiro and Yukino, I think, who have a nice moment where they realize that they have been referring to each other by their last names since they met, and since they are closer now, they should use their first names. They then say each other's first names, and she really captures the joy and gaiety in their faces as they try out foreign-sounding, but familiar names. Very nice. And very realistic, I thought. Nice touch.

Tsuda throws in, at random spots, little notes about silly things, like "I like rings" and then she talks about rings. Or a song that she uses in a scene. It is like a director's commentary.

The last story is a flashback to the day Soichiro and Yukino first met, and this was a brilliant bit, because it plays off the whole "You mean you existed BEFORE I met you?" Because it tells the first day they met, but they did not REALLY meet, because they were both caught up in their own thing. Meanwhile, we get glimpses of motivations for characters that we now know how they turned out. Nice stuff. Particularly nice is the scene of the pretty boy, who was disappointed at first to see all the girls gawk at Soichiro, but then the light bulb goes off, and he realizes, "If I hang out with him, we will be TWICE as powerful girl magnets!" But then he realizes, "But I don't know anything about hanging out with guys, I have only concerned myself with getting girls!" Funny stuff.

The art is nice enough, although at times I had a hard time telling people apart (recap hurt there, too). There is a lot of manga touches, which hurt me with one character, Tsubasa, as I STILL cannot tell if she is SUPPOSED to look like a little girl, or if that is just artistic license.

All in all, though, while this book is probably not the type of thing most of you would read, if you give it a shot, I think you will admire the craftmanship and talent put into the title.

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Blogger John Lombard said...

Tsubasa *is* supposed to be an amazingly cute little girl, but when she realised she'd lost Arima (who thinks of her as a little sister) to Yukino she became extremely sullen and strange. Except, of course, around her step-brother Kazuma...

Anyway, I'm glad you liked it.

Volume 9 also has an amazing sequence where Yukino, Maho and Tsubasa all put on a play for the school cultural festival and Tsuda gets the expressions perfectly right. They look just like people acting. She hits the right "notes". This woman is an amazing "manga-ka" (manga writer/artist).

9/17/2005 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger ~ Dave said...

Yeah, I actually didn't read the manga Kare Kano, but the anime series based on it - His and Her Circumstances (and I only watched it because it was by the guys behind Neon Genesis: Evangelion). I really loved it. It's actually become one of my favorite animes of all time. Great story and characters.

9/18/2005 01:18:00 AM  

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