Call it strange, but for some reason I seem to have missed the "teenage girl" phase of my adolescent years; instead of having fantastical romantic dreams, swooning over dashing and charming men (well, save for myself), and giddily pairing together ideal couples, I spent most of my time plugging away in an old, dirty warehouse. After 500 minutes of skidding through Itazura na Kiss, however, I can say with certainty that my days were well spent - through it alone, I was injected with enough shoujo fluff to last me for a lifetime. Not hollow, frivolous fluff, mind you, but sappy, feel-good fluff.
Bluntly speaking, Itazura na Kiss is a typical shoujo romance devoid of typical shoujo tedium. Where other contemporary anime of similar standing aim to create webs of complex drama and thorny love triangles, the crux behind Kotoko and Irie's relationship encompasses little else but pure, gooey monogamy. Though on occasion sprinkled with bits of angst, the vast majority of the story chronicles - in paperback novel fashion - the budding romance of two high school sweethearts; well, maybe only one is sweet, but I think I make my point. Thus, while the tale may be one of textbook ideal love and whimsical romantic fantasy, it nevertheless brims with warm, fuzzy emotion, and charms with simple, light-hearted fancy; the show's simplicity makes way for remarkably fluid pacing, and for most of its duration it captivates with jovial charm.
But, flowering praise aside, Itazura na Kiss is not without flaw. In fact, come the end of the first few episodes, I was brimming with the desire to call it quits. Needless to say, it starts out on unsteady footing, and teeters dangerously on the edge of being a bland, tacky comedy. Both Irie and Kotoko come across as mindlessly shallow, and the plot events appear both haphazard and forced. Though the anime works its way out of this rut fairly quickly, getting to the heart of the romance requires a bit of grit, and ultimately leads to a slow and trying start. While in retrospect these mishaps do little to damage my final opinion of the show, they could easily have been avoided. As the latter three-quarters of the series prove, the over-the-top antics matter little to the enjoyable nature of the romance.
While of not particularly notable quality, the animation certainly does the trick. Kotoko is bouncy and cute, Irie is cunning and handsome, and everyone plugs along as one big happy family; typical shoujo if I have ever seen it. Genre-standard pastel coloring and an abundance of warm colors top off the visual glass, which leaves me with surprisingly little to say. While a tinge of innovativeness probably would not have hurt, Itazura na Kiss sticks with a tried-and-true style, and carries out its aesthetic tasks without blunder.
As so many anime prominently display, the production value of the sound score goes hand-in-hand with the animation; generally speaking, decent animation tends to entail decent audio and vice versa. Though not always the case, Itazura na Kiss certainly makes no point to buck the trend. Aptly placed musical pieces and solid voice acting round up the category well, and while not overtly impressive, they fit the anime without issue.
If I had to pick one thought to sum up Itazura na Kiss' character trend, it would be"there is more to life than intelligence, there is love!" Kotoko and Irie are just about as cliché as main characters can come - she's the bumbling idiot whose only redeeming qualities are boundless kindness and sweetness, and he the callous, stoic genius who has never experienced an emotion in his life. Still, typicality aside, damn do they manage to be likable; were there ever an anime appropriately fit to the obnoxious gambatte! thematic, this would be the one. Despite her one-dimensionality, Kotoko breathes empathy from every orifice, and rather easily makes for one of my favorite shoujo leads yet. Rooting her on through her romantic endeavors is - simply put - just plain fun, and sensation snowballs all the way through the series. Again, as I mentioned before, the show is paced remarkably well in that it never gets cyclical, and most of story involves her encountering and overcoming relationship hurdles. As all are cumulative in nature, there exists little form of stagnation, and her growth breeds interest from start. This, obviously, plays into Irie's development as well, as he transforms from inconsiderate ass to perfect guy; a transition that would cause all young girls to squeal I am sure, but also one that gives an adult male like myself some guilty pleasure in watching unfold.
That said, my only real gripe comes with the side characters. While just about all become tolerable by the end, in the early episodes a number of them contribute heavily to the grating characteristics of the story. Once they are shifted aside to make room for the main romance, however, their existence becomes rather trivial; they piddle around to add flavor and an some extra humorous padding to the main relationship, but never obtrude upon it in any remarkable fashion.
While Itazura na Kiss may not offer anything new to the genre, it nevertheless is a charming and refreshing take on existing clichés. Fans of romance would do well in jumping on this title at the soonest opportunity, as, where it lacks in originality, it compensates with raw emotive substance.
Kotoko Aihara has always been in love with Naoki Irie; he’s tall, handsome, and rumored to be the most intelligent student in Japan – who wouldn’t be? Only one thing stands in the way of a relationship with Irie: Kotoko is ditzy and is at the bottom set of her school, and Irie-kun hates nothing more than ditzy, stupid girls. When disaster strikes and Kotoko is forced to move in with Irie-kun’s family, she suddenly sees her chance to bridge the gap. After all, even cool, super-intelligent guys must have a soft spot, right?
Though I'm a big fan of slice of life and romance, I'll watch just about anything that catches my interest. My opinions tend to be pretty level-headed, but I have been known to be controversial from time to time! Feel free to lay into me if you so desire, as I always appreciate feedback - positive or negative. I hope you enjoy reading!