I am no fan of romances. I find them very superficial and eventless, simplistic and above all UNREAL. Yet there are a few exception when even I (almost) cried while watching these soap operas and such a case was Kare Kano. It was different for two simple yet meaningful reasons.
1) The artwork was full of colorless pencil sketches and footage of real photographs on various scenes. Although one would rush to call that lazy or lack of funds, it worked for me because as I said made it so much different than you average flowers and rainbows looking romance. It was artistic on its own way to show sketching and photography. So what if it’s cheaper to make than usual? It sure worked for me.
2) The main characters are all full of internal monologues, revealing their real selves as well as their thoughts to the viewer, when at first they appear to be different people, pretending to be perfect in the eyes of the world. This game of façade and revelation gave a psychological endoscope to a genre that most would never dream of expecting. It is about shallow teen romances; who cares about psychology? Well I do if I am to stay interested for more than five minutes. And it worked marvelously.
Kare Kano is still the archetypical story of teenage couples in high school, falling in love and having to deal with some serious (for their still carefree age) problems. The thing that makes it different is the transition from rivalry, to friendship, to a relationship out of norms (perfect people deserve perfect people), to the revelation that both are not what they appear to be at first. It is very amazing to see how someone can pretend to be a completely different person in public just to have a positive image and for a genre that aims to have its cast as perfect as possible, Kare Kano did a bold thing to make them imperfect along the way, without ever making them unsympathetic sanavabitches (School Days anyone?). They are just far more edgy and messy in their private lives but that is all. Nothing terrible but still enough to spoil their image and thus worthy of being kept top secret to anyone who is not in a relation with them.
The story escalates very fast in the beginning and unlike most romances it is not about the couple blushing, looking away, hitting each other over misunderstandings and after 100 episodes simply admitting they just “like” each other. No sir, straight from the beginning they are drawn together and their façade drops almost immediately. Along the way we see something similar happening to many other secondary characters, thus the feeling of introspection slowly expands to more than two people. That is another great thing I liked about it.
Unfortunately, Kare Kano still suffered from heavy budget restraints and towards the end had to mostly rely on static pictures to keep going to the point it was no longer artistic but plain cheap and boring. At least the music department didn’t suffer from that since the OST was done before the restrains kicked in. And it is a good collection of pop and piano pieces, fitting the mood of the series. Also, the voice actors never gave irritating tones to their characters and thus they are all likable.
The anime also had to stop with the story left incomplete and practically messy. The characters are also going in circles without progressing further because the producers themselves realized they couldn’t move forward and just fooled around until they ran out of episodes. It is very easy to disappoint those who want powerful endings.
Although the quality of the anime drops vertically in the second half, I still cherish it as something unique amongst the genre. And hey, if you so much want to see what happens next, you can always read the manga so it’s not like there is no way to be pleased. Cheap, I know, but better than nothing. I mostly like the artistic overtones and the psychological aspect of the show and not its romantic nature, things that were ruined because of FRAKIN’ SOULLESS MONEY and not lack of talent. And guess what, there were many different directors in the show, the most important and famous of which is Hideaki Anno of the NGE fame. Still wonder why the characters are so mentally unstable? But anyways, it is a worthy title after of which you must run to read the rest in the manga. That is all.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 5/10
General Artwork 1/2 (cute but run down)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (artsy)
Animation 0/2 (bad)
Visual Effects 1/2 (artsy)
SOUND SECTION: 8/10
Voice Acting 3/3 (simple but meaningful)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 6/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 2/2 (plausible)
Conclusion 0/2 (doesn’t exist)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 2/2 (strong)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (strong for some but the rest don’t develop)
Catharsis 0/2 (doesn’t exist)
VALUE SECTION: 7/10
Historical Value 2/3 (quite famous)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely well made to the point of forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 7/10
Art 1/1 (looks artsy)
Sound 1/2 (nice songs)
Story 2/3 (simple but meaningful; derails in the second half)
Characters 3/4 (they are simple but feel nice)