Kare Kano (AKA His and Her Circumstances) is an anime about a group of freshman highschool students during the late 1990s. To say it follows the story of just one character would be inaccurate despite Yukino Miyazawa and Soichiro Arima having the most story and screentime. There is a good amount of romance and more importantly there is a lot of comedy in this anime. Still, things happen, relationships are formed, hostilities take place and people become friends. I'm very worried that I may spoil this anime during this review due to there being significant story progression in the first half of the anime. EDIT: I managed to keep it spoiler free :)
Usually I wouldn't have much to say about animation and sound. The sound here is very good, orchestral and some music that I can only describe as comedic, really help to set the mood during scenes. When certain pieces of music come on, you know what sort of scene to expect, whether its something serious or funny and the music really adds to each moment. Its not so amazing that I want to get the soundtrack however, but thats likely due to my taste in music. This anime is available in both English and Japanese audio. Though I would recommend subtitles as there is a lot of Japanese text used in this anime. Speaking of which, some interesting facts on the English dub voice actors, the actoress for Yukino is the same person who does Ash Ketchum's voice in the original Pokemon anime. Also the mother character and Aya Sawada (side-character) share the same voice actress who did the voices of both Misty and Jesse in the same anime.
Animation is important in this anime. Despite being made during the 1990s, the actual quality of the animation is average at best. But it's the unique way in which they use the animation that really had me excited, the excellent style of animation. The use of colours was unique, in a good way that you wouldn't see in animes too much nowadays. The colours really added to the mood and monochrome or lack of colour (black&white) was used to great effect. For example, during a flashback scene the colours are black and white, which helps to define the scene well. They also use a lot of drawn animation, i.e. sketches, during important moments and it really helps to accentuate the mood and feelings conveyed by the moment. Using single colours and keeping things basic during those moments just makes it easy to understand whats going on, its like a clean animation with no mess. A lot of text is used for jokes and to explain things, such as thought bubbles and labels. It almost gives it a comic book feel and in the last episode, no spoilers, they really go over the top and it feels like an animated comic book/manga which isn't a bad thing. Theres even one episode where they do it in the style of low-budget anime, using paper cut-outs on sticks and real life pictures as backgrounds, which really adds to the comedy value of that episode. That said, the inconsistency in the animation can sometimes be annoying. There are some sequences in which the fourth wall is broken, but these are within reason.
The characters are well thought out. Yukino Miyazawa is arguably the main female character in this anime. It starts off with her story and from the start she appears to be a two-faced model student from a happy middle-class family, acting nice in front of others just for praise. Initially I hated this character, but then you realise that she is only a human being and she has her problems. A good deal of the anime follows the stories of both this character and Soichiro Arima.
The Miyazawa family is a happy, somewhat, normal middle class family. Father seems to be overprotective of his 3 daughters, mother seems to spur the antics of the rest of the family on and Yukino's two younger sisters, are pretty much energetic kids, despite being in middle school. These characters play the comic relief role pretty well, so they are generally funny, father and sisters especially and they even have some serious parts, including a flashback history of the parents.
Souichiro Arima, the main male character, is also a model student, but he is from a prosperous family of Doctors and his father is the head of one hospital. He seems to be the perfect guy, but again you eventually find out that he also has motives to strive for perfection, as well as a tragic dark past. His human side really shows in th later episodes as he finds himself dependant on certain other characters.
Hideaki Asaba plays the perverted fool and is surprisingly a funny character. He aspires to gain the attention of every girl in school and wants Soichiro to help him with his plans. As Soichiro's friend, tends to overstep his boundaries, often staying over at the Arima residence and appearing to have comedic romantic interest with Arima, which he oft denies and the girls swoon over.
Tsubasa Shibahime is another funny character, she is also a freshman high school student, despite both looking and acting like a child. She is agressive and can best be described as an agressive puppy (though oft depicted as a cat, i.e. cat-eyes). She has her own situation, which this anime explores in some episodes. Unfortunately, this character becomes less important during the latter half of the series, depicted as a child/animal doing relevant things like piggy-backing friends and picking a fight with a cat!?! That was a bit disappointing given the investment into this character.
Among the more minor characters, Takefumi Tonami is one who appears towards the end of the anime and this could have been bad (phew), had they handled it terribly. This guy is your typical, used to be fat and bullied, went away and came back good-looking and strong character (I've noticed this type of character in another anime). He has a significant amount of story in the episodes he's in. I could mention other side characters but they all have lesser roles. However those characters are still written well.
The story is great for most of the anime, with the main romance actually having some progression (unlike so many other anime). Theres a lot on backstory and character development too. One thing I didn't like however, was the sheer amount of screen time taken up by recaps. I'm pretty sure there were a few episodes dedicated to recaps. I also was confused at one point as the the progression of the romance, whether something had happened or not. It seemed a bit vague. The ending was also slightly disappointing as it builds up to an event at the school which never gets shown and the last episode gives the impression there's more. I'd have to say the story is the weakest link in what is otherwise a great anime.
If you want to watch an anime for comedy, by all means, I recommend this. There were points where I couldn't help but laugh out loud. If you want romance, then this is also a decent watch. If you feel a bit iffy by the age of this anime, don't be put off, this anime does some things a lot better than some of the more recent anime.
Family-friendliness Rating: 1/5 No ecchi or panty shots whatsoever. Even the pervy guy keeps things rated PG (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 8/10 (higher is better)
(A.k.a. His and Her Circumstances or Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou)
Yukino Miyazawa has been a model student all her life and is going to attend high school to continue this. She hides her real personality behind an unbreakable mask in order to get praised and be seen as model student. Though things changes as Souichirou Arima appears. He's a model student as well, though with another background. A bond forms between them.
Story and Characters 8.5/10 - 9/10
The story seems nothing more than an unoriginal high school drama. My opinion about this seriously changed after I finished watching the first few episodes. While nearly all other high school dramas put most effort in the so called “problems which interfere with their relation”, this anime lays its accent more on the growth of the bond between them and the things they think. This is something not everyone likes, because there is a lot less action in the episodes which are dedicated to the growth of the bond compared to the action in the episodes dedicated to the relation-problems.
The anime started of good and would have been one of the best I had ever seen, if it wasn’t for a few flaws. It contained quite a bit recap. Once every two or three episodes they threw in a 3 minute recap and at some point they even put in a 1.5 episode recap (= around 30 minutes). This is something I find inexcusable for people who paid a lot of money to buy it or spend a lot of time downloading it.
In addition to that, the series seemed to get less serious as you get further in the series. The hilarious humour happens more and more frequent and extreme. One episode was worth mentioning. That episode seems dedicated to this humour all episode long, making it hard to follow. This brings me to the next point. It’s fast, really fast. The speed the words are said and the texts are written down on your screen make it an anime you really need to concentrate on.
Another thing I wasn’t really satisfied was the ending. Since I cannot spoil, I will not tell any more than that. An option for this is to get the manga which is apparently has the complete story. The reason for this is probably the fact that this anime was a low-budget anime. This explains why they put in the recap episodes.
The characters are found in a lot of different flavours. The two main characters “Souichirou Arima” and “Yukino Miyazawa” were two characters I could hardly find in any other series. I found the second for one really unique. Later in the series her twisted character will show. A few other characters worth mentioning are Hideaki Asaba and Tsubase Shibahime which will appear in the series as time advances and are two really interesting characters.
The art was something I was utterly impressed of. It was the main reason for purchasing the anime, because the covers contained art, Last Exile would be jealous of. I thought the art would only be like this, but I was quite wrong about this. Sometimes the characters change to the so called SD (Super Deformed) characters or chibies. This was something I likes, since it gives a lot of colour to the anime. In addition to these SD characters or chibies, they were quite random with the facial expressions too. It held some excessive facial features, like huge mouths filled with sharp teeth or little dots which represent eyes.
Since it was most probably a low-budget anime, they didn’t animate everything, but put some art from the manga in the series. They did this at the appropriate times and really gave the animation a whirl. This is something I have only seen in a few series. When I first saw it, it gave the situation it was used in a really satisfying atmosphere.
The art would have been perfect in my opinion if they hadn’t used the terrible art in one episode. All characters were cut out of paper and coloured in by a child. While they might have thought it would have been original (which it was) it was something so extremely different from the other episodes that I wasn’t all that happy about it. In addition to using this art, they made a no sense episode too, making it a real horror to watch.
Sound and Music 9.5/10
Once again a great effort made for the music. Often I won’t even notice music played apart from the opening and ending theme. Three OST’s were released for this anime, so practically I couldn’t miss the music played.
There is one opening theme at the start of every series. The song used, was not a really special one, but fit well with the animation used in the opening theme and it has vocals. It does contain a minor spoiler and you wouldn’t think the art would have been that versatile by watching the opening.
The ending is different for every episode. It’s a song with vocals and pretty high tempo. You don’t get to see any animated characters in the ending theme, but instead they move with a camera all around a high school the first ten episodes or so and other locations the rest of the series. This gave me a really good impression what a high school looks like, since I am not living in a country which has something like a high school. Because I liked the ending song more than the opening song and because the ending visuals (it wouldn’t be appropriate to call this animation), I liked the ending more than the opening.
The music used in the series was something I was impressed about, for the simple reason that the music was more apparent than other series I have seen. In addition to the awesome art, the music gave the some situations a really emotional atmosphere. Most of the music was mainly made by a piano, but in some songs wind instruments were used. A flaw of this music was that in some occasions the wrong tune was used. For example: In a sad situation they played a music which was in my opinion a bit to happy.
I would personally like to rate the series as two parts. The first part of the series deserves most definitely a 10, but the last few episodes and the recaps only deserve a 7 or lowers. So I made a little compromise and got to a 9.
The way the music and animation work together is really something admirable what I haven’t seen in any other high school drama and is something what should be done in a sequel or other series as well, for the simple reason that it gives a lot more “force” to the atmosphere.
Normally I am not really that interested in music played in the series apart from the opening and ending themes, but this series is the first one which made me get some OST’s and made me pay more attention to music of other series as well.
All by all a original and quite versatile series with quite original characters, great animation and awesome music. If a sequel is released I would personally not even think about not getting it.
[NB]Re-published review dating from 2006-2007[/NB]
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)
The premise of this anime sounded promising, and I'm sure if they decided to remake this it would be a pretty good show. The cover artwork is misleading as it looks very clean and modern, especially for being a late 90s anime. However I dropped this after suffering two episodes, and normally I'll give it a good go before walking away.
The story seems good, a girl in school who strives to be perfect in everything, is actually a slob and wears glasses and a tracksuit at home. A boy in her class who she considers her rival, actually likes her and after she blows his love confession out of the water he accidentally discovers the truth about her and uses it to his advantage.
The problems with this anime are immediate. The female VA seems to have been directed to get the entire script done in under 60 seconds, so your ears are treated to a verbal bashing akin to someone yelling something important to you as they speed past you on the bullet train.
The male VA sounds like he is just phoning it in, very lifeless and sounds older than the fifteen years he is meant to be.
To the artwork, which at first looks clean and modern, very quickly you notice the quality is not very good at all. Sometimes the characters mouths don't move when they are speaking, sometimes they move too much. The artwork flits constantly between normal and a weird chibi style that's more like a shorter fatter version of the main character, to stills from the manga. Whoever edited it was like a kid with a new toy and wanted to get as many cuts in as possible so you barely have time to process what is on the screen before the scene changes again.
Im not an anime snob. Whilst I love some of the detail and scenery included in more recent anime, I still love the style and energy of 90s anime. But, when you compare this to other anime from the same decade - sailor moon and wedding peach for example - this show is very poor in comparison. I recently finishe cardcaptor Sakura which was made the same year and the quality is light years apart.
From what I've read the quality only gets worse. The writer didn't like what the anime did to the story, and the director left half way through, although this does not account for the very poor start.
The music is irritating and blares over the top of the already shouty speed talking main character.
Overall this could have been better. I hope someone chooses to remake it one day, as the story sounds good on paper.