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)