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volume 3 issue 12

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Animefringe Coverage:
Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances
By Adam Arnold

"Adoration and fame are my life force!" - Yukino Miyazawa, Kare Kano manga Vol.1

Kare Kano is what the result would be if the Eva was ripped out of Evangelion. No giant robots, no apocalyptic scenarios, no government conspiracies, and no suicidal pilots. What would be left is the story about a girl, a boy, their friends and family, and the troubles they must face as they build a relationship. Sounds like a rather dull concept, but Kare Kano is anything but "dull." It's the classic shoujo love story formula with a twist. If that doesn't sum up Kare Kano's concept, then I don't know what will.

The Manga

Everything began with in February 1996 when Monthly Lala Magazine began running a unique new manga series by Masami Tsuda. Tsuda-sensei, being relatively new to the manga scene, hadn't really focused on a long-running series so, when Kareshi Kanojo no Jiyou (Kare Kano for short) first appeared it wasn't long before the series was put on hold in order for the author to figure out where she wanted the overall framework to be headed. It's not uncommon to have a series take a momentary break, but the break actually helped the series to advance to the next stage and introduce the supporting cast that ultimately makes the series so unforgettable.

Yukino Miyazawa is the perfect model student, she's pretty, cares about learning, is willing to help her fellow classmates with their work and she's got the best grades in her class. All the attention and praise she gets is like a drug for her that makes her strive to be ever better. At least that's the front she likes to put on when she's in public.

When the spotlight shifts from Miyazawa to Soichiro Arima, the school's prima donna goes ballistic and sets her sights on squashing Arima like the bug he is. The handsome young man gets to know Miyazawa a little and learns that they have a few things in common, such as classical music (at least, that's what Miyazawa lets on that she likes) and being natural over-achievers. This is just Miyazawa's way of playing her cards right in order to gain the upper hand.

On the next test, Miyazawa studies her heart out and lands the top spot, but Arima just brushes off his defeat with a smile like it doesn't even matter. Instead of being pissed, he smiles and tells Miyazawa that he knew she was amazing. Let me tell you, that wasn't the thing that Miyazawa wanted to hear.

As midterms approached, Miyazawa cracked down and began hitting the books even more. When at home, she lets down her guard and dresses comfortably in her sweaty gym clothes with glasses (she wears contacts) and a bandana to hide her messy hair. Minutes after her parents and two sisters head out for a movie, the doorbell rings. Thinking one of them had come back for an umbrella she bursts out the door feet first. Bad mistake.

Once she realizes what she has just done, it's way too late to take it back. She just kicked Arima in the chest, but worse than that - He's learned her secret. From there he blackmails her into doing the majority of his student council work! Yet, there seems to be something more going on. Could this strange attraction that Miyazawa is feeling for Arima be... Love?

So far thirteen tankoubon have been released in Japan since the series began. In 2002, TOKYOPOP snagged the rights for the manga series and previewed the title in their 2002 New Manga Sampler, a hard-to-find freebee given out at Anime Expo and a few other conventions, as well as the Waldenbooks' exclusive 2002 TOKYOPOP Manga Sampler. The first volume is set for a late January 2003 release and is sure to become an instant fan favorite.

With translations by Jack Niida and the English adaptation headed by Darcy Lockman, the title retains the quirky feel of the original while adding some of the sentiment of the recent domestic anime release. The manga is very similar to the anime in the overall plot, but the manga has a little something extra. All the action is continuous and doesn't get bogged down in the added imagery of the anime version. The first volume of the manga also features a unique short story entitled "The Tiger and the Chameleon" that chronicles a life-changing experience that a high school student experiences after having a run-in with a fellow student she had tried her hardest to avoid. As mentioned before, the story of Kare Kano was briefly put on hold; this short story took its place and even features the next installment of author's personal sidebar. If you knew the story of Kare Kano from the anime, then this manga makes for the perfect extra in that it offers an original story that readers won't have seen before. Rounding out the book are a series of one-page comedy bits entitled the "Tsuda Diary" which chronicles some of the trials the author goes through while working on a series.

The Anime

Back in 1998, Gainax picked up the rights to make an anime adaptation of the highly praised manga series. None other than the revered mastermind behind Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hideaki Anno, headed the screenplay for the majority of the series and used direct research involving area high school students in order to cement the story's main themes and actions.

The anime, while keeping with the general plot and dialogue of the manga ultimately became Anno's own personal case study of relationships. Everything from friendship, to romance, brother and sister co-existence, and even married life is covered at some point through the 26 episode anime series. If that sounds convoluted, it's not at all. In fact, behind the underlying messages is the quirky cast of characters are thoughtfully emulated in the anime and help to keep the viewer enthralled from beginning to end.

The actual art direction for the title is filled with iconic scenes, location shots, and repeated imagery that helps to give extra emphasis to the dialogue instead of the animation. In certain cases, scenes are animated versions of the manga with word balloons being overlaid beside the artwork. At other times, key lines of dialogue are spoken aloud and then scribbled on the screen for extra emphasis. Just as in real life, people hear only what they want to hear, but seeing something written actually helps to get the intended thought across.

Leading the English release of the series, using the translated title of His and Her Circumstances, is The Right Stuf, the company behind fan favorites as The Irresponsible Captain Tylor and the upcoming Gravitation. To fully grasp the hard work this company has put into the DVDs, one needs only to play around with the many subtitle and angle options the title sports.

For the purist, the title can be watched in Japanese with English subtitles and full subtitle sign translations. For the dub watcher, the title sports all of the title and direct text cards fully redrawn in English along with full English dub, redone "next episode" sequence featuring dub actors Megan Hollingshead (Kano) and Jessica Calvello (Tsukiho), and subtitle translations for any stray words in the episodes. The options can also be mixed up depending on the viewer's own personal tastes. A full description of the production process can be read in the Director's Notes included with the first volume that sports the first 6 episodes of the series. In fact the first DVD is so packed with extras, angles, and audio that the disc only had around eight megabytes of space left. The time spent on and dedication to this title really shines through making it a must-own series.

Act 14: How Will this Program Appear to Others?

Though the intention is not to spoil anything that is to come, two upcoming episodes (technically one and a half) are of particular note due to their rather unique take on a rather tried and true convention -- The clip episode. As if Gainax doesn't overuse animation cels, stills, and production sketches enough in their anime, they spend so much time backtracking to show how far the series has come.

True, almost every episode has an intro of what has gone before and in most cases shows a quick rundown of the previous events, this episode is quite different. Generally speaking, at some point during a TV series there is a clips episode that ties up the loose ends and brings the story together. Real Bout High School, Excel Saga, Neon Genesis Evangelion, the list goes on and on. And yet, what makes episodes 14 and the first half of episode 15 different from everything that has come before them is the way in which Gainax chose to present them.

The episodes are set to entirely to music with the only dialogue being relegated to a bite-sized digest version of the events during that particular episode's title card. After that, the show plays a certain piece of music from the show's soundtrack and goes through a series of key scenes from that show and ends with the familiar "To be continued" scene at the end.

As boring as that sounds, it doesn't get the least bit old. On the contrary, it compliments the show's story by giving it an art film feel and helps to cement the series as a work of art. Right after the opening disclaimer about watching in a well-lit room and the opening theme song, there is a black title card that translates to "How will this program appear to others?" This statement is a question that begs to be answered, but it can only be properly answered after viewing the two episodes in their entirety.

Every digest segment begins with some interesting information about how many cuts, cels and viewer rating were used as well as a series of charts that harkens back to the polls from Otaku no Video. In these charts, Gainax strives to show what the viewer's reaction has been by asking them "what did you feel" after watching particular episode. The results were overwhelmingly positive and rightfully so, since the show can run the emotional gamut in just a single episode.

After all is said and done, how these episodes are viewed in the eyes of any particular viewer is up to them, but it's doubtful that they will ever feel cheated after having seen the episodes. If anything the episodes will hopefully bring back the thoughts that flowed through your head as you watched the shows to begin with. Regardless of the deeper meaning Anno was aiming at, it's still kind of cool to try and figure out where you end up fitting in the survey. There's nothing really wrong with getting to watch a few music videos, is there? Nah, but don't be surprised to see something else a bit different, but along the same lines, crop up before the series is over.

Yukino Miyazawa

A 10th grader with an unnatural affliction to succeed. Miyazawa puts on a front when she is out in public in order to be praised. After meeting up with Arima, Miyazawa quickly learns to lighten up and lets her false front break down and ultimately becomes a better person because of it. Her relationship with Arima was an unexpected side effect of her desire to be better than him.
Soichiro Arima

The over-worked freshman class representative and kendo team member who falls head-over-heals for Yukino Miyazawa. He got the highest score on his high school entrance exam and became one of the school's prized students over-night. He had a troubled childhood, but his aunt and uncle love him very much and want him to succeed in life.
Hideaki Asaba

Arima's handsome fellow classmate. In the beginning, Miyazawa totally hates him for getting in between her and Arima, but quickly warms up to him and his rather unusual sense of humor. Asaba lives alone, so he can often be seen hanging out or sleeping over at Arima's house.
Kano and Tsukino Miyazawa

Yukino's younger sisters. Tsukino is in the 9th grade and Kano is in the 8th grade. They both take after their mother and father in that they are nothing like their vain sister. They are easygoing and don't let anything bother them. In fact, they happen to like Arima's friend Hideaki.
Hiroyuki and Miyako Miyazawa

Yukino's mother and father. Miyako is 35 and Hiroyuki is 37 years old. Hirouki is a bit of a wild guy. He thinks of his three daughters as his little princesses and is very overprotective of them. Miyako is the first to approve of Arima and Hiroyuki caves in rather quickly, realizing the background that Arima has.
Pero Pero

The weird, super-deformed and utterly cute Miyazawa family dog. The dog seems to really like Hirouki and is often seen perched on his lap, or head, or even wiggling on his back. Pero2 also gets along well with Tsuki, Kano, and Asaba.

Images Copyright The Right Stuf, International and TOKYOPOP. All rights reserved.

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