Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Sep 24th 2011
Itazura na Kiss
After Kinnosuke's proposal, Kotoko is left with a lot to ponder, not the least of which is Naoki's behavior. In a heart-warming moment, Kotoko's dreams of love all come true, and after a less-than-perfect Hawaiian honeymoon, a new chapter is opening up in the life of our heroine – graduation! With Jinko and Satomi already full of career ideas and Naoki getting ready to enter medical school, Kotoko realizes that she has made limited plans for her future. Could teaching possibly be her chosen career?
The biggest spoiler for this volume is right there on the cover in glorious color: Kotoko and Naoki get married. It is hard to avoid discussing this fact when it's on the cover and DMP trumpets the fact in their back cover blurb. But what is more important than the fact that Kotoko finally gets her man is that the series is far from over. The marriage of hero and heroine does not signal a decline in the plot or a neat wrapping up of the story; rather it allows Kaoru Tada to take her characters to a new phase in their lives and continue the growth that really came to the fore in volume 5.
One of the greatest achievements of this book is that Tada finally makes Naoki likeable. When he fears that he is about to lose Kotoko to Kin-chan, he rises to the occasion with flags flying. While his behavior is a bit high-handed – he asks Kotoko's dad for her hand in marriage before specifically asking her to marry him – it is clear that he is in a panic over the thought of her marrying someone else. The result is a truly romantic moment, and now that he has allowed himself to show her that he cares, his behavior towards her is markedly kinder throughout the remainder of the book. He still has moments of being his old, jerk of a self, but Tada does a decent job of showing that he has reasons for these lapses, not the least of which is his mother.
Mrs. Irie the elder remains one of the greatest deterrents to the enjoyment of this book. Ultimately she is the one who pushes their marriage to mere weeks after Naoki's proposal, leading to later issues for husband and wife. She continues to film, photograph, and generally harass the couple, later turning her Mrs. Bennet eye on younger son Yuuki as he enters the girl-filled world of middle school. It is difficult not to dislike the woman, no matter how well-intentioned or entertaining she is meant to be. Fortunately her role is greatly diminished now that the main couple is together, a trend one hopes will continue.
It is at times easy to forget that manga is the product of a culture very different from those of the English-speaking countries. This volume may remind you of the fact that expectations for women are different in Japan than in, for example, the U.S. Naoki asking Mr. Aihara before proposing to Kotoko can be excused by her more-than-obvious feelings for him, but Kotoko's father's response to his daughter coming to his restaurant at dinnertime may raise more eyebrows: “Should you be hanging around here during dinnertime like this? A wife should be in her kitchen, cooking for her husband!” Later she is also told that by going to Naoki's office (remember, he is helping his father with the company) she has “shamed” him because she dared to question the fact that he hadn't been home in a few days. In America, a wife would be seen as perfectly within her rights to ask her husband why he hasn't been home, and likely even chided if she didn't question his whereabouts. That Kotoko is given the exact opposite social conditioning will not sit well with some readers.
More heartening for the feminist-minded reader is Kotoko's decision to pursue a career after college. Her friends point out to her that she has married into a wealthy family and that her husband will be a doctor, both things that mean that she could easily be a housewife if she so desired. Kotoko, however, feels that she ought to do something with her life. Unfortunately for her, she decides that teaching may be her career of choice. Longtime series readers will recall that she was plagued by her status as a member of “Class F” and that Naoki spent a great deal of time tutoring her in earlier volumes. There was also that failed stint as a tutor during Yuuki's hospitalization, none of which speaks well of her aspirations. Fortunately Tada makes the brief student teacher arc funny rather than depressing, with Naoki getting a chance to show that he really does love her despite her faults. That may be the best part of this volume on the whole: the realization that Naoki is not just a jerk, but a person with actual feelings when he lets himself display them.
Itazura Na Kiss' sixth volume is one of the best to date. It is funny, touching, and romantic with the most tasteful sex scene in recent memory, possibly because it was not written in recent memory. Kotoko's determination does not simply fade away with the addition of a wedding ring and Naoki becomes a more human character. Although Tada's art remains less than stellar, her panels are clear and easily followed, without an excess of either text or tone. More than anything, this volume shows why the series has such enduring popularity across Asia, and hopefully will continue to grow its fanbase here in the western world.
Overall : B+
Story : A-
Art : C
+ Genuinely romantic, Naoki is markedly less of a jerk. Kotoko is still ambitious for her future despite having gotten her man.
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