Reviewby Alexander Harris
His and Her Circumstances
Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou
Have you ever wanted to walk into someone's mind and try and find the naughty bits? Apparently Hideaki Anno has. More on that to come.
First off, I'm going to set up a few borders now, as to eliminate the general riffraff and uninterested. Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou (typically translated as "His and Her Circumstances") has no giant, bad-ass looking mecha attempting to save (or destroy) the world; it has no large breasted, moronic females who have an uncanny desire to jump up and down for amusement; it has no exploding buildings, or sword duels, or car chases, or Super Europeans--er, Saiyans....
What the Hell DOES it have, then?
Characters. Specifically, character development. Hold on to something. This is an odd ride.
Take one Yukino Miyazawa: At very first glance, a model student. The very physical embodiment of young Japanese perfection. A beautiful, intelligent, athletic, sophisticated lady, who's utterly adored and worshiped by her classmates and teachers. And with good justification, too. She's always getting the highest grades, always doing the right thing, always thinking of others before herself. She had always been number one; the leader, the "go to" person, the brilliant one. She had made quite the name for herself in her school, and was easily on the fast track to a successful career in the elite upper hierarchy of Japanese society.
In actuality, Yukino, the "model student" is a complete and utter sham; a "mask," if you will. Her true person, the person only her family sees at home, is a scheming, petty, attention loving little girl. She soaks up praise and adoration like a psychotic sponge, and will gladly manipulate anyone or anything to get it. She spends hour upon hour studying, learning, remembering, just to see the look of respect and admiration in the eyes of her peers; just to hear the words "You're brilliant Miyazawa," from her teachers; just to get the highest score on the test so she can feel superior to everyone and everything. She even goes so far as to ask her family how they "can stand to be so normal?" Indeed; it appears that Miyazawa is so set in her ways and so addicted to praise that she will spend the rest of her life like this....until....
She had wanted to debut in high school with the highest entry exam grade--hence, allowing her to represent the class and to make a strong first impression. But she came in second; a VERY strong blow to her ego. She tries to soften the buffet by claiming whoever had the highest score must be a hideous, ugly ultra-geek with no life, thereby taking away a lot of the shock of "losing the battle," as she sees it. And then she sees who did come in first.
Souijurio Arima. Again, model student. Handsome, athletic, brilliant, etc. Miyazawa strongly resents the fact that Arima came from absolutely nowhere and stole her precious thunder. Once school starts, he also begins to do it everyday during class, too! No longer do students go to her when they need help. No longer is she worshiped and she alone. No longer do people say ONLY her name with respect and awe anymore. What makes it even worse is that Arima is a very attractive guy, and the females of the school will gladly abandon Miyazawa to watch and drool over him as he plays a soccer game, or runs track, or even simply walks by while minding his own business.
Naturally, Miyazawa is mad as all hell, and silently declares war on the unsuspecting Arima. She desperately wants her thunder back. In her mind, they are now adversaries engaged in mortal combat; the victor receiving ultimate praise, the loser being shunned and cast out by society.
Don't look at me like that dammit; I'm serious.
So, after a bout of huge worrying and loooong studying, she finally, FINALLY gets a higher score than him on a test. And he doesn't care. Hell, he congratulates her, and tells her how awesome she is! At this point, she realizes that Arima never thought about any "competition," that it was all in her mind, and that because he was being number one without even trying or really thinking about it, that made him "the real thing," and her just a cheap "wannabe". This drives her into a fit of despair, and finally makes her realize how petty and scheming she is. And just when she's about to throw in the towel and concede to Arima....Arima tells Miyazawa that he loves her....
And it gets even wilder from there.
For those of you who don't know Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou's (commonly referred to as "Kare Kano" for short) creator, Hideaki Anno, is a person who's extremely interested in character development/analyzation/deconstruction. For anyone who's seen the first ending (the final two episodes) of his previous show, "Neon Genesis Evangelion," Kare Kano plays out a lot like that. Basically, the characters and their interaction ARE the plot and main focus. The story, also, isn't told in a "straight out" fashion, if you will. In other words, as the characters mentally and vocally attempt to explain their emotions and feelings to us and themselves, we often end up visually diving into the character's psyche, and being witness to a plethora of images (some symbolic, some not), soliloquies, and comments that give us insight into how the character perceives others, themselves, and life in general.
The show also does a good job of balancing its humor in each episode, too. Miyazawa is very close to her family, and they often end up either prying into her personal life (in a good way, that is) or helping her when she's facing some kind of dilemma. The comedic scenes, especially with Miyazawa and her adorable little manga loving sisters, are placed at exactly the right place and right time so that it doesn't feel like a punch in the face when you go from a serious scene to comic relief.
And fortunately, as the series marches on, more and more characters are introduced, so there's never a lack of different personalities or philosophies about life.
The style of animation fluctuates greatly from scene to scene--we smoothly jump from humorous, super-deformed versions of Miyazawa and Arima to clean, normal, shoujo-esque forms of our favorite pair. The backgrounds (when there ARE backgrounds) are detailed, well thought out, and often symbolic of how a character is currently thinking/feeling. The animation is basically Evangelion quality, but with a shoujo touch.
I should warn you now: This is a very cerebral drama. There's absolutely no action at all, and if you're not one for utterly character driven anime, you might want to get your fix somewhere else. If you love diving into the minds of a character and searching for those juicy naughty bits, and all the while being entertained and educated, then this is for you. Fortunately, Right Stuff International will be releasing this in the spring, so for those of you who don't like fansubs, you won't have to wait very long. I welcome all comments, criticisms, etc. But please, let's try and be intelligent, people.
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