Senior year is not ending well for one girl. Kotoko finally gets up the courage to give a love letter to her crush, Naoki, but he brutally rejects her. Then an earthquake destroys her new house and she and her father have to move in with his old high school friend. Unfortunately, that friend happens to be Naoki’s father. Now Kotoko and Naoki have to try to ignore each other, which is hard to do when their parents have decided that they should get married! To make it even worse, Kotoko’s friends are suspicious about her new living arrangements, she’s trying to pass her exams, and Naoki’s younger brother hates her guts. Can an airhead and a genius ever see eye-to-eye long enough to get along, much less fall in love?
If the plot summary for Itazura Na Kiss sounds like a lot of other shojo manga titles, there’s a good reason for it. Kaoru Tada’s series, started in 1990, is so popular that it’s sold over 30 million copies worldwide. There are live-action dramas based on it and even an anime version. Unfortunately, Tada died, leaving her 23-volume series unfinished, but that’s no reason to skip over Itazura Na Kiss.
Kotoko and Naoki’s story starts off slowly but soon builds to laugh-out-loud funny. Tada’s characters are quirky, her plots are silly, and her storytelling and art are perfect complements to each other. Kotoko is the every-girl who is so common in shojo manga. She’s not a genius; in fact, she’s in Class F, the class for kids who probably won’t be going on to college. Their teacher tells them, “Entering society one step ahead of everyone else and learning the ropes of employment is simply another path in life,” but Class F knows a snow job when they hear one. After being rejected by Naoki, who is a genius in the elite Class A, Kotoko is determined to show that Class F is as good as anyone else, even if Naoki has to help her do it. Her plucky attitude has inspired generations of shojo heroines, and it is fun to get to see where they got their spunk from.
Naoki, on the other hand, is the smart, sullen shojo leading man. Quite frankly, he’s a jerk, so readers are as appalled as Kotoko when she realizes that she loves him anyway. By the end of this first volume, though, he’s starting to lighten up. The final section is about him trying to take his college entrance exams while hindered by a good-luck charm that is anything but. It is extremely funny and will leave readers begging for volume two. The other characters are as well drawn as the leads. The meddling parents, the crazy friends, the annoying sibling --- they’re all a part of shojo manga, and Tada has them down to an art.
And, when it comes to art, Tada’s isn’t as dated as it should be at 20+ years old. Naoki still looks like an old-school shojo character, and a few of the outfits are obviously early ’90s, but beyond that, nothing strikes the eye wrong. Tada’s lines are thin and loose, so everything has a scratchy, floppy feel. It’s perfect for the wacky humor of the story. Characters are extremely easy to tell apart, settings are given just enough detail to set the stage without overloading the page, and action is clear and easy to follow.
Digital Manga Publishing has done a terrific job with this release. Itazura Na Kiss was released in Japan in 12 omnibus editions, and that is what the publisher is bringing to the United States. The binding is sturdy enough to hold the large number of pages without being so tight that it can’t be read easily, and the book opens without breaking the spine, important for multiple reads. At $16.95 a book, this is a great value for the money. Reading the classics has never been so much fun!
Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith on October 18, 2011
Itazura Na Kiss, Volume 1