Synonyms: Naughty Kiss, Teasing Kiss, Mischievous Kiss, Itazurana Kiss, It Started With A Kiss, Playful kiss
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Apr 4, 2008 to Sep 27, 2008
Producers: Bandai Visual, TMS Entertainment, Trinity Sound
Genres: Comedy, Romance, Shoujo
Duration: 24 min. per episode
Rating: PG-13 - Teens 13 or older
Shoujo romance can be a bit of an annoying genre for me. First it is dominated by bishounen love interests who often look more like girls and usually have aloof or abrasive personalities that make you wonder why the heroine fell in love with them in the first place. While at first glance, Itazura na Kiss may not seem to be any different (though with the relieving lack of bishies) it evolved before my very eyes into the most heartwarming romance I have seen to date. This Anime is so good that there ia a TV series both in Japanese and Korean based on the series, also follow the anime episode by episode.
The plot for Itazura na Kiss is no different than your standard shoujo romance. A plain and stupid, but cute girl Kotoko has fallen in love and secretly pined for school idol and uber smart Naoki Irie. She finally gathers to courage to write him a love confession letter but he flatly refuses to even accept or let alone read it stating that he doesn’t like "stupid" girls. Of course in a plot twist that can only happen in shoujo, Kotoko's house is destroyed due to faulty construction and she and her father are forced to move in with his old friend, who just happens to be Naoki's father! Hilarity and hijinks ensue.
Despite the fairly non groundbreaking premise the story remains quite funny. Kotoko tries desperately to get her feelings across despite Naoki being cold, uninterested, and mean to her. Though some of it walks to line of being unforgivable to my feminist brain, it never has some of the cruel or absolutely mean spirited feeling as I am accustomed to seeing in this genre. But what really sets Itazura's story apart is the eventual payoff to the romance. Yes I know this is going to be a shocking spoiler, but Kotoko and Naoki end up together! Omigosh really! Before some of you get upset at me for revealing that, but thats expected right?
What we get in Itazura is something we almost never see in romance; the AFTER in they lived happily ever after. Most romances evolve over the space of at most a year or two where in Itazura the years pass as we see our couple evolve and move on to each new stage of their life. The formulaic romance plot evolves into a bit of a slice of life over the last half of the series. But what is truly beautiful is seeing the characters and even the supporting characters grow and fine love and happiness themselves. It’s quite refreshing to see the spurned love rivals actually can be happy and not spend their lives pining away for an unattainable love. My only real gripe with this is that the extra romances themselves play out too similarly to the main storyline. I mean come on everyone does not fall in love the same way you know!
Kotoko makes for a very satisfying shoujo heroine. She has all the attributes that one would expect. She is cute but not overly beautiful, ditzy and clumsy, and not very bright. What she lacks in intelligence she makes up for in determination, hard work, and a singular focus on getting her man. This is where Itazura differs from a lot of shoujo. Our ordinary girl is not surrounded by a harem of pretty boys and while others vie for her love, too her credit her feelings for Naoki never waver. However as loveable and likeable as Kotoko is, you can’t help but wonder what it is she sees in Naoki who is so cold and mean to her. This is my main gripe usually with shoujo as I think it sets a bit of a bad role model for girls who thinks is ok to put up with this kind of thing. Even though she succeeds and manages to get her well deserved reward, you have to wonder why she bothered with him in the first place. Additionally, despite her pursuit of her man there is little else of substance about her. You don’t feel like she has any real dreams of her own beyond her relationship with Naoki. It also annoyed me a bit that even after becoming intimate she still referred to him as Irie-kun. All that being said, seeing Kotoko grow up and experience all the joy and happiness life has to offer brought a smile to my face and a few tears.
Our stoic and cold hearted love interest Naoki certainly isn’t the kind of guy I would fall for, but he has all of the attributes that young girls dream about. He is handsome (yet thankfully not a bishie), smart, the son of a company president, and of course admired by women and men alike. His is cold and aloof to everyone and while they at times touch on why this is they sadly never develop this part of his personality very well. He does make a lot of growth in his character over the course of the series, though annoyingly he often reverts back to his old ways in the following episode. But by the end of the series you feel as though he has become an acceptable human being. And to think it only took Kotoko 10 years to get that out of him!
Any romance would not be complete without the supporting cast of "cockblockers". There always has to be girls and boys who spring out of the woodwork to try and derail our leads happy romance. Itazura is no different however thankfully we get a cast of supporting characters who break the mold a bit and never seem to outstay their welcome and know when to move on when they have been defeated. There are no real villains in the cast and you will end up liking every one of them and feel all the more happy when they find loves of their own.
Every heroine needs a cast of helpful supporters encourages her romantic struggle. The series has some good ones, the biggest cheerleader and most humorous being Naoki's own mother who actively supports Kotoko in wooing her son, scolds him when he is mean to her, and loves her as her own daughter. It is quite sweet. The cast gets quite large towards the end and sadly some favorites tend to fade away into obscurity but you don’t miss them too much because they all are so wonderful to watch.
The artwork and animation is quite good. As I mentioned most shoujo series seem to revolve around bishie male characters which we do not get in this series. All the guys look like men, at least the ones that are supposed to be manly. There is some inconsistency at times with the look overall, particularly Kotoko who sometimes looks a bit too childish. The art itself is a bit plain too, by design but the settings, backgrounds, color palette, and character designs are not going to really blow anyone away. The music score is outstanding however. I really loved the EN theme and the performance from Kotoko seiyuu Nana Mizuki who is a favorite of mine and is probably best known as the voice of Fate from Nanoha.
Itazuka na Kiss comes close to receiving a perfect score. From a pure enjoyment standpoint alone it surpasses it. This series rivals my love for series with developed post confession romances such as Clannad. While is has a few minor annoyances overall this is the best and most enjoyable romance series I have seen. If your love your romance that’s lite on the tragedy and gives you a heartwarming happy ending then this should be at the very top of your list.
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