Synonyms: He is a Friend, He is My Friend, He is my boyfriend
Published: Oct 13, 2007 to Jan 13, 2010
Genres: Romance, School, Shoujo
Authors: Yoshioka, Ririko (Story & Art)
Serialization: Bessatsu Friend
Kare wa tomodachi is one of top ten drama-romances and with good reason. As we all know, being a teen is hard, and it is precisely this anguish and delight of being a teen, finding and losing and picking up the pieces of first love that Kare wa tomodachi expresses with gusto.
So as the story always goes, we have an (uncharacteristically) level headed and otherwise ordinary shoujo lead Hiyori. Her heart goes doki doki for the popular and friendly Mizuno in the next class but gosh darn it, how is she to approach him when his hoard of female fans won't let her through? Hmm, maybe his best friend who serendipitously happens to be seated next to her could help her out. However Sasamoto, accustomed to being the gentleman in waiting for Mizuno wants nothing to do with Hiyori. He's had enough of helping girls get to Sasamoto, using him as a stepping stone. But after much pleading he relents to poor ol' Hiyori's requests. And things even started going well... If by well you mean Mizuno being approached by his ex girlfriend for reconciliation just when Hiyori is about to make a play for herself and having that same ex girlfriend have a change of heart when Hiyori decides to back down. Tsk!!!
The story seems original enough. Obviously by original I do not refer to a girl falling for a prince like character and trying to make him notice her, but the subtleties of the plot, the round about way each character's past and tenuous relationships are explored and how they determine their destinies is novel. For a drama, this story is refreshingly free of frustrating shoujo stereotypes and annoying character traits which make you want to hurl a television at the character's head.
Unpredictable plots are introduced just when the story is about to settle into a nice groove (it's a drama, it's no-one's fault!) but are handled sincerely. No turn seems outrageous or contrived and the characters make the entire situation very believable. Their are couples you root for and villains you want to throw eggs at.
Art is an interesting part of Yoshioka Ririko's works. While it's not particularly groundbreaking or breathtaking, it's cute enough, not overly flowery but it is impactful and original. Sure, they could keep their mouths closed a bit more, but then what would the reader whine about?! Precise characters are drawn with interesting expressions and fashionable clothes. The backgrounds and panel could have been cleaner and sometimes makes for distractions in reading, but it's not the roses and hearts and polka dots which can really be a deterrent.
Characters: Aaaah the meat and potatoes of this story. All the characters, invoke really strong reactions in even the most seasoned shoujo reader. They're quite original both in their motivations and how they handle situations. You really bawl when some particularly sad event occurs in the heroine's life or when her bishi imposes a punishment on himself for no fault of theirs, and the antagonists really make you grind your teeth together, plotting their downfall. I think that's the proof of a good story, when you immerse yourself so fully in your characters that you forget they're just figments of somebody's imagination and you wait with bated breath for someone to finally catch a break or even... GASP a happy ending! Well I'm still waiting for any happy ending, but the plot really sucks you in while retaining its freshness.
Though drama is definitely the foremost element of this story, the characters don't take themselves too seriously. There is plenty of humor and good natured joshing throughout the manga. There is also a healthy sprinkling of fun and carefree school experiences portrayed to keep the story grounded and perhaps as a break for the leads all dealing with a lot for ordinary 16 year olds!
I really enjoyed KwT. Each chapter doesn't necessarily end at a big cliffhanger, but you do feel uneasy until you know what happens next. No couple falls in love at first sight, nor do they break up over tiny misunderstandings. First kisses and making out aren't made the focal point of the entire series, though they're given adequate significance. Cliche premises are kept at bay and novel and realistic situations are explored instead. These are clearly a bunch of smart kids and you feel happy while reading this, rather than contemptuous or disdainful towards even one of them.
So would I recommend this story? Yes, if you like to invest deeply in riveting story lines. Yes, if you're not easily moved by substandard romances and are longing for something real but heart throbbing at the same time. Yes, if you want to cheer on for a girl looking to have a happy life, even if that means being single. But if you're looking for instant gratification and are quick to feel bad when anguish befalls the lead characters, then tread carefully. Bokura ga ita lovers would definitly like it ^_^