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First Date Review: Itazura na Kiss Volume 1

Gia takes on the latest-- or not so latest? --shoujo manga.



Vital Statistics

Title: Itazura na Kiss
Format: Manga
Creator: Kaoru Tada
Original Publisher: Shueisha
US Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
 

Release Info

Release Date: 11/04/09
Translator: Sachiko Sato
Length: 300 pages
MSRP: $16.95

 

The Story

 Look familiar? Itazura na Kiss was made into an anime in 2008.
 Look familiar? Itazura na Kiss was made into an anime in 2008.
Itazura na Kiss is a classic shoujo series from the '90s, so the story is rather classic too: Kotoko Aihara is a ditzy high school senior in a school that separates everyone by test scores, leaving her squarely in the "F" class. Her grade problems aren't due to a lack of effort, because she puts all her energy into whatever she does, but she really just is a bozo.

Kotoko also has a crush on a guy at her school: Naoki Irie, the top-scoring genius of class A. The manga opens with Naoki rejecting Kotoko's love letter, refusing to even touch it, much less read it or respond. In the wake of her complete rejection-- in front of the rest of the school, no less --Kotoko and her father move into their newly-built house, which proceeds to crumble when a small earthquake hits.

Kotoko and her dad are offered a place to stay by Kotoko's father's friend "Iri-chan," who-- can you guess? --turns out to be Naoki's dad. So Kotoko is stuck living with the guy who rejected her. Naoki turns out to be something of a douchebag, going out of his way to embarass or annoy Kotoko, especially if it involves pointing out her academic deficiencies. Even his little brother Yuuki gets in on the act.

Blah blah blah, will love blossom, etc.

The Review

 Oh, I think we know where this goes...but that doesn't mean the journey isn't still fun.
 Oh, I think we know where this goes...but that doesn't mean the journey isn't still fun.
...Okay, in spite of that last sentence, I feel like I should open this review by saying that after volume one ended, I really wanted to have volume two.

Even I can't exactly say why, however. Most of the time reading I just found myself appalled by how poorly Kotoko gets treated by Naoki and wondering why she continues to crush on him even when she's mad at him. I also found myself really irritated at the "she's just an idiot, no helping it" attitude, which may be kind of a cultural thing-- in the US we're sort of trained to believe that if we work hard, as Kotoko does, then we'll be rewarded, which she rarely is (unless Irie is blackmailed or challenged into helping her).

And yet, here I am, itching to read what happens after the end of the first volume, which sees Kotoko and Irie through their college entrance exams.

There is nothing here that is new, and that's perhaps the draw of the series: the story is simple but gratifying, leaving the focus more on the characters than on random happenstances (although some of those pop up too, mostly due to Kotoko's friends being nosy jerks). Kotoko can occasionally be charming, and watching Naoki's not-always-predictable path to being less of an ass has its merits as well.

Some readers may find the late Tada-sensei's art a bit hard to get into; it's old, and compared to most flowery, heavily-toned shoujo these days, it looks very simple. I found the art style kind of refreshing after so much really heavy art, like in Vampire Knight, personally. If you can get past the old flavor (or outright like it), there's plenty to enjoy here.

A few technical items: there aren't really any omake in the book, and no translation notes page, although there are in-line notes for the few things that need them, so I don't think anyone will feel the lack. Honorifics have generally been left in as well. The book is pretty fat-- 300 pages versus the usual ~200 --and in terms of height is about the same size as a standard VIZ/TOKYOPOP release, rather than the larger trim size that DMP sometimes favors.

If you're someone who enjoys series like Marmalade Boy, another '90s shared-housing romantic comedy squarely in the shoujo category, Itazura na Kiss will give you a nice  flashback. If you prefer your shoujo manga with stronger heroines more along the lines of Ouran High School Host Club or Kaichou wa Maid-sama!, then you probably won't get what you want out of ItaKiss, at least based on the first volume.
Agent_Loston Dec. 4, 2009 at 12:56 p.m.
Oh I remember something about this manga. If remember right this manga was never finish, the reason is that the Kaoru Tada died unexpectedly. When they started Anime, the husband check the note of author left and tried to make then ending that she wanted.

So basically the manga has no ending but the anime has an idea what the ending was supposed to be.
giaon Dec. 4, 2009 at 2:05 p.m.
@Agent_Lost: That's correct, she died of a cerebral hemorrhage. I'm really interested in seeing if DMP just lets the manga sort of fall off once they've caught up to Japan.

Dig Deeper into Digital Manga Publishing

Parent company of yaoi publisher 801 Media, owner of the June line of light BL titles, and publisher of a variety of other manga (including the new Vampire Hunter D manga).

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