Itazura Na Kiss Book 1

Digital Manga is promoting this new series, released in chunky (300+ pages) volumes, as a classic shojo manga, trumpeting how it has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. But will English speakers take to it?

Itazura Na Kiss Book 1 cover
Itazura Na Kiss Book 1
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“Classic” is the right word — the art style is firmly old-school shojo. Huge eyes, sharp chins, and plenty of hair are accompanied by 80s fashion, including patterned shirts and t-shirts with shoulder pads. But the characters are universal: average schoolgirl Kotoko has a crush on Naoki, the boy at the top of the class. He’s a natural genius, and he refuses her because she’s stupid, part of the lowest grouping in their grade.

The plot is also typical shojo. Kotoko at least has the guts to tell Naoki how she feels, but he abruptly rejects her. Then it turns out that she’s going to be living with him. Her father’s new house has collapsed, and they move in with an old friend of his… who happens to be Naoki’s father.

Some of this will seem unusual to American readers. The idea of falling in love with the top achiever of the class, for example, or the way Kotoko thinks she’s in love with him because she liked the way he gave the class address to the school. I also sometimes had trouble believing in Naoki as so handsome, since his face can change between panels and his chin is incredibly sharp.

Still, I enjoyed reading the book because of the charm of the characters. Kotoko I found myself liking almost in spite of myself because of her good humor and determination. Kotoko’s father and his buddy are quite funny when plotting to bring their kids together, while Naoki’s mother is obsessive now that she finally has someone to play daughter for her. The other child, Yuuki, is just adorable, especially when he starts journaling how stupid Kotoko is as his school research project. He’s a miniature Naoki, egotistical in his intelligence and idolizing his big brother.

The relationship between the two teens ends up changing them for the better, as expected. He teaches her how to study, and she learns secrets from his mother that humanize him. The extended length gives plenty of room to get to know the two, as well as the supporting cast. If you enjoy schoolgirl romance, you should definitely check this series out. According to Wikipedia, there are a total of 12 volumes planned, but the manga was ultimately unfinished, due to the author’s accidental death in 1999. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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10 Comments

  1. [...] by Kaoru Tada. The book has already received warm welcomes from the likes of Danielle Leigh, Johanna Draper Carlson and Kate Dacey, which is a very promising sign [...]

  2. [...] vol. 5 of Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President (Manga Xanadu) Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Itazura Na Kiss (Comics Worth Reading) Julie on vol. 19 of Kekkaishi (Manga Maniac Cafe) Lorena Nava Ruggero on [...]

  3. “Some of this will seem unusual to American readers. The idea of falling in love with the top achiever of the class, for example, or the way Kotoko thinks she’s in love with him because she liked the way he gave the class address to the school.”

    I’m an American reader, and I don’t find this particularly strange. I remember the top student in my high school class (grades-wise, he was only no. 3, but no. 1 and 2 were in a committed relationship, he was class president, and he’s the one who eventually went to Harvard) was frequently running away from girls who were pressing their attentions on him. Much of it was not serious, but there might have been someone who was serious.

  4. Oh, that’s interesting to hear. Very different from my experience, but maybe times have changed. That would be pretty cool.

  5. I don’t know if it was so cool from his point of view. He had to say ‘no’ a lot, often to the same girls, and he did not look like he enjoyed the situation.

    America is such a diverse place that I’m sure one place’s high schools are quite different from another. I’m curious what about your experience made you think that Americans would find it strange that a girl would fall in love with the top achiever?

  6. In my timeframe and area, it was not cool to be smart. If kids are valuing intelligence more, than I think that is a good thing, even though it might not have been all that fun for the specific guy involved in your case.

  7. It’s funny how one’s high school experiences can affect one’s manga reading. I went to an all-girls parochial school with a strict uniform policy, so seeing kids in uniform brings me back (our skirts were longer, though)! I hung out with a group of competitive scholastic overachievers, so I can relate to that aspect in manga, too. The obssesion with boys eludes me a bit, b/c most of my overachieving friends were too busy w/schoolwork to get boycrazy (I was too shy and goody-goody).
    This looks like a fun read. The formula of girl-moves-in-with-crush has been copied many times, makes me want to read the original! Thanks for the review!

  8. So being stupid was cool at your high school? I find that odd.

    Grades did not really determine popularity, but smart and ambitious people were admired, and smart and ambitious people tend to have good grades.

    My high school experience definitely revolved a lot less around romance than almost all high school fiction (from America, Japan, or anywhere else) I’ve ever read. In fact, I don’t even expect high school fiction to look like my experience. But I still enjoy the good stuff, and look forward to seeing what the fuss about Itazura na Kiss is all about.

  9. Stupid wasn’t cool, but being too smart meant geeky, and that wasn’t cool either.

  10. [...] the first book, we were introduced to dumb but well-meaning Kotoko and her crush, super-smart Naoki. The two wound [...]

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