Ryu’s Musings: Itazura na Kiss vols 1-3

itazura1logooutlineLanguage: English
Direction: Right to Left
by: Kaoru Tada
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Type: Series
Genre: Shojo, Comedy, Drama, Romance


High school senior Kotoko Aihara has had a crush on Naoki Irie since freshman year. Unfortunately, there a few things are discouraging her from to him: he’s a member of "Class A," the top ranking class in school, whereas she’s in "Class F"; he gets the top score on every exam; and he’s so smart, popular and handsome that he’s been class president every year. When Kotoko finally musters up the courage to present him with a love letter, though, Naoki outright refuses it, telling her point blank–with a look of disgust and boredom—that he doesn’t like "stupid girls." Poor Kotoko’s worst nightmare! Her heart is broken, but then a change in circumstance forces Naoki and Kotoko to be together every day…!?

Character Musings:

Kotoko Aihara is the heroine of the series, she’s not the brightest bulb in the pack. But what she lacks in smarts she makes up for in determination and her happy go lucky personality. As a character she’s well developed, personality wise, and while she does grow over the three volumes she starts off well rounded.

Naoki Irie is the complete reverse of Kotoko, he’s one of the smartest students in Japan, but also a rather apathetic person who has closed himself off. This does cause some problems for Tada, trying to bring out his personality well is very hard due to his cold nature. If it’s done wrong we’d have a character that just didn’t work. Thankfully Tada pulls it off perfectly.

These two characters are the main characters, and frankly, the atmosphere  between the two of them is amazing. It worked splendidly and I found myself being drawn more and more into their relationship.

There are a number of other characters but they aren’t that important, and I’ll cover them in the next section.

General Musings:

When i first ordered this series from the Book Depository I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. What i got wasn’t what i was expectingPrint though.

The art in this series is literally all over the place, and i do mean all over the place. The character designs especially seem to change from page to page. To be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if people did give up early on because of the art, and the fact the story starts off a bit on the slow side.

However over the course of the three volumes the art does improve, and at times I found the style rather endearing, and it did produce some rather funny looking scenes. Though at the same time i also found it rather sad that the art wasn’t better done.

This was especially true of the first page of the first volume. We get both of the main characters and they both look, well, freaky. Naoki looks like he’s just gotten out of bed, and then hit in the face with a frying pan. Right under him we have Kotoko, who looks like she’s just had the fright of her life, and used at least a dozen cans of hair spray on her hair.

Initially for me this was a killer, and i put the volumes away ‘cause i didn’t want to deal with it; shame on me!! If you give the first volume a chance the story really does grow on you. Sure the story is cheesy as hell, but at the same time i found i couldn’t help but laugh at the stupid events that take place. Not to mention how those around the pair react.

Both families mix an excellent element of zany into the mix, creating a truly comical story.

Of course this would only carry the series so far. Eventually it would be come dull, and then we’d have nothing but a horrendously drawn series with no story. Tada however introduces elements to the story that keep things interesting. They’re all based around the relationships, friendships and rivalries that come about.

itazura2logooutline One thing i did find a bit weird though was the love interests for Naoki, we get two new ones in the first three volumes, and they aren’t really well developed. I was rather disappointed at how fast the relationships were discounted, but at the the same time i loved the comic elements that came about because of those relationships.

Naturally the core of the story is about Naoki and Kotoko coming together, and the way that Tada slowly builds the relationship works really well. Rather than having Naoki change over night it takes time, and the changes are at first subtle, and then more and more pronounced. I was really impressed with the way the two moved forward in their relationship, and the way they handled the events around them.

By the end of the third volume I no longer cared that the art is horrid, it no longer mattered. All that mattered was that the story was awesome, and I’m now eagerly awaiting the next volume.

The various characters add some colour to Kotoko and Naoki’s relationship, as well as giving them a back drop to interact with. The Irie family is with out a doubt one of the best sources of laughter for the series, especially with Naoki’s mother, who has always wanted a daughter and goes a mile to far. I did find her personality a bit over the top, but Tada keeps it to just the right level and frequency, resulting in a good blend. She loves Kotoko and goes out of her way to bring the two of them together, and on a few occasions goes a little to far.

Kinnosuke is the main male love rival, but i was saddened by how little impact he has on the two characters. He seems to be there more for the comic relief than anything else. And while he certainly does give us a lot of laughs, I wish he could have been more of a rival, would have been more interesting i think.

Reiko is the main female love rival in the first three volumes, and she does it really well. Though sadly it’s pretty obvious from the outset that she has no chance. We do get some interesting elements and scenarios, especially when Naoki uses her to make Kotoko jealous.

Publisher Musings:

I was a bit reluctant at buying this series originally, since it was more expensive than usual. When it arrived this was made worse by the fact that the manga was smaller that the usual manga DMP put out, being more inline with normal manga sizes, rather than the over sized ones I’ve seen of their other titles. They do keep the honorific’s of the series, and give inline notes and translations for cultural references.

All told this was an excellent read, and a series I’m going to be following faithfully from now on.

Author: Ryu Sheng