Itazura Na Kiss

Itazura Na Kiss Volume 1 by Kaoru Tada

Itazura Na Kiss is an influential shoujo series. While some of the plot elements might seem cliched, that is because it was published in the 1990s and influenced many titles that came after it. I’m happy to see some old-fashioned shoujo get translated, so I selected this book as my first manga to read in the new year.

Kotoko Aihara’s school sorts people into classes by academic ability. She’s in the lowest category, Class F. While she doesn’t care much about academics, she has the misfortune of falling in love with a boy from the academically gifted Class A. Naoki Irie is a genius with a photographic memory and an acidic personality. When Kotoko tries to give Naoki a letter that confesses her feelings he refuses to read it! He comments that he doesn’t like “stupid women,” ensuring that Kotoko has the sympathy of her entire class. She’s crushed, but the situation gets even worse when her new house collapses in an earthquake and her father announces that they’re going to move in with his old friend Iri-chan, who just happens to have a son who goes to Kotoko’s school.

It isn’t a big surprise that Naoki and Kotoko are now sharing the same house! Naoki continues to be as off-putting as ever. Kotoko still has feelings for him, but one of the things that makes Itazura Na Kiss interesting is that she isn’t content to be a simple doormat. Kotoko’s personality type of an attractive, bumbling girl with a lot of heart is very familiar to anyone who reads a lot of shoujo manga. But Kotoko does take initiative to get what she wants. Naoki’s mother decides to show Kotoko pictures of Naoki as a young boy and armed with incriminating evidence, Kotoko blackmails Naoki into becoming her tutor. She’s determined to become the first person from class F to get her name on the list of top 100 students and with Naoki’s help she succeeds. Her pleasure in the achievement isn’t her own academic success but seeing her name included with Naoki’s on the same list even though they are separated by 98 other people.

Naoki’s cool mannerisms and occasional casual cruelty could make him be a bit hard to take. But it is interesting to see the thaw in his personality as he spends more time with Kotoko. While misfortune might trail in her wake it has an effect on him as Naoki begins to experience some unexpected emotions that shake up his world like test anxiety.

The supporting cast in Itazura Na Kiss is hilarious. Kotoko’s father is a hard-working chef. Naoki’s mother has longed for a daughter for so long, she greets Kotoko with a room that is decorated with enough pink ruffles to make a princess puke. Naoki’s little brother Yuuki wants to be as much like Naoki as possible and he resents the feminine interloper in his house. He channels his feelings by treating Kotoko like a lab experiment, observing her and documenting all her behavior in a notebook. Kotoko has another suitor in the form of Kin-chan, a fellow student from Class F whose main goal is to marry Kotoko at any cost despite her vigorous protests.

I’m glad DMP decided to take a chance in releasing some classic shoujo that might not fit with what most modern readers expect from manga. The art in Itazura Na Kiss might seem unattractive to a modern shoujo fan, but I liked the loose sketchbook quality of Tada’s illustrations. I hope this series does well enough for DMP for them to release all 12 oversized volumes as planned. This series is a must read for any serious shoujo fan who wants to appreciate the history of the genre.