Itazura Na Kiss Volume 2 by Kaoru Tada
Ah, poor Kotoko! Will her pursuit of her idol Naoki ever get any encouragement?! One of things I was surprised by in this volume was how quickly the protagonists moved from high school to college. Most of the current shoujo manga that I’ve read uses high school graduation as a stopping point, but the senior year for Naoki and Kotoko passes quickly. There are plenty of problems along the way. Naoki’s mother sees Valentine’s Day as an excuse to engineer a tender moment between the teenagers. Kotoko falls ill and Naoki stays by her during her sickness, giving up the opportunity to take an exam for a competitive university. They head off to college together.
As Kotoko enters college with Naoki, she sees that it is almost identical to high school. The Japanese literature course that she’s chosen is known to be the gathering place for the “Class F” of college. Naoki is studying science and engineering with a group of dedicated students that includes Yuko Matsumoto, a smart and beautiful girl that clearly has set her sights on him. Kotoko decides to join the tennis club, but soon finds out that her plan to get close to Naoki will not work as quickly as she had hoped.
Tada manages a delicate balancing act with her characterization that makes this manga much more rewarding and interesting to read than you might expect from a story based on the stereotypical dumb but cute girl/smart guy pairing. While book smarts don’t come easy to Kotoko, what she has instead is the satisfaction that comes from striving to improve himself. Her emotional intelligence and relationships with people are much better than Naoki’s. He’s listless and uninvested in life simply because everything comes so easily to him. While Naoki delights in teasing Kotoko there are a few scattered moments where it seems he might care about her, leading the reader to be strung along and hope for romance just like the hapless heroine. He does display signs of jealousy when it appears that Kotoko might be receiving attention from another man.
Where this manga continues to excel is in its supporting cast. Naoki’s mother’s determination to secure Kotoko as a daughter-in-law results in her skulking around the college in an ineffective disguise. Kinnosuke’s single minded pursuit of Kotoko causes him to get a job at the college cafeteria while he’s still working at her father’s restaurant. The switch to the college setting allows for more characters to be introduced, like the otaku club that latches on to Kotoko as their new mascot and the tennis club provides yet another place for Kotoko to struggle to improve her skills. If the focus was solely on the main couple, I think their relationship dynamic would start to bother me. But fortunately they interact with so many other characters and are placed in a variety of situations so my interest in the manga was maintained. As a bonus, Kotoko is frequently hilarious and the way she throws herself into new activities is fun to watch. Overall, this was a strong second volume. I wonder how long the college setting will last, and if the reader will see the characters graduate college as well.
As a side note, I read this online at eManga.com. This was my first time reading a whole volume of manga online, and I thought that the site’s online reader was easy to use. I took a few breaks here and there while I was reading it, and I thought it was nice the reader just paused and remembered my place when I went back to it.
Access to electronic copy provided by the publisher.