Itazura na Kiss, Vol. 1
by Kaoru Tada
DMP, 335 pp.
Rating: Teens (13 +)
Itazura na Kiss tells the tale of Irie Naoki and Aihara Kotoko, two high school students of radically different intellect and social levels. What starts out as an innocent crush on Kotoko’s part quickly spirals into the talk of the school and more in this surprisingly entertaining romantic comedy.
I’m not a big fan of romantic comedy manga, but after seeing some of the positive buzz regarding the latest volume of Itazura na Kiss on Twitter I felt the need to look into it. Kotoko is a young girl who’s seemingly incapable of doing anything correctly. This is mostly limited to academics but occasionally it spills over into other realms such as cooking and the like. The apple of her eye, Irie, is the exact opposite. He’s perfect to the point of being obnoxious. He’s a master at everything he attempts and manages to do so with little to no effort on his part. He’s also a hugely unlikeable jerk. With one character functionally useless and the other making me want to slap him, I didn’t exactly have high hopes for this. Much to my surprise though I found myself drawn into the story, thanks in part to the charmingly plucky nature that Kaoru Tada imbues Kotoko with. The relationship that develops between the two over the course of the book is still fairly one sided, but much like myself it seems that Naoki is slowly being won over by Kotoko’s determination to succeed and better herself.. regardless of how often she fails. The relationship and the interaction between the two is unquestionably the highlight of the story. It has a nice, friendly antagonism to it that feels incredibly genuine and real at times, though it does occasionally dip into rude jerk territory on Irie’s part from time to time.
Kaoru Tada’s artwork is deceptively simple and very delicate looking at times. In several places portions of the artwork almost look like they’re uninked pencils, which is actually something I’m kind of keen on. It gives the artwork a certain home made edge and feel, and I mean that in a good and complimentary way. It’s most notable in Naoki’s hair, but several of the other lighter hair characters and some other items that appear also have a rough, pencil feel to it. The backgrounds are a bit sparse, but with the amount of dialogue being flung around it’s not terribly noticeable. There are a few bits and pieces where the anatomy just gets odd. In Naoki’s first appearance his face looks fairly horrible and towards the end of the volume there’s a sequence where his shoulders are incredibly broad and his head looks tiny. Those small flaws aside I thought the artwork fit the book and liked Tada’s used of background patterns to enhance reactions throughout the story. The fact that many of the characters have different body types, facial shapes and even a few distinctive gestures and body language also helped compensate for the odd moments here and there.
I didn’t think I’d enjoy this but much to my surprise I did. I don’t think it’s destined to become a favorite read of mine, but just like I occasionally watch and enjoy the odd romantic comedy I read and enjoyed this. A fun, light read that I’m glad I gave a chance.
Itazura na Kiss, Vol. 1 is available now at Emanga.com. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.