Caitlin, Dee, and Meru complete their watchalong of GAINAX-produced shoujo anime and cap things off with some manga discussion!
Content warning: discussions of fatphobia, self-harm, sexual assault, misogyny, abusive relationships, pedophilia
Editor’s Note: This series of episodes was recorded before Meru changed their name and pronouns; the transcript will reflect both in their updated form.
Date Recorded: October 31, 2021
Hosts: Caitlin, Dee, Meru
0:01:53 The… End?
0:10:16 Kano and some Class-BS
0:17:00 Tonami’s fatphobic arc
0:28:57 Arima’s unresolved red flags
0:49:39 *MANGA SPOILER/CONTENT WARNING SECTION*
CAITLIN: Hi and welcome to Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast. Today we are finishing up our watchalong of Kare Kano with episodes 20 to 26. And my name is Caitlin. I am one of the managing editors at Anime Feminist, as well as a reviewer at Anime News Network. You can find my Twitter @alltsun_nodere. And today I am once again joined by the lovely Dee and Meru.
DEE: Hi, I’m Dee. I’m one of the managing editors at AniFem. You can find most of my writings on my blog The Josei Next Door, and you can hang out with me on Twitter @joseinextdoor. And that is J-O-S-E-I, just in case it doesn’t always come through clear on the podcast.
MERU: And my name’s Meru, and I’m your local Jahy stan, as I am reviewing Jahy this year. And you can find me @pixelatedlenses on Twitter, where I talk about everything and show a lot of pictures of food and… yeah, just love to be there for people. It’s great.
CAITLIN: All right. So, we finished Kare Kano this week.
MERU: Did we?
DEE: “Finished” is a word.
MERU: [crosstalk] Did we? Did we?
DEE: I mean, we got to the last episode and then the last episode ended, so I suppose in that sense we did finish Kare Kano.
CAITLIN: We watched 26 episodes of Kare Kano…
MERU: Mm-hm. That’s a fact.
CAITLIN: … and there are no more episodes.
MERU: Also a fact.
DEE: So, by that definition, yes, we finished Kare Kano this week.
CAITLIN: So, conversation.
DEE: A conversation.
MERU: [crosstalk] Conversation.
DEE: [crosstalk] Another conversation.
MERU: [crosstalk] That made me livid.
DEE: [crosstalk] Realization. Hurt.
MERU: That section made me livid.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yelling! Yelling in rage.
CAITLIN: Red flags. [Chuckles]
MERU: I’ve never felt the emotion… You know that meme on the internet of “[crying in Spanish]”? I was screaming in Japanese. I’ve never felt so much rage. I was like, “What is…?” The budget just… Did they just give them ichi-man, just 10,000 yen and they were like, “Have fun.”
CAITLIN: More like ichi en, I think!
MERU: Yeah. They just… I just… Whoof! Oofa-doofa!
CAITLIN: Yeah, I don’t have specifics to what exactly happened behind the scenes. This was the point where Anno had supposedly left the production. Their relationship with the… But it turns out he only left for one episode and then he came back, which was only recently clarified in an interview. There’s a lot of mythology around this, a lot of names thrown around. We finally know what happened. The relationship with the manga creator had gone sour. They wanted to do a second season. She was like, “No. Absolutely not. You guys are fucking it up. It’s too funny, guys! It’s too funny.”
MERU: [Chuckles] She wanted it more dramatic.
DEE: So, basically my favorite things about the anime were the parts she hated, which tells me the manga is not for me. And you know what? Sometimes that’s okay.
CAITLIN: You know, I’m not gonna say that she said this specifically, but, you know, “Get Imaishi out of there. That chase sequence? Too funny.”
DEE: Oh my God.
MERU: [crosstalk] Oh no.
CAITLIN: That’s not a direct quote. That’s just extrapolation. But the point is: they wanted to do more, she would not let them, and whenever they were asked for a while whether they were going to do more, they were like, “We’d love to! We can’t! She won’t let us. She hates us. So… Oh, well!” [Chuckles]
DEE: That’s rough. Which, it does sort of feel like they kind of just gave up at the end, almost.
CAITLIN: It does kinda feel like that.
DEE: Because I think you could have wrapped up the school fest— Honestly, here’s the thing: the midway point of episode 24 is a good ending. It’s not a perfect ending. It’s a good ending.
CAITLIN: It’s a good ending. Yes.
DEE: It is unclear whether the midway point of episode 24 takes place in Yukino’s head or if it’s actually happening, but Yukino supports Arima as he starts to deal with his trauma and Yukino has this realization about how they’re going to keep changing and maybe they’ll grow apart, and that’s okay because they’ll always have had this time together. And then it hits the opening theme again, which was very confusing for me.
MERU: An emotional roller coaster.
DEE: And I was like, “Oh! That was really nice. We got this wrap-up for the two of them.” But then the show kept going for another two-and-a-half episodes.
DEE: And really from that point to the end, to me, it was a nightmare, because it was half a recap…
DEE: It was half a recap. The next episode was a side story about her sisters that was fine, I guess.
MERU: [crosstalk] No, no, Dee… You don’t have to—
DEE: I mean, we can talk about some of the weird “just a phase” lesbian crap…
MERU: [crosstalk] You don’t have to lie. You don’t have to lie. That episode sucked!
MERU: That episode sucked!
DEE: Okay. Okay, excellent, excellent.
CAITLIN: I mean, I guess Kano is gay? Maybe?
DEE: She’s not, though, because she even says she’s not actually interested in this other girl. But everybody around her is convinced… We’re jumping ahead. I’m sorry, folks at home. In fairness, the chronology of this stretch is so all-over-the-place that it’s really hard to get my thoughts in any kind of an order.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It’s really weird.
MERU: It feels like when I wrote fanfiction at 14 and I didn’t understand the word “pacing.” It has that vibe of… I was just like, “And this happens, and this happens, and this happens, too!”
DEE: Yeah, so there’s this weird side story one episode from the end that we’ll discuss in more detail later because it also was not particularly good or engaging. And then we veer back to the main story. And it’s like they went, “Oh shit, we don’t have any time.” And I’m like, “Yeah, of course you don’t have any time! You just wasted an entire episode on a side story and half a recap! Maybe if you’d used that for the school festival arc, you could have gotten us to a stopping point, at least.”
MERU: The audacity to put another recap in! I…
CAITLIN: They had to have been having production issues with that, more production issues.
DEE: I actually said, “Oh, fuck you,” at the screen at that point!
CAITLIN: The way that they kept showing the “Keep a distance from the TV screen” with the music, it was so… It felt weird! It messed with my brain!
DEE: I briefly— I was like, “Am I having a stroke? Do I smell toast? What is happening over here?” No, that was very baffling and upsetting. The only good thing about the recap stretch was the part where the friends got to narrate it and Lisa Ortiz gets to complain about how she hasn’t really had any lines for an entire cour because they’ve turned her into an animal and not a character.
CAITLIN: [Laughs] I feel like probably a lot of that was just very loosely translated, too, just like, “Okay, let’s let them go off! All right, have fun!”
DEE: I agree. I agree. That was the only thing that made that recap portion even remotely salvageable. Honestly, I wish… if they were going to do a recap, I think having the characters talk over it is a clever way to do it because you can get some more characterization from side characters when you do it that way. I don’t know why they didn’t do it for every single one, but…
CAITLIN: Yeah! If they had done that for the middle recaps instead of just having a straight-up clip show, that would have been so much more fun.
DEE: It would’ve been more engaging, yeah.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] That would have been a recap worth watching. But it’s not.
DEE: No, it’s not. Yeah, so, the last— Again, the middle of 24 is a good conclusion. If somehow folks at home are listening to this and haven’t actually watched the show, that’s where I would stop: the middle of episode 24. You’ll get to it and be like, “This feels kind of rushed,” but it is emotionally resonant. It is a nice way to cap off these characters and acknowledge, they’re high schoolers: their story is going to continue because they’ve still got a lot of life left. But—
CAITLIN: They have wrapped up their arc…
MERU: [crosstalk] Don’t watch episode—
DEE: But they’re both on a path that I feel comfortable leaving them on as the credits roll. So, when that opening theme drops again halfway through episode 24, just turn it off.
MERU: [crosstalk] Just close the tab.
DEE: Just close the tab! You’re done! Show’s over! You had a good ride. It was a good ride. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good ride.
MERU: You could just do… what do the kids call it? Asmer? A-S-M-R? How do you pronounce it?
DEE: [crosstalk] A-S-M-R.
MERU: Go get some of that on YouTube. Yeah. I think I might be the only person who calls it Asmer. Oops.
CAITLIN: You might be. You might be. I’ve never heard that before.
MERU: I’ve only read it! But go watch some of that. Don’t watch episode 25. And definitely don’t watch episode 26 because you’re just going to be like, whoa!
DEE: Episode 26—
CAITLIN: The thing that gets me…
DEE: Oh, yeah, go ahead, Caitlin.
CAITLIN: So, the thing that gets me is that they were so close to the end of the arc, too.
DEE: You can tell!
CAITLIN: There had to be—there had to be—some kind of fuckery going on behind the scenes, because without the Kano episode, they really just needed one more episode. They really just needed that to wrap up the arc to put on the play, because they were so close to it in that last episode.
DEE: That’s where I figured we would end. I was like, “Oh, okay, so we’ll wrap up this Tonami–Tsubaki stuff on the side and then we’ll wrap up the school play and then that’ll be a stopping point.” And I’m like, “Yeah! I will be aware that there’s more story, but it feels like it’ll be a good stopping point. Yukino’s figuring some stuff out. We should be good to go.”
CAITLIN: And you definitely don’t need to read the manga. Don’t… We’ll talk about that.
DEE: Yeah, if we have time, we’ll talk about that at the end, for sure. Yeah, it was… The last episode… it’s not only that it doesn’t end, like the show just sort of stops. It feels like it drops another red flag parade, basically, right?
CAITLIN: Yep. Oh, man!
DEE: It drops a bunch of really concerning stuff on us in that final episode and then just leaves us there to hang. And suddenly I’m like: you know that midpoint of 24 where I was like, “I think these two kids are gonna be okay”? I don’t feel that way anymore. Like, “Hey, Yukino?”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] No! No, they’re not okay! They’re not okay.
DEE: Yukino will be! But she needs to maybe not be with Arima anymore.
MERU: I was gonna say, will she? Because Arima ain’t gonna be okay, treating her that way. Oof!
CAITLIN: No. And the way they just kind of drop it makes it feel like they think it’s okay. Right? They don’t examine it. Asaba’s just like, “Yeah!” Yeah, no, listen… But you know what? Let’s put that on the table, and let’s walk to something a little lighter first.
DEE: Okay. Yeah, we’ll walk through Arima later.
CAITLIN: Let’s just get the Kano episode out of the way.
DEE: That’s a good idea, because it’s unrelated to anything around it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, which is a nothing episode. It is anime original.
MERU: [crosstalk] It’s not good.
CAITLIN: It has nothing to do with anything that happens in the manga. It has nothing to do with anything that’s happening in the plot. And it adds nothing!
MERU: Excuse me. You mean this is what they chose to spend that 10,000 yen on, that they had? They were like, “You know what? We’re gonna spend 9,999 on this nothingburger episode, this nonsense, this horrible episode!”
CAITLIN: It has more animation than a lot of the other episodes have had recently.
MERU: Point. Point. Okay. [Chuckles]
DEE: That is… God, that feels passive-aggressive! It feels like they did it on purpose to intentionally not end the season on a stopping point.
CAITLIN: I mean, I wouldn’t actually be totally surprised, knowing Anno!
DEE: God, that makes me angry!
CAITLIN: Knowing how bad things went down at the end, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a spite move.
MERU: That’s not nice. That’s not Gucci. [Chuckles]
DEE: It’s deeply unprofessional and kind of rude to your… Honestly, it’s rude to your audience, who has nothing to do with the mangaka being a jerk behind closed doors or— I mean, not even a jerk, for all I know. I mean, it’s her creation: she has a right to feel how she wants to feel about it. But finish the story you wanted to tell, and then you have your project, too. Ugh!
Sorry, it just… I get that it’s complex and there’s a bunch of people behind the scenes and this and that happens, but it starts to feel deeply unprofessional when you realize, like you said, if they had just not done this weird anime-original episode, we could have gotten to the end of the school arc and we’d have had a stopping point.
But yeah, so this episode—
MERU: Gosh, what a shame.
DEE: This episode continues Kare Kano’s weird tradition of being queer-adjacent but not quite!
CAITLIN: Not quite.
CAITLIN: Yeah… I mean, I guess one girl’s… she’s asking Tsukino to be her big sister but in a way that definitely feels like maybe she’s sublimating some crush feelings. You know what I mean?
DEE: Yeah. But they basically start the episode off with the mom making some comment about, like, “Yeah, girls at that age aren’t into boys so they glom onto girls instead.” It’s very “just a phase,” like mapping a crush on Class S type language, which makes the rest of the episode, kind of like [hums skeptically].
I wish I could be happy that everyone seems supportive like, “Oh, Kano, this girl has a crush on you. You should consider her feelings” and “Do you like her back?” I thought that element would have been cute if we hadn’t sort of laid that early groundwork of: “Yeah, it’s just something you do in junior high and then you grow out of and get married and have children.” I’m like, “Gross. Stop it.”
MERU: It made me think of the term… and I don’t know if Gen… what’s this gen? Gen Alpha, Gen Z? Gen X?
CAITLIN: Gen Z.
MERU: Gen Z. I don’t know if they know this term. It made me think of, when I was in high school and college, the term “LUG,” like a “lesbian until graduation.”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh. I’ve heard “BUG.”
MERU: And this episode had big LUG energy, and that’s not a good thing. I was like, [groans painfully] ugh! [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: You know, I think that might be becoming outdated because…
MERU: [crosstalk] Good!
CAITLIN: …I see a lot of articles about how Gen Z is super gay.
MERU: I love it. It’s great for them.
CAITLIN: It’s just super queer. I never heard “LUG.” I’ve heard “BUG,” which is “bisexual until graduation.”
MERU: Oh, that’s fascinating!
DEE: Also bad. [Chuckles]
MERU: Yeah, I was gonna say, “Fascinating. Not great!”
DEE: Well, and it all ties into the same idea that a lot of Class S yuri fiction did, which is the idea that you’ll grow out of it—it’s just a phase, right? It’s that very harmful idea of “Oh, well, you cute girls and your passionate friendships… But don’t worry. You’ll eventually decide that you need a husband and children.” I mean, it all comes from the same place, which… We don’t have time to get into the history of that. It is centuries old, or at least a century old.
But definitely, it feels like that’s the area the episode is playing in. And I actually was grateful that at the end it turned out it was basically a misunderstanding because they both just read too much and assumed that, based on all the fiction they’d read, that what clearly was happening was that they were being stalked by somebody who had a crush on them. And that was not the case. And then they end up being friends because it turns out they both really like books and they both want to be in the literature club. So, I thought the ending was fine.
CAITLIN: It was a fun callback to the early episodes where Kano makes these really insightful comments and they’re like, “Wow, Kano, you’re so smart!” and she’s like, “I read shoujo manga!”
DEE: Yeah. Yeah. It definitely tied into that, and the opposite side of that being that she has a bit of an overactive imagination and she has no real-world experience, so the things she reads in books is kind of what she assumes the real world is like, and that’s not always the case. So, I did like that element of it.
I think drawing it out for a full episode was absurd. If they’d had a second season, I think you could have done like 15 minutes of “And here’s a story about the sisters,” just to kind of flesh out the supporting cast. But the way they did it, it took way too long and it wasted a bunch of time that we didn’t have. We didn’t have that time.
CAITLIN: All right. Well, that episode sucked and added nothing. I think we can sum that up. Now let’s move on to Tonami and Tsubaki. Tonami, the mysterious handsome transfer student who used to be a fat kid who everyone picked on!
MERU: [crosstalk] I do not like that backstory. Good old ‘90s fatphobia at play.
MERU: I was like, “Wow! Oof! They just went in full…”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, my notes were like, “Oh! This is kind of fatphobic.”
MERU: Dare I say they went in whole hog on this child. They were like, “This kid’s fat, and that’s why nobody likes him!” And I was just like, “Wow.”
CAITLIN: Or he’s spoiled, and that’s why he’s fat.
MERU: Yeah, he’s spoiled and his parents obviously give him too many snacks, so he’s a bad fat kid! [Chuckles]
DEE: Yeah, I feel like every episode they came up with they rewrote Tonami’s backstory, so I could never really get a feel for… Because at first he made some comment about being kind of sickly, so I was like, oh, okay, so they’re using that as “One of the reasons he’s overweight is he’s not able to exercise because he has a heart condition or health issues.” But then they rewrite it later, so that’s not actually the case. Like you guys were saying, it’s because he’s spoiled.
And then they’re like, “Well, the other kids didn’t like him, not just because he looks different but because he was actually insufferable.” And I’m like, I don’t know what you’re doing with this guy. I don’t know what his backstory is supposed to be, other than Tsubaki is really mean to him! [Chuckles]
MERU: Tsubaki is horrible to him. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: You see, being fat is caused by all of the ills of decadent, wealthy society… is the message I was getting.
MERU: [crosstalk] Man, I wish I was fat and rich. I’m just fat and poor!
MERU: Dang it!
CAITLIN: When he talked about geriatric diseases, I read it as him having gout or something, like that episode of King of the Hill where Bobby starts eating a bunch of chicken livers and he gets gout because they’re just super fatty food and… But anyway, the point is that is not classy, and so, Tsubaki picks on him and she thinks that it is being friends with him because Tsubaki is bad at human interaction that does not involve hitting.
MERU: [Through chuckling] The amount of times her fist hits this child and other children…
CAITLIN: And then he moves away, and he gets hot and comes back.
MERU: And skinny! He gets skinny.
DEE: High school glow-up. Yeah.
MERU: Skinny legend. And he can dunk! [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: I mean, you do see that sometimes with kids.
DEE: Oh, absolutely.
CAITLIN: They’ll get chunky and then they’ll kind of stretch out. Like they start putting on weight to get ready for a growth spurt.
DEE: I mean, I basically did that. So, yeah, I get it. I didn’t get hot like Tonami did. But no, I was a chubby kid and then I hit a growth spurt in middle school and then I wasn’t the chubby kid anymore. So, yeah, I mean, it can happen, for sure.
CAITLIN: But so he comes back like, “I’m gonna get revenge on Tsubaki.” But there’s a thin line between love and hate.
MERU: It’s that frenemies-to-lovers ship that we all crave.
DEE: Do we?
MERU: [crosstalk] Except I didn’t want this. I didn’t want this at all. No.
CAITLIN: It needs to be more playful for it to work for me.
DEE: It needs to be more playful or it needs to take more time.
MERU: Yeah. And this needed more both. [Chuckles]
DEE: Yeah. Because I think I would have been okay with it if he’d come in earlier in the series and then they slowly became friends and then it was like, “Oh, it turns out we actually have a lot in common and we have a crush on each other, and we’ve worked through our very fraught childhood because we were kids and sometimes kids are shitty.”
CAITLIN: Tsubaki realizes how shitty she was…
DEE: Yeah! And Tsubaki realizes, like, “Wow, I was really mean to you,” and he’s like, “Yeah,” and they have actual conversations about it instead of it basically being like, “I hate you. Oh, wait. Actually, I like you. Smooch, in a tree.”
CAITLIN: They get into a fistfight on the riverbank and work out all their feelings that way.
CAITLIN: You know!
DEE: Maybe I shouldn’t support that, but I guess if they’re fistfighting mutually then sure, I guess!
CAITLIN: So, to reveal some manga information, which always puts a particular… Now this is contemporary with what’s happening in the anime. A lot of his internal monologue is about how, now that he’s taller and bigger, he looks at her and she looks so fragile.
MERU: [annoyed] Oh, God.
CAITLIN: You know, Tsubaki, who this entire time we’ve seen as very energetic and strong and tough… That’s been the entire narrative around her. He looks at her, just… “Her back is so small. Her shoulders are so narrow.”
DEE: You get a little bit of that, especially in the last episode of this stretch. But there’s a few moments where he thinks like, “Oh, I’m physically stronger than her now. I’m taller than her now,” and then she usually immediately follows that up by, like, headbutting him. [Chuckles] So, the anime at least kind of… it feels like it undercuts it a little bit to be like, “Well, that’s Tonami’s perspective.” But it sounds like maybe the manga leans into that a lot harder.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it does, because it doesn’t have the comedy aspect at this point. It starts off pretty funny, but it loses all of the comedy by this point and it just becomes very dead serious.
DEE: What do you think…? Okay, because I was trying to put my head around… because you see that trope with childhood friend-type stuff in, I mean, not just shoujo, but you see it across the board, as they grow up and secondary sex differences (I guess is how we’d refer to it) become more prominent as you hit adolescence, and there’s different physical changes because of that.
What’s your take on that? Like, what is it saying about the character Tonami that suddenly his feelings about Tsubaki change when she’s smaller and weaker than him? [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: It says that he sucks.
MERU: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, that’s pretty much it, though. It says that he kinda sucks.
DEE: Well, yeah, and I guess… Because I’m still kind of tossing this idea around in my head, but I mean, it’s about power, right?
DEE: Because when they were little, they were basically the same height and size. And I mean, he weighed more, but she was stronger so it kind of balanced out. And she had all this power over him. And she was mean. I’m not pretending like she wasn’t. But it’s like he doesn’t see her quote-unquote “as a girl” until suddenly he has the physical power over her.
And we’re supposed to see that as romantic, right? In all of these stories where suddenly the guy sees the tomboy as a love interest, that moment is supposed to be romantic or desirable. I find that deeply troubling, and I’m struggling to put it fully into words, but… yeah.
CAITLIN: Well, because of the prevalence of this trope, you can extrapolate it into what girls “should” be. Tsubaki is strong. She is… Like I said, she’s strong, she’s energetic, she kicks ass in a lot of ways. But when he looks at her and he sees someone smaller than him, more fragile than him, that’s the point where he sees her as how a girl “should” be.
MERU: Right. She’s physically performing femininity, finally.
DEE: And that makes her romanceable. She’s not romanceable until she’s physically performing femininity, yeah.
CAITLIN: Right. So, it sort of puts off these very vibrant athletic girls as… And this is something that is a real thing. Girls are discouraged from pursuing sports in Japan.
DEE: Oh, yeah.
CAITLIN: You see in sports anime, honestly, the lack of genuinely athletic female sports anime. They’re all just kinda fanservice series or moe series where they don’t really know what they’re doing but they’re just having fun. It’s so frustrating.
CAITLIN: I’ve yelled about this plenty of times! [Chuckles]
MERU: And it’s a shame that a trope that existed in nineteen… (what, this is ‘99?) … is still really applica—
MERU: Yeah, it’s a shame that this late-‘90s trope is still something in play today. Dare I say, two decades later, it is still…
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] What do you mean… “two decades”?
MERU: Yeah, yeah, two decades.
CAITLIN: It’s five! That was five years ago!
MERU: Yeah, it’s a shame that it’s still in play, right? It’s a shame that you can be tough but only to a certain point because then you need the menfolk to like you. And it’s just like, “Ugh! Exhausting.”
CAITLIN: Because what is she to do?
DEE: [crosstalk] It’s the same thing that ruins the last arc of Princess Nine. But that’s an article I already wrote, so I’ll just drop that little note there and leave it.
CAITLIN: Because what if she didn’t look frail? What if she had a bunch of visible muscle from playing volleyball? What if she was built more for power, if she had broad shoulders?
MERU: Caitlin, you don’t want to be mistaken for a lesbian!
MERU: That’s the greatest sin a woman could commit!
MERU: Which, this show has a real thing against accusing girls of being a lesbian in this arc and just… But yeah, I guess that’s the case: either you appeal to the menfolk or you don’t, and if you don’t, you’re outta luck.
CAITLIN: Her quote-unquote “aesthetic” interest in girls is pretty gay. That’s definitely… [Chuckles]
MERU: I had an aesthetic interest in girls from the age of 13 to now!
CAITLIN: Yeah, that’s definitely a “Ah, she likes girls but has not admitted it to herself” sort of mentality at…
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, Tsubaki ain’t straight. I’m sorry, Tsubaki ain’t straight and I refuse to read her that way no matter what the manga wants to tell me—or the anime.
DEE: But yeah. But she won’t… Yeah, I feel like we’ve gone over this well. I think you covered it really well there, Caitlin. The more we got into them— Because obviously he kinda had a crush on her and just didn’t realize it, but it irritated me that the reason he realized it wasn’t like, “Oh, I liked her because she was tough and defended me and I just wanted it to be that she actually liked me instead of because the teacher asked her to.”
It was like he didn’t realize he liked her until she was the image that he thought “feminine” meant, which also meant him having the power in the relationship, and I was like, “That, I don’t care for. Please stop.”
CAITLIN: No, don’t love that. But Tonami also makes friends with Yukino. And they seem to be on a really good vibe together. It’s a little bit of a frenemies vibe, a little bit antagonistic, but in a very playful way.
DEE: [crosstalk] I like it, though.
CAITLIN: They’re a lot of fun together, right?
CAITLIN: You know who doesn’t like it?
DEE: [crosstalk] Arima.
CAITLIN: Arima. [Chuckles]
MERU: [complaining] God!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Arima sure doesn’t like it.
DEE: And Asaba, by bro extension.
CAITLIN: Ah, God.
MERU: Asaba, honestly, I gotta tell y’all… big throuple energy this arc between Arima, Yukino, and Asaba, and I was like, “This is not a guy who’s jealous and defending his friend. This is a guy who just really wants to be part of this couple, turn it into a throuple.” I see you, Asaba. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: Yeah. This is not a mentality that Yukino is privy to, which is good because if she were I would be scr— I mean, I’m already screaming at the screen for her to get the fuck away. But if she knew and stayed with him, that would feel like it was endorsing the mentality.
MERU: Well, but isn’t she kind of, though? Isn’t the plot trying to say she is? In a weird way that’s really discomforting?
DEE: There are moments. There’s the moment where she gives him a hug and she apologizes for making him feel lonely by hanging out with Tonami.
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah.
MERU: Don’t like that part.
DEE: Which I didn’t love. And then there’s a moment later—
CAITLIN: [Pretending meekness] “Oh, sorry I have other friends!”
DEE: And there’s a moment later with Tonami where he asked if she wants to stay behind and do something or… I can’t remember what it was, to help with the play or study or… I genuinely don’t remember what the concept was. But she says, “No, I’ll pass. Arima doesn’t like it if I spend too much time…” I think she said, “Arima starts to feel lonely when I’m spending time with you guys.”
And I’m like, “Invite Arima along?” Or Arima could have his own friendships. There’s a lot of layers to this, and some of them I think are good, and then that last episode drops all the red flags simultaneously.
DEE: It really reminded me of… And Caitlin, I know you’ve seen My Love Story. Meru, are you familiar? Have you seen the anime or read the manga for My Love Story (Ore Monogatari)?
MERU: I’ve read a couple volumes of it.
DEE: Okay. So you—
CAITLIN: Oh, Meru, you need to. You would love it.
DEE: You do. You would love it.
MERU: [crosstalk] Would it be my jam?
CAITLIN: It would so be your jam.
DEE: It’s top-tier high school rom-com.
MERU: [crosstalk] Ooh, okay. Okay.
DEE: The anime’s great. The manga’s also great. The manga continues after the anime and continues to be great. Yeah. I have very, very few criticisms… I have a few. But we’re not gonna get into that on this podcast.
But there’s an arc in that where Takeo, the main guy, is also grappling with feeling jealous about his girlfriend hanging out with other guys. And he goes through the same thing Arima does here, too, where he’s like, “I shouldn’t be feeling these feelings.” Because Arima does have these moments where he’s like, “Intellectually, I know this is stupid. But emotionally, I’m jealous of this guy. I feel like Yukino’s leaving me behind. I need her more than she does.” And so, he’s grappling with these two layers of feelings.
And to me, that’s all really, really good, because one of the things that gets pointed out in My Love Story during that arc is Takeo is talking to his best bro about it and he’s like, “I don’t think you need to beat yourself up about feeling jealous. I think that’s a natural feeling to have when you really like someone and they’re spending time with somebody else, to be like, ‘Aw, but that means I spend less time with them and that makes me sad.’ But you don’t have to beat yourself up about feeling that way.”
The important part is to acknowledge it and then be like, “But it’s okay. They can have their own life outside of me,” moving past that stuff; not taking it out on anybody or blaming anybody else. The feelings are valid; the reaction might not be.
And so, it feels like Kare Kano is sort of heading that direction. And then we get to that last episode where Asaba, I guess thinking he’s helping, pulls Tonami aside and is like, “Yeah, Arima actually has a violent temper and he hates it when anyone gets close to Yukino, so you need to back off.” And I can’t figure out if that’s actually who Arima is or if Asaba’s just saying it to try to help out because he knows Arima feels bad right now.
CAITLIN: Okay, well…
DEE: What are your thoughts on that?
CAITLIN: Meru, I’d like to hear your take because, once again, I have manga knowledge. So, I will tell you what I know after…
DEE: Because we’ve seen a scene that suggests Arima might have a violent temper, which makes this very concerning.
MERU: Yeah. Yeah. And I have to say… So, that’s the thing that I really was not able to untangle a lot of my thoughts from. What, that was episode 17, where we see him really physically lash out. That and episode 18, where they sleep together, really kind of sat at the forefront because… Jealousy is a natural thing. Wanting to be with someone and spend all of your time with them, I think, especially in high school, where emotions feel genuinely more intense, is a thing. But I was—
DEE: And it’s not—
MERU: [Hums encouragingly]
DEE: No, oh, I was just gonna just, sorry, real quick gonna say it’s not even like it’s unique to romantic relationships. Friends can get jealous of their friends, right?
MERU: Oh, yeah.
DEE: Yeah, so I just… Sorry. Throwing that in there. Continue. Didn’t mean to interrupt.
MERU: Yeah, yeah. And that’s the thing: all relationships in high school have this really frenetic, intense emotional energy. I would actually say that friendships are far more intense in high school than romance because you kind of know it’s fleeting and liminal. Very few people go on to marry the person they date in high school. A lot of people go on to be friends with the people they were friends with in high school.
And so, I couldn’t really untangle that, and then we get to this scene where Arima is just… I mean, Arima was carrying a bucket of red flags and then he tripped and dumped ‘em all out!
MERU: They’re just all over the ground. It’s just jealousy and “She can’t hang out with guys or girls!” and gender essentialism and cishet romance. And you’re just like, “Oh, no, Arima! I understand, sweet baby child of mine, that you have a lot of trauma and you are in a society where trauma is expected to be just shoved down and you just never deal with it unless you’re at, like, the enkai and you’re really tipsy, but you’re too young for that.”
But then, also, trauma does not excuse bad behavior. It can explain bad behavior, but it doesn’t excuse it. And he’s like, “I’ll allow her to hang out with him, because he won’t touch her.” I’m like, “Arima, did we not learn anything from episode 17?” And then I thought of how that went. And because Yukino has been encouraged to behave in certain ways, he didn’t, because she reacts and she’s like, “Oh, I love you.” No one has taught Yukino, “Sweetie, if a man lays his hands on you like that, that’s it! You can reconcile at a later date if that’s your choice. But that’s it, sweetie.”
And so I was like, “You know what? He didn’t really learn.” No one has stopped to say this is not a right way to treat somebody. And I was just like, “Oh, gosh, there’s so much happening.” And then I looked at the time counter, and I was like, “Oh, no! There’s so much happening!”
CAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah.
DEE: Yeah. yeah. I have that same thought. Like, you’ve dropped a lot on us here in this last episode, where I thought we were building to… I truly thought we were building to Arima kind of getting over it, realizing… Because there’s that really terrific, terrific scene on the roof where it’s kind of early in the arc and Arima walks into the room and he keeps walking in and seeing Yukino having fun with her friends. And not just Tonami. It’s also Asaba and the girls and she’s doing this whole play.
And so Arima keeps walking and sort of shutting down like he does when he’s having a bad time and doesn’t want anyone to know it. And Asaba notices and follows him up to the roof and just says, “Are you okay?” And Arima leans back against him and doesn’t say anything. But it’s a really terrific scene of “No, I’m feeling bad. But I know I can’t express it because these feelings aren’t fair. This isn’t fair to Yukino, so I just need to work through it.”
And I thought, “What a terrific scene. We’re gonna move through this arc to Arima working through these feelings on his own and being okay with it.”
And we get no resolution there at all. We just get more red flags.
CAITLIN: I do want to say… I’ll be honest: I don’t remember 100% because I read the manga a long time ago. I don’t think that scene is in the manga.
MERU: That’s fascinating.
CAITLIN: So, I will say this. This is an Anno anime. Anno struggles with a lot of mental illness.
MERU: Is this how Evangelion goes? God!
DEE: I mean, Evangelion is very much… I mean Anno has been candid about this. It is very much his struggle with depression in anime form, so…
MERU: Oh! Oh, sweet baby! Is he getting therapy?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yes.
DEE: Yes, yes. No, by the end of Eva, he was getting therapy and working through things, and so…
MERU: [relieved] Okay. Okay.
DEE: The ending of the anime, it ends on a hopeful note. I have a lot of issues with the Evangelion anime— [brightly] which you can hear all about in our podcast watchalong about it…!
DEE: … that we did a couple years ago.
CAITLIN: So, anyway… So, there is this very strong sense of understanding of Arima’s sense of depression, of isolation, of these dark feelings that he cannot control. And so, there are times where it’s just a sense of “He’s just going to feel that feeling and he’s going to try to deal with it.” But I do agree. It goes astray when Asaba pulls Tonami aside and is like, “Listen, you need to back off of Yukino.”
MERU: It’s so uncomfortable.
CAITLIN: And I will say this: the manga does not counter that.
DEE: Okay, so, that’s not just Asaba thinking he’s helping by trying to scare Tonami away.
CAITLIN: No. No. Yes, Arima continues to be very possessive and tries to scare away Yukino’s friends, basically.
MERU: That’s alarming.
CAITLIN: We’ll go more into the manga arc, but he does some really, really inexcusable things.
DEE: Ooh, boy.
CAITLIN: And the characters explicitly say to Yukino, “Your job is to fix him.”
DEE: Oh, no.
MERU: Do they get married in the manga? I just need to ask: do Yukino and Arima get married?
DEE: [crosstalk] Of course.
DEE: Of course they do.
MERU: Oh, no. Oh, no! Oh, no. I know, what kind of fool’s question was I just asking? But I just had to make sure.
CAITLIN: They say, “Arima is going through a dark time right now. Yukino, you’re the only one who can reach him. You are the one who needs to help him through this.”
MERU: [humming in disagreement] Uh-uh!
DEE: [hums nervously] That is…
CAITLIN: Including Asaba. Asaba says that a lot.
MERU: These aren’t good friends. [Chuckles]
DEE: Well, they’re high schoolers. This is a very high school thing to say, but…
MERU: Yeah, you know, that’s true, that’s true.
CAITLIN: But it’s never countered. That is how the plot progresses. Yeah, so the narrative is agreeing with them, effectively.
MERU: Yeah, because you leave this series on this really haunting note because of that. Y’all, I’m not gonna lie: a part of me was like, “Is Arima gonna hit her again?” There was this real, genuine discomfort of— Oh, no, I heard Caitlin sigh. Oh, no!
DEE: Yeah, in the last episode, I got really concerned. Which—
MERU: Oh, no, Caitlin, don’t give me that sigh. That doesn’t make me feel good. I heard you sigh. I heard—
CAITLIN: He doesn’t hit her.
MERU: Oh, no. Caitlin, your sigh was as deep as the Marinara Trench. No. [catching self] Nah, I’m sorry, the Mariana—
DEE: No, no, no, it’s the Marinara Trench. It’s the trench you make at Olive Garden with your spaghetti.
DEE: With your bowl of unlimited pasta.
MERU: Stop! I’m trying to—
DEE: [crosstalk] The Marinara Trench of unlimited pasta.
MERU: I’m trying to be a serious feminist right now!
MERU: That soul-deep sigh just worried me, because you do…
MERU: To be serious again, you leave on this really frightening note of… Arima’s not going to stop. This behavior’s going to get more and more prominent. But Yukino is also being socially encouraged to fix this boy.
I mean, hearkening back to my Twilight phase, it’s kind of like finding that romantic and then realizing, oh, it’s not hot to try and fix somebody. Actually, what is romantic and what is loving… What is loving on all levels is to encourage someone to get help that they need and encourage them to be aware of, like, “Hey, you’re doing these things that hurt me.” And it’s not fun to turn a mirror on yourself. But you do leave with this really discomforting sense of like, “Oh, Arima’s gonna, like…” Like I said, I was waiting. I was genuinely like, “Is he gonna hit her again?”
DEE: Well, and it’s such a baffling… It… I don’t know. It feels like the episodes are almost out of order. Because, again, going back to the first half of episode 24, where… We’re with Yukino’s perspective, right? And Yukino’s on a good path. She’s a kid, but she’s figuring stuff out. She’s trying to change and be more true to herself.
She’s really getting into this play, and not in only just finding herself as an actress; she’s also really good at coordinating and leadership, and she knows when to take charge and when to ask for help. I mean, you really see her kind of coming into her own as a young adult and…
CAITLIN: Developing skills that are going to be good for life.
DEE: Yeah, and really having these really healthy thoughts about… she worries about how much she’s changed, but then she also thinks ultimately the change is good, and she wonders if she and Arima will eventually no longer need one another because she wants them both to have their own lives outside of each other.
She has this conversation about, like, “We met each other. We changed each other. Our worlds have been expanding because of that. All of this is great. And it might mean that eventually we separate, but that’s all right, because… Let’s promise never to forget these moments.” Right?
CAITLIN: Yes. And you know what? That is honestly my favorite kind of high school romance ending, where characters are like, “We care about each other but we want different things right now and that might not be compatible.” And even then, usually, those endings are vague about whether they stay together or not. But I really appreciate it when it ends with them saying, “No, I’m not going to stunt my own development for the sake of this romance. I am going to continue growing as a person.”
DEE: Yeah. And Yukino, she supports Arima. She gets really excited about watching him practice kendo, which I thought was adorable.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] That whole episode…
DEE: She’s happy that he’s making friends as well.
MERU: When she calls him stinky. [Chuckles]
MERU: It’s so funny! Because yeah, I could smell the Axe body spray that he was attempting to…
CAITLIN: Let’s digress for a minute. Let’s digress to something lighter for a minute. I loved that scene. That scene was so freaking cute.
MERU: It was so good! He pokes her with his kendo stick. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: The part where they’re trying to ride double on the bike but he’s dragging his heels on the ground! Which I thought was so cute, because playful antagonism is my love language.
MERU: Yeah. It’s so cute because then she’s like, “Hey, why is this so hard?” And he’s like, “I don’t know,” and he specifically lifts his feet up, really discreetly. It’s so funny!
DEE: I like the two of them together. And it’s frustrating—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah! They’re a really good couple when they’re being kind to each other, when they’re being playful. I can see why they like each other as a couple, which is more than I can say for a lot of romances, to be honest. A lot of romances, I’m like, “I don’t know why you’re interested in each other.” It’s just kind of “boy and girl in proximity.” These two have really, really good chemistry.
But then she does things outside of him, she has that same kind of fun with other people, and he’s not okay with it. And yes, that jealousy is totally normal and natural. I have experienced it myself. But he wants her to cut bits off of herself. And he wants to put her into a little box where she cannot grow anymore because he feels threatened by it.
MERU: Ironically, he kind of wants her to be like the Yukino we meet at the beginning of the series.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Yeah! When he talks about “I never stopped liking you even when I got to know the real you” at the beginning of the series, that feels a little disingenuous now. I mean, maybe not, because he likes who she is as her real self at the time. He likes that she’s kinda weird.
And honestly, I love that she’s still really competitive. Even though she has made up her mind that there are more important things in life than grades, she still gets really pissy if there are other people who get better scores than her. Which, relatable, right? And it’s very human!
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah. I mean, competitiveness doesn’t just magically disappear. Yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and it’s very, very human that she is that way. I think that’s some really fantastic character writing, that, even though she has changed, she’s still her same self in a lot of ways. But he doesn’t want to see… He only likes it when it applies to her relationship with him.
DEE: Well, he’s terrified of being abandoned—for understandable reasons, because his parents were abusive and then also abandoned him. And there’s a couple of scenes where he clearly acknowledges, like, “This isn’t fair to her. I don’t want her to know that I’m having these feelings.” But because we chose to end on that note, instead of on that very nice scene where Yukino acknowledges, like, “This is Arima’s trauma to work through. All I can do is… I can be there to support him when he needs help. But this is his thing. This isn’t me.”
Yukino says she can’t fix him in the anime, so it’s wild to me that the manga then goes hard on “No, your job is to fix him.” And that’s why sometimes it feels like I’m watching two stories in this final stretch: one that is a nice, healthy story and one that is not.
CAITLIN: It feels like this is not written by the Anno who has gone through therapy. Right? This is the Anno who knows that he cannot rely on other people to fix him; he has to be able to do the work himself.
DEE: Yeah, the very good scene where Yukino basically just holds Arima’s hand as he reaches out to his childhood self. It’s a really good scene. Why didn’t the show end there?
DEE: Yeah. We spill past that into the… The very distinct sense in that final episode is that they are on two completely different paths, where Yukino loves the fact that they’re becoming more independent and expanding their worlds and Arima doesn’t like it. And then the show just stops.
Because here’s the thing: you could explore that. I think you can explore that in a healthy way, in an interesting way that is true to high school relationships. But we don’t get there, and so we are left with concerns!
MERU: [crosstalk] Concerns with a capital C.
CAITLIN: And the manga does not explore it in a way that I feel like came to healthy conclusions.
DEE: Yeah. That’s upsetting.
CAITLIN: Let’s talk about the manga. But first, I have a very important question.
MERU: What is that question?
CAITLIN: Would you go watch the Asaba Revue?
MERU: Uh, did you see the merch for it? Yeah.
DEE: It was so good!
CAITLIN: And the doll! The doll killed me.
MERU: There were dolls and doujinshi and stickers…
DEE: [crosstalk] Of course there’s doujinshi!
MERU: … and a drama CD. Yeah. I’d go for that.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] The fact that they actually printed that stuff.
DEE: [crosstalk] If I was in high school, yes.
MERU: Oh, yeah. I feel like I should clarify: if I were not a 29-year-old adult [Chuckles], yeah.
DEE: If I were in high school, absolutely I would go to the Asaba Revue. I’d be like, “What is this goober friend of mine doing? I have to see this. I have to see this.”
MERU: At this age, I would be like, “No. But good luck.”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] “No, thanks. Don’t need to watch a 16-year-old do whatever it is that they do.”
DEE: Yeah. “But good luck, have fun.” [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: I do think… [Sighs] Bringing it back to that heavy conversation. I love Asaba. I want to love Asaba, but the fact that he called out Tonami, is like, “You need to stop being friends with Yukino,” just kinda puts a really sour note on his character.
DEE: And that, once again, is a thing that I think, given more episodes, you could explore in a healthy way where it’s like, “Hey, Asaba, I know you think you’re helping your friend because you’re worried about him. But this isn’t the way to do it.” But we don’t get that. We don’t get that.
MERU: Yeah. Yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And he never really…
MERU: What happens to him in the manga?
DEE: Oh, you don’t want to know. I told you in the first episode.
DEE: I told you in the first episode.
CAITLIN: Well, you two, I have dropped an image into Slack.
DEE: [crosstalk] It’s a private chat.
MERU: Okay, let’s go react to this.
CAITLIN: It’s a chat with the two of you.
MERU: Okay. I’m clicking over to that!
CAITLIN: That girl is Yukino and Arima’s daughter.
MERU: [Coughs] No!
MERU: No! He’s in a suit! He’s a full adult! He’s a full adult!
DEE: [crosstalk] I told you he fell in love with a baby. I told you it was Twilight. I told you!
MERU: I think I forcibly made myself forget that.
DEE: Scrubbed it from your brain.
CAITLIN: For those of you at home, it is a teenage girl talking to Asaba, a fully grown adult Asaba, on the roof, saying, “You’ll never fall in love with any other woman but me and you know it.” And then she pats his head and she says, “So I’ll always be by your side to make you happy.”
MERU: At least Asaba looks kinda shocked in the final panel.
CAITLIN: Oh, no, he doesn’t want to fall in love with her, but he just can’t help falling in love with this teenage girl!
MERU: [disappointed] No!
CAITLIN: Much like Maho’s creepy boyfriend, who she marries.
MERU: Y’all, I don’t like this series anymore.
DEE: I don’t either.
MERU: [Chuckles] I don’t like this series anymore!
CAITLIN: So, I have a question. Is this the worst anime ending ever?
MERU: No, because this year… Was Promised Neverland 2 this year?
DEE: Yes, it was. As of recording this, yes, it was.
MERU: Yeah, no, then it’s not. Then it’s not.
DEE: I’ve seen worse endings. This is a non-ending, which I’ve seen a lot of in the anime-verse because manga adaptations… This happens a lot. It was not the worst.
MERU: It’s ambivalent.
DEE: It’s frustrating because I think the show’s highs have been really high, so to end on this absolute clusterfuck of storylines and recaps and side stories is baffling and disappointing. But not the worst.
MERU: [crosstalk] I think more than bad, it’s disconcerting as an ending and it has really alarming ramifications that, because the manga’s out of print, most people will just never find out. Yeah. But it’s not bad. It’s just ambiguous. And sometimes life is like that.
DEE: I mean, I hated it. I’ll be real with you. I really, really hated the way it ended. I’ve seen worse. But yeah, it was a “Our journey continues. Read the manga to find out more.” But I don’t want to read the manga to find out more. I wanted the anime to have a nice stopping point so I could just stop, because I know where the manga goes and I don’t want to go there.
MERU: I’ll tell you what: this is no Angelic Layer.
CAITLIN: Are you ready to find out more?
DEE: Okay. Folks at home, if you don’t want to have the Kare Kano manga spoiled for you, now would be a good time to stop listening. You can find more of our work at animefeminist.com. You can support us on Patreon at patreon.com/animefeminist, and we’re also on Twitter @AnimeFeminist. Thank you and good night!
CAITLIN: [Laughs] So, they do the school play. It goes well. There’s a conclusion that is basically the same thing as the first half of episode 24. It’s lovely.
DEE: Oh, so we coulda done the play and then finished there, and that would have been so good! Grr!
CAITLIN: It would’ve been so nice!
DEE: I know!
CAITLIN: And then Maho thinks about her creepy fucking boyfriend, who she just hit on relentlessly when she was in middle school until he gave in and started dating her.
MERU: No, that’s yucky.
CAITLIN: And then Kazuma, as Tsubasa’s stepbrother, moves to America, and Tsubasa is so upset she stops being able to hear music for a while, until he comes back and they get married.
MERU: Wait, what?
DEE: I knew it! I knew it! Here’s my favorite thing about the Kare Kano anime: as annoying and disconcerting as that ending was, none of this shit happened, and I knew it was going to because I know ‘90s shoujo! So I’m glad we didn’t get to any of this.
CAITLIN: Arima’s mother comes back. It starts bringing up a lot of his trauma because… You know those stories you read sometimes about small children undergoing just horrifying abuse and the horrifying conditions they’re found under? That was Arima.
DEE: Yeah, I got that sense. Yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no. It turns out his dad wasn’t so bad. His dad basically didn’t know he existed. His mother was just a terrible, terrible slut who slept with his dad to try to get in with the wealthy Arima family.
DEE: Okay, cool. So, nice little dose of misogyny in there, too, it feels like.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm! Oh, yeah! Arima starts self-harming.
CAITLIN: Yeah, he stabs through his hand with a box cutter!
MERU: Oh, God!
CAITLIN: Everyone’s like, “Hey, Yukino, you have to fix Arima.” And Yukino’s like, “Hm. I’m going to try.” She confronts him. He rapes her in a library.
MERU: Oh, no!
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh my God! We shoulda content-warninged this. Shit!
CAITLIN: Yeah. She gets pregnant. And then Arima finds out that his dad actually does love him. His dad, who has become a famous jazz pianist. They have a baby.
MERU: Wait, what? Oh, God, no! Every sentence gets worse!
CAITLIN: Yukino becomes a doctor.
CAITLIN: Arima becomes a cop.
MERU: Oh, no!
DEE: Of course he fucking does!
CAITLIN: Asaba continues to feel empty inside—
MERU: Does Asaba live?
CAITLIN: —because he just doesn’t feel like he can love anyone, because I guess he Twilight-style imprinted on Yukino and Arima’s daughter.
MERU: Oh my God, Japanese Renesmee.
DEE: [crosstalk] Fell in love with a baby. Fell in love with a baby!
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] Literally, the Wikipedia article that I’m looking at to refresh my memory a little bit… The sentence is “Hideaki senses the baby’s a girl and that she will become his soulmate in the future.”
MERU: Oh, gross!
CAITLIN: So he didn’t even fall in love with a baby; he fell in love with a fetus.
DEE: Did Stephenie Meyer read Kare Kano?
CAITLIN: This is actually…
DEE: How much shoujo did Stephenie Meyer read?
CAITLIN: This is actually about contemporary… When did the Twilight books come out?
MERU: [crosstalk] Dee, I don’t like… That was the most cursed sentence you’ve ever said.
CAITLIN: So, this ending is actually contemporary—
MERU: [crosstalk] ‘96 to ‘05? Jesus Christ!
CAITLIN: Yeah. This ending is contemporary with the beginning of Twilight.
DEE: With the first book, not the book where he falls in love with the baby. I’m just saying, you can’t prove that’s not where she got the inspiration.
CAITLIN: So, anyway, that is how the Kare Kano manga goes. This is why I tell people don’t read the manga, no matter how much you hate the ending of the anime.
MERU: There’s a lot happening, and that’s not… Wow. It’s… Wow. I don’t… Yeah, you know, maybe it’s good that this didn’t get a second season because…
DEE: Mm-hm. Unless they were gonna make some significant changes to the source material.
CAITLIN: Now, I’m going to ask you two the hot questions, because I’ve made my feelings known on this. Do you think Kare Kano could use a remake?
DEE: [crosstalk] Absolutely not.
CAITLIN: Okay. Glad we’re all on the same page.
DEE: Not—knowing where the manga goes, absolutely not. I wouldn’t mind a director’s cut of the anime where they were maybe able to fix some things and finish off the school festival arc and wrap it up. Maybe make the midway point of episode 24 the actual ending of the series so it ends on a good note and an actual ending instead of a bunch of red flags. I think there’s a director’s cut version of this that could work.
I absolutely don’t want a remake. There are newer, better shoujo that deserve adaptations more. Give me all of Yona of the Dawn. Give me Basara. Give me the rest of My Love Story. Yeah, I have a list. So, no, we don’t need Kare Kano to be remade.
MERU: I think nostalgia is a very powerful thing, but I think the thing with nostalgia is that sometimes things that really should stay in the past, should, and this is a series that even if I didn’t know where the manga went, there’s enough meat on the bone that I would be like, I don’t know if I want to see a reiteration of this.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I mean, the thing is—
MERU: Knowing where the manga goes… You know what? I’m sad enough in the pandemic. I don’t need anything else to do it to me!
CAITLIN: And you know, the thing is that, yes, we would gain better animation, we wouldn’t have the recaps, but we would also lose so much. There are so many distinct creative voices in the anime adaptation already that make it so beloved. Without those voices, I think it becomes just another high school romance. Right? So, no, I don’t think it needs to be remade.
Now, here’s another spicy question: would you recommend it to other people?
MERU: I don’t know.
CAITLIN: No? You don’t think…?
DEE: [crosstalk] Sorry. No.
MERU: I think I’m sitting, kind of, in the no.
CAITLIN: You don’t think the highs are worth the lows?
MERU: No, I think there’s other stuff you could watch.
DEE: I would give them… There would be a lot of shoujo and a lot of rom-coms that I would recommend to them before I ever got to this one. Now if we got far enough down the list, I would hit this and I would tell them to stop halfway through episode 24. And I would be very sincere about that, and hopefully they would listen.
But yeah, I understand that in a lot of ways Kare Kano walked so a lot of other series later could run. It was tremendously influential. And I’ll call this out, too: we have a “My Fave Is Problematic” article about it that Jax wrote, that is a very good article, where [they] grapple with the way it handles domestic abuse and how that resonated with [them], versus a lot of the troubling elements we have discussed here at the end. So, we’ll link to that in the show notes, as well, to provide a different perspective.
And obviously this series resonated with a lot of people. I don’t want to take that away from them. But I think it is very much of its time and probably it’s okay if it stays there.
MERU: Yeah. Yeah.
DEE: Yeah, there’s a long list of shoujo and rom-coms I would give you before I gave you Kare Kano at this point, I think.
MERU: Yeah, Dee pretty much said what I’m feeling. It is of its time. And I don’t think there’s anything bad with recognizing things are of their time. There’s a lot of stuff… I think the whole narrative that you can’t like problematic stuff is fraught, because you can! I like Danganronpa! Trust me: I know problematic. But also, this is something that… it’s all right for it to be a part of a larger history and to recognize that, yes, it did pave the way for other series, but we don’t need to see it again. It’s all right as it is.
CAITLIN: Okay. All right. You know what? All of that is fair.
DEE: What about you, Caitlin? I mean, you recommended this watchalong. Do you recommend this show to folks, or is it further down your list, or do you recommend it more as a history piece? How do you treat it in the canon of shoujo and rom-com-style series?
CAITLIN: I think there would be a lot of factors into… I think, no, I wouldn’t not recommend it. There would be a lot of factors in me choosing it to recommend someone. Yes. Yes, as a history piece partially. Do they prefer older anime? Do you want to watch this just for these crazy Imaishi sequences? Do you want a kind of distinctly psychological rom-com?
I think there’s a lot about this series that I really sincerely love, and there’s a lot of ways that it pisses me off. I definitely will not ever, ever, ever in my life recommend the manga to anyone. If someone is really into Fruits Basket and they’re looking for specifically a shoujo series that deals with the psychological ramifications of abuse, sure, I might recommend Kare Kano.
DEE: Yeah, I think that’s fair.
CAITLIN: But I wouldn’t just say, “Oh, you like anime? Have you tried watching Kare Kano?” It would not be my go-to without a lot of specific factors taking into account what someone is looking for.
DEE: Yeah. I think that makes sense, yeah. Yeah.
MERU: I can’t believe Arima becomes a cop.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] Can you, though?
DEE: I can.
MERU: I’m so angry.
DEE: Yukino deserves better. That’s my first and final thought: Yukino deserves better.
MERU: Yeah, Yukino deserves better.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Oh, and Tonami and Tsubaki don’t get married but they do travel the world together.
MERU: Ah, that’s great.
CAITLIN: That’s kind of fun.
DEE: [crosstalk] Good for them.
CAITLIN: And Aya stays single. Aya’s the only one who doesn’t end up with someone.
CAITLIN: Good for her.
DEE: I hope she continues to be a successful writer and does not smoke herself into an early grave.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles sadly] Oh, gosh, yeah. All right. Okay. Let’s wrap this one up.
DEE: Let’s do it. Hey, Caitlin, thank you for suggesting this. By the way, I know we ended on a “Oof, what a bad finale” sort of note here, but I’m really glad I got a chance to finally watch this and I had a good time watching it with you guys.
MERU: Mm-hm. I feel like there’s this really critical part of shoujo drama history that I now understand. And so, I really appreciate that. Thank you.
CAITLIN: And thank you, too, for joining me. Even as frustrating as the anime can be, we did get a lot of discussion out of it, and hopefully in a way that will be fun for our readers, both substantial and also in incoherent rage-screaming.
CAITLIN: Screaming. Screaming. Screaming.
DEE: Another conversation. Feelings.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] Feelings. Strong feelings.
DEE: Marinara Trench.
MERU: Oh my gosh. You know what? Sometimes…
DEE: Nope, never gonna let that go. I love it. It’s so good.
MERU: I… You know what?
CAITLIN: I prefer Alfredo Trench.
CAITLIN: Uh-huh. All right, well, on that note…
DEE: Cheesy Mac Trench. All those delicious pasta trenches.
MERU: Oh my God! [Chuckles]
DEE: And on that note…
CAITLIN: Okay. [Exhales] Thank you for joining us on this watchalong. And this has been Chatty AF. If you enjoy our podcast, check out our website, animefeminist.com; our Twitter, @AnimeFeminist; our Tumblr, animefeminist.tumblr.com.
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Thank you for listening and remember to take care of yourselves and don’t cut off little pieces of yourself for the people who claim to love you, AniFam.
MERU: And become a cop. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: And ACAB.
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