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December 14, 2009

Bento Bako Weekly: Itazura na Kiss #1

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Written by: Kristin
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itazura1Title: Itazura na Kiss (can mean mischievous kiss, or playful kiss), volume 1
Author: Kaoru Tada
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Volumes: 23 originally; DMP is publishing them as 12 double volumes, at $16.95 (the first volume sits at around 335 pages).
Vintage: Ran in Japan from 1990 until the author’s death in 1999; DMP began publishing the book in November 2009.
Anime: The anime ran in the spring 2008 season, but I feel it was obscured by more shiny and glossy titles.  The animation is a notably older style, and when you air it along with shows like Nabari no Ou, Vampire Knight, and Code Geass, well it sort of gets lost.  The anime series honored the mangaka’s original intended ending, which she explained to her husband before her death.  There have also been a couple of live action adaptations.
Genre: Straight up, old school shojo.  Great for young teens, and on up!

Itazura na Kiss is a charming romantic comedy.  The story focuses on clumsy, average (and generally unintelligent) Kotoko Aihara, and handsome boy genius Naoki Irie.  Calling Naoki a genius is really an understatement; he’s more like a prodigy.  He’s good at everything.  He instantly memorizes anything he looks at once, he’s good at sports, he can cook, he’s popular (not in that he has a lot of friends, but that he has many followers), top of his class, one of the best in the entire country, skilled at just about everything he attempts, and is good looking on top of all that.  Poor Kotoko is…less intelligent.  She’s closer to the bottom of her class, has difficulty studying, can’t cook, isn’t particularly good at sports, isn’t exactly drop-dead gorgeous, and is really the total opposite of the kind of girl Naoki would normally be interested in.

In fact, the book starts off with Kotoko attempting to give Naoki a love letter…which is rejected before it even leaves her hands.  Poor Kotoko is devastated by his callous rejection, and vows to put that jerk out of her mind forever.  But when an earthquake destroys the new house her father just built, they are forced to move in with an old friend of her father’s…who happens to be Naoki’s father.  Naoki makes her promise not to tell anyone of their situation, but circumstances (like Kinnosuke, who is in love with Kotoko, following her home) ultimately reveal their situation to the entire school.  Then rumors start spreading that they’re dating, then that they’re getting married, and Naoki is not happy.  Making the situation more chaotic is Naoki’s mother, Machiko, trying to push the two together against their (or well, at least Naoki’s) will.  She is thrilled to have a girl in the house to dote on, and thinks Kotoko would be a perfect match for her son.

Against Naoki’s wishes, he continually finds himself involved in various situations with Kotoko.  He helps her study for her exams because she blackmails him with a childhood photo, Machiko makes up an excuse to clear out the house so Naoki and Kotoko can be alone for a couple of days, and in general Kotoko causes him unending trouble.  Naoki is unused to such a hectic life, and Kotoko’s presence throws everything off for him.  But for this goalless guy who has no real passion for anything, Kotoko’s enthusiasm is just what the doctor ordered.


Kotoko tells her friends the story of her attempted confession in the first chapter of Itazura na Kiss.

What makes Itazura stand out from a sea of shojo titles, is its time span.  The story follows Kotoko and Naoki through their final year of high school, their time in college, through internships, and official jobs.  All of the characters grow and change over the course of their lives.  Some of them get married and have children.  It’s not just a moment in time; it’s a lifetime.

I really think I was too hard on Itazura before, when I saw the anime.  I didn’t like Kotoko at all; I’m not a fan of girls who throw themselves on or fawn over guys who obviously don’t like them, or put up with such obvious cold treatment.  But I’ve read Sarasah recently, which is infinitely worse, and realized that Kotoko isn’t so bad.  The heroine of Sarasah really has no redeeming qualities to speak of; but I’ve come to understand that Kotoko is compassionate, caring, supportive, and an incredibly hard worker.  All admirable qualities; she just needed Naoki to give her a chance.  Circumstances threw her into his vision, and he was forced to see her for who she really is, and not just judge her by her standing in school.  And, you know, Naoki really isn’t that bad; he’s the sort of person who is so consumed with studying, that he doesn’t really know how to properly interact with people or convey his emotions.  He’s a snob, certainly, but it seems to be a wall that he puts up to avoid interacting with people.  It really takes an open, passionate girl like Kotoko to pull him out, and it’s going to take all of her effort to get Naoki off his lofty perch, and down where the normal humans roam.


Review copy provided by Digital Manga Publishing



  1. Oh, how entertaining teen angst can be!

  2. Kristin

    Haha, there is a lot of angst. But it’s funny.

  3. Drew

    Did you ever watch the ‘Ai Shite Knight’ anime, which I believe might be based off another manga by her (I think she at least did the story for the anime)? The music is just plan catchy in it.

  4. She did do the manga for that, but I haven’t seen it.

  5. billy

    Sounds funny. I love teen flicks and tv shows(shh, don’t tell anyone) so this sounds cool.

  6. […] also check out my reviews of Itazura na Kiss, Color, Angel Cage, Goong, and check out this last minute otaku shopping guide! var addthis_pub = […]

  7. […] na Kiss, vol. 2, by Kaoru Tada.  See my review of volume 1 here.  Kotoko somehow managed to get into the same college as Naoki, but now she’s faced with new […]

  8. […] na Kiss Author: Kaoru Tada Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing Volume: Volume 2 (see my review of volume 1 here) Vintage: 2008 by Fairbell in Japan, May 2010 by DMP Genre: Romantic comedy, old school shojo, […]

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