Kare Kano 1 by Masami Tsuda: A+

From the back cover:
Yukino Miyazawa has it all—perfect grades, looks, the admiration of her peers. She’s the #1 student at her school… at least she was until he showed up. The new boy, Souchirou Arima, one-ups her in every department. And the worst thing about it is that he’s sincere! With her ego in jeopardy, Yukino will do whatever it takes to regain the spotlight, but falling in love was never part of the plan.

What with watching the first disc of the anime twice, reading this volume way back in 2003, and rereading it now, I have consumed this portion of the Kare Kano storyline four times. I’ve read many other things in the interim, and I have to say this is still one of the best first volumes I’ve ever come across.

It’s so good it could function as a stand-alone. I didn’t like the anime much by its conclusion, though, and I’ve heard some unflattering comments about the manga, too, so I’m interested to see how I’ll like the bits I’ve not yet read. At the very least, I’ll always have volume one!

There are only three chapters collected in this volume, followed by an unrelated (but cute) short story. My favorite was the second. Arima, who had previously confessed romantic feelings to the “perfect” Yukino but who has since discovered that Yukino is a fraud, uses this knowledge to seemingly blackmail her into completing his student council work for him, which keeps her at school until late every evening.

When she finally tires of it and tells him he can go ahead and tell everyone her secret, a fabulous chase scene through the darkened halls and grounds of the school ensues until Arima finally prevails and reveals that he actually just did it to have an excuse to hang around her. Yukino finds that she’s relieved to learn that he actually does still care about her, and her gradual recognition of her feelings for Arima is very well done.

The other two chapters provide additional background on each of the main leads, though Arima is still kind of hard to figure out at this point. That’s probably because Yukino’s goal is shallow and simple—she wants to feel worshipped—while Arima is actually dealing with some darker family issues.

I really hope I don’t end up as displeased with this series as it seems others have done. For now, it’s hard to imagine that being the case.

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