Kare Kano 2 by Masami Tsuda: A

From the back cover:
You know that couple who was obviously meant for each other, and everybody knew it, except them? That’s Yukino and Soichiro, the two top students in school, who are capable of anything other than a normal relationship. Still, despite all they’ve been through, it seems they could finally be getting together. But now, the school’s token pretty boy, Hideaki, is intent on wedging himself between them, for reasons they can’t begin to imagine.

One of the things I am enjoying most about Kare Kano is Tsuda’s innovative use of panels to dramatic effect. Take, for instance, the climax of chapter four. In what I would call one of the classic moments of shoujo manga, Yukino (after several failed attempts) finally reveals her feelings to Arima by silently taking his hand in the middle of a student council meeting. No words are spoken, and what follows are two pages of their facial reactions and then one final page, showing the both of them from behind. I can’t really explain why I love the perspective shift at the end so much, but I really do.

Another thing I like is that if a character is alone somewhere, like in a classroom or waiting outside a movie theatre, there will be a large panel of their environment and superimposed upon it will be tiny panels showing what’s going on in the immediate vicinity—some students laughing down the hall, a quiet patio, a couple meeting up for a date. There’s a lot of sky and clouds in her imagery, too, and though I won’t try to decipher its metaphorical meaning, it makes me realize the opening sequence of the anime was very appropriate. I must also mention the fabulous panel of Yukino’s silhouette against a darkening sky as she pined for Arima.

And, of course, I also like the story. I think I didn’t like the character of Hideaki much when I read this the first time, and now I wonder why that was. My second favorite chapter, after chapter 4, is chapter 7, where we see both Arima and Yukino’s differing perceptions of the same or similar events. Yukino worries she’s not good enough for Arima, and Arima worries he’s too boring in comparison with her, but by the end, they’ve each leant the other some optimism, so they end up reacting identically in a separate conversations with Hideaki. It’s neat.

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