High school underachiever Kotoko has always adored her handsome and smart schoolmate Irie Naoki- so much so that even the bluntest of rejections isn’t enough to cool her ardour. Even so, it seems highly unlikely that anything will develop between them- at least until Kotoko and her father end up going to stay with the Irie family after their house falls down! Will living under the same roof provide the impetus needed for this unlikely couple to get together?
In those naïve and innocent days before I had any firsthand experience of Itazura na Kiss, I actually found myself quite looking forward to it- having read that the series continued after the two main characters got married, I was rather looking forward to something that would develop relationships more thoroughly and realistically than the average anime romance. Alas, how wrong I was to pin even the slightest of hopes on this series.
Far from being an at all accurate portrayal of romance, it turned out that Itazura na Kiss was about as far from real relationships as you could get, instead bringing us a world of tenuous connections and characters so dislikeable that one had to hold back to the urge to punch the screen of one’s computer in an attempt to harm them. At the centre of this were of course Kotoko and Naoki, and whilst the former was at least just ever so slightly bearable in spite of her dogged persistence in the face of overwhelming incompetence, Naoki must surely win the most Insensitive A-hole of the Year Award.
Throughout the vast majority of the series, Naoki does all he can to alienate viewers, treating Kotoko poorly but keeping her shackled by leading her on- even going so far as kissing her and saying she will never love anyone else when she makes a concerted effort to get over him. Even after their marriage (hastily arranged by Naoki’s mother before her son can change her mind and thus hardly a great way to start), he can hardly be said to even approach affectionate, taking more interest in the contents of his newspaper than his wife. Perhaps it would have helped if the couple had taken the radical step of dating and properly getting to know each other before rushing into marriage, but certain Naoki’s coldness and utter lack of regard towards his wife makes him a figure to hate rather than admire.
It is, therefore, something of a relief when after over twenty episodes of acting like an insensitive jerk, Naoki starts acting vaguely human, but sadly this last minute change of heart is offset by the fact that the rest of the cast are equally hateful- in fact, it’s hard to find a decent character among the lot of them. When Naoki’s mother isn’t interfering in matters you’d rather she left well alone, Kotoko’s friends at work and school are providing a general lack of support, whilst rival love interest Kinnosuke is so incredibly annoying that he is anything but a viable alternative for Kotoko’s heart. In fact, he ends up with another character in order to tie up loose ends, but she pursues him so aggressively that it’s hard to think of their relationship as anything other than forced.
Even one shot characters provide no respite whatsoever, instead illustrating all the other ways in which relationships can go wrong. For example, no sooner have our leads gone on their honeymoon than they meet up with another newlywed couple in which the wife is already desperate to have an affair. Her downtrodden husband eventually takes charge- but not before hitting her to demonstrate his manliness. Worryingly, this theme of domestic violence carries through to several other storylines, with a ‘good slap’ being all it takes to kick start various other relationships even as the viewer is turned off.
Minor as it is compared to the dislikeable characters and lacklustre story, Itazura na Kiss manages to underperform in the visual department as well. Character designs are nothing special to start off with, but lazy animating and a lack of budget leaves the whole series looking rather average and even ugly at times. Meanwhile, background music is as forgettable as you might expect.
If ever someone wanted to compile a comprehensive guide as to how not to have a relationship, they could start by pointing prospective readers to Itazura na Kiss. Featuring tenuous relationships and hateful characters, there are few things more likely to make viewers forget about the cost of repair as they hurl their laptops across the room in anger and frustration at the sight of Naoki and co acting so reprehensibly. Do your blood pressure a favour and never, ever let curiosity compel you to try watching this tiresome piece of drivel.