Kare Kano – 6-8

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Ep6 is one of those stories I forgot about, but on second watch, it is pretty damn fascinating.

Through the first five episodes, Kare Kano parallels Arima and Miyazawa’s thoughts and feelings on their building relationship, but ep6 makes it more overt — from the beginning, scenes play out from both Arima and Miyazawa’s perspective, showing how different they are (and how differently they view each other), and what they both need to recognize about each other, particularly from Arima’s end.

The opening scene, for instance, highlights a single date from Arima and Miyazawa’s “dating frenzy” over the summer. Miyazawa focuses on how fun it is to let loose after putting in so much work all the time (which sets up a doubt in her mind later in the episode) and on the cool, calm attractiveness of Arima. Because Miyazawa has spent so long trying to be the best at everything, she can easily admire Arima, who actually is the best at a lot of what he does. But she also recognizes that she sees only the surface of Arima — she does not know what truly makes him tick under his carefully composed shell. Miyazawa being who she is, however, will not rest until she knows what really makes Arima . . . Arima.

Arima, meanwhile, describes his dates with Miyazawa in a more matter-of-fact way compared to the looser, more personal language of Miyazawa. But rather than focus on Miyazawa’s looks, Arima cuts to the heart of the matter and describes how weird he believes Miyazawa is — how she is unpredictable, how she is “immersed in weird speculation” and how he will never be able to read her thoughts. There is no real wish from Arima — not yet — about getting to know the true Miyazawa; instead, he laments about her being a truly original person compared to his surface perfection. Arima is painfully reflexive. Although he does love Miyazawa, the good he sees in her bounces back and highlights all the deficiencies he sees in himself. Maybe the most telling line is when he hurriedly whispers in his mind that he bets Miyazawa does not know he as a complex about her. It’s as if he is afraid Miyazawa will be able to read his thoughts; there is a guilt to that confession that develops throughout the series.

Then there are Arima and Miyazawa’s reactions to Hideaki about their dating experiences. Miyazawa is cheerful and actively looks forward to everything she and Arima will do together, while Arima is rather stiff, admonishes Hideaki for not studying more and insults himself by saying that hanging out with him is not much fun. With Miyazawa, dating Arima is a refreshing experience, a way to channel a part of herself that has been dormant everywhere except at home. But with Arima, even though he has fun with Miyazawa, half the time he can focus only on his insecurities and what makes himself unworthy to be with Miyazawa. Although Arima is kind of over-the-top with it on occasion, I can kind of sympathize with him. I found myself in a relationship one time with a girl who was way out of my league, and half the time I could focus only on how lucky I was and how reality would probably set in sooner or later. Oh, the days of being younger and less confident.

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There is more paralleling in the second half, of a type that his been done prior in the series — Miyazawa’s boisterous family versus Arima’s colder (though no less loving, as is eventually revealed in later episodes), more distant familial relationship. That moment always creeped me out. You get the fun and life of Miyazawa’s family, and then the view switches to Arima’s home (which looks terrifying at night), the scene is squeezed in (a long shot of Arima’s family is in the middle of the scene, with huge, solid black bars on the both sides) and there is some tinkering with food on plates while Arima’s uncle attempts to bring up a topic of discussion, discards it and Arima responds with a weary, “Yes, sir.” Both scenes make it obvious why Miyazawa and Arima are the way they are. (Though I don’t want to say Arima’s aunt and uncle are terrible parents — they clearly love Arima. It’s just a bit tougher for them to directly express that love.)

The way this episode works to help Arima start on the path of reconciling his insecurities about himself is one of the more memorable portions of Kare Kano. While Miyazawa dances away one rainy evening, while the two wait out a storm after hours at school, she confesses that it is wonderful to finally depend on someone for once her in life, and that she wants to depend on nobody but Arima. A sudden burst of emotion courses its way through Arima. “I want to be with her!” Arima says, slowly at first, but soon the mantra builds into a semi-obsessive chant. Then, following a rare impulse, Arima leaps to his feet and hugs Miyazawa tightly. It’s all white lights and angelic voices for Arima there — sort of cliche, but it works. Their hearts thump quicker and harder as they draw closer for a kiss . . . and the tension is ripped through the seams by a clap of thunder.

(God, I love that moment. It’s a cruel tease, but damn it, it draws me in effortlessly.)

Arima is frightened that following an impulse may have scared Miyazawa away, while Miyazawa can barely handle the emotion running through her at the moment. After a funny tension-breaking moment when Arima accidentally kicks a bucket of water onto Miyazawa’s head, Miyazawa makes another important connection to Arima by admitting she wonders whether the image of perfection she built throughout her life would be useless, but that it is still useful because it gives her the strength to be a pillar of support for Arima, just as Arima is her rock. In that moment, Arima does not see Miyazawa as someone who is impossible to understand — he sees her as a woman who shares his fears but who also shows him how to build the strength to deal with those fears. Arima sees that he does not have to isolate himself; he can share his pain with Miyazawa, and vice versa, and they can support each other.

And then the kiss. Gah. It’s not a kiss of impulse, but rather a kiss of love and support. I so squeal like a little girl at this. ❤

The callback to Miyazawa and Arima’s conversations with Hideaki is the perfect way to end the episode. It shows an Arima who is just a bit looser and more in tune with Miyazawa. He still has a ways to go, but he is slowly finding his way.

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Ep7 is an episode I never felt that strong a connection to. My reaction probably highlights a huge culture gap between America and Japan (not to mention many other countries) regarding education. Now, I’m not saying students were not pushed to do well when I was in high school, because that is absolutely not the case. Hell, doing well in school was a source of pride in many ways at my high school — almost the complete opposite of the whole “nerds are at the bottom rung of the social ladder” mindset you see in a lot of high school series/movies in America. But, damn, the level of pressure evident in this episode is completely foreign to me!

At the same time, this is an interesting issue to focus upon: How to balance love and the pressures of one’s future. High school is an important time, but I never could understand the mindset of being involved in several thousand activities to boost a resume for purposes of getting into an amazing college. That just strikes me as . . . fake. In a way, it’s similar to the superficial personality Miyazawa builds for herself, except students are building a construct of the perfect student for the admiration of colleges instead of their peers. People get involved in lots of stuff because they genuinely enjoy it, and that’s OK. But I feel sick to my stomach when people suggest something is good to participate in because it’s a “resume builder” or you’ll get “valuable connections”, as if these things are good only to help oneself in competitions for colleges and careers.

And that is something Arima and Miyazawa struggle with here. Of course they want to do well in school. They have dreams and aspirations. But they do not want to do it at the expense of each other. The teacher believes he has their best interests in mind when he says they will have their whole lives to be together, and that for now they should concentrate solely on their studies. Life isn’t just about studying and career advancement, though. Miyazawa and Arima both need that someone to alleviate that pressure they feel coming from all sides. No man or woman is strong enough to take on everything on his or her own. Their relationship isn’t just a distraction — it’s something that helps each person grow and be better able to handle the tough things in life. Cool parent moments in this episode, too, when Miyazawa and Arima’s parents each stand up for their children’s choices.

(Plus, really, the school is overreacting just a tad. Miyazawa and Arima go on a few dates, hold hands and kiss a couple of times, drop a few spots in the overall standings and the school flips its shit. You’d have to get a girl pregnant to get that kind of reaction at my school.)

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You can cut the tension of the passion between Arima and Miyazawa with a chainsaw in ep8.

For all the development of the emotional and psychological side of Arima and Miyazawa’s relationship throughout Kare Kano, there is an equal amount of attention paid to the physical side of their relationship. They are friggin’ teenagers, after all. Miyazawa and Arima are not always thinking about their futures, or how they support each other. Sometimes they just want to get it on. Miyazawa is always commenting on how beautiful Arima is, and Arima is likewise entranced by Miyazawa’s beauty. So when Arima comes to his door to meet Miyazawa when she comes over his house on study day, and his hair is all wet and there’s a towel draped on his shoulders, the intense red of Miyazawa’s face says it all. There is but one thing she is thinking about at that moment.

They both try to distract themselves with reading and idle conversation once they make their way up to Arima’s room. But there’s something hanging in the air, and both of them know it. Soon Miyazawa changes the conversation to how they express their emotions. She comments, in a joking way, that because Arima is so cool and calm, she believes she is the only one being affectionate in the relationship. The tension goes through the roof after that. Something within Arima snaps, because it is a problem he constantly deals with — is he too cold? Too distant? Is he capable of properly expressing his feelings to Miyazawa and really opening up to her?

Then Arima makes his move. His question to her — “Do you want me to show you how much I love you?” — sounds half like a threat and half like a promise of some emotionally powerful lightning bolt to come. This is true sexual tension. Not the “Will they? Won’t they?” fluff of sitcoms but the type that leads to something real between people. Miyazawa speaks of her and Arima being balanced on a fine line, “the thinnest possible thread of emotion” (which is followed by an unmistakably sexual shot of the lower half of Miyazawa’s body). What is right in this situation? What is wrong? “Provocation,” Miyazawa whispers. Does she really want to know how far Arima’s feelings go?

Many people hold the physical aspect of a relationship as something special to be shared when two people really, truly feel something for one another. There has to be a trust built. That is what this scene is about, I think. Even though she says it jokingly, Miyazawa sometimes doubts Arima’s ability to express affection. Does she trust him enough to let him express the depth of his attraction in this situation? Is she comfortable sharing the strongest — and at the same time, the most delicate — emotional and physical feelings running through Arima in that moment?

Miyazawa sounds half frightened and half turned on, but she says yes to Arima’s advances. And the kiss, she says, is completely different than the one they shared before. Why? Because the first is a kiss of support. The second is a kiss of passion. Miyazawa feels as if her heart will fly away; she can feel Arima all around her. They don’t have sex, but they might as well have. There is an undeniably erotic feel to the build-up and release of this tender kiss.

It is the first time they truly become one with each other, physically, in Kare Kano. And what a moment it is. My heart is pounding just writing about it.

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