His and Her Circumstances, also known as Kare Kano, is a 1998 anime series created by the studio Gainax. This romantic anime came as a follow-up to one of their most famous works, Neon Genesis Evangelion.
The series follows the story of Yukino Miyazawa, a high-achieving student who is determined to be the best at everything she does. However, her world is turned upside down when she meets her new classmate, Soichiro Arima, who seems to be even better than her at everything. As the two compete with each other, they also begin to fall in love.
Although the show is not at all related to NGE, it is still a worthwhile watch for any fan of romance anime and the works of Hideaki Anno. The characters are relatable, the animation quality is top-notch, and despite the disappointing ending, the show manages to maintain a charming appeal that keeps you watching until the end.
Gainax Adapts a Manga
After the successful run on Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hideaki Anno and Gainax were the hot players in the anime industry, and they were keen to keep the animation team together and quickly set to work on adapting a shoujo romantic manga.
Production of the show was very stylized and utilized several different techniques, including montages cut with the original manga, live-action backgrounds, paper cutouts on sticks, and the use of gekimation.
Casting for the Japanese language version of the show was comprised of many first-time voice actors. This was done purposely as Hideaki Anno felt that the scale of voice actors in the industry at the time was limiting to the vision he had for the production.
The Story of His and Her Circumstances
The story follows the life of Yukino Miyazawa, a high school student who craves the admiration and affection of her fellow students so much that she develops a fake persona of the ideal and perfect student.
At home, and around her family, she lets down her guard and is even seen as lazy and immature by her sisters. This dual identity leads to a fear of exposure to her classmates that becomes a source of weakness.
Her life is turned upside down when she meets Soichiro Arima, a boy who challenges her for the position of top student at the school. Furthermore, Soichiro is good-looking, popular, and athletic, which earns him the admiration of his classmates. As Yukino and Soichiro get to know each other better, they begin to fall in love.
As their relationship develops, both Yukino and Soichiro begin to question their motives in life, and this forces deep introspection into their past.
In the case of Soichiro, he contends with being the scorn of his relatives after his loving Aunt and Uncle take him in due to an abusive mother and disgraced father. And with Yukino, she begins to question her motives for being propped up on a pedestal by her classmates and teachers.
This introspective venture leads both Soichiro and Yukino to lean on each other as they begin to display their true selves publicly. So the story is both one of romance and self-discovery.
The characters are all very likable and the supporting cast serves to provide a contrast to the introverted and aloof personas of the two main characters in the story. As Yukino and Soichiro began to come out of their shells, their friends and family help guide them through their new-found social lives.
Many of the characters fit familiar archetypes, so they are instantly relatable and likable. And as the story progresses, much of the focus shifts to the growth in these friendships and family relationships.
The Charm of Kare Kano
The charm of the show lies in the likable characters and their relationships with their friends and family.
Beyond the romance between Soichiro and Yukino, you get a healthy dose of family fun with Yukino’s doting father, loving mother, and meddling sisters who know Yukino’s true personality and take no hesitation in calling her out for having two identities.
And as Soichiro and Yukino begin to display their true personalities at school, new friendships begin to form and this brings an extra layer of complexity to the growth of the two main characters. Beyond their budding romance, they are now balancing their newfound friendships and the social life that comes with it.
The show also touches on some dark themes, such as bullying and abuse, and demonstrates how the characters are able to persevere through these difficult situations while maintaining their composure and dignity without resorting to retaliation or holding a grudge.
In addition to a compelling story, the quality of the animation is top-tier, as expected from Gainax. The Backgrounds also have a watercolor aesthetic which lends itself to a storybook feel and perfectly represents the pinnacle of a warm analog 90s anime aesthetic.
The Disappointment of His and Her Circumstances
Production of the show was marred by a creative dispute between the author of the manga and Hideaki Anno. The root of this dispute was based on the decision by Gainax and Anno to emphasize the comedic aspects of the show, whereas the author wanted more focus on romance.
After 16 episodes, Hideaki Anno officially left the show, although it is said that he quietly continued to oversee the production of the show to the end.
The show also ran into budgetary issues, which lead to some creative use of manga still frames, paper cutouts on sticks, and two recap episodes (quite a bit for a short run). And although the series is only 26 episodes in length, it features 2 and a half recap episodes, which feels like a bit much.
While the last two episodes were still entertaining, they did nothing to further the romance between the two main characters. So the show, unfortunately, ends in an anti-climactic fashion with no storyline resolution of any kind.
Between the beautiful animation, likable characters, and Gainax storytelling, it’s hard not to be left with a feeling of what might have been.
His and Her Circumstances masterfully explores the themes of love, loss, and growing up. The story follows the lives of two teenagers, Miyazawa Yukari and Tsubaki Sawabe, as they navigate the ups and downs of young love.
Though the anime ultimately leaves you longing for what could have been, it remains a humorous look at the trials and tribulations of adolescence. This is why it continues to be a worthwhile recommendation for any fan of 90s romance anime.