Japanese Title: Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou
Similar: Special A
Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You
Watched in: Japanese & English
Length: 26 episodes
- Realistic relationship development.
- Good blend of heart and comedy.
- Captures teen overthinking and sexual tension.
- Rough, unfinished art and story.
- So much recap.
First up in round two of reader requests, we have His and Her Circumstances, a high school romance about two perfect students living a lie about their perfection. Yukino is a flawless girl at school – top of the class, pretty, athletic, modest, and helpful to all. However, at home, the façade drops and she turns into a tracksuit-sporting, big-glasses-wearing, no-makeup-having frump with no cares to give to anyone. Turns out, she only acts perfect to satiate her desire for admiration and praise.
Enter Arima, a handsome boy with modesty, intelligence, and kindness to match Yukino. She thought that him beating her in the exams was the worst, until he sees all her glorious frumpiness at home and starts blackmailing her for help at school. Turns out, he’s not so perfect either. Their rivalry and hate soon blossom into love, as they discover their true selves and the circumstances that made them act so perfect.
When opening His and Her Circumstances, I pleaded for it not to suck. That day was not a day for low quality and I felt strongly in the mood for something good – seeing Studio Gainax attached to the project didn’t bode well. I groaned when the show opened to introducing the perfect girl, a Mary-Sue, and an equivalent boy. See, I went in knowing almost nothing, not even that their perfection was an act. This seemed another shallow romance. When Yukino reveals the lie, which happens quite quickly, I piqued back up. It got me. It pretended to be shallow before it pulled the rug from under me to reveal depth. It got me good. The fake Mary-Sues is a brilliant play on the clichéd high school romance.
Circumstances also breaks convention by not moving at a snail’s pace. The perfect student façade is revealed to Arima in the first episode, the two get together soon, and it goes through the different phases of a relationship without filler. Well, almost: side stories halt progression as the main couple stops doing anything and no series should have this much recap. Anyway, the story would have failed if the goal of the series were to get them together in the end, like most romance anime, or have him only unmask her fake exterior in the final act. Getting Arima in on the lie early increases tension, for it allows them to play off each other much better.
The relationship between the two leads is brilliant. It’s realistic and taken seriously, even though comedy (still well balanced with drama) is the main content of the series. The writer perfectly captures a teenager’s habit to overthink everything when it comes to romance. Will he hate me if I confess? What if I can’t confess?
So, your crush/almost-boyfriend has said he loves you, but you froze in the moment and didn’t say it back. What do you do? Go the next day and say you love him too? Oh no, such an obvious, straightforward, and logical solution would never do for the teen in love. Noooo, she must set an elaborate ploy to lure him into an empty classroom or arrange a meeting in the library over a fancy book. Why not just tell—! Shh, logic isn’t needed her. If that doesn’t work, then she must learn poetry! I love it.
Sexual tension plays a strong part in this relationship. Better yet, there’s no face-planting into boobs, no accidental boob grabs, and no pretending anything sexual is disgusting to everyone involved as a substitute for sexual tension. Circumstances doesn’t shy away from being honest about teens in love wanting to do more than hold hands.
Her sisters, knowing who she really is, play great foils to her fake perfection, providing a running commentary. Good thing too because when Yukino tells her side of events (labelled as ‘re-enactments’), her bias oozes off the screen as she paints herself the victimised saint who did no wrong.
I want you to take all the good I have said above and hold it close to your heart until it feels all warm and fuzzy. Done? Right, here’s a bucket of ice-cold reality to shrivel your heart. The ending is terrible!
It’s bad enough that they included four episodes worth of recaps throughout the second half, yet add in the final episodes and it feels like a betrayal, like it was planned from the beginning to roger you thoroughly behind the bins with that disgrace of an ending. It’s not simply that the story ends poorly – it’s that they didn’t even try to end it. Remember that poor weaving of side stories mentioned earlier? That’s how it ends – with a bloody side story! The bad art that prevails the last few episodes reminds of the train wreck Evangelion ending.
Bad endings and fluctuating art quality seem a Gainax staple, and I can’t help but think that this anime would have worked better in the hands of another studio. Why didn’t they throw all the recaps and the useless end story out in favour of a single episode to conclude on if they had time and budget constraints?
His and Her Circumstances is so close to being great that it almost hurts to see it end this way.
Art – Low
Most of the time, the art is good, but an overabundance of budget techniques – cut-outs from the manga, stills, white background characters – drag it all down. It gets worse the further you go until the final episode has almost no animation, replaced by manga panels and Gainax’s signature – text instead of art. Good use of chibification.
Sound – High
The acting is good in either track, particularly for Yukino (took a moment to get used to hearing Ash Ketchum as a leading girl in English). English Arima could do with more energy. The music has many nice tracks – I always love a rendition of ‘Gliding Dance of the Maidens’, notably from RahXephon and what was to be Evangelion’s original opening song.
Story – Medium
Two perfect students turn out to be not so perfect and fall in love as they discover each other. Blending humour and heart with realistic relationship development, His and Her Circumstances would reach greatness if not for its incomplete nature and flood of recap episodes.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: For romance fans. His and Her Circumstances has more than enough for romance lovers to enjoy regardless of the end. You’ll need the manga for closure.
Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)