I recently appeared on the Veef Show podcast, where I talked briefly about chapter reviewing Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare. However, I realized, upon trying to say the name of the series, that I didn’t know how I’m supposed to pronounce “xxxru.” It’s not like XXXHolic or Hunter x Hunter where the x is silent, because it’s supposed to be a variable verb. “You shall not ______.” In any case, for future reference, I’ll probably refer to it as its official shortened name, Kimi Nakare, when speaking from now on.
Chapter 2 of Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare picks up right where Chapter 1 left off. Nobuko is a young celebrity comedian, known more for her ability to get a laugh than her homely looks. Hayato, a childhood friend and classmate, is a popular idol who’s in love with Nobuko. Upon hearing Hayato’s confession, Nobuko tells him that it can’t happen and runs away, clearly flustered. As Nobuko goes home early we’re introduced to Nobuko’s mother, who’s a famous actress known for her beauty.
On a variety show where both she and Hayato appear, Hayato talks about how Nobuko is cute, but because Nobuko is not considered beautiful the host reacts incredulously. Nobuko takes advantage of this and takes on the role of the “ugly pursuer,” who comically keeps chasing after Hayato, which becomes a popular gag over multiple shows. Nobuko claims that it’s because Hayato has to remember the fact that he’s an idol (and idols can’t date), but it’s clearly a way for her to ignore her feelings. Eventually, though, Hayato finally gets to be alone with her, and asks Nobuko about how she feels, and her face says it all.
Nobuko’s View of Herself
One of the most pleasant surprises of this chapter happens right at the beginning, with the story being primarily told from Nobuko’s side. The first chapter concentrated on Hayato, and I had to wonder if this trend would continue, but it’s clear now that they’re basically sharing top billing in this manga.
Nobuko’s mother, and the fact that Nobuko herself has not inherited her looks, appears to be one of the main reasons that Nobuko lacks such confidence in her appearance. While her mother adores her and is shown dressing a young Nobuko up in a flashback, Nobuko is being judged not only by the fact that she looks more like her father but through comparison with her mom. Alone, Nobuko remarks that “Something must be wrong with Hayato’s eyes,” which is basically a self-deprecating statement.
In this respect, I can’t help but feel for her. Having grown up in the world of entertainment where looks can be paramount, Nobuko is made hyper aware of how she does not fit traditional images of beauty. What should have been an unrequited love due to the contrast between her appearance and handsome Hayato’s is made reality by Hayato and it scares her. The sense I get from Nobuko is that she feels that this isn’t supposed to be happening, that it’s a fantasy that she wasn’t meant to be a part of.
Comedy as a Tool
The fact that Nobuko purposely takes on the role of the unattractive admirer, a kind of Steve Urkel to Hayato’s Laura Winslow, showcases not only Nobuko’s talent for comedy, but also how Nobuko is using humor to lighten the load that her heart has inflicted upon her. At home, Nobuko says to herself, “If I can’t pull away to deal with the situation, then I’ll push,” meaning that by trivializing the idea of a relationship between the two of them, by turning it into fodder for comedy, she can cope with it. This gives great insight into how Nobuko thinks, and how flexible and adaptive she can be.The way that Hayato once again cuts through Nobuko’s defenses, then, is why I think the last scene of this chapter is so good. Nobuko, who’s dressed like a monkey to continue her on-screen obsession with Hayato, ends up alone with him in her dressing room. Hayato uses the classic “kabe don” of shoujo manga fame, and Nobuko’s facade cracks, as shown previously. The fact that all of this happens while Nobuko’s still wearing that monkey suit makes the scene somehow more poignant. The monkey suit is supposed to make the idea of a romance between them nonsense, but Hayto isn’t having any of that.
Serious and Silly Artwork
I love how so many of the moments in this manga can be both serious and silly at the same time. Okamichachi’s style captures this seeming contradiction very well, because she has a shoujo (and I think BL?)-influenced style that still leaves plenty of room for exaggerated expressions and a willingness to not have her characters look perfect. While this is less the case for Hayato, who’s supposed to be naturally handsome, seeing him with a relatively serious expression as Nobuko makes kissy faces only enhances the sense that the two are entering this weird space where their feelings for each other are enhanced yet also diminished by being on-screen. Hayato’s reactions show that the situations portrayed in front of the camera, even if they are weird, still land in the realm of what he really wants, and he can’t help but blush himself as a result.
Right now, the cast is fairly small, and there aren’t any romances happening between the few side characters that exist. I have to wonder if this will change, as that’s pretty much the fate of all romance manga.
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