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|Main characters Arima and Yukino|
(This review can also be read on myanimelist.net or should be in the near future) You look at that cover and you think "Mrmlb it must be one of those high-school romance animes YET AGAIN" and that's right, it is exactly that. But I still strongly recommand it.
It's a Gainax anime from 1998, three years after Evangelion, which was, in my opinion, a debacle. However Anno (the director) and Gainax really redeemed themselves with Kare Kano, especially when it comes to characters and character development, aspects which were severely lacking and even deal-breaking in Neon Genenis Evangelion. Kare Kano has some really strong points going for it.
First the characters themselves. This is obviously a character-driven show, so it's most important that the characters be well-written and they are. Most of the show is shown from the POV of the main heroine, Yukino Miyasawa. She's a girl craving for attention and always tries to be perfect in everyway to get all the praise. Few people outside of her family know her "true" personality. It's kinda far-fetched but it works very well in the anime. The main male character, Arima, is also a top student and appears flatter at first but actually has a tragic backstory that quickly kicks in in Episode 2 or 3, and which explains his motivations to try and stay on top.
One thing is good in this anime, and it's that nothing drags on. In the first episode Arima really gets on Yukino's nerves but as soon as Episode 2, romance between the two starts to unfold. Unlike most animes where the two lead characters wait for Episode 26 to hold hands, Arima and Yukino kiss for the first time in like, Episode 4 or 5.
Although there's clearly a linear story, the show is also quite episodic; each episode brings some kind of new situation the couple must face. Usually it's nothing too grievy but sometimes things get complicated. But every time, issues get resolved before the end of the episode, and there's no cliff-hanger to talk about, and that's refreshing.
There's a good balance between funny/slice of life stuff and tragic stuff. When Yukino takes the spotlight the show is light-hearted, as Yukino herself and her family are quite laidback. However as soon as the show is shown in Arima's POV, everything gets heavier. Indeed Arima has to deal with a tougher backstory than Yukino, and while is family is a loving one he's not quite as cool with his parents as Yukino is.
New characters are regularly introduced as the show progresses, and some arcs are even fully dedicated to some side characters, which is quite refreshing and allow the audience not to get tired of Arima and Yukino.
Animation is correct and actually done by JC Staff, the guys behind Fate/Stay Night (2006). Most of the show is colorful and goes for artsy kind of graphics, rather than realist and shiny graphix à la KyoAni. OP is rather generic but is cool to watch, and EDs are original in that they're live-action. You don't see any actors though, only shots of classrooms. Reminds me a bit of FLCL endings, where Gainax filmed a cat in a different way in each episode.
Now this is a Gainax anime, so there ARE some budget problems. It mainly shows in the amounts of still shots and shots taken directly from scans of the original manga. Fortunately, unlike in Evangelion where the lack of money was absurdly taken care of, it didn't stop Gainax to give a proper end to Kare Kano, thankfully. The show ends quite well (in narrative terms) and there's no dreaded "Gainax ending".