Kotoko has yet to best her new romantic rival Yuko, whether it’s at tennis or stealing Naoki’s heart. After Kotoko fails miserably at following Naoki and Yuko on a date, things take an unexpected turn when Naoki announces that he’s getting a part time job and moving out! Not one to be separated from her love, Kotoko is quick to find out where Naoki works…but why is he going home with Yuko!?
This third volume is more of what we’ve come to expect from Itazura na Kiss. In this case that’s never a bad thing; but while the omnibus format gives you more bang for your buck, the consistently charming over-the-top antics necessitate taking a breather between chapters. While the biggest drama in the volume is arguably Naoki striking out on his own, we also have the intro of Chibi the dog who, despite his Japanese namesake meaning “small,” is anything but. Kotoko tries desperately to hide her lack of fondness for the big mutt from the Irie family, but naturally Naoki enjoys watching Kotoko squirm. Tada also hits on the beloved “we’re forced to spend the night together because of snowstorm” cliché; you can’t help but laugh at but also feel for Kotoko and her nerves, but we also get an unexpected glimpse into Naoki. He assures Kotoko that nothing will happen between them, because that would be “handing the reins of our lives” to Naoki’s mother. Perhaps Naoki hopes that a love between him and Kotoko would develop more organically?
Still, even in this third volume, Naoki seems impenetrable as a character, at least as far as his feelings toward Kotoko go. Does he like Kotoko or is he just constantly annoyed by her? Thus far Kotoko has mainly been a catalyst for Naoki to examine his own life, but not necessarily a romance interest. It seems like Naoki cares about Kotoko somewhat, but I can’t help but think he sees her as just an amusing diversion in an otherwise sheltered life. Still, something’s swirling around in Naoki’s mind, with him suddenly deciding to move out, picking up a job, altering his college plans, and refusing to fall into his mother’s love traps. Perhaps because we’ve seen so much of Kotoko this far, but I could easily understand if Naoki falls for her, but vice versa…the guy’s just so darn aloof and prickly. That being said, the dramatic end of volume 3 serves as a definite turning point in their relationship.
Itazura has got in hooks in me, for sure. If Naoki can just soften up — just a tad — I can completely love this series. I was a little unsure about this series initially, but it’s remained compellingly light-hearted and funny. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the rest of the series.
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