His and Her Circumstances, Vol. 1 by Hideaki Anno (Review)

To say I completely fell in love with this series is a bit premature, since I’ve only seen the first 6 episodes. But I’ve definitely got a crush.
His and Her Circumstances

All I know is that my curiosity was piqued. That the creators of series like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gunbuster would be tackling a high school romantic comedy based on a popular girl’s comic… well, how could I not be interested? After having finished the whole Evangelion saga, I felt pretty sure I was in for something special and unexpected. In fact, I was expecting it. If anyone could turn a seemingly mundane teen romance story (really, how many of these have we seen by now?) into something interesting, my money was on GAINAX.

His and Her Circumstances centers on two very distinct and unusual characters, set against a complex web of relationships that could only take place in high school. Yukino Miyazawa is the most popular and well-liked girl at Houkuei High. The professors praise her academic skills, the students her good looks and modest demeanor. However, it’s all a facade; in reality, Yukino is a shallow girl that exists for the praise of others. At school, Yukino is smart, attractive, and graceful; at home, she’s a complete snob more interested in her grades and school activities than spending time with her family.

However, all of her efforts are for naught when Arima Souichiro arrives on the scene. He seems even more perfect than Yukino and quickly becomes the center of attention. Without even knowing anything about him, Yukino decides to crush Arima’s achievements. Unfortunately, her plan backfires when Arima discovers the truth about Yukino’s slovenly nature outside of school. Arima turns this to his advantage, blackmailing Yukino into doing his schoolwork to get back at her. Or maybe he’s doing it for another reason.

The two rivals grow closer to each other without even realizing it. Their facades begin to crack, and Yukino discovers that Arima has a secret of his own. Afraid that he might turn out like his abusive parents, and determined not to disgrace the rest of his family, Arima has been grooming a perfect exterior as well. As their relationship deepens, the two begin to open up to each other, relieved that they’ve found someone else with whom they can be totally honest. Unfortunately, this isn’t an easy process when you’re in high school, with rumors and jealousies aplenty.

At first, His and Her Circumstances seems like nothing but a manic comedy. There are plenty of hilarious sequences that occur, usually involving Yukino and her family (who treat Yukino with a mixture of amusement and pity). However, the series also contains some deeply moving scenes as well. And it moves between the two so quickly, you’ve got to be on your toes.

One minute, I was rolling on the floor as Yukino’s father defends his innocent daughter from the advances of “maggot bastards” like Arima. Soon enough, I found myself touched with the couple’s attempts to sort out their feelings and take off their masks. Like your first big crush, His and Her Circumstances is full of mood swings, and it touches on all of the feelings of delirium, doubt, joy, and anxiety that accompany love.

Although the series clearly centers on Yukino and Arima, it also spends much time developing their environment. The series explores a lot of the cultural and social aspects of a Japanese high school (I assume some dramatic liberties are taken, but I was intrigued nonetheless). It’s clear that high school pressures don’t disappear, even when you’re in love. Also, the series boasts a strong set of supporting characters, especially Yukino’s family. The scene when they first meet Arima is a classic, as is their plan to use Arima to get hospital discounts.

Despite their dysfunctional appearance, it’s obvious they love Yukino, whether they’re teasing her or offering some surprisingly mature (and thought-provoking, at least for me) advice on love.

Although they couldn’t be more different, some parallels do exist between His and Her Circumstances and Evangelion (the most famous of GAINAX’s creations). Sure, we don’t see giant robots and monsters duking it out. But the issue of human relationships and the doubts and trials they create are central themes of both series. Both feature characters struggling with their sense of self-worth, and trying to come to terms with the pretenses they’ve spent so much time constructing.

Of course, Evangelion never had me falling out of my seat with laughter, so there is that.

Coming from GAINAX, you can be sure that the animation is topnotch and completely over the top. Yukino is especially fun to watch, as she morphs into any number of poses, designs, and body shapes based upon her mood and (over)reaction. Given its manga roots, its not surprising that much of the animation feels like a comic book come alive, with text bubbles, black and white artwork, still shots, and whatnot. This approach might take some getting used to, but it works perfectly with the series’ oft-lighthearted nature, as well as adds a bit more depth to the more dramatic scenes. The music also deserves special mention, moving from bubblegum ditties and 70’s pop hits to pensive, moody piano pieces with the speed of Yukino’s outbursts.

I was a bit skeptical the second time I watched the series. It had been awhile, and I’d forgotten a lot of what happened. But halfway through the first episode I was hooked again. To say I completely fell in love with this series is a bit premature, since I’ve only seen the first 6 episodes. But I’ve definitely got a crush, and I can’t wait for the next disc.

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