Otaku USA Magazine
Itazura na Kiss vol. 1

Kotoko and Naoki get along a lot better on the cover than they do inside the manga. The cover gives you the idea they’re a loving couple. Ha!

On the first page, Kotoko tries to give Naoki a love letter so he’ll know she’s had a crush on him for two years. He turns her down flat, not even looking at the letter. Afterward Kotoko goes off to lick her wounds and decides she was wrong for ever liking that jerk. (He is a jerk, by the way.) He says he doesn’t like stupid girls, which hurts Kotoko’s feelings, because she knows she’s in the slowest class at her school. He, meanwhile, has an I.Q. of around 200, they say, and may be the smartest boy in Japan.

But then an earthquake unfortunately makes a mess of the house she shares with her father. Until their house is repaired, she and her father move into the home of her father’s old schoolfriend to live on their charity. The friend has a beautiful, loving wife, a snotty third grade son and… oh, dear… Naoki for an elder son.

In other words, Kotoko now has to live with a guy who not only doesn’t treat her well, but on whom she sadly has an unrequited crush.

Naoki’s mother adores Kotoko, and is soon planning out their marriage. She also shows Kotoko baby pictures of Naoki in which he’s wearing dresses and other girly outfits. It turns out his mother wanted a daughter, so when she had a son she simply dressed him up like a girl for a few years. Naoki is now embarrassed by his early clothing, so Kotoko uses it as blackmail to get him to help her study. Sick of being in the last class, she wants to bring up her grades. Naoki relents, and under his tutelage, she’s able to get higher grades than anyone in the known history of her class.

Itazura na Kiss is better than it might sound from the description. At first glance, it looks as if it’s a manga about a dumb girl who fawns all over a jerky guy who doesn’t deserve her time. Kotoko may have struggles at school, but she’s not stupid. And Naoki is a jerk, but thankfully she doesn’t fawn all over his jerky self as if being a jerk is no big deal, because that would make me gag (I don’t know how to put that more delicately). It’s more of a comedy about opposites than a romance, and as that it works.

Publisher: Digital Manga
Story & Art: Kaoru Tada