Itazura na Kiss – Kaoru Tada

Itazura na Kiss, translated as Playful Kiss, was first published in Margaret magazine in 1991 and ran through 1999. Although left incomplete, the series has been an inspiration to many more recent mangaka, and has left its mark on readers worldwide. Itazura na Kiss presents the relationship of an unlikely couple that will have you cheering for the underdog, or yawning with boredom.

The Gist: Kotoko Aihara has had a crush on fellow classman Naoki Irie since the first day of high school. Now a third year, she decides to confess her feelings to Naoki, which he promptly rejects. Embarrassed, Kotoko returns home only to discover that her house is falling apart. Her father has arranged for he and Kotoko to live with an old friend of his from college. Coincidentally, that would be Irie-san, the father of Naoki, and Kotoko’s crush. Now living under the same roof, Kotoko and Naoki must see each other everyday. Will Kotoko ever accept Naoki’s cold resistance, or will Naoki eventually come around to Kotoko’s kind but forceful presence?

Naoki Irie and Kotoko Aihara - colored sample

Naoki Irie and Kotoko Aihara - colored sample

The Characters/Romance: Kotoko is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. She struggles with academics as well as relationships. By senior year, she’s never had a boyfriend or gone on a date. Her stubbornness and determination are her redeeming as well as annoying qualities. Throughout the series, Kotoko’s feelings are repeatedly rejected by Naoki, yet she refuses to move on to someone else. She chooses instead to follow Naoki around like a puppy.

Naoki, on the other hand, is so intelligent that he’s bored. He sees Kotoko as a form of entertainment. He seems to be disinterested in girls or relationships. His parents are smothering, and he has no goals or dreams for the future. I got the impression that readers are suppose to root for Kotoko and think of Naoki as a cold-hearted jerk, but I actually side with Naoki in this story. I find Kotoko and her cronies annoying, especially Kennosuke. I was so glad when Naoki decided to leave home and get a part time job, experiencing some things for himself. He can at least have some time to find a direction for the future that isn’t pushed on him by others.

This colored image in black and white is nice.

This colored image in black and white is nice.

The Art: Since this series ran in the 1990’s, you can see style dating in the costuming, but it’s not that much of an issue. I really don’t care for Tada’s style. I don’t like her simple line art, especially the way she draws noses. Naoki is often more detailed than Kotoko. The realistic images are the only ones that I thought were nice. Multiple lines add depth and more detail that improves the look of the characters. The colored images are hit or miss. Some look nice, while in others I dislike the choice of a busy background, and Kotoko looks like she has bruised eyes instead of rosy cheeks.

The Audience: Itazura na Kiss is appropriate for a teen audience or older so I would rate it as cuddly. Nothing more than kisses. Kotoko is definitely not the best role model for a teen girl, as she pines over one boy for years and even makes herself sick for him at one point.

I like this art style much better!

I like this art style much better!

The Media: Itazura na Kiss is being released in the states by Digital Manga Publishing. The total number of volumes will be 12, since they are being released in omnibus format. The manga was never completed in Japan, as mangaka Tada was in an accident and unexpectedly died. The 25 episode anime series that was produced by TMS Entertainment contains the author’s intended ending of the manga. So far that has not been licensed for release in the states. There is a CD drama of the series as well as three live action dramas of the manga that were produced in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

Heart of Manga Rating: ♥♥

I’m sure there are readers out there who love this series, but I’m not one of them. The characters were annoying and I wasn’t impressed with the art. After five volumes there was little change in the main characters’ relationship. That’s a lot of pages with no progress. I think I’d rather be reading something else.

Follow Me!


Super mom and teacher until the kids go to bed, then romance manga addict and writer until the caffeine wears out! Specializes in the shoujo and josei genre of manga and anime.
Follow Me!

Latest posts by Laura (see all)

Comments Closed.

2017 Shoujo and Josei License Announcements
Contact Me
Subscribe to Heart of Manga

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts. Your info will not be used for any other purpose.

Like Us on Facebook