I’m a big fan of the It Started with a Kiss franchise and so far, I’ve seen three versions — the Taiwanese (which is my favorite — yes, I’ve seen all 50 something episodes of the Joe Cheng and Ariel Lin starrer). I’ve also seen Mischievous Kiss or Playful Kiss, which I believe has the best looking cast among all three versions although a bit abruptly ended and of course, there is the Japanese version which has the most annoying female (Sato Aiko) lead among the three. Check out review of live action here. But It Started With A Kiss, before it spawned various live action versions, started with a manga, and an anime which features the story of the homely and lovesick Aihara Kotoko and the super genius super cool heartthrob Irie Naoki, and chronicles how two polar opposites managed to find their way to each other despite their differences.
Not surprisingly, the anime did not lack for anything that the live action versions presented. It however, managed to squeeze into thirty minutes the same contents of an hour long episode from the live action. The lead characters were likeable and actually less weird and outrageous than their live action counterparts (Go figure). Naoki retains his aloof persona consistent in all the versions and anime Aihara has managed to secure the spot as my second favorite version of the character. She is cute, kind and relateable and she looks good with Naoki. The supporting characters were just as likable and contributed to the strength of the series.
The anime contains many of the best moments from the live action like the second button, the wedding, Naoki’s medical profession and the couple’s trip to the province where Aihara meets the ghost of the Irie’s ancestor. The ending is different from any of the versions but actually serves as a more fitting conclusion to the story after all that has happened.
The best part about it, in my opinion is its strong story which incorporated the best parts of Aihara and Naoki’s complicated journey. Some of the live action versions tended to overtell the story while some others failed in establishing the emotional conditions that the surround the weird and uncanny relationship of the two leads. The anime managed to find the perfect balance. It was perhaps less dramatic in its approach, but it does not fail to convey the emotions of the characters, their happiness, anguish, embarrassment, joys and failures (most of them Aihara’s). It was a charming presentation of the travails of one who, despite lacking the ability, has the determination to get what she truly wants, the heart of the boy who has everything (or thinks he has everything) and how falling in love (whether by choice or by force) has changed them. Fans of the franchise will surely love this anime and even those who have not yet watched any of the live action versions would do well to try their hand with this cartoon series. 🙂