While I am taken with Itazura na Kiss, I worry about the heroic dumb girl role model. It seems incredible that a girl who has grown up without a mother for most of her life has such woeful culinary skills especially if Dad is supposedly a chef of some renown. One would’ve thought that if there was something a motherless girl would be good at, it would be cooking – having to fend for herself and all that kind of thing especially when Dad’s working late nights.
Yes, I know, it’s fiction and it doesn’t have to make sense except within the schema of the story. Only I suspect it’s a necessary contrivance because it opens up avenues of humour throughout the story. Clearly, it’s a running gag that Lead Dumb Girl can’t cook to save her life and it’s a point on which her good nature is sorely tested. The fact that she’s surrounded by good cooks, only serves to exacerbate her incompetence in cringeworthy fashion. There’s one occasion where Lead Girl takes it upon herself to cook her way into smart boy's heart (spurred on by well-meaning friends) and there are no prizes for anyone who guesses how that misguided notion turns out. Smart boy doesn't appreciate burnt offerings as love tokens no matter how good the intention so he takes a turn behind the stove and show why he is the prince of men.
As a mother of two girls, I find the dumb but lovable girl scenario both cloying and disturbing. I don't see the attraction myself but it's a common characterization in these kinds of stories.
The saving grace for me is that Lead Girl here oozes her own brand of likability. It’s a relief that despite her sometimes masochistic attachment to smart boy she’s no doormat. And that dogged persistence to win his heart is almost admirable.Thank God too, there’s something called character development... and I’m relieved to say that she comes out smelling like roses. When the time comes for her to walk away graciously, she does so with dignity.
Smart/Lead boy seems to me a bundle of contradictions. He is meant to be a genius and is blessed with an eidetic memory. But apparently with all of God’s gifts bestowed upon him, he doesn’t really know what he wants in life. Added to that, he's emotionally stunted. He hasn't yet, we are told, found his big dream. Evidently he likes Lead Girl but isn’t quite sure if he wants to live happily ever after with her. Further complicating matters is the fact that the pursuit of his newly discovered passion is inevitably conflated with his growing attachment for lead girl. After all it is she who points him in the right direction. While he is dillydallying, his sense of self and his love for lead girl are put on trial when Dad falls ill and the burden of holding together the family business falls on his shoulders. Angst and anguish ensue when he offers himself a candidate for martyrdom and turns a hundred and eighty degrees from his struggle for independence to becoming the family’s sacrificial lamb in an arranged marriage situation.
It's never quite clear why he feels the need to go this far.It confuses dumb girl no end because despite what is commonly thought about her, she has enough nous to notice that he is gradually thawing out. Thawing out, however, is not the same thing as saying, "I love you".
So he's not game to throw in his lot with Lead Girl until he thinks that she might be ripe for the picking by her long time admirer. It's a headscratcher that one... what he was thinking when he agreed to the arranged marriage... Was he thinking of building a harem... Didn't think polygamy was still practised in Japan in any meaningful fashion. Well, he does have an ego the size of China so I probably wouldn't put it past him to harbour fanciful ideas about Lead Girl pining away for him for the rest of her pitiful days on earth. Luckily for us and Lead Girl, the fiancee sees his hidden fires... Then he has an epiphany in rain, comes to his senses and makes his confession in first rate egotistical fashion:
You love meYou can't love anyone but me...
Don't say you love any man besides me
Funnily enough... it all ends well. For Lead Girl and Smart Boy. Conveniently well. As it should... It's a rom com after all. Who wants to watch a rom com that ends badly.? I certainly don't. :D