Kare Kano is on my top favorite anime list. But as much as I adore this title, let's get some of the negatives out of the way first. The primary issue with the anime is the limited budget. Having been produced in 1998, the art and animation is already dated but moreover, the limited funds led to manga images incorporated from time to time. They do have a charm of their own but at around episode 20 it's worth switching to the manga and continuing from there.
Also, I tend to advise friends to skip the OP and ED as well as the beginning recaps whenever they occur. For those who've tried the title before and dropped it early on: try watching the opening recap for episode 4 and then episode 5 onwards. There's a reason the anime is on so many rec lists :3
Okay, given all that, this is still a favorite, mainly because of the characterization, relationships and story and the development with each episode. The female lead, Yukino, is hands down my favorite anime heroine ever. She's independent and fierce and hilariously weird in her own unique way. Following the first episode, we see her change and through all of it, she's very much my idea of girl power and a kick ass heroine too.
I admit that when I first tried Kare Kano, I stopped after the first episode, writing Yukino off as a snob. Then I tried it again after a few months with my sister and realized that things change a lot in the first 4 episodes, by which point Arima and Yukino have hooked up and the remaining story focusing on them together, which almost never happens in your regular shoujo anime.
It kills me that it usually takes the length of an entire series for leads to get together, if ever. I guess there's the idea that the whole point of watching a romance is to see the heroine and hero hook up, after which the story might fizzle.
But the awesomeness about Kare Kano is that the story seems to take off after Arima and Yukino start dating, since their relationship is a catalyst for so many other changes: Arima dealing with his past, Yukino making friends...in a way there's a bit of meta on life that takes place through it all. It's fascinating to see two ideal top students break out of their molds, rearrange priorities and learn how to balance ambitions and goals with personal happiness and relationships that are far more genuine and real.
Kare Kano is funny, quirky and touching, focusing on love between friends, family and lovers. If you're ever in the mood for a shoujo story, this is probably one of the best in the genre.
Title: Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou [ MAL | ANN | IMDB ]
Genres: Comedy / Drama / Romance
Summary: The main character is Yukino Miyazawa, a Japanese high school freshman who is the envy of her classmates because of her good grades and immaculate appearance. However, this is just a charade she maintains to win praise—at home and in private, she is spoiled, stubborn, and a slob, and studies relentlessly instead of spending time with her sisters.
Her position is threatened by Soichiro Arima, a handsome young man who also gets top grades. Yukino considers his very existence to be a challenge to her class leadership positions and a threat to the praise on which she thrives, and so she vows to destroy him.
But after some misunderstandings, they see past each other's facades and fall in love. The series follows their relationship as they are tested by school, family problems, and friends.