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Manga / I"s

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I"s is a Rom Com manga series by Video Girl Ai creator Masakazu Katsura.

Ichitaka Seto is a normal Japanese high school student. His one hang-up is that due to a particularly nasty rejection by a girl when he was younger, he can't properly show his affection to anyone he's interested in. Naturally, he's crushing hard on Iori Yoshizuki, a classmate in the drama club that has found a sudden increase in popularity after posing in a swimsuit for a magazine spread.

Despite the seemingly impossible divide, Ichitaka lucks out when he and Iori are appointed to do a skit to welcome incoming students to their school. But his own nature, in addition to his friend Yasumasa Teratani's sometimes ill-advised help, inevitably trip him up. Matters aren't helped any when an old friend of his, Itsuki Akiba, shows up and starts crashing at his place.

The series' name has multiple meanings – it refers to the main characters' initials, but also to ai, Japanese for both "love" and "sorrow". Also, the title is supposed to have two apostrophes (to represent the multiple "I" people), but it's usually written with a quote mark (in part for simplicity and in part because writing it correctly messes with the formatting of wikis like this one).

Running from 1997 to 2000 in Weekly Shonen Jump, it was adapted into two separate Original Video Animation series, a PlayStation 2 game (which adapted the entirety of the manga) and made a surprise appearance in Jump Ultimate Stars.

In September 2017 it was announced that I"s was being adapted into a live-action TV drama. The 13-episode TV adaptation was filmed in September - December of 2017, and aired on the SKY PerfectTV! satellite network on December 21, 2018, with Amane Okayama as Ichitaka Seto, Sei Shiraishi as Iori Yoshizuki, Kyōka Shibata as Itsuki Akiba, Minori Hagiwara as Izumi Isozaki and Konatsu Katō as Aiko Asō.

This series has examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Iori has a legion of these. It goes from the ultra-jealous jerkass in her class (later ditched from the true companions because of it), to a multiple-attempted-rapist.
  • Aborted Declaration of Love: Too many instances to count. They range from an unexpected event interrupting, or someone losing their nerve at the last minute.
  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Ichitaka does this post-high school after he believes Iori's given up on him for good and invoked this herself. She didn't.
  • All Just a Dream: Played with, before being subverted. Right at the climax, we suddenly go back to the beginning, and it looks pretty convincingly like the entirety of the story was this, aside from the very first chapter… until things go wonky and Ichitaka realizes his Christmas Miracle (of getting a chance to redo his romance with Iori from the start) was the real dream.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Played maddeningly straight… until near the end. Prior to the finale, nobody seems to be able to keep a healthy and stable relationship.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Aside from Jun, all teenage males in this series who are around for at least three panels are probably going to make some sort of lewd comment about females. This includes our protagonist, though he's more of a Chivalrous Pervert. The worst ones are would-be rapists.
  • Angst Coma: Happens to Ichitaka during the climax. He manages to defeat The Marionette King before Iori can be hurt, but suffers a blow to the head in the process and ends up in one. It takes Iori's voice to snap him out of it.
  • Art Evolution: Overlaps with the Character Development. The appearance of the protagonists in later chapters is quite different from the beginning. Basically, I"s is where Katsura's art style changed from Video Girl Ai to Zetman.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Ichitaka's imagination runs wild at many, many points in the story. It gets him in trouble more than once.
  • Attractiveness Isolation: The only possible explanation for why Iori is not once seen to date anyone during high school.
    • Well, that plus she's had a crush on Ichitaka for as long as he's had one on her.
  • Author Appeal: Katsura is a big Batman fan, and the series is littered with references to it.
  • Author Avatar: There are hints that the author is speaking through Itsuki in the final scene.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Marionette King, particularly at the end, where he has been driven further insane by drug use, along with his existing obsession over Iori. His live-action counterpart is no better; if anything, he already shows signs of being unhinged in the first episode.
  • Beach Episode: Twice in the manga. Once fairly early on, and then the entire 8th volume (the exact midpoint of the story) is one.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: The Ichitaka/Itsuki pairing might have worked if they weren't so busy being complete jerks to each other.
  • Beta Couple: Teratani and Yuka. Their relationship serves as a perfect mirror to Ichitaka and Iori – When I/I are feeling awkward at the beginning, Teratani and Yuka are already getting alone fine. During Christmas, when Ichitaka and Iori finally become a couple, Teratani rejects Yuka. Only at the ending are both couples doing well.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Openly gay-or-bi, Shrinking Violet Jun Koshinae. Do not seriously endanger his friends. If you do, cue Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Ichitaka valiantly tries to save Iori from being assaulted on three occasions. For the second rescue, Ichitaka owns the moment in the manga. In the anime, it is Teratani who saves the day.
    • Given the intensity of the 2nd rescue scene, don't feel silly if you cheer a little when Teratani shows up with the cavalry.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Rie Furukawa, Iori's manager at Isai Production. Acts supportive of both Ichitaka and Iori in her initial appearance, but her true colors soon manifest, doing her utmost to destroy their relationship. Her ridiculing Ichitaka's fight against the Marionette King at the end and the injuries he sustained - when it's uncertain whether he is going to ever wake up - proves to be the last straw for Iori, causing her to wordlessly lash out at her manager.
  • Boy Meets Girl: It's a Rom Com, so this is pretty par for the course. We learn later Iori considered it "Girl Meets Boy".
  • Break the Cutie: While none of these kids get broken to nearly the extent of some of Katsura's other characters, they certainly suffer some damage. Here is a tally…
    • Iori's rehearsal regime is designed to break her on the theory that it will make her a better actor.
    • Itsuki when she realizes she'll never have Ichitaka's heart.
    • Aiko when her boyfriend dumps her.
    • Iori when she is almost raped for the second time. It's amazing the girl doesn't seem to need therapy by the end. But then she IS an actress…
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Ichitaka has this problem due to being rejected once in sixth grade. In his defense, the girl was pretty cruel about it. Iori has the same problem, but in her case, it's due to thinking that Ichitaka was in love with Itsuki.
    • Jun Koshinae has this to Mr. Higemi, which is understandable considering the teacher-student dynamic and the same-sex issue. By the end, we never learn if Jun spit it out or not.
    • There are a lot of indications that Jun has this for Ichitaka in a bad way. Since he knows that Ichitaka is very much not gay, would never return his affection, and any confession would likely freak Ichitaka out to the point that Jun would lose the friendship he does have, he instead does his best to be The Matchmaker between Ichitaka and Iori.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Teratani. It is heavily implied all his male relatives are like this too.
  • Censor Steam: There was some during the bath scenes in the original Japanese release. There was even more in the English edition. The editing was evidently done with Katsura's permission, and may have been at his request to ensure an American release.
  • Character Development: Loads and loads and loads. By the end of the series, everyone has noticeably grown up from their initial introductions not only physically, but also emotionally. Dramatic enough that when you get to the flashback event at the end of the series you will be absolutely shocked when you realize how far everyone has come and how naturally it progressed that you never noticed.
  • Chick Magnet: Ichitaka is a mix of this and Clueless Chick-Magnet (which is ironic considering he's friends with a Casanova Wannabe). Despite his crippling fear of rejection, he has multiple girls and even a guy express affection for him over the course of the story. However, it's because he tends to not realize when he's making girls fall for him until it becomes obvious: He was unaware for the longest time that Itsuki had feelings for him, when he first met Izumi he flirted with her without realizing it and only caught himself when he noticed her coming on to him in response, he was surprised when Aiko asked him to stop being so nice to her because it was making her fall for him, and despite all the signs, he was never sure if Iori liked him or not until she admitted (following his confession) that she thought her feelings for him were unrequited.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: Ichitaka and Itsuki, at least according to Itsuki. Subverted because nothing comes of it. However, Iori knew about it and assumed Ichitaka took it seriously.
  • Christmas Miracle: Deliberately invoked, and referred to by name several times thereafter, but it can't really be explained as well as an excerpt can demonstrate, so…
    Ichitaka: "…In the end, I didn't get to confess my love either."
    Iori: "Confess your love to who?"
    Ichitaka: "Eh?"
    Iori: "Who were you planning… to confess to?"
    Ichitaka: "To you." [internally] I said it.
    [another beat; Iori stares at him; the train stops, and she silently walks off]
    Ichitaka: [internally] She just left without saying a word! Say something! Please! Give me some kind of reaction! [Beat] So… that's it, then. So that's reality. That's how it ends; it was over so quick. And from now on, I probably can't even talk to her. What about college? Should I apply to the same one as her, or someplace else? I guess it doesn't matter. [*tearing up*] Nothing matters… not anymore.
    [Ichitaka looks up; Iori has walked back onto the train; they look at each other for quite a long time]
    Iori: "I thought… it was one-sided."
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Zig-zagged. During the epilogue, Itsuki sends a video from America revealing that she's fallen in love with someone. However, Izumi and Aiko are still single at the end.
  • Convenient Coma: Ichitaka. Given the circumstances of it and how long he was out, he would realistically have serious brain damage.
  • Compressed Adaptation: I"s Pure takes dozens of chapters of manga and compresses them into 6 OVA episodes. In the process, a few characters get cut out completely (most notably Jun and Aiko), among other things. The video game is a full adaptation, however. The live-action series is a mix, adapting all the story from start to end, while tending to focus on the most important moments and changing up a bit some of them to make it adaptable for TV.
  • Damsel in Distress: Iori is almost raped. Twice.
  • Declaration of Protection: "I will protect Iori for my entire life!"
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Jun, with his long hair and soft, feminine features. Also extends to Jun in the live-action version, where he is played by actor and model Yuuki Ogoe.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Marionette King.
  • Fanservice Model: Iori, who starts appearing in bikini only and then she becomes a gravure idol. Also Itsuki when she poses for art students.
  • First Girl Wins: Played with. Iori is the first girl we meet, and she does indeed win. However, Itsuki is the first girl Ichitaka meets, and she turns out to be the Unlucky Childhood Friend.
  • First Kiss: This is a romance, so several characters have it throughout the course of the story.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Kida Mochiki. Deconstructed, in that, while everybody seems to tolerate him, especially Teratani, he's almost always left out of parties and reunions by the rest of the group because of his attitude, and he gets increasingly erratic with his crush on Iori, and after he does a series of really nasty things to Ichitaka, Iori and the rest in the hotel, he's left tied to a post and forgotten for all his troubles.
  • Fully-Clothed Nudity: Itsuki uses this while posing for some art students. Ichitaka freaks out because he thinks she is naked.
  • Gay Best Friend: Jun is one for all the characters, but it particularly shines with him being a Romantic Wingman for Ichitaka.
  • Girl Next Door: Itsuki in the narrative sense (especially in flashback), Iori in personality (though not in looks), Aiko literally.
  • Imagine Spot: Ichitaka regularly has daydreams about the women in his life, with a particular focus on Iori. It gets him in trouble more than once.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Ichitaka agonizes that Iori may have forgotten about him while she is working on her theatre career because he never hears from her. Her agent encouraged/convinced her to write letters instead of calling, and is tossing all her letters into storage instead of mailing them.
  • In Name Only: The first OVA, From I"s, has almost nothing to do with the source material. The story is anime-original, it almost completely ignores Iori in favor of a childhood friend of Ichitaka and Itsuki's, changes the character designs to the point that they look like they're from a different series, and features supernatural elements that are completely absent in the manga.
  • Irony: Ichitaka and Teratani each display qualities that the other lacks (but wants) when it comes to girls. Casanova Wannabe Teratani displays confidence in his attractiveness but only attracts one girl that he remains oblivious to. Conversely, Ichitaka is the actual Chick Magnet but only likes one girl and is too afraid of rejection to actively pursue her.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Ichitaka often takes this stance towards Iori One of his biggest issues is that he's very bad at telling what actually does make her happy.
    • Also Itsuki, to the point that she goes to America to get herself out of the way.
    • There are a lot of indications that Jun also has a crush on Ichitaka. Since he knows his affection would never be returned, he does his best to get and keep Ichitaka and Iori together.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: Teratani and Yuka, though she's shown to like him much earlier in the story.
  • Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: Duelling. Ichitaka, Iori, Teratani, and Yuka all go to a karaoke bar. Teratani is trying to get Ichitaka and Iori alone together, while Iori is trying to get Teratani and Yuka alone together. The I"s have their Love Confession, but Yuka is rejected.
  • Lethal Chef: Itsuki is a slightly more mundane version – among other things, her scrambled eggs come out charcoal-like.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Deconstructed with Ichitaka and Itsuki's relationship – he feels this way towards her while she nurses romantic feelings for him; when he finally starts to question if he does like her romantically, she realizes this trope is in effect and Ichi is just confused, and she gets over him.
  • Love at First Sight - Ichitaka when he first saw Iori. Iori when she first saw him, apparently.
  • Love Martyr: Ichitaka breaks up with Iori because he doesn't want to be in the way of her dream to be an actress.
    • Iori breaks up with Ichitaka because she believes (not incorrectly) that her constant absence is making him miserable.
  • Love Triangle: Ichitaka with Iori and pick-a-girl-whose-name-starts-with-an-"I" (or sounds like it in Aiko's case).
  • Male Gaze: taken to a level that almost qualifies as an art form.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Pretty much everyone who gets involved with Iori professionally, with her agent and her director most prominent.
  • The Matchmaker: Teratani is obsessed with this, to the extent that he completely ignores the one girl actually interested in him. Nami also does this for Iori.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Iori at one point is worried that Ichitaka is cheating on her with Aiko.
  • Mood Whiplash: Whenever the Marionette King shows up, this romantic comedy jarringly becomes a suspense thriller with the rather disturbing attempted rape scene(s) of 17-year-old Iori.
    • Then again with The Marrionette King during the final chapters, when it takes a 5-page divergence from romantic dramedy to channelling the soul of Hajime no Ippo as Ichitaka breaks said King's kneecap and probably jaw in order to save Iori.
  • No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Izumi aggressively pursues Ichitaka.
  • Oh, Crap!: Samejima has this reaction twice in short succession during the battle in the abandoned building in the TV series. First is when Ichitaka surprises him by striking him from behind with a shovel, injuring him. However, he then experiences a far bigger one when he sees Jun, whom he had been viciously beating (after blinding him) before being hit by Ichitaka, get up and face him. The same Jun who had put his entire gang, who are shown writhing on the floor in pain, out of commission, all by himself. It is then that Samejima and his gang run away.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The Marionette King, who goes nameless in his first three appearances (despite the fact that he's in the same school as the characters, and they either know his name or could easily find out) and only gets known by his screen name in his final appearance.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: Ichitaka to Izumi. She is reluctant to comply.
    • Much earlier, Ichitaka says this nearly word-for-word to Itsuki after she shows up (jet-lagged) wearing only her underwear.
  • Plot-Irrelevant Villain: The Marionette King. While he shows up three times tops, and his actions affect the starring characters, he has absolutely no bearing in the actual romance and coming-of-age story, and in fact you may have totally forgot about him after a while. Downplayed in the very last part, where a fight against him puts Ichitaka into a coma, which becomes an essential part of the ending.
  • Put on a Bus: Itsuki short-circuits the love triangle early on when she leaves for America. Aiko does not appear again after her arc concludes.
  • Rape as Drama: Iori is nearly raped twice, both times by the same guy.
  • Rescue Romance: Ichitaka's best moments generally involve him stepping in on Iori's behalf when she's having some sort of problem.
  • Romantic False Lead: It's revealed that Iori sees Itsuki this way. Jun also very briefly functions as one, before it's revealed that he's not into women at all.
  • Romantic Wingman: Both Teratani and Jun regularly are there to assist Ichitaka with his fumbling romance with Iori. However, Teratani is significantly less helpful (and more lecherous) than Jun. While not shown nearly as often, Yuka is one for Iori.
  • Second Love: Ichitaka had a crush on a girl in the 6th grade before he met Iori.
  • Secret Relationship: Iori's agency requires her to keep her "taken" status under wraps – This is actually standard operating procedure in Japanese entertainment circles.
  • Snow Means Love: Ichitaka confesses on Christmas Eve, as it starts snowing. It's also snowing during the climax a couple years later when Ichitaka keeps The Marionette King away from Iori.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Most of Iori's problems are inextricably linked to her being a first class super hottie.
  • Straight Gay: Jun Koshinae - in fact, up until he comes out of the closet to Ichitaka, it appears like he's interested in Iori.
  • Stood Up: Ichitaka, in one of his admittedly jerkier moves, insists Iori meet him in the park on their anniversary, despite her telling him she can't because she's busy rehearsing. He waits for awhile, but assumes this and leaves. She shows up a few minutes later; he only realizes this after Aiko forces him to follow up.
  • Tamer and Chaster: The live-action series adapts all of the story, but changes some of the scenes to make it more family-friendly for TV. Notably, the hot spings scene in which Ichitaka hides beneath a naked Izumi and forces himself to hold his breath to not get discovered by Iori and Nami is changed to Ichitaka, still naked except for a towel, hiding in the closet of a recreational room where Izumi is spending some time, while Nami and Iori decide to stay awhile. The results are the same though, with Iori pegging Ichitaka for a complete pervert and getting angry with him.
  • Theme Naming: All of the romantic entanglements involve someone with the first initial "I"… with the exception of Aiko (and then, the first syllable of her name is pronounced like the letter in English).
  • There Is Only One Bed: Iori and Ichitaka share a room, and bed, when staying at Teratani's relative's place. They begin, but don't end up sleeping with each other.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Kida. In the hotel mini-arc, its heavily implied he suspects Ichitaka and Iori are dating, so he brings Izumi out of nowhere to derail their relationship. Its also very implied he also tricked out the "room changing" lottery so he could end up with Iori, and Ichitaka would end up with Izumi, not to mention he took intimate pictures of Iori without her knowing.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Both Ichitaka and Teratani whenever Iori is in trouble.
    • By the end of the story, everyone has gone through badass level-grinding, as the flashback allows to compare.
  • True Companions: Ichitaka, Iori, Teratani, Yuka, and Nami tend to hang and help each other out whenever they have free time.
  • Unwanted Harem: Ichitaka starts acquiring one of a sort beginning halfway through the story, although he'd rather not. On the other hand, he's well aware of how attractive the unwanted girls are. At one point, he thinks that Yuka has the hots for him as well, which then leads to him realizing that Yuka is also quite attractive.
  • Wild Teen Party: Nami considers this a rite of passage, so she intentionally tries to make it happen. Several times.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Iori, especially early on. Despite her Ms. Fanservice looks and her fame, she remains a kind and polite Japanese schoolgirl. At one point she wore a very formal kimono, and looked pretty good in it.