Kimi ni Todoke

Kimi ni Todoke

KIMI NI TODOKE and KIMI NI TODOKE 2ND SEASON

Watched via fansubs/BD

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: I was a bit weary when I first heard about Kimi ni Todoke. We’re all too familiar with the stereotypical loner girl, who has no friends, meets a beautiful popular guy, makes friends, and falls in love. Luckily KnT goes above and beyond all its predecessors. At its heart Kimi ni Todoke is a story about communication. That alone should make you super psyched. When was the last time you watched a series which actually pushes communication as a beneficial way to solve problems? That’s right, never. Not only that but when the protagonist Sawako begins to make friends with Kazehaya and their fellow classmates, rather than focusing on how it’s all thanks to his charming influence, we get the impression that it’s due to her own hard efforts. She deserves their friendship instead of it being handed to her.

Sawako is a great shoujo role model. Over the course of the two seasons she learns how to communicate her feelings openly and honestly with people. Which just goes to show that the reason why her classmates were scared of her and avoided her was because of misunderstanding that she liked to be alone.

KnT puts a very positive and believable twist on the loner girl. Not only does she actually grow, but the author refuses to allow Sawako to date Kazehaya until she is mature enough to have the self confidence to handle being in a relationship. I loved the representation of Sawako and Kazehaya’s friendship and relationship as it develops. He isn’t your typical wonderful male lead who’s flawed mysteriously with a dead parent or money problems. Instead he’s just a normal guy who cares about people. He gets jealous just like any other guy and flustered around girls. He doesn’t transform Sawako, but gives her inspiration to try to change for the better. I’d think of him more like a muse, rather than a fairy godmother.

I love how this series focuses on Sawako solving her problems by herself. She may receive encouragement from Kazehaya, but she’s responsible for the changes in her own life. I like to see a shoujo heroine with agency like that.

PLOT: Sawako’s a quiet girl with straight black hair who’s never been very outgoing. In elementary school, the other children decided that she looked like Sadako from The Ring, and henceforth Sawako gained both a nickname and a reputation for being a loner and liking curses. It doesn’t help that when Sawako consciously attempts to smile she looks creepy.

By high school, Sawako still has no friends, and everyone thinks her name really is “Sadako.” Even the teachers are afraid of her! The only person who sees the real Sawako is Shota Kazehaya, the effervescent boy at the center of the class who always looks out for loners. On the first day of school, Kazehaya was dazzled by Sawako’s real smile, and he’s been interested in her ever since.

This series sounds plenty predictable from here on out, and it generally is. Kazehaya befriends Sawako, and slowly she gains friends in her class. Naturally, Sawako also gains rivals by being so close to the most popular boy in school, and she gets bullied at several points. As Sawako gains confidence, though, she overcomes each obstacle and lets others know the truth about misunderstandings, working on developing the communication skills that are vital for having self-confidence.

This show definitely moves slowly and is very much a shoujo series, but it’s a great example of one. I think the series works so well because of Sawako and Kazehaya. Sawako’s such a genuine character with low self-esteem that I can’t help but root for her. Meanwhile, Kazehaya feels genuine in his own way. He’s that energetic, positive kid who just wants everyone to be involved, but then he’s also embarrassed about his popularity. I knew a kid like that in high school, and Kimi ni Todoke represents all of that so well in Kazehaya that I always looked forward to seeing how he’d act next. So, even when the series drags along a little faster than a snail, I at least enjoyed watching Sawako and Kazehaya being themselves.

SETTING: Kazehaya and Sawako first meet at the entrance ceremony for their first year of high school. They later end up in the same class along with Ayane and Chizuru, who later become Sawako’s best friends. What high school drama would be complete without rumors? The series starts with Sawako trying her best to correct the misunderstandings about her, such as her name being Sadako (the girl from The Ring). Rather than getting pissed off, she takes everything in stride and even tries to learn ghost stories as a way to build friendships with her classmates.

I’m glad that the author of the manga the anime was based off of went for a more laid back high school setting. Sure there are some bad apples, but generally everyone is kind and open minded once they see Sawako open up. I always feel like it’s hard to relate to high school dramas since school never really seemed that dramatic to me. KnT ends up providing a very optimistic approach to overcoming shyness and building genuine connections with people.

SETTING: The high school of this series is pretty standard for shoujo anime. There are tests of courage, culture festivals, and sports days, along with the normal bullying. The teachers are also normal, except for Pin, the gym teacher who’s known Kazehaya and his friend Ryu for a long time and who also becomes the group’s homeroom teacher. Sawako does end up tending to the school’s flowerbeds and plants herbs there, which all falls back to her general urge to help others.

Ryu’s family owns a ramen shop, so the characters end up there several times, especially Chizu. It’s nice that the characters have places around town where they like to hang out, but the town could really stand for some development. What else is in the town? Is there a shopping district? I just want something that’ll stand out~

What I liked was the little shopping district next to Sawako’s home. I don’t think it was shown in the anime (probably didn’t get that far), but all her neighbors know how sweet she is and her family loves and dotes on her. I loved seeing the juxtaposition of her neighborhood versus the school. It really highlights her potential social development.

CHARACTERS: I love the characters! Sawako is very easy to relate to. She is by no means stupid, just naïve. It can be a little frustrating to watch her not understand what’s going on between the lines, but it’s that much more rewarding when she finally does. Rather than constantly questioning and doubting what’s going on, she finally learns to just take things for what they are and to trust other people.

I’m so moe for Kazehaya. He isn’t my type by any means, but he’s just so adorable. He never gives up and is very patient and understanding. He lets Sawako grow up before dating her, which in the end makes their relationship that much stronger since they aren’t having to second guess what they’re doing.

Kimi ni Todoke has such a great group of secondary characters. I think my favorites are Chizuru (thought of as a tomboy and yankee) and Ryu (Kazehaya’s friend from baseball). I wanted to see more development between them in the two seasons and luckily we got a couple of episodes that focused on them. Ayane (thought of as a slut at school) unfortunately doesn’t get much focus in these two seasons. She’s the level-headed one of the group and clues the audience into what’s going on. At times she gets frustrated with Chizuru and Sawako being so daft, but she silently watches as they grow up. She’s like the mother hen of the group, providing advice and support unconditionally.

CHARACTERS: As I mentioned above, Sawako and Kazehaya make this show work for me. Sawako’s more believable at being a loner than I’d first expected, and her efforts at making friends and letting others know about herself are admirable. As an introvert, I respect what Sawako’s going through when making friends, and I understand how horrible it is when she encounters another difficulty.

On the other hand, I’m also pretty moe for Kazehaya, mainly because he seems like a real boy to me. Instead of denying that he’s ever had pervy thoughts, he gets embarrassed that he’s been found out. He gets overwhelmed by feelings for Sawako in a way that he can’t express because she’s not ready yet, so he tries hard to hide them. Kazehaya manages to both respect Sawako and be a realistic boy, which is no easy feat.

For a series about a misunderstood main character, it’s fitting that most everyone around her is similarly misunderstood. Chizu and Ayane both have rumors spread about them, while Sawako’s rival, Kurumi, pretends to be nice and selfless at school. Ryu and Kazehaya may be the only characters who aren’t stereotyped in some way. Ryu, sadly, doesn’t get much screen time, but he’s one of my favorite characters because of his terse manner and unfailing support of those around him. Seeing Ryu giving Sawako love advice just makes me squee inside~

Seeing Ryu do anything makes me squee. *O*

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: The manga for Kimi ni Todoke probably uses more hexagon screen tones than I’ve ever seen in any shoujo publication. It was sort of charming to see them literally take that over-the-top feel to the anime. At times it was a bit annoying, and it was definitely extremely embarrassing to watch despite all the waffy feelings it created. Don’t watch this in front of your significant other or family members. Every time I watched a new episode with Crystal I felt like dying simultaneously from over saturated happiness and embarrassment. Kimi ni Todoke totally fits into that category of guilty pleasure.

The characters don’t really fit into tropes as much as what is usual for shoujo series. Sure the characters are identifiable as being certain types, but they always feel like there is more to them than how they look. For example, Ayane wears a lot of makeup and accessories which label her as being a slut, but deep down she’s very delicate and a very loving person towards those who deserve her friendship. KnT does an excellent job of using character designs to overcome labels.

The animation for the show is beautiful. It’s often simplified to enhance the manga influence, but the imagery is so strong, that it doesn’t matter. Not only that but the original manga is very beautifully drawn and orchestrated. Even when there are those typical freeze frame moments, often used for budget cuts, they’re still very powerful and moving in their composition and timing. They bring clarity and emphasis to key moments, allowing us as viewers to soak in all the impact of the situation.

The pentagons! Oh, the pentagons! It’s now kind of strange to watch a shoujo anime that isn’t littered with pentagons and bubbles.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Pentagons and sparkles and bubbles, oh my! When animating this series, Production I.G decided to be faithful to the manga’s amount of screentones, which means you’ll be bombarded with them quite often. For me, as an avid reader of shoujo manga, the animated screentones brought over the waffy feelings they’re supposed to evoke, and I wasn’t really embarrassed by them. If you’re not into shoujo manga, you might find them overwhelming, but then why would you be watching this series in the first place?

Production I.G did a magnificent job with this series, and the love they put into it really shows. The backgrounds are all gorgeously rendered, and the characters are animated with a close attention to details. I can’t remember either season ever looking less than great, except for the recap episode which didn’t make it into NIS America’s release. For me, this series sets the bar for what shoujo anime can look like, but I doubt that many series will ever look this good.

As for character designs, I most appreciate that everyone looks different. The differences aren’t as drastic as in, say, Fullmetal Alchemist, but different sets of eyes and lips do show up. Furthermore, the characters have recognizable hairstyles that are all realistic! No weird colors or random curls or excessive bows here—instead, the characters looks like normal students with naturally different hairstyles. Even the boys get realistic variations! It’s so nice to see a shoujo series where the manga-ka’s aware of how teens actually look and can draw those subtle differences instead of breaking the bounds of realism.

Whoops, silly me, I meant pentagons. Glad you caught that.

OVERALL: This is shoujo done right. I’m going to say something very Whitney-ish and insist that the manga is still a billion times better. The pacing of the anime feels a bit slow and it can drive the viewer a bit crazy to watch. Had I not read the manga first I don’t know that I’d have kept up with the anime.

Kimi ni Todoke does a wonderful job of building strong female characters and a supportive cast of secondary characters. I don’t know how Say “I Love You” can even be compared to this. While Say “I Love You” depicts weak characters in an unhealthy relationship, Kimi ni Todoke shows all the magnificent aspects of friendship and finding oneself, without having to rely on quick superficial fixes. It’s legit, so watch it!

OVERALL: These two seasons are some of my favorite shoujo anime. If you’re feeling like you need some excellently-executed shoujo, look no further than Kimi ni Todoke. The only downside to this great show is that it might ruin you for lesser shoujo series, at least for a little bit. Maybe I should go reread the manga….

If you aren’t completely in love with shoujo, though, stay away from this series. My boyfriend enjoyed watching it, but I’d say he’s the rare exception. For most non-shoujo lovers, the slow pacing and immense number of pentagons would probably be too much to handle. This series is definitely not one to win over people into loving shoujo, but it is a winner if you’re already a diehard shoujo fan.

FINAL SCORE: (9/10) FINAL SCORE: (8/10 and 9/10)
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One thought on “Kimi ni Todoke

  1. Kimi ni Todoke is a wonderful, wonderful series (I haven’t read the manga). You hit on so many of its excellent points in your writing, including how unique and real the mains are, which really sets the series apart.

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