Kimi Ni Todoke: From Me to You
Lighthearted and cheerful, Kimi Ni Todoke: From Me To You stars an awkward high schooler named Sawako Kuronuma whose resemblance to a creepy horror movie character has derailed her social career. (It’s hard to make friends when rumor states that eye contact with you can curse a person with diarrhea). But golden boy Shota Kazehaya’s kindness sets off a chain reaction of students willing to look beyond her gloomy appearance. Kazehaya’s attention is a double-edged sword: not everybody wants to see the grim-looking outsider win the affections of the most desirable boy in school. While not profound or overly complex, it’s a cute, fun read.
This book is a comedy with some slapstick, so the characters are intentionally exaggerated. If you’re open to that, it’s a cute version of it, but if you’re looking for complex characters, you won’t find them here. The overall tone is a bit like the movie Clueless. Sawako is so nice and naive that she couldn’t be real. When students planning a haunted outing joke that they should invite Sawako so she can summon ghosts, she is crushed that her lack of this ability might disappoint people. Kazehaya has been described by the author as “a guy so nice he’s dumb,” but I liked him. It was sweet when everyone won’t sit next to Sawako (because they think the desk is cursed), so Kazehaya sits there.
Their relationship is a bit too much of a Big Mis. Kazehaya likes Sawako but isn’t confident enough to tell her outright; Sawako is so literal and insecure that she can’t read more into it. I liked the fact that one of the lessons Sawako learns is to speak up for herself to resolve misunderstandings. But for a story where this is the core idea, the protagonists drag out their failure to disclose their feelings much too long. By the fifth volume, I really felt that the two needed to just get it together.
The illustrations add a great deal to the horror-movie characterization, which I think makes a graphic novel a better fit for the plot than a novel. Some of the funniest panels involve Sawako’s disastrous attempts to look cheerful. Goofy miniaturized versions of the characters, called chibi, give visual punch to comedic dialogue. Although the supporting female characters are distinguishable, I had a bit of trouble sometimes keeping the boys straight. Occasionally I couldn’t work out which text boxes were internal monologues and which were dialogue, or which character they belonged to. The book is printed right-to-left, so if you’re new to manga, it will take a bit of getting used to. But I hope you do, because it’s a good read.