Shy Sawako’s first major rival in love, the outwardly friendly Ume, is unprepared for what happens when Sawako returns her friendship in all sincerity. Then Sawako’s new friends, Chizuru and Ayane, have their own emotions unexpectedly tested—and find Sawako has a reservoir of unexpected emotional strength they can draw on.
The second installment of this three-way combination of romance, comedy and drama keeps up in much the same vein as the first, and evolves that much more towards a story about the newly-encouraged Sawako being there to support her friends, instead of simply the other way around.
- Strongly character-driven comedy -- and drama.
- Has a great sense for the way romance and interpersonal rivalry unfolds between teenagers.
- A very leisurely pace -- and a very shy heroine -- might make for a too-laid-back show for some.
- Director: Hiro Kaburaki
- Animation Studio: Production I.G
- Released By: NTV/VAP
- Released Domestically By: NIS America
- Audio: Japanese w/English subtitles
- Age Rating: TV-G (suitable for all audiences)
- List Price: $69.99 (Blu-ray / DVD combo)
- Ouran High School Host Club
- Peach Girl
- Princess Jellyfish
- Super GALS!
My best frenemy
The first portion of Kimi ni Todoke left off on something of a cliffhanger. After shy Sawako found friendship with the brash and engaging Chizuru and Ayane, she also found something approaching romance in her classmate Shōta. What she wasn’t prepared for was someone in the guise of a friend—fellow female classmate Ume—who has designs on Shōta herself, and is determined to get her hands on him even if it means wrecking Sawako’s newfound social standing.
The way Kimi ni Todoke deals with this part of the story is a strong indication of what kind of show it is: it’s more interested in people’s behavior and personalities than it is in cheap setups and even cheaper payoffs. After Ume throws her bomb (so to speak), she discovers—much to her shock—that Sawako’s concern and friendliness were and are entirely sincere. When Ume confesses her love for Shōta, Sawako does the one thing Ume never expects: sympathize.
It’s hard, bordering on impossible, for Ume to bear a grudge in the face of that kind of heart, and the way this is played out (over the course of a couple of episodes) rings truer than it might sound when simply summarized here.
There's just you and me and we just disagree
What comes next is a chance for Sawako to be there for her friends, instead of the other way around. Chizuru has a boyfriend of her own—the shaven-headed, taciturn, perennially serious Ryu—but Ryu’s other brother Toru has an unusual place in Chizuru’s heart. She looked up to him (and he returned the attention) when she was a grade-schooler, and that aspect of their relationship never completely vanished—not even as she got older, and he got older, and she became involved with his younger brother.
All that’s turned upside-down one day when Toru shows up with a girl named Haruka. This is his fiancée. Chizuru handles this far worse than she ought to; her unresolved feelings for Toru come boiling up out of the depths, and she even goes so far as to take it out on Ryu in the process. Now it’s Sawako’s turn to be there for her friend—although the way this happens is not quite what anyone (audience included) is expecting. Later on, Sawako’s faced with the prospect of being that much closer to Shōta on her birthday … which also happens to be New Years’ Eve.
I like stories where there are no flat-out villains, simply people all doing the best they can and running afoul of each other anyway. Few anime have this flavor—most of them are content to simply divide the cast into good guys and bad guys, wave a flag, and let them duke it out. The few that break this mold stand out, and most of them tend to be either romances or understated drama: Antique Bakery, House of Five Leaves, Arakawa under the Bridge all come to mind. Kimi ni Todoke works the same way: Ume isn’t evil, just young and needy, and there’s every sign she can grow out of her behavior and even become a real friend to Sawako. (Whether or not that happens seems to be left up in the air for the show’s third installment.)
Quiet triumphs are sometimes the best kind
As with the first installment of the show, much of what makes it special is the tone and attitude of the whole thing. It doesn’t have the bang-bang pacing or madcap antics of, say, Ouran High School Host Club or Princess Jellyfish (both great shows), but that’s not what it strives for. This is a more sedate, leisurely-paced and deliberate production—even the antics of Chizuru and Ayane (or “Yano-chin”, as Chizuru calls her) are kept dialed down to match the rest of the goings-on.
Much of what happens revolves around little triumphs, not big ones. Nobody gets beaten up or thrown off a cliff here—not even in an exaggerated, cartoonish way. The big questions are little ones: will Sawako be able to speak her mind in front of the boy she very clearly adores? But they’re big questions to the people involved, and the show does a remarkable job of making us care.
It’s emblematic of the humor in this show—and if I didn’t say it earlier, this is a funny show—that one of the funniest scenes in the whole set is when two of the girls (Chizuru and Sawako) break down sobbing. Why funny? Because both of them were holding it in for the sake of the other. The show’s not making fun of their misery; it’s allowing us to laugh in recognition—and the way it follows up that laugh with something genuinely touching only deepens the feelings expressed. The whole of Kimi ni Todoke works like that, come to think of it.