Kimi ni Todoke is an anime series based on the ongoing manga penned by artist Karuho Shiina. Shiina’s previous work includes a six-volume romance comic titled Crazy for You (crap I now can’t get that catchy Let Loose song out of my head.) The cartoon adaptation, animated by the illustrious Production I.G, spanned across two seasons that aired on Japanese TV from October 2009 to March 2011. Season one is made up of twenty-five episodes whilst the second season only lasted for thirteen. I don’t believe the show has ever been released in the United Kingdom so British viewers interested in purchasing the DVDs will have to import the U.S release.
The series chronicles the love life of an ultra shy high school student named Sawako Kuronuma. Due to her jet-black hair and creepy facial expressions Sawako is desperately lonely. Her awkward attempts to make friends often end with her classmates fleeing in terror, as she shares an uncanny resemblance to Sadako Yamamura (the ghastly spirit from The Ring movies.) Against the odds Sawako somehow manages to catch the attention of Shota Kazehaya, who happens to be one of the most popular guys in school. Friendship begins to form between the unlikely pair, but whether the relationship can grow into something more will depend on Sawako overcoming her low self-esteem issues. Hopefully things will work out because I hear that anyone who breaks up with Sadako is doomed to die within seven days.
Season one can be broken down into roughly four story arcs. The first one introduces the characters and sees Sawako make friends with a tomboy named Chizuru and Ayane, a perceptive lass who has a reputation for dating older guys. From there things progress to the Kurumi arc, which revolves around a manipulative girl who has a crush on Shota. The envious love rival will stop at nothing to sabotage the blossoming romance between the show’s leads. Sawako isn’t the only one with relationship woes though, as proven by the following story that focuses on Chizuru. The tale deals with a messy love triangle between herself, Chizuru’s eternally hungry classmate Ryu and Ryu’s older brother Toru. If the siblings end up fighting over Chizuru my money is on Ryu, as he can deliver a nasty dragon punch.
The first season concludes with some festive capers that deal with Sawako’s class throwing a Christmas shindig and a New Year’s Eve date at the local shrine. Season one ends on an open-ended note so anyone seeking a payoff to the Sawako/Shota courtship will have to tune into season two. Be forewarned that the second chapter in the Kimi ni Todoke saga is full of unwelcome drama. It chronicles a rough patch in the Sawako and Shota relationship, partially due to poor communication between the couple and the emergence of a new classmate named Kento who begins to flirt with the Ringu doppelganger. I guess he has a thing for chicks that reside in wells.
For the most part I have to say that I enjoyed Kimi ni Todoke. It reminds me a little of Watamote, as both shows star dark haired gals who are eager to gain the admiration of their peers. Watamote is however a comedy with a hilariously perverted lead whilst Kimi ni Todoke is a love story featuring a sweet and pure protagonist. On the visual front Production I.G have done a good job with the anime’s artwork, although they do take a number of unwelcome shortcuts. Some of the show’s scenes are guilty of utilizing still images and the artists are too fond of reusing sparkly backdrops whenever things get lovey dubby. If you have an aversion to super deformed facial features you may want to skip this anime because the animation regularly switches from realistic to cartoony whenever someone gets flustered.
Despite my praise, Kimi ni Todoke is one of those shows that starts strong only to lose steam as it goes along. Season one has a perfect blend of cute romance and humorous comedy. Season two however gets bogged down in the usual genre tropes that put me off romance animes – mainly that the relationship between the leads fails to make substantial progress and gets bogged down in needless drama. At the end of season one Sawako is practically Shota’s girlfriend, but once season two commences the writer resets everything – reverting Sawako to an anti-social worrywart that cannot string two words together. The relationship I had become invested in teetered on breakdown over simple misunderstandings that defied common sense. It’s never a good sign when someone goes from rooting for a character to screaming at her naiveté. Viewers will want to watch season two to see how things pan out, but if you can resist your curiosity and stop watching at season one’s finale you’ll spare yourself much frustration.
SEASON ONE RATING: FOUR STARS
SEASON TWO RATING: THREE STARS